One of the largest states in India, Gujarat is a popular tourist destination for people from all over the world. The enchanting scenic beauty, historical monuments, remnants of ancient civilizations, and picturesque beaches cast a spell that is hard to break. It is also one of the only places to have a glimpse of Asiatic lions, free from captivity and in their natural habitat, at Gir National Park. Apart from that travelers visiting Gujarat also get to enjoy the unique folk dances and absolutely lip-smacking dishes of the state, famed the world all over.
One should not miss any of the following places:
Gir National Park, one of the top parks to see in Idia, is the only place in the world where the Asiatic lion can now be found. Thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have been increasing. Gir is considered to be the largest dry deciduous forest in western India. There’s plenty of other wildlife there, including around 300 types of birds. You’ll have the best chance of spotting a lion if you go during March until May, although to most comfortable time to visit the park is from December until March. Safaris run daily.
- SOMNATH TEMPLE
An important pilgrimage destination, Somnath is one of the 12 jyotirlinga (shrines of Lord Shiva, where he’s worshiped as a linga of light) in India. Its seaside location is powerful, the intricate carvings on its sandstone architecture are superb, and its history is fascinating. The temple was ransacked by Islamic invaders and rebuilt numerous times, with the final reconstruction taking place after India achieved Independence. Mahashivratri is celebrated in a big way there. A colorful religious fair is also held every year on Kartik Purnima (full moon night, usually in November), complete with small children dressed up as Lord Shiva and plenty of bhaang.
- RANN OF KUTCH
The Kutch region of Gujarat is sometimes described as India’s “wild west”. This immense stretch of largely barren and harsh desert landscape apparently spans more than 40,000 square kilometers, and is one of the country’s largest districts. Its name, Kutch (or Kachchh), refers to the fact that it alternates between wet (submerged during the monsoon season) and dry. Much of Kutch consists of seasonal wetlands known as the Great Rann of Kuctch (famous for its salt desert) and smaller Little Rann of Kutch (famous for its Wild Ass Sanctuary). Other attractions in the Kutch region include historic Bhuj, villages and traditional handicrafts, the ship building in the port town of Mandvi, and the Dholavira ruins of an ancient Indus Valley Civilization/Harappan city.
Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat for many centuries, was declared to be India’s first UNESCO world heritage city in 2017, beating both Delhi and Mumbai. Its walled Old City was founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, and is home to diverse Hindu, Islamic and Jain communities. The Old City is divided into numerous pols (historic residential neighborhoods with winding lanes and carved wooden homes). Plus, it has some of the finest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture and Hindu Muslim art in India. Explore the area on this fascinating Ahemdabad Heritage Walk.
- RANI KI VAV (THE QUENN’S STEPWELL)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Rani ki Vav is an ancient abandoned stepwell dating back to the 11th century. It was also constructed during the Solanki dynasty, apparently in memory of ruler Bhimdev I, by his widowed wife. The stepwell has stairs going down seven levels, and panels containing more than 500 main sculptures and over 1,000 minor ones. Only discovered relatively recently, the stepwell was flooded by the nearby Saraswati River and silted over until the late 1980s. When it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India, its carvings were found in pristine condition.
Located on the western coast of India between Maharashtra and Rajasthan, Gujarat didn’t feature on the tourist map until recent years.There are actually some amazing places to visit in Gujarat, with diverse attractions such as handicrafts, architecture, temples, and wildlife. It’s worthwhile getting out and about, away from the major cities, and exploring.