I first traveled to Gujarat 13 years ago with my parents. We hired a cab from Ahmedabad and zigzag across Gujarat for the next 8 days. We went to some of the best places to visit in Gujarat for a first-time traveler. There was very little information and tips available on the internet about Gujarat but we managed well. My second trip was in 2011 and Gujarat tourism was running an advertisement campaign showcasing popular places of the state. At that time Rann festival in Kutch was one of the most upcoming and popular things to do in Gujarat. I traveled with a friend and saw some of the best places in Gujarat. Last year I revisited some of these best places in Gujarat.
Gujarat is an interesting travel destination and there are some unique historical places. Somehow only a few destinations are popular among travelers from other parts of India as well as among international travelers.
Most of the Indian travelers visit Gujarat for religious purposes. Somnath and Dwarka are the two most popular places in Gujarat for religious trips. After promoting Rann in Gujarat tourism advertisements, the Kutch region has become a popular travel destination among Indians and foreign travelers. The 3 months Raan festival is one the busiest time of the year in Kutch. Around the full moon, it remains most crowded. There are some interesting places in Kutch other than white Rann. There is so much to see in Gujarat for a traveler.
How to travel to Gujarat
There are 9 airports in Gujarat but only Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara airports have regular flights from other cities in India. Surat and Vadodara airports are located in the north-south of Gujarat and not a good option for travelers due to their location.
When planning a trip to Gujarat by air, travel to Ahmedabad airport. It is well connected with other parts of Gujarat by the Indian railway’s network and also by road. Ahmedabad is 8th busiest Airport in India and several domestic, as well as international flights, operates from here.
The tickets to Ahmedabad are reasonably cheaper in comparison to other places in Gujarat. I traveled to Ahmedabad from Delhi by air whenever I traveled to Gujarat.
All major cities of Gujarat are well connected with other parts of India with the Indian railway network. In case if there are no direct trains from other parts of India then you can get a train from Ahmedabad. Here are some of the tips for train travel in India.
Traveling in Gujarat
The public transportation in Gujarat is not very reliable as I mentioned above. In cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Bhuj, Etc auto rickshaws are easily available. They are the most economical way to travel from one place to another in a city. Local bus networks are practically non-existing.
Bus travel in Gujarat
The Volvo and sleeper buses are very popular in Gujarat for traveling between cities. There are overnight sleeper buses from Ahmedabad to other places in Gujarat. These buses are operated by private transporters.
The state government bus service is not very reliable and the buses are not very comfortable. The ticket for the private buses can be booked on Redbus and MakeMyTrip or through any other bus service provider.
These buses are fine for traveling between bigger cities and long distances travel. For short-distance travel bus network is not good, even though Ahmedabad’s bus terminus looks quite modern but bus service is not on par. For example, if traveling from Bhuj to Rann or Dorado or Hodka local bus service is not reliable. I have checked during my earlier trips and locals told me that at times they have to wait for 2 to 3 hours for a bus.
Juggad for traveling
“Juggad” which is a motorcycle attached to a cart is one of the most popular modes of transportation among local villages. It is cheap though not comfortable. When I traveled from Bhuj to Great Rann of Kutch or from Ahmedabad to Lothal, I saw several Juggads on the road near villages.
Cab /Taxi in Gujarat
Hiring a cab is one of the most practical ways to travel across Gujarat. During my 2 weeks trip to Gujarat, we tried to find economical options but couldn’t find anything practical. Roads conditions are good specifically in the Kutch region but public transport is not desirable.
I have been told in Bhuj that many backpackers hitchhike to Rann of Kutch or other parts to save the cost of travel. Gujarat is a relatively safer destination for travelers but hitchhiking is not my style of traveling. I prefer to travel in a standard bus instead of hitchhiking in a car or any other vehicle.
Best time to visit Gujarat
Summer is very harsh and hot so going out during the day is not possible.
The winter months from October to February /March is the best time to travel to Gujarat.
Rann festival starts from December and Kutch region gets very crowded. Around full moon nights, it is difficult to find accommodation in Bhuj. It is advisable to make an advance booking if you plan to travel at that time.
The resorts near White Rann charge exorbitant prices at that time. So either stay in Bhuj and travel to Rann or visit just before the Rann festival around the end of November. I traveled to Great Rann of Kutch a week before the Rann festival and stayed in Sham e Sarhad resort Hodka. If you want to travel during the Rann festival than keep in mind that accommodation prices are high and there will be lots of tourists in the white desert.
What to wear in Gujarat
This western state of India is comparatively safer for travelers and most people are hospitable. Still, the basic approach is little orthodox especially in small towns of Gujarat.
