You can't go to Gujarat and come back with your cup half-empty. It is a sizable museum where lions prowl, history sits pretty, and palaces flaunt their glory. From white deserts to shore temples and from forts to world heritage sites, Gujarat is ever so gorgeous. While the ancient towns and prehistoric findings amaze you, the bucolic communities and folk culture keep you mesmerized. There's an inexplicable thrill in following the trails of big cats and immense joy in the company of migratory birds.
If you have sensed the potential, here is a list of places you must visit when you are in Gujarat.
#1. Gir Forest National Park
One of the oldest sanctuaries in India deserves your sincere involvement. It is home to over 500 rare Asiatic Lions. The experience of watching the majestic beast from an open gypsy is unparalleled. In fact, the deciduous forest of Gir also has other notable inhabitants like Indian Leopards, Sloth bears, Striped Hyenas, Golden Jackals, and Four-horned Antelopes. Spend a night at any of the forest resorts and see how wilderness turns even more mysterious after dark.
Picture yourself standing in a 'blindingly white' desert with chestnut-brown wild asses and blackbucks prancing by. The contrast is breathtaking. Once you have explored Little Rann, slip into the role of a birdwatcher and head to the Great Rann of Kutch. Flamingos, Purple Sunbirds, Crested Larks, and Black-headed Mynas create a kaleidoscope of colors. If you happen to be in Kutch during winter, attend the annual festival. This is the opportunity to lap up the traditional Kutchi embroideries, jewelry, and handicraft items. Don't leave Kutch behind before you have visited Dholavira, an archeological site that dates back to 2600 BC. It is one of the largest preserved sites of the Indus Valley Civilization.
#3. Laxmi Vilas Palace
This 19th-century heritage palace is gigantic and also believed to be four times bigger than the Buckingham Palace in London. Take your own sweet time to explore the elaborate mosaic work, chandeliers, and impeccable paintings by artist Ravi Verma. This exclusive structure not only has its own museum, orchards, and zoo, but also has a mini rail track. Watching the peacocks having a free run around the palace compound gives you a hope that the world has not lost its glory.
#4. Lothal & Champaner
This place transports you back to 2,500 BC. It is arguably the birthplace of Indus Valley Civilization – one of the oldest in the world. By looking at the public baths, pathways, modest citadel, and other ruins, you can imagine how prosperous the town was during its prime. The artifacts recovered from the site are housed in the on-site museum. A three-hour drive from Lothal takes you to Champaner – the 16th-century capital of Gujarat and a historic town listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Like the erstwhile inhabitants of this town, take a walk around the chalcolithic (The Copper Age) sites, old palace, fortifications, mosques, and admire the beauty of the surrounding Pavagadh Hill.
#5. Somnath Temple
Like a phoenix, the temple has risen from its ashes. It was razed to the ground and recreated several times before it finally established itself. The shore temple and its soaring shikara (spire) overlook the Arabian Sea. Observing the majesty of the architecture on a full-moon night and listening to the symphony of evening prayers orchestrate a memorable experience.
#6. Rani-ki-Vav (Queen’s Stepwell)
You will be depriving yourself of a stimulating experience if you write this off as 'just another historical site.' There's more to this 11th-century step-well than history. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a celebration of craftsmanship, precision, and detailing. Its design, resembling an inverted temple, symbolizes the 'sanctity of water.' The elaborate carvings and thousands of sculptures, which echo mythological and religious episodes, reflect the prowess of the artists.