A road trip through Gujarat - Trails and Frames

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Photo of A road trip through Gujarat - Trails and Frames 1/1 by Nivi

A road trip through Gujarat: My travel journal.

I need to confess that for this trip I was just a guest of honour and was lucky to be the driver as well. Lucky because the roads were very good (for most parts). My sister planned the entire itinerary and she was quite ambitious for the little (once in a) while that she can get away from her cabin at work. (Yes, I have a family full of travellers)

We traveled from different cities and met at Ahmedabad to start our journey. That was the first time I saw the itinerary. My eyes widened and I went, "Woo hoo hoo...around the world in 60 seconds or what?!!" I exclaimed!

After finishing the trip though we had just small "could haves" and "would haves" that would have made the itinerary a little better. For most parts, this is a good itinerary if you have a short time away from your work place. Also included are suggestions to an extension in the itinerary based on our experience.

Day 1

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Road trip route: Ahmedabad -> Ambaji -> Gabbar Hill -> Patan (Rani Ni Vav) -> Bhuj -> Mandvi Beach -> Kalo Dungar -> Rann of Kutch -> Bhuj -> Jamnagar -> Dwarka-> Beyt Dwarka -> Somnath -> Sasan Gir -> Diu - Sasan Gir -> Ahmedabad

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Here is a day wise account with costing and important notes at the end.

Day 1: We reached Ahmedabad airport and had to travel about 8 km to go to the taxi rental place. We rented an Innova (7 seater) for the entire trip duration.

We left to Ambaji the same day for a short visit.

Headed to Patan for the night.

Drive time: Ahmedabad to Ambaji : 3.5 hours Ambaji to Patan: 2.5 hours

Stayed at Patan: Hotel Navjivan, Price: ~2000 per night. We booked this based on reviews, it's an average budget stay. Food at the in-house restaurant was average.

Day 2: Visited Rani ki Vav the Unesco World Heritage site.

Day 2

There is Patan Patola heritage centre where Ikat work is showcased. Double ikat also called Patan Patola is one of the things Gujarat is famous for. You could go there to check the weaving process or to buy a souvenir for yourself. It will be a beautiful keep for sure. Read more about Patola and its history here.

Top view

Photo of Rani Ki Vav, Mohan Nagar Socity, Patan, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Rani Ki Vav

Photo of Rani Ki Vav, Mohan Nagar Socity, Patan, Gujarat, India by Nivi

UNESCO world heritage site

Photo of Rani Ki Vav, Mohan Nagar Socity, Patan, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Post lunch - travel to Bhuj.

Stayed at Bhuj: The Dream resort. Price: 4500 Rs. per night for a room (cottage style). Food at the in-house restaurant is below average. It was fairy new when we stayed, not sure if there is any improvement now. Stay was comfortable, rooms are clean. They have sheet roofs so it got really cold when we were there. (in Dec end) .

Bhuj : 1 day and 2 nights. Would suggest to add another day here to cover places near Bhuj (Mandvi beach, local Bhuj)

Day 3: Day trip to Kalo Dungar and Rann of Kutch:

Day 3

We lost half a day due to car breakdown, it was out of battery. It was easy to get a mechanic and replace it. But we did loose time from our planned (tight) itinerary. So we had to skip local Bhuj village and head directly to Kalo Dungar means Black hills and is the highest point in Bhuj. You get to see a diverse landscape view of water, the salt scapes, sand, grassland and the mountains all at once. Well its all mostly the salt scapes. It has the best panoramic view of the Great Rann of Kutch.

A local singing a folk song

Photo of Bhuj, Gujarat, India by Nivi

At Kalo Dungar we were lucky to hear some local folk songs performed by a local.

If you have an additional day, you can choose to watch the sunset here. Since we had a time crunch (owing to the car breakdown and my ambitious sister's itinerary), we headed to Rann of Kutch.

Rann of Kutch: If you visit Rann of Kutch during the annual festival in December, you will see a lot of food stalls and local art village setups and performances.

You can have food at any of the stalls or choose to have the local thali meal at the entrance of the Rann of Kutch.

It is about a kilometre walk from the car park to where the salt marshes start. There are options of camel pulled carts, if you do not have the time or the energy to walk it up. The walk way is in itself a good view and it would have been even better if you could have an aerial view of it. For that you do have a tower which provides an aerial view. It's extremely crowded during festival time (is when we had gone). Be ready to see a lot of people everywhere you turn. Well who doesn't want to see the only one of its kind, one of the largest salt marshes in the world!

