Saputara, the ‘abode of serpents’, is the only hill station in Gujarat. It is located in the Dangs, the least developed of Gujarat’s districts. In fact, it was the Dangs tribals who gave Saputara its name, for they come here during festivals such as Nag Panchami to worship the snake on the banks of the nearby Sarpaganga River.
Being a post-Independence discovery, Saputara exudes a more desi charm than the usual colonial-style hill stations. There are no Raj-hangover mansions or viewing points named after erstwhile British rulers and soldiers here. On offer, instead, is a typical summer holiday, where you can sample some of the town’s attractions like boating on the lake and riding the ropeway cable cars. You can avoid them all by simply getting lost in the forested hills around.
ThIngs to See & Do
The most delightful thing about Saputara is its leisurely pace and its lack of commercialisation. The air is chilly and the mist falls over the town in the evenings. Plenty of walking is possible, but if it’s just a relaxed, quiet getaway you are looking for, Saputara is ideal. Tiny Saputara overlooks a verdant green valley, and it is so tourist-friendly that finding your way around will not be a problem.
Walks and Views
You can go trekking or take leisurely walks around the lake and the hills. There are also quite a few gardens for you to take a breather if the walking gets too much. Choose from Lake Garden, Step Garden and Rose Garden. You can also head for the Forest Nursery and the Forest Log Hut, which are great places to spend time while you let the mountain air work its magic on you. There are also a few observation points worth a visit, including Echo Point and Townview Point if you want to gaze at the hills.
For those looking for more strenuous activities, there are tribal villages of the Bhils, Warlis and Gamits, among others, close enough to trek to. There are also Hatgad Fort and Pandava Caves to explore, all on foot. Once you have clambered all over the place, visit Valley View Point, about 1.5km away. The view from up here is breathtaking. The aptly named Sunset Point offers the perfect view too.
It’s possible that neither legend nor the prospect of shedding a few kilos inspires you to undertake these treks. Rely then on the ropeway, which will give you the ride and the views, sans physical effort. The placid lake is definitely one of Saputara’s main attractions and the paddleboats operate through the year. There are horse rides as well.
Saputara Tribal Museum
This small museum just has a couple of rooms showcasing the life and arts of the tribal population that resides in the Dangs. The museum houses carved wooden objects, tribal masks, musical instruments and even a stone funerary column. What could be really interesting here, though, is a workshop where you can learn how to make your own ‘traditional Dang’ items. In all of Saputara, the museum and a brochure put out by Gujarat Tourism remain the only source of information on the Dangs.
The local tribals are famous for bamboo handicrafts — pen stands, jewel lery, masks. Check out theroadside stalls by the lake during your strolls for some specimens to take home as souvenirs. The townalso has an Artist’s Village and a centre for honey. Adjoining villages in the Dangs offer the same.
Where to Stay
Saputara has plenty of decent places to stay in. However, most hotels only provide basic facilities. Water is a problem in the Dangs in the winter months. On holidays, Saputara is besieged with families from Valsad, Surat, Navsari and Ahmedabad. So, book in advance. There are differen tial rates on weekdays and weekends.
At first sight, Gujarat Tourism’s Hotel Toran (Tel: 02631-237226; Tariff: â‚¹1,700—2,000) might look like any other insipid government building that one may be disinclined to inhabit. However, walk on a little further and you will come across the cottages. Nestled on a cliff, they offer a breath taking view of the valley. The cottages are a little old-fashioned — wooden beam roofs on a split level, with an uneven wooden staircase, and rooms with a back entrance where hot water arrives for your bath straight off the boiler. They also each have a lovely little verandah. This place is excellent, and highly recommended. Their new building, Toran Hill Resort (Tariff: â‚¹2,800—6,800), has premium rooms. Toran Ambika (Tariff: â‚¹2,800—4,600) is another good option with rooms and suites.
Vaity Ropeway Resort (Tel: 237210-14; Tariff â‚¹ 3,490—4,990, with meals) is located on the hilltop. The ropeway is next to Vaity, hence the name. The hotel is particularly popular with corporate as a conference venue and also for employee retreats. Savshanti Lake Resort (Cell: 07874775250; Tariff: â‚¹2,700—4,000) is a large property located on the banks of Saputara Lake. Its facilities include a restaurant and a swimming pool.
Hotel Anando (Tel: 237203; Tariff: â‚¹2,400—2,800, with two meals), opposite the lake, is another good choice. Hotel Patang (Tel: 237251, Cell: 09712014566; Tariff: â‚¹6,200—8,200, with meals) is also lake-facing and lies at the heart of Saputara. Hill Resort Chitrakoot (Tel: 237221; Tariff: â‚¹3,600—4,000, with meals) is a good option with basic amenities. It has a restaurant.
Where to Eat
While in Saputara, one has to survive on the vegetarian Gujarati thali. This is the staple fare offered in the hotels, but as consolation, the servings are unlimited.
The food at Hotel Patang’s Pasand Restaurant is perhaps the best in Saputara and also the most expensive. The waiters here are highly efficient. Gujarati, Punjabi and Chinese vegetarian meals can be had at hotels Vaishali and Anando.
(With inputs from Abraham Mathai)