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.
Examples of Rajput architecture and a prominent pearl fishing centre distinguish Gujarat’s lesser known gem, Jamnagar, from other cities. The age-old decaying buildings, narrow lanes and colourful bazaars make up for the lost charm inflicted by tall buildings and the brimming crowd. The scenic Lakhota Fort stands in the middle of the lake and is a fort like palace that now houses a museum of old collectables. It looks beautiful at sundown when the lake glitters in the yellow light that reflects from the monument. The Darbargadh Fort, constructed with a mix of European and Rajput architectural styles, is mesmerising to explore. Other must visits here are the Pratap Vilas Palace and Bhujio Kotho, a five-floor monument believed to be constructed for protection during invasions. There are also many Jain temples around the Chandi Bazaar that grant the place an old world charm. With a coastline that stretches till Dwarka, Jamnagar also offers some unspoilt beaches with white and golden sand. Shopping in Jamnagar is a treat and you must not forget to buy the world famous, multi-hued Bandhani fabric, which can be used as a dupatta or dress or even a sari. Taste the Gujarati delicacies of ghughra and dry fruit kachoris and consider the Express Residency or J R Avezika for a comfortable stay in the city.
An integration of historic monuments and modern skyscrapers, Surat is a quaint town located along the banks of river Tapi. The ISKCON temple here, standing on an area of around 13,000 km, is frequented by devotees from all across the world. The Dutch Cemetery, Shahjahan's Fort, Parsi neighbourhood and colonial building are beautiful symbols of the history of this city. Dandi is a popular destination among tourists visiting Surat and is a place made famous by the Indian independence movement. When it comes to food, Surat offers lip-smacking Gujarati flavours, albeit only vegetarian. Popular eateries here include the Leonardo Ristorante Italiano, Jalaram Khichadi and Kansar Gujarati Thali. Accommodation here is easily available and sits well within in your budget. If you want more, travel to the Dumas Beach, which is located about 18km from the city.
The city of Junagadh in Odisha, is a popular religious destination as well as an interesting tourist city. It is situated at the foothills of Mount Girnar with the Arabian Sea on its southwest, and fort walls surrounding the entire city. It is not a surprise that the city is loaded with architectural remnants and a pleasure for history buffs to explore. The Uparkot Fort, Tomb of Nuri Shah and Junagadh Museum will arouse that historical shiver within you and tell you the story of the past. Jama Masjid is worth visiting for an arresting panorama of Junagadh. Snippets of the Chudasama Rajputs are evident in the architectural styles of relics like Adi-Kadi Vav and Navghan Kuvo. If you are an adventure seeker, the Holy Hill of Girnar offers a remarkable trek. The Jain temples, Amba Ji Mandir, and Dattatray Mandir are pit stops that you can use to catch a breath during this 5-6 hour steep trek. Once you are at the top of the hill, you will realise why the exhaustion is totally worth it. Another wonderful opportunity that Junagadh offers you is close proximity to the stunning Gir National Park. If exploring the world is something you simply can't resist, then Gir definitely has to be on your list. Perhaps the only place where you can see the mighty, shy lions going about their daily business, Gir offers you an experience that is hard to forget. Leo Resorts is a good choice if you prefer to stay a night, though there are other budget and luxury hotels depending on your preference. For shopaholics, there are gold and silver embroidered items and perfumes available in the local markets. Don’t forget to pick up a tin of Kesar Keri on your way back – the taste of the mango pulp will keep you wanting more.
Rajkot today may deceive you with its congested roads and new heights, but the soul of the city still screams Gandhi. The narrow lanes, marketplaces with farmers selling bottled ghee at corners keeps the ethos intact. At Alfred High School you will see the reminiscences of the cultural setting where Gandhi pursued his education and at Gandhi Smriti, the recollections of his childhood. Founded in the colonial times, traces of the British Raj are still prevalent here. Prominent places to visit include the Watson Museum, Rotary Dolls Museum and Aaji Dam. Situated in the heart of Saurashtra, Rajkot is probably the centre with Gir Forest, Somnath Temple, Mount Girnar and even Diu all within a range of 200kms from it. If you want to spend the night, consider the Seasons Hotel or Marasa Sarovar Portico. From a cultural point of view, Rajkot is not inadequate either. The Kathiawari is an inherent form of folk music and Dayro too is Rajkot’s very own native genre. And how can one possibly forget the Garba? That is what keeps the city lighted during the festival of Navratri, through the night till dawn. Try the mouth-watering cuisine, which includes dishes such as fafda, poha, jalebi, dabeli, spicy ghughra and chikki before leaving the city.
One of the most visited cities in Gujarat, Bhuj is home to a number of historical monuments, a lively culture and a historically rich past. Taking you back to a time of simple living, Bhuj is a traveller's delight. From the enlightening Kutch Museum to the bedazzling Aina Mahal, this small city welcomes travellers with forgotten stories, intriguing escapades and numerous hidden corners. There are a number of popular temples here including the Shree Swaminayan Temple; the Swaminayan temples were actually first built in Bhuj. Enveloped in white, the temple is a must visit even if religious sites are not a part of your itinerary. You should also visit one of the oldest museums in Gujarat, which is the Kutch museum. Taking you through Gujarat's exciting past, the museum is also home to Kshatrapa inscriptions and the now extinct Kutchi script. The museum is located along the beautiful Hamirsar Lake and is a must-visit. Do also head to Aina Museum. One of the best examples of Indian architecture under the influence of European architecture, this one is fascinating to visit. True to its name, the best feature of the mahal is the Hall of Mirrors. The palace also houses a number of rare and stunning artefacts and paintings from around the world and is a treat to explore, especially if you are an art enthusiast. This small city packs in a lot for travellers and a couple of days here is enough to take back a beautiful experience unless, of course, you fall in love with the city's magic. Reaching Bhuj from Ahmedabad is quite easy since it's a major town and buses, taxis ply almost throughout the day.
Diu is very unlike India's other beach destinations. Located on a small island linked by a bridge to Gujarat’s southern coast, it is quiet, clean, full of Portuguese history and free of tourist-traps. Life on this small, sleepy town begins at around 5am, and by 9pm, streets are mostly deserted. Diu is a favourite with writers and artists, who often come here to enjoy the silence, found almost everywhere on this tiny island. But that doesn’t mean it is devoid of things to do. To explore Diu, you can rent a bicycle for a small cost and move around at your own pace. The Diu Fort and the view that it offers of the Arabian Sea is an unmissable adventure. There are also the Naida Caves, full of a labyrinth of paths and rock staircases, making for a thrilling experience. Evenings can be spent strolling around on the unique Gomtimata Beach, and then in the bylanes of Diu sampling the delectable seafood.