Gujarat, just south of Rajasthan, on the western seaboard, is India’s most prosperous state. Famous for the tribal textiles from its Kutch region, the temples of Shatrunjaya, the salt-flats in the Little Rann and the island of Diu, Gujarat was once the hub of the British textile trade but remains a relatively less explored region, offering a wide variety of wonderful experiences.

Bhuj

Bhuj

  • Colourful Banni villages
  • Kutchi-embroidered handicrafts

Located in the centre of the province of Kutch lies the walled city of Bhuj, a gateway to the vibrant tribal villages of Banni. The old city is, like so many other historical towns of India, a maze of narrow streets, crowded with a buzzing populace jostling for space with horse carriages and camel carts that ferry goods to the traders of their city. Bhuj is famous for its Kutchi embroidery, which has grown to become its main industry. There are many historical buildings in Bhuj; the Parag Mahal and Aina Mahal, still stand in good condition and have a collection of interesting antiquities. The Banni villages, home to nomadic communities which are famous for their skills in tribal art and Kutchi embroidery, are situated north of Bhuj.

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Sasan Gir National Park

Sasan Gir National Park

  • Wildlife reserve, home of the Asiatic lion
  • 250 bird species
  • Hot springs

The beautifully wooded Sasan Gir National Park, located in the south western part of Gujarat, is the last natural habitat of the Asiatic Lion. Abundant in forests, rocky outcrops and valleys, the park was created in 1965 when the population of the lions in India had reached an abysmal 12. With sustained effort and perseverance however the numbers slowly improved and the park is now home to over 300 lions, which freely roam its deciduous forests. Other species that flourish at Sasan Gir are hyenas, crocodiles, deer, leopards, wild boar and jackals, plus over 250 avian species. Within the park is also the Kankai Mata shrine and the Tulishyam hot springs, a site revered by the Madhari’s, cattle herders of the region.

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Bhavnagar

Bhavnagar

  • Vibrant bazaars
  • Hilltop temple complex
  • Breathtaking views

The port city of Bhavnagar is located on the west of the Gulf of Khambat. About 200km away from Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar was a major trading hub established in 1724 by Bhavsinhji Gohil and the capital of the then Bhavnagar state. The city is today a bustling metropolis, the 6th largest in Gujarat and often called the cultural capital of Saurashtra. Nearby lies the Shatrunjaya temple complex, located amid the Shatrunjaya hills, that has an astounding 863 shrines within, each made of marble with intricate carving. The complex, considered one of the most sacred of the Jains, is a climb of 3500 steps, a distance of three and a half kilometres each way, and offers astounding views as one ascends. The Gandhi Smriti Museum, which has a good collection of memorabilia on Mahatma Gandhi, and the Takhteshwar Temple are other sites to visit in Bhavnagar.

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Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad

  • Home to the Sabarmati ashram
  • Temples, mosques & step-wells
  • Centre of the textile industry

The city of Ahmedabad rises along the banks of the Sabarmati river, a short distance from Gandhinagar, the state capital, and is a wonderful combination of the historical and the contemporary. Occupied since the 11th century, Ahmedabad in its current avatar was established by Ahmed Shah in 1411 who named the city after himself. Ahmedabad became the hub of the Indian textile industry under the Mughals and the British and earned the sobriquet “Manchester of the East” owing to the immense textile trade that flourished here. In the early 20th century Mahatma Gandhi founded two ashrams in Ahmedabad which later became the focal points of India’s independence movement. Today the city is a bustling metropolis that has plenty of historical sites like Jain temples, mosques and other monuments. The city is home to the Calico Museum of Textiles which has a stupendous collection of modern and ancient Indian textiles.

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Little Rann of Kutch

Little Rann of Kutch

  • Spectacular coastal wetland
  • Superb wildlife spotting
  • Excellent birding

West of Ahmedabad lies the Little Rann of Kutch, a massive salt marsh which gets magically transformed into a coastal wetland with the advent of monsoon and becomes home to an impressive variety of avian life. The Little Rann offers visitors a chance to enjoy cross-desert safaris and view the wildlife, especially in the winter when over 300 species of birds, including huge numbers of waterfowl and desert birds, can be seen. The region has been a wildlife sanctuary since 1973 and is the only place in the world where the endangered Indian wild ass, the khur, can still be found.

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