A trip to the Vibrant Gujarat in Jan 2017 marked the start of my travels this year. And true to its name Gujarat turned out to be much colorful & full of ancient and cultural heritage of India . I shall share more of my Gujarat trip in my next blog post , as this one I dedicate to the much fascinating piece of history.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Gujarat is from October to March
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Great Rann of Kutch
Our Bhunga (Mud house) had 2 double beds and the wooden roof contrasted pretty well with the colorful bathroom door, the looking mirror outlined with mud work, the beautiful windows, it was such a happy place to be. After having lunch in the resort, we left to see sunset at the Rann. Cab guy dropped us in the car parking and like all other tourists, we had to take a government run bus to the second stop, from where we would need a camel or horse ride. Instead of taking the bus, we decided to walk to the second stop. What a perfect decision it was. Long never ending deserted road with peace spread out on both sides of road, we lived the moments running jumping taking selfies, shooting videos and relished an uninterrupted view of the setting sun. We further took a bouncy camel ride to reach the white desert. And the moon has risen on the white desert. It was getting dark and the moon light was getting brighter than ever. There was joy all around, people dancing to their own beat, music throbbing on loudspeaker, flashing phone lights, reflection of moon on the salt water ground, it was a site to take in. We kept walking away from the crowds to reach a quiet spot. I set my tripod to experiment some sky shots while my friends had wine straight from the bottle and talked to the moon.
Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
The GIR Forest National Park is situated about 342 kilometres from the city of Ahmedabad and is a breeding area for the Asiatic Lion. The place was declared to be a protected area in 1990 by the Nawab of Junagadh. One can also expect to find panthers lurking about here. The park is also home to deers, peacocks, gazelles and nilgais. The borders of this forest reserve are home to some villages and hamlets inhabited by the Maldhari tribes. A tour of these villages will also one a glimpse into the lives they lead and their folk art. One needs to be attentive to the sounds here as the cry of a languor or monkeys could indicate that some jungle cat is on the prowl.
This beach at Ahmedpur is considered to be the best in all of Gujarat and is a great place to vacation, soak in the sun while lying on its sandy beaches. The water is fine for wading or swimming and one will spot a number of sand castles being built by kids all along the beach. One can also make the most of the water sports like skiing, parasailing, surfing, water scooters and speed boats that are available at the beach. Indeed, Mandvi Beach is a great place for one to vacation and has become a favourite spot with the locals and as well as the tourists.
Vijay Vilas Palace
Water Channels, lush garden and marble fountains adorn the exteriors of the Vijay Vilas Palace that was constructed in the year 1920 A.D by craftsmen from Jaipur. The influence of the Rajput style of architecture can be seen at this place that is resplendent with its towering Bengal domes, windows with coloured glass, humungous extended porches. The palace has a private beach that is well maintained. It is a popular tourist spot and is often used to film Bollywood movies as well. The palace can be found in Mandav and is a great example of exquisite craftsmanship down the ages.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
26th of December was the engagement and the trip commenced the day after! I had previously booked a room in Kutch for 28th so leaving me only one lag day to visit other places. Champaner is considered a world heritage site certified by UNESCO which is around 87 km from Anand. So I take a bus from Anand bus stop to Hallol. An auto or car will take you to Champaner. There are seven sites to visit, so booking a vehicle for the day should be the plan. A cab for the day costs around 1500 you may bargain further.The whole visit will take around 3 hours to complete. The driver drove to the Mataki Temple which is high up the mountain. A few stairs to climb, pay a fee of 113 for the return ropeway, stand in the queue and zooooooooooooooooooooom go up and up the ropeway only to find there is lot more climbing to do. There is a long walk up the slope and then a plight of steep stairs navigating up to the mandir!ON way back the Saat Kaman stands tall, its like a wall with seven arches on the slope of the mountain. Other places include the Jama Masjid (beautifully carved structure showcasing both Hindu and Muslim architechture, a must visit), Kabootar Khana, One minar Mosque and One eye Mandir!
Narayan Sarovar temple (5 km from Koteshwar)houses innumerable deities but the main shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Mythology says that the holy water of River Saraswati, all the way, reached to fill the lake, thus sacred. The water didn’t look clean, people were taking a dip in the sarovar. You can spot the board reading 'Tropic of cancer while passing through Bhuj - Narayan Sarovar - Koteswar route and dont forget to taste Dabeli of Kutch.
Blackbuck National Park
Situated at Velavadar, it was established in 1976 as a hunting ground of blackbucks and cheetahs for the maharaja, and it is spread over 34 sq kms in area. This park has a grassland ecosystem with flat land, dry grasses and herds of antelope and always attracts visitors.