Rann of Kutch is a beautiful sight at sunset. The salt crystals that you walk on can give way anytime to muddy swamp beneath. But if it doesn't (most of the time it won't), the crystals end up looking like little clouds! It's a sight not to be missed. This place marked the most memorable place in Gujarat and was worth all the hype it carries.

Camel Cart

Photo of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat by Nivi

Sunset at Rann of Kutch

Photo of Rann of Kutch, Gujarat by Nivi

Bhuj to Kalo Dungar: 3 hours. Kalo Dungar to Rann of Kutch: 1 hour. Rann of Kutch to Bhuj: 3 hours.

Stayed at Bhuj. The Dream resort.

Day 4 & 5: Checked out of the Bhuj hotel and headed to Dwarka. Reached in the evening with breaks. We visited the Dwarka temple in the evening. Outside the temple you have some good snack stores. Tried one plate of everything they had to offer. The perks of traveling together ????

Day 4

All of them were good. The experience was quite happening, since cows kept marching up and down in rage every time people decided to be in their way !

Oh yes! They have the right of way here, and there can be no rational to it, it's just that you have to respect (fear) the horns and jump to the sides when they decide to take a stroll (which was quite often actually).

Day 5

We did a leisurely tour of all Dwarka temples on Day 5. Byet Dwarka was unfortunately closed (access to it) due to bad weather.

Stayed at: VITS Devbhoomi Dwarka. Price : 4000 Rs per night. Rooms are spacious and clean. Service was below average (apparently they were understaffed). In house restaurant food was good.

Dwarka beach

Photo of Dwarka, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Shining sand

Photo of Dwarka, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Dwarka temple

Photo of Dwarka, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Day 6: Checked out of VITs and headed to Somnath. It's about 5 hours drive. Somnath temple is by the sea and it's one of the twelve jyothirlingas of Shiva.. It had been destroyed multiple times by invaders and finally the current structure is rebuilt in the Chalukya style of temple architecture.

Day 6

A very beautiful sight and must visit. You cannot (like most temples) click any photographs of the temple from inside. In fact you are not allowed to take any mobile phones or electronic devices into the temple.

This temple is quite peaceful in spite of the large crowd and fortunately has more open area around the temple complex. That could be the reason why I liked this temple the best.

Drive Time: Bhuj to Somnath temple: 5 hours. Somnath to Gir: 1.5 hours.

Stayed at: Vanvaso resort, Sasan Gir. Price - Rs. 4200/- per night. Stay was comfortable, the resort has a good garden space, a swimming pool (not in use). It's right on the banks of Hiran river, and calls for a lovely nature walk around the river. And watch out for crocodiles! I did not see one, but the locals say they come out in the noon for a sun bath!

We had booked a resort based on booking .com photos and reviews of a place. It wasn't ready though when we got there. It was photos of a model place. The owner of the place was very friendly and agreed to cancel the booking and in fact got us some rooms in the neighbouring resort. This was a very nice gesture and was the first polite and helpful person we had met in Gujarat.

Somnath

Photo of Sasan Gir, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Day 7: Day trip to Diu.

Day 7

Diu has beautiful forts and beaches to negate all the temple only visits in the days at Gujarat so far. It was a pleasant change for all of us.

The fort is quite a lot of walk and has some good views of the fort walls against the tides.

Diu houses and roads have a very different look to it, owing to the Portuguese influence. It's a vibrant place to just walk around.

Naida cave is a lovely cave without bats (at least we did not see any)! It has sunroof and natural windows here and there, triangular entrance. It has layered walls and roots growing over the rocks. All this make up for a great sight at Naida caves. A must visit I would say.

Photo of Naida Caves, Diu, Daman and Diu, India by Nivi
Photo of Naida Caves, Diu, Daman and Diu, India by Nivi
Photo of Naida Caves, Diu, Daman and Diu, India by Nivi

St. Paul's church built by the Portuguese is a great architecture sight. It's built in the Baroque architecture similar to some churches in Goa (again build by Portuguese invaders).

Next up was some great lunch after about 6 days of craving for spicy food. Diu has some good restaurants, to satisfy all your spice cravings.

Photo of Nagoa Beach, Diu, Daman and Diu by Nivi

We ended the day at Nagoa beach watching a beautiful sunset over the waves! Returned back to Vanvaso (Sasan Gir) to retire for the night.

Drive time: Sasan Gir to Diu : 2.5 hours

Stayed at: Vanvaso resort, Sasan Gir.

Day 8:

Stayed at: Sasan Gir, Vanvaso resort.

Day 8

Heran river near Vanvaso resort

Photo of Sasan Gir, Gujarat, India by Nivi

A beautiful sunrise walk around the resort. Followed by morning Safari at Gir. If you don't get the Gir safari which is 3 hours duration. You can take the 30 minutes safari at the interpretation centre.

