Be the one with nature and experience wildlife at its best in the national parks, soak up the rich culture and heritage at the numerous century-old monuments and historical sites, or be a part of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi at his birthplace and ashram, the splendour of Gujarat is abundant.
Located on the extreme west of India, the state is laced with beautiful beaches and rolling hills that make for some fun eco-tourism spots. The pristine white sands of the Rann of Kutch makes a desert of unparalleled beauty. All of this, peppered with vibrant and colourful festivals and culture, you simply cannot miss out on Gujarat.
Old World charm
Witness the ruins of the flourishing Indus Valley civilisation unfurl before you at the towns of Lothal and Dholavira. The brilliant township planning, the ancient drainage system, granaries and many wonders of the civilisation that rose to prominence around 3300 BCE can be found here. The civilisation pushes the recorded history of India by almost 200 years. As part of one of the most advanced civilisations, the towns have seals that show the then international trade relations that were carried out from Gujarat’s ports.
Ancient India boasts of some unimaginable architectural wonders, and buildings that define engineering marvels. One such specimen can be found in the city of Patan. Rani ki Vav is an ancient 11th-century seven-storeyed step well located by the Saraswati River. A Unesco World Heritage Site, the well was constructed by Queen Udayamti, wife of the Chalukya dynasty king Bhima I after his death. The well has beautiful intricate carvings of over 800 deities and is built to use the river water to supply cool air. The revered Somnath Temple is located just a few kilometres from Patan. A holy site of pilgrimage for Hindus, the temple is a magnificent example of architecture with intricate detailing and exquisite carvings.
The Champaner-Pavagadh Archeological Park, another Unesco World Heritage Site, is home to magnificent forts, mosques, temples and exquisite architecture, which is bound to leave you astounded. Located around 45 kilometres from Vadodara, the city of Champaner, founded in the 8th century, was forgotten during the colonial times. Today, the lush forests surrounding the fort and the various monuments make it a treat for travellers wanting a peek into the ancient times.
When in Gujarat, one cannot miss the city of Vadodara. The recently-built Statue of Unity—a mammoth 182 metre-tall statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel—is a major attraction here. Built over five years and completed in 2018, the statue is a huge symbol of unity, peace and strength that symbolises the country.
The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, the cradle of the Dandi March, Gujarat breathes in the essence and principles left by the Father of the Nation. His ashram at Sabarmati and his home in Porbandar are places that will take you down the yesteryears, which saw the rise of Indian freedom struggle. Even today the Sabarmati Ashram continues to follow his teachings and serve the nation in their own way.
TIME FOR ADVENTURE
If you are looking for something fun and challenging, Gujarat has everything you need. From forests to beaches, hill stations to deserts, the state has it all. The Rann of Kutch is, undoubtedly, a must visit. Boundless stretches of white saltpans make up the largest salt marshes in India. The salt desert is home to a number of endangered animals, like the nilgai. If you are looking for some fun try the golf cart, ATV ride, camel cart excursion and paramotoring while you soak up the rich Gujarati culture. Visit during the winter months—November to February—to witness the grand carnival and revelry that is the Rann Utsav. Bright colourful traditional performances, musicals, shows, dances and many other activities unfurl throughout these four months. Try to stay overnight during a full moon to catch the Rann in its glittering glory.
Situated in northern Gujarat and tucked away amidst some dense forests is the Polo Monument in Vijaynagar. Don’t be taken aback by the word, the name derives from a Marwari word ‘Pol’ meaning gate. A hike to the monument through the forest would take you to the Gujarat-Rajasthan border, a region marked by extreme conditions.
Right next to the Thar desert, you might think Gujarat has nothing ‘cool’ to offer. Hold that thought. The pristine hill station of Saputara is the quaint getaway that you might be looking for. Flanked by the Sahyadri Hills, Saputara offers some beautiful hiking trails, rapid waterfalls as well as a wide range of flora and fauna. So, if you’re the one looking for adventure and fun along with relaxation, head to the hills for the right kind of rejuvenation.
One of the longest and pivotal dams in India, the Sardar Sarovar Dam is a major spot for eco-tourism. Built across the Narmada River, the place is visited by millions to experience the scenic beauty from the top of the dam. The gallons of water stored on one side and the incredible roar when the barges are lifted make for a splendid sight.
WILD WILD WEST
Moving over historical places, natural beauty and eco-tourism, the bounty of exotic wildlife that the state has to offer will leave you speechless. For all the wildlife enthusiasts and shutterbugs, you have just entered the land of the Asiatic lion.
Gir National Park is the home to the largest population of Asiatic lions in India. Spread over an area of 1,412 sq km, it is home to over 20 lions, nilgais, deer, large numbers of birds and other animals. You can book safaris and enter the core area for splendid sightings of the royal beasts.
A haven for bird lovers, the Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary is located just about 65 kilometres off the capital city of Ahmedabad. It receives hundreds of migratory birds like Siberian cranes, pelicans, herons, and flamingoes. Native to the sanctuary are about 210 species of birds and mammals along with various flora species. Walk around the entire area for a wholesome experience and be surrounded by incessant chirping of birds.
Located off the coast of Dwarka, the Marine National Park is a repository of some intriguing marine animals, corals and plants. Filled with sea sponges, anemones, fish, turtles, and urchins, the Marine National Park is a must-visit for all nature lovers.
Coming to Gujarat and not trying the local fare is like missing half the experience. Indulge in some traditional Gujarati snacks like thepla, handvo, khakra, fafda, dhokla and many others while sipping on some cool and refreshing masala chaas or buttermilk. One of the prominent shops to buy these snacks is Annadiben Shop, which has outlets all over the state. Also don’t forget to try the traditional Gujarati thali. It comes with a couple of fried or steamed snacks called farsans, a green vegetable dish, a tuber or gourd dish, a braised pulse or bean dish called kathol, among others. Gujarati kadhi is a yogurt-based lentil soup, which is common with the rotla and will be accompanied by chutti dal, vaal, or mag ni dal.
The thali also comes with breads like thick bajra rotlas, thin wheat rotlis, crispy whole wheat flour rotis known as bakhris, parathas, savoury spiced breads called thepla, and deep-fried puris. There are also variations like methi thepla or masala puri in these. The thali comes with sweet, sour and spicy chutneys, pickles, ghee and chopped vegetable salad served raw or steamed with spices.
Dry sweets and those made from coconut, jaggery and mangoes like doodhpak, mohanthal, shrikhand and laddoos are a staple. Most of these are made during special festivals and occasions but can be easily found in any restaurant.
With the palate changing every few kilometres, Gujarat has a wide-spread buffet to spoil travellers and visitors in every way.
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