This temple happens to be a landmark in the state of Gujarat and can be found around 5 kilometres away from Junagadh. It also happens to be one among the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. As the legend goes, Lord Krishna is said to have embarked on his final journey from this very place. The name Somnath is also mentioned in the Rig Veda, epics and other Hindu scriptures as well. The temple was first built using gold and then rebuilt in silver by Ravana. Over the course of time, this temple has been rebuilt numerous times and has seen invasion by Muslim invaders about sixteen times. This causes it to be called the Shrine Eternal.
Sabarmati Ashram / Mahatma Gandhi's Home
Lying on the western banks of the River Sabarmati, this ashram is a peaceful heaven that is situated at a distance of 5 kilometres from Ahmedabad city. This ashram was founded by the great man himself, Mahatma Gandhi in 1915 as he struggled to free the country from the reins of the British Empire. It is from this place that Mahatma Gandhi carried forward his persistent struggle and garnered much support for the March of 1930 towards Dandi. The ashram is filled with items that were used by Gandhiji such as his khadi spinning wheels and, handicrafts and handmade paper.
Thol Bird Sanctuary
The day 3 morning session was again planned at Bajana. We had seen quite a number of species till now; 101 to be specific but one key species of LRK was missing – The Falcons! As we entered the Bajana area, Bura Bhai did not take much time before sighting one of the falcons; rather the fastest bird – Peregrine Falcon. We approached cautiously till we got decent shots and enjoyed a good sighting of the bird. Yet again, we spotted the Short-Eared Owl and also the Red-Necked Falcon. Unfortunately we only managed to see it in flight and could not manage a click. We also saw quite a number of Greater Short-Toed Larks, Common Cranes, Wild Boars and Steppe Eagle. After exploring for a while we halted for breakfast. After a good breakfast and some more group photo session we finally started our return journey to the resort. That was the last session at LRK, but wait, it was not over just yet. We saw a raptor take flight towards our left which turned out to be Shikra. However going little further, Bura Bhai helped us spot the Merlin!. This was the best sighting among all the birds we saw. We could only manage record shots but we did enjoy some good views of this little falcon.We were back to the resort by 11 AM, and with a bird count of 106 at LRK it was a fantastic birding experience. A special thanks to Bura Bhai without whom we may not have been able to sight a lot of the species which were key highlights of the trip and lifers for most of us!We started our journey to Thol Bird Sanctuary which was around 2 hours from the resort. As we were cruising along at around 60 Kmph, Suru spotted a family of Sarus Cranes. The vehicle was halted and we got our shots. Super sighting by Suru! We missed a cut on way to Thol and hence reached a little late by 2 PM for lunch and we halted just outside the Thol Bird Sanctuary. Just as we finished our lunch and came out of the hotel, we saw a few raptors in the sky- a Steppe Eagle, a juvenile Shikra and a booted Eagle. We also saw Bank Mynas, Jungle Babblers and an Indian Roller.Finally we entered Thol Bird Sanctuary at 3:30 PM; our last birding session of the trip. Personally I did not expect much as this was more of a wetland and thought we might have covered most of the species at Nava Talav; and I was glad to be proved wrong. We had a fantastic birding session at Thol with sightings of Great White Pelicans, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Darter, Cormorants, Knob-billed Duck, Eurasian Wigeons, Dalmatian Pelican, Great White Pelicans,Egyptian Vulture, Greater Spotted Eagle, River terns, Whiskered Terns, Painted Stork, Citrine Wagtail and so on. Thol Bird Sanctuary is a wetland however has quite some forest attached to it. Hence we did spot a lot of warblers, Yellow-footed Green Pigeons, Red Collared Doves, Eurasian Collared Doves, Lesser Whitethroat, Jungle Babblers, Red-vented Bulbul, White-bellied Drongo, Plum-headed Parakeets and the beautiful Bluethroat.Finally the trip ended with a total species count of around 133 birds. We couldn’t have asked for more and apart from birding what we enjoyed the most was the company of lovely like-minded folks. From Mihir and Basant of Orissa, the Bhagwat duo from Baroda (Rahul Bhagwat and Subhash Bhagwat Sir), Mallikarjun Sir from