The forest in Gir National park is dry and deciduous. It is the natural habitat for the Asiatic lions which is its main attraction. Apart from these you also have quite a number of Leopards and lots of bird species housed in the National park

Head back to Ahmedabad.

Drive Time: Gir to Ahmedabad : 7.5 hours drive.

Day 9

A Lioness at Gir

Photo of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Gir Landscape

Photo of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India by Nivi

Stayed at: Lemon Tree Ahmedabad. Stay was good. Food is tasty, priced on the higher side. Service was good.

Suggestion : Days to add (from our learning):

Add Day 1 at the beginning if you want to see Ahmedabad local city exploration. Or you could move this to the final leg just before leaving Ahmedabad. We did not have a day planned for this city.Although I did arrive a day earlier (day 0) and had seen a bit of the old city market. Rest of the place was closed as it was a Monday. Most places are closed on Mondays.

Add Day 2: Add a day at Bhuj to go about things like a traveler instead of the touch and go that we had to do due to lack of time. We had 2 days and 1 night at Bhuj. Would recommend a 3 day and 2 night stay instead.

A total of 10 to 11 days with the modification suggested above should suffice for a quick tour of Gujarat.

Important notes:

1. First thing to do when you plan your trip to Gujarat is to book the safari at Gir . The only option to get this is online at the official site. And if it is sold out there, you have no option but to change your travel dates or go for the shorter 30 minutes safari at the Gir interpretation centre (Devaliya park safari). Here you will not get to see the lions in their natural habitat. You will see lions that have been brought there for monitoring. However you will not go disappointed in the interpretation centre for sure ;-). So if you don't sight one in Gir Safari then head to the Interpretation centre

2. Plan your Rann of Kutch visit on a full moon day (as far as possible). Ensure to book your stay much in advance as all places nearest to the white desert are sold out early.

3. At Patan: Getting a decent place to eat is a challenge. If the hotel where you stay has an average in-house restaurant, then I would recommend that you plan your meals at your stay hotel.

4. You are not allowed to carry mobile phones or any other electronic devices (including power banks) inside any of the temples. Bigger temples like Dwarka and Somnath have a safe keeping system. Somnath one is unmanned and has an electronic locker system with chargers for your mobile, which is cool. So your phones are getting charged up while you finish your short visit to the temple! Cool right!

5. Most tourist sites are closed on Mondays in Ahmedabad. Akshardham closes by 7 pm.

6. Would recommend renting a self-drive car to get around. And since the roads are great (for most part), the drive will be easy.

Challenges

- If you cannot read Hindi and Gujarati then you will have a little trouble getting around. Because in remote villages map apps don't work. But then there are locals for rescue, if you don't know the local language sign language will work.

- If you are not a sweet tooth and not a fan of deep-fried stuff then surviving on the local fried food is mentally taxing ;). And in most places you will find only local food.

Regarding the locals: We had our share of good and bad interactions, which is typical of any new place. But we found majority of the people (in the service industry) indifferent towards travellers/outsiders. Everyone is on their own going about their business (typical of city cultures). My personal feedback is that Gujarat needs more travellers and some more time to become cultural hosts (like Rajasthan)!

Good Stuff:

- Great roads (90% of the time).

- Ahmedabad has good public transport connectivity Temples, Forest, Desert and beaches (Just outside Gujarat) which caters to different interests in a group of travellers.

- The salt marshes at Rann of Kutch is the highlight of Gujarat, makes for a beautiful travel memory.

- Gir for the obvious (Asiatic lions) but also for its landscape. It will feel like the African savannah with the Acacia trees all around.

- If you are a sweet tooth and fried food fan! Then Gujarat is your food haven.

To summarise, Gujarat is a great place to travel for what nature has to offer. Rann of Kutch is simply a must visit to add to your travel list followed by Gir. For transportation would recommend to rent a self-drive car, as the roads are great (for most parts).

Road trip route: Ahmedabad -> Ambaji -> Gabbar Hill -> Patan (Rani Ni Vav) -> Bhuj -> Mandvi Beach -> Kalo Dungar -> Rann of Kutch -> Bhuj -> Jamnagar -> Dwarka-> Beyt Dwarka -> Somnath -> Sasan Gir -> Diu - Sasan Gir -> Ahmedabad

Trip cost: 35000 INR per person including domestic flight costs. (25 K INR for food, stay and internal transportation). It includes rent of a 7 seater SUV for all 9 days of the trip. This costing is for a group of 6.

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