Experiencing the Vibrant Gujarat

December 2015 – It was yet another year end shutdown for us and we were scouting for a vacation idea. During the year end holidays, we hate going to places which are crowded and can get expensive. Gujarat came out as a good choice with the weather also conducive at this time. The Great Rann of Kutch, situated at the west of the state, is the most famous tourist attraction in Gujarat. But that will consume almost an entire week on its own. We instead chose to go for a bit of variety and did central and south Gujarat. We did this trip with one other couple and hence, we saved money on few things like the rental for self-drive car, jeep safari etc.

Itinerary

Day 1 (28th Dec): Fly to Ahmedabad from Bangalore. Local sightseeing. Stay in Ahmedabad.
Day 2 (29th Dec): Full day sightseeing with a visit to Akshardham. Stay in Ahmedabad.
Day 3 (30th Dec): Drive to Little Rann of Kutch (100 km – 2hr). Desert safari in the evening. Stay in Patdi.
Day 4 (31st Dec): Drive to Diu (330 km – 7 hr). Stay in Diu.
Day 5 (1st Jan): Diu sightseeing in the morning. Drive to Somnath(85 km – 2 hr). Stay in Somnath.
Day 6 (2nd Jan): Drive to Gir (70 km – 1.5 hr). Safari in the evening (3 PM-6 PM). Stay in Gir.
Day 7 (3rd Jan): Safari in the morning (6 AM-9 AM) and evening (3 PM-6 PM).  Stay in Gir.
Day 8 (4th Jan): Drive to Ahmedabad (300 km – 6.5 hr). Take the afternoon/evening flight back to Bangalore. 

Accommodation

Place No of Nights Hotel link Cost per night (per couple) Inclusions
Ahmedabad 2 Armoise Hotel 1642 Breakfast
Patdi (LRK) 1 Bhavna Resort 4400 All meals + Evening Safari
Diu 1 Hotel Palms 3456 Breakfast
Somnath 1 Hotel Somnath Sagar 2127 None
Gir 2 Gir Pride Resort 3250 All meals

Car rental

We booked a self-drive car (Swift) from Myles for 7 days at Rs. 1700/ day from one of their centre’s in Ahmedabad. Drop off at the same location.

Ahmedabad

Admedabad is very different to other Indian cities in many ways. To begin with, the roads are huge, with dedicated lanes for buses to ply. The level of cleanliness maintained by the people is also quite a pleasant surprise. The famous Manek Chowk serving as a vegetable market in the morning, a bullion market in the noon and a street food market in the night is another talking point.

On our first day in the city, we visited the Sabarmati riverfront in the evening which is a waterfront developed on the banks of Sabarmati river. Even though it was filled with people everywhere attending the local fanfare with lots of eateries selling various food, not a single person was seen throwing garbage/attempting to litter the place. People did seem to care a lot about the cleanliness of the place and a true example of a clean India that we all aspire for. The same night, we tried out the Manek Chowk night market and the food was delicious.

The next morning, we visited the Adalaj stepwell and also Sabaramati Ashram on our way back. After lunch, we made our way to Akshardhama, located in Gandhinagar. The place is well built and maintained and its a pity they don’t allow cameras or phones to capture the beauty of the place. The highlight of the place was the water show after sunset telling you a story from the Upanishad using water jets, laser beans, video projections and flames. While in the city,  also make sure to try out some delicious local food like the Gujarati thali. It is also famous for its handicrafts and we did spend some time on shopping.

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Sabarmati riverfront

Little Rann of Kutch

Though not as majestic as the Great Rann of Kutch, the Little Rann does give you a glimpse of the vast unbroken bare flat land. It is also home to the Asiatic Wild Ass and is the world’s only remaining Wild Ass Sanctuary. It is also a natural breeding place for Indian Flamingos and many other migratory birds. Our evening safari on the desert lasted for about 2 to 3 hours and we managed to see many wild ass and a host of Flamingos in water. The fading sunlight shining upon the barren plains was indeed a sight to watch. If you are lucky, you can also spot a fox in this region.

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LRK

Diu

Gujarat being a dry state, people throng to this little union territory to party. We had planned our itinerary in such a way that we end up here for the New Year’s eve. There was a party arranged in our resort itself, though we found the one just outside our resort much more happening (a free concert by Kanika Kapoor). This happened to be one of the few occasions we had partied on new year’s eve and it was eventful indeed. The next morning, we visited the Diu Fort which took about 2 hours to see. It is an old Portuguese fort which also has a light house. Overall, it was decent place to visit if not for the scorching sun.

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Diu fort

Somnath temple

The Somnath temple, situated on the waterfront on the west coast of Gujarat, is one of the popular destinations in the state. The temple is very well architected and quite a sight, especially during sunset. We happened to also see Paresh Rawal when inside the temple. There is nothing to do in this town, except for this temple. But it is well worth a stop.

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Somnath temple

Gir

Gir Forest National Park is the sole home of the Asiatic lions in the wilderness. The national park has 2 attractions – Devalia safari park and the Gir jungle trail. Devalia park is a fenced area which is host to few lions and very similar to Bannerghatta national park in Bangalore. The Gir jungle trail on the other hand is the real safari in the wild where we have to go in search of the lion and have to rely on your luck to spot a lion in the wild. The jungle trail is closed from June 16th to Oct 15th every year. For the other days when it is open, you can get a permit for safari from here. Bookings open 3 months in advance.

There are 3 safari slots each day: 6 am-9 am, 9 am-12 pm and 3 pm-6 pm. The early morning and the evening slots are the best for sightings and are usually in demand. Cost of the permit (per gypsy, upto 6 people) is Rs. 800 on normal weekdays and Rs. 1000 for weekends and holidays. Once you have the permit, you can then hire a gypsy from the Sasan Gir reception. We hired it through a known contact and paid around Rs. 1300 per safari for the gypsy itself. Other charges per safari include Camera fee of Rs. 200 and Guide fee of Rs. 250. More details can be found here.

Over the 3 safaris we did in Gir, we managed to sight a lot of lions, Hyena and other interesting birds. Though a lot of it is luck, having a good driver/guide does help increase your chances.

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Gir

Parting thoughts

Overall, the trip had a good mix of time in the city, beaches, party, temple visits, safaris in the forest and desert. For a year end week long trip, spending around 50k per couple for a trip was quite a steal. 🙂

Gujarat in Pics

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