Ahmedabad, Arvind Singh from Mumbai, the “birds in flight” shot specialist Suru. the bird Antakshari specialist Rupali (jokes apart, she was the only one without a camera who was out and out into birding with a pair of binoculars, observing birds and their behaviour); and finally my gurus Bhavesh and Sunil.Coming back to LRK and the Indian Wild Ass, the species is currently endangered with a mere population of around 5000 across the world. Key contributors to the decline in the population have been poaching and habitat loss primarily due to illegal salt mining. However, a recent census of Indian Wild Ass population has predicted that the figures may touch 5000 (a 25% increase from 2009). Majority of areas in LRK were declared as a sanctuary area by the Gujarat Government in 1973 and few areas from the Greater Rann of Kutch were also added to it in 1978. Apart from the wild asses, this region has various other mammals like Hyena, Desert Fox, Wild Boars, Nilgai and birds like the endangered Macqueen’s Bustards, variety of Falcons, Wheatears, Cranes, Flamingoes and Pelicans.How to reach1. Best way to reach LRK is from Ahmedabad. The roads are smooth and pretty straight forward. Same is the case with Thol Bird Sanctuary as well. Note that if referring Google Maps, DO NOT search for “Thol Bird Sanctuary”, instead search as “Thol Bird Sanctuary Rd” and follow the road till the end.Tips:1. Birding in LRK is not as easy as it looks. As the sun comes out, the environment becomes dusty and one needs to take care of the equipment.2. Most of the times, one will be birding from the Jeep / Vehicle itself in-order to avoid disturbing the bird. Hence a Monopod always helps as it takes less space. If you can manage hand held shots; nothing like it.3. For photography, keep a check on the exposure setting. It gets very bright in noon hence you may want to reduce the exposure a bit to get good details.4. Please do not litter and keep the place clean.Here are some of the key bird species sighted during our trip to LRK and Thol Bird Sanctuary (9th, 10th, 11th Jan 2015).At LRK:– Merlin (Record click)– Peregrine Falcon– Red-necked Falcon (Only sighting)– Short-eared Owl– Steppe Eagle– Eastern Imperial Eagle– Macqueen’s Bustard (Only sighting)– Spotted Redshank– Common Greenshank– White-tailed Lapwing– Lesser Flamingoes– Common Crane– Demosile Crane– Sarus Crane– Desert Wheatear– Mallard DuckAt Thol Bird Sanctuary:– Darter– Great White Pelican– Dalmatian Pelican (Record click)– Egyptian Vulture (Record click)– Bluethroat– Knob-billed DuckNote that we were total of 12 people and hence not everyone could see all the species we spotted and vice versa. We missed the following species which few others in our group sighted:– Booted Warbler [Thol]– Brahminy Starling [Thol]– Red-breasted Flycatcher [Thol]– Common Iora [Thol]This post was originally published on Whistling trails.
It is a festival that goes on for about 2 months showcasing the beauty, culture & traditions of Kutch & Gujarat. The true essence of the festival begins at night with endless dancing and music at the beautiful Rann of Kutch. It also offers a variety of activities like camel riding, bicycling etc.
Diu is a town in Diu area in the union region of Daman and Diu, India. The town and region were a historical part of the Saurashtra district of Gujarat and an imperative port on exchange courses of Arabian ocean of The Indian Ocean. The dialects talked in Diu incorporate Gujarati, Portuguese, English and Hindi. With no tall structures aside from the stronghold, Diu has a naturally low skyline. The closest railroad intersection is Veraval, which is 90 km from Diu. Real urban areas like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), Dwarka and Thiruvananthapuram are specifically associated with Veraval Railway Station. Also a meter gage at Delwada is only 8 km from Diu. Every day, two trains interface Junagadh and Veraval to Delwada Railway Station. Diu is charming lasting through the year, making it an holiday destination one can visit at whatever time. However, peace is best experienced in the months in the middle of October and March.
In the morning we all got ready for Water sports at Dandi Beach. It is 3 Km from Malvan and we went by our bus. This beach was something different.1 will find a lot of seashells and dead crabs here.The main attraction was the lagoon formed by 2 waves when meeting each other. It looks amazing at the time of low tide. People did all kinds of Water sports there like Banana ride, Bumper ride, Jet Ski, Para sailing etc.
