To most people, Gujarat is its cultural and religious attractions, apart, of course, from its evocative coastline—the longest in mainland India—and the stunning salt-marsh landscape of Rann of Kutch. But the sheer wealth of adventure attractions awaiting travellers in the state will surprise you. For those who are suckers for trekking, there are quite a few circuits and trails that you can explore. The period after the monsoon is an especially fecund time, as the lush hills grow in verdure and the springs and streams bubble forth. Here’s taking a look at five of the best treks in the gorgeous coastal state.
Treks in this region, formerly the kingdom of the Parihar dynasty with Vijayanagar as its capital, offer plenty of birdwatching opportunities and also allow you to get fully into the great outdoors. Situated near the Rajasthan-Gujarat border, the forest, spread over 400 sq km, is home to over four hundred species of medicinal plants, around 275 avian species, and 30-odd mammalian and reptilian species. The state forest department operates a campsite near the Vanaj forest close to the Harnav river. Educational workshops and wildlife camps are organised here. Archaeology and temple circuits also make for enriching treks here, since the area is peppered with historical ruins and temples.
Be prepared to crunch some mind-boggling numbers as you scale the five summits of the Girnar Hill that some believe to be older than the Himalayas. These five summits are home to over 800 temples and to reach the hilltop pilgrimage that both Hindus and Jains visit, one has to go up a whopping 10,000 steps. However, with shops and stalls all along the way and different summits at different points, trekkers can choose to cut it short or do it the way they like.
Make sure you start in the wee hours and witness the magical morning light in the first hour of your ascent. About two-thirds of the climb later, you will reach a cluster of Jain temples including the 12th-century temples of Neminath and Mallinath. The final 4,000 steps are said to be the hardest part of the trek, but the views of Junagadh from up top are completely worth it.
Junagadh is also home to the beautiful fort of Uparkot, which is accessible via a gentle climb and offers great views of the Girnar valley. The fort is believed to have been built in 319 BC under Chandragupta Maurya’s commission and extended numerous times in the following centuries. Do explore the fort premises, including a former mosque, two Buddhist mosques, and two stepwells.
This scenic hill haven in south Gujarat remains one of the countless undiscovered gems in the state. The rain-kissed slopes cloaked in the thick forest of the Dang district offer opportunities for some unbelievably rewarding day treks.
The little-known hill station of Don (30km from Ahwa, 55km from Saputara) is another hidden trekking and hiking haven in Dang. Trails along the lush hilly terrain around the village offer a lot of rewarding nature walks. One can also trek up to the Kadam Dungar (hill) located nearby.
Tucked away in district Mahisagar, Bakor promises some terrific monsoon treks and hikes. The whole expanse, including the Mohava trees, grows lush during the rainy months, and trekkers, photographers and those fond of tranquility in nature flock to the region. Those headed for the Bakor campsite must visit the ancient Kaleshwari temples and a waterfall near the village. The area is also rich in avifauna, with species such as jackals, nilgai, chinkara, paradise flycatchers and grey hornbills present.
Lying just 45km away from Vadodara, and very close to Champaner, the Pavagadh Hill (with an elevation of 825m) provides some fine opportunities for trekking. Usually, climbers and devotees take the cable car to the summit, atop which stands the Mahakali Temple believed to date back to the 10th or the 11th century. Trekkers can, however, opt for the 5-km-long stepped trail through the forest—or, better still, take the unmarked trail along the back of the hill. The latter promises captivating panoramic views especially during the monsoon, and offers a nice challenge to those used to desk jobs. Cap off the adventure with a visit to Champaner, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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