Lothal Harappan Period Archeological Site
Lothal was one of the most prominent cities of the ancient Indus valley civilisation, located in the Bhāl region of the modern state of Gujarat and dating from 3700 BCE. Discovered in 1954, Lothal was excavated between 13 February 1955 and 19 May 1960 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Lothal's dock, the world's earliest known, connected the city to an ancient course of the Sabarmati river on the trade route between Harappan cities in Sindh and the peninsula of Saurashtra when the surrounding Kutch desert of today was a part of the Arabian Sea. It was a vital and thriving trade centre in ancient times, with its trade of beads, gems and valuable ornaments reaching the far corners of West Asia and Africa. Although very little ruins exist today we can get a glimpse of the amazing sanitation system for which the Indus Valley Civilization is famous for. There are also remains of the dockyard and a warehouse. The Archeological Museum consists of a large cache of antiques right from animal figures, red clay pottery, beads and chess board like figures similar to the ones found in Egypt. Lothal made us feel like the pages of our school history books have come alive.After immersing ourselves in ancient Indian history, we left Lothal at around 5 in the evening for the tiny town of Gopnath located in the Talaja Taluka of the Bhavnagar district in Gujarat. The road from Talaja town to Gopnath was one of the most eerie roads that I have ever driven on. It was pitch dark with no mobile or GPS connectivity. Miles and miles of empty dark roads made us feel we were driving towards the gates of hell at 3 AM in the night although it was barely 9 PM. One particularly eerie sight was witnessed by us when the car headlamp illuminated the path ahead and we saw a ragged old man sitting in the middle of the road and gesturing to someone where there was no one present in the vicinity. We decided not to think about it too much although some people in the car started praying for safety from so called supernatural forces. We reached Gopnath at around 10 at night.
Lakshmi vilas palace Vadodara
The Maharaja Palace is a group of palaces in Vadodara, Gujarat. This series of grand constructions was done for the prominent Maratha family, which governed Baroda state. The Laxmi Vilas Palace is part of this extravagant complex and was built in an Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Four times the size of Buckingham Palace, Laxmi Vilas is touted as the world's largest private dwelling as it continues to be the home of the royal family.
4. Manek ChowkType - Street Market, JewelleryFamous For - Jewellery, Street Food, Fruit & Vegetable, HandicraftTimings - 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM (All Days Open)Location - Within walled city, near Bhadra Fort, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, 380001Click here for directions. 5. Rani no HajiroType - Street Market, MonumentFamous For - Women Clothing, Traditional Garba clothesTimings - 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM (All Days Open)Location - Gandhi Rd, Manek Chowk, Khadia, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380001Click here for directions.
Vansda National Park
Vansda National Park, DangTowering trees reach up to 120 feet in the forests of Vansda and 450 species of plants keep nature enthusiasts enthralled. If you’re looking for birds, you won’t be disappointed since there are 115 species including those that are found only in the Western Ghats. Look out for great black woodpecker, grey hornbill, paradise flycatcher, leaf birds, sunbirds, and racket-tailed drongo here.The Details: The nearest airport is Surat and the nearest railway station is Waghai. You will need to pay Rs 20 per person as entry fee to visit the park. The best stay option is Kilad Eco Campsite, which features four cottages, three huts, and 10 tented accommodations TIP When you’re watching birds, don’t be intrusive. Try not to scare birds with sudden movements or loud noises. Be respectful of nature and enjoy its gift.
We went to Jami Masjid which is an architecture marvel about 700 years old mosque. Its always worth going to a religious place early morning for the peace it reflects. After the mosque, we stopped by at Lucky Tea Stall for cuppa tea and bun maska. Lucky Tea stall is quite popular among tourists as its tables are flanked by green painted Muslim graves. It was an experience in itself to sip tea with the dead.
Chhari Dhand Bird Sanctuary
Chari Dhand Wetlands, Great Rann of KutchYou’ll be amazed to know that this seasonal desert wetland attracts nearly 200 species of migratory birds every year in the monsoon and winter seasons, thanks to its shallow waters. Some of the birds you will spot here are flamingos, cranes, storks, and spoonbills.The Details: Chari Dhand is in Banni Grasslands, located 60 kilometres from Bhuj. Book your stay at Regenta Resort (royalorchidhotels.com) in Bhuj.COASTAL AREA
Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary
Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, NarmadaIn Shoolpaneshwar, moist deciduous forests and Rajpipla hills dominate the landscape. The most sighted birds here are grey hornbill, fowls, and Alexandrine parakeet. Also fascinating here are 575 species of flowering plants.The Details: The nearest airport is Vadodra. You can also take the train to Bharuch, where you will find many guesthouses, and drive to the sanctuary. Alternatively, you can stay at Hotel Presidency Forest County (presidencyhotels.com), which is close to the sanctuary. No entry fee or camera charges.SOUTH GUJARAT
Wild Ass Sanctuary
Spreads over 5,000 sq kms, Little Rann of Kutch is also known as 'Survey Number Zero' because no land survey has been conducted here since the end of British rule in India. With its unique geography of a vast desolate landscape, this entire vast barren land is suitable for nothing but salt mashing.This is the land of #Agariya community, who has lived here for centuries, knowing only one means of livelihood-- salt production.And given the fact that 76% of the total produce in the entire India comes from here, it is very likely that the salt you're eating in your home everyday has been produced by one of these people, belonging the lovely Agariya community.Wonder how much they earn for this? 6 thousand Rupees a month or 72 thousand an year, yet when you visit their home, they never let you return without a cup of tea (which ofcourse comes without milk) and a sweet guided tour to their salt farm!
Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Bhuj
Swaminarayan templeThis new temple built according to Swaminarayan Sampradaya stands bathed in pure white marble and gold and is a delight to behold. The intricate carvings inspired by episodes of Ramayana and Mahabharata and the architecture never cease to amaze you .The environment of the temple, is neat and clean ,kept us engrossed devouring the beauty of this place.
Gumandev Mandir Road
The main specialty of this temple is that the statue of Lord Hanuman is savyambhu (means self made not established). The king of that area made temple around statue in past. Every Tuesday and Saturday crowd increases because both days are devoted to lord Hanuman as per Hindu tradition. Now our next destination is rajpipla city via rajpardi village.
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, NalsarovarNalsarovar is on every bird watcher’s list. Declared a bird sanctuary in 1969, Lake Nalsarovar and its surrounding wetlands become home for over 200 species of birds in winter months. Some migratory birds found here travel thousands of kilometres for food and warmth. Covering an area of 120 square kilometres, this sanctuary is a safe haven not just for birds, but also for aquatic plants and animals. Stay in a luxury tent offered by Gujarat Tourism and watch pelicans, waterfowls, waders, cranes, flamingos, stints, and godwits from a boat.The Details: Drive from Ahmedabad to the bird sanctuary is 64 kilometres. The visiting hours are from 6 am to 6 pm; no entry fee. Book your stay at Aloft Hotel (starwoodhotels.com) in Ahmedabad.DID YOU KNOW? Birdwatching is different than birding. A bird watcher spots birds for pleasure while a birder is quite serious about the activity and trails birds instead of waiting for them.
The ruins of Dholavira, one of the two largest Harappan sites in India, are an archeological site located in Kutch, Gujarat. This historical site is located in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and is surrounded by the great expanse of Rann of Kutch. It houses some of the most amazing artefacts of that time. Various excavations here by the Archaeological Survey of India have unearthed antiquities such as beads, seals, gold, silver, animal bones, terracotta ornaments and pottery. The ruins of the Harappan civilisation narrate the story of its rise and fall in seven stages, from the very beginning to the absolute end. Here one can also see the world famous planned water conservation systems as well. Dholavira can be reached by taking a cab from Bhuj, which lies about 250 km from here. A historical marvel in every right, Dholavira will definitely take you on an amazing ride through our rich and marvellous past.
Holding the Guiness World Record to be the World's largest comprehensive Hindu temple, the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple was built-in just 5 years. The nearest metro station is the Akshardham Metro Station. Mobiles and other electronic gadgets are not allowed. These are to be deposited in the cloakrooms. It's an example of the grandeur and beauty of all the ancient and traditional architectural and religious styles which have ever been present in India. Usually the one who took such a noble initiative was Swami Maharaj of the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha along side more than a thousand talented artisans. The temple is mainly specialized in Swaminarayan and also includes a separate shrine for Lord Shiva. There are a number of halls amongst which the initial one is where you will find films and robotic shows going to spread the message of honesty, peace and unity. In the second hall you is likely to be presented with the story of a classic yogi named Nilkanth in an exceedingly attractive manner. Last however, not the smallest amount of the next hall is where you are able to find out about the discoveries and works of the saints- scientists and the art of Ajanta- Ellora. The musical fountain is an amusement after sunset, the Lotus temple is another bit of beauty and the Garden of India is just a memorial for all the famous men and women of our country.
On your first day in Ahmedabad, visit the Sabarmati AshramHead to the Sabarmati Ashram and indulge in the rich history that this quaint space offers. The display of the archival material at the ashram takes you back in time to the Gandhian Era, when Sabarmati served as a hub for the freedom movement in India.
A one day ride to the nearby polo forest with sarabhai enfield riders.....the thundering presence of 50 byks is quite a thrill, an adventure itself.We rode to the forest...ppl making way as we passed, children cheered on onlookers in awe...quite a show we put up all the way.It was a day of exploring the forgotten temples that stood there for centuries, uncared, unattended..undisturbed. For us, the city folks,  that kind of tranquility is just so rare and found plenty der.Had fun, met ppl, made frns and some unforgettable memories. Now dats what I call spending wisely!!