Mine only advise for female travelers is to dress conservatively. Wear clothes which covers your legs and shoulder. Don’t wear a deep neck and cleavage showing tops.
During my travel to Gujarat, I mostly wore jeans with tunic or Indian kurta with leggings.
Keep a stole or cap with you when traveling or sightseeing in Gujarat because it gets sunny and warm even in winter months.
The sandals are a good choice for footwear because it remains warm. There are not many places where you have to walk long distances so it is ok if not carrying sports shoes. Keep socks in handbags because at religious places you have to remove shoes and walk barefoot.
Also, read What to wear in India
Best places to visit in Gujarat
It is the biggest city in Gujarat and I always started & ended my trip in Ahmedabad. Sabarmati Ashram, Sabarmati riverfront, Jama Masjid, Kankaria lake, several Vavs, Pols in the city are some of the must-visit places in Ahmedabad. Also, visit the Akshardham temple.
Visiting Law garden market for street shopping of traditional items is one of my favorite thing to do. Unfortunately, shopkeepers bargain and haggle for price negotiation, which I dislike.
Manek Chowk food market is one of the most popular areas to try different food items. This market comes alive after sunset and remains open till midnight.
The time required – 2 days
Rani ki Vav
This is one of the most beautiful places in Gujarat. Rani ki Vav is one of the most beautiful historical places in Gujarat. This seven-story step well has beautiful carving on its walls and pillars.
I visited Rani ki vav from Ahmedabad along with Patan weaving units where they make sarees and also visited Modhera sun temple.
The time required – Day trip from Ahmedabad
This town is famous for its sun temple. The temple is not as grand as the sun temple of Konark but it is a nice place for a day trip from Ahmedabad. The sun temple is small but beautiful with a small pond with steps around it.
The time required – Day trip from Ahmedabad
Little Rann of Kutch
It is 90 km from Ahmedabad. The road conditions are not very good in this area and local people don’t know that it is a popular tourist place. Little rann is surrounded by villages.
I visited Little Rann of Kutch around the end of November. I took a jeep safari in the evening and visited cracked salt marshland, local salt making unit, wild ass and also saw migratory birds near the water sources.
Flamingos, pelicans and other migratory birds make Great Rann and Little Rann their home during winter months. It is possible to visit Little Rann during a day trip or stay for a night in one of the eco-resorts near wild ass Sanctuary.
The time required – Stay overnight or Day trip from Ahmedabad
It is the gateway for visiting the Kutch region in Gujarat. Earlier there were direct flights for Bhuj but now that flight discontinued. There are direct train and buses from Ahmedabad to Bhuj.
Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal, Kutch Museum, Swaminarayan temple Bhuj, Sharad Baug Palace and Chhatedi Bhuj are some of the must-visit places in Bhuj. Hamir Sagar lake was one of my favorite places, this lake is situated in the middle of Bhuj but still a very peaceful place. The sunset from the lake was mesmerizing. Also, visit artisan village Bhujodi which is 12 km from Bhuj town.
When you are in Bhuj take trips to Great Rann of Kutch, Lakhpat, Madavi, and Dholavira.
The time required – 1.5 to 2 days
White Rann of Kutch
This area of Kutch is a popular tourist hot spot. The white salt pans of great Rann attract travelers from across the globe. The white desert of Kutch is approximately 65 Km from Bhuj city. There are vast expanses of barren land as we reached closer to White Rann. There were small villages or settlements in the middle of nowhere.
White desert, Kalo Dungar, Indo Pak bridge, Haji Pir Dargah, Sunset point, Kavda flamingo wetlands are some of the must-visit places in White Rann of Kutch.
The 3 months long Rann Utsav is the busiest time of the year in this region. If you are not a backpacker and ok to spend money then stay in Bunga (Huts) or tents near White Rann of Kutch for a unique experience. I stayed in Shaam E Sarhad Bunga during my visit.
The time required – 1 night 2 days or Day trip from Bhuj if on budget
Lakhpat and Koteshwar
These two small towns near Bhuj are situated close to the westernmost international border between India and Pakistan. I took a day trip from Bhuj and visited Nakhatrana, Mata no Madh (Ashapura temple), Lakhpat and Koteshwar.
Lakhpat was a flourishing business town between the 17th to the early 20th century. It is said that most of the residents of the town were Lakhpati means millionaires, hence the name Lakhpat. Now only a Gurudawara and ruins of the fort exist in Lakhpat.
Koteshwar is situated on the seashore at the land’s end and it’s popular because of the shore temple.
The time required – Day trip from Bhuj
This small sleepy beach town of Gujarat is popular among locals. I took a day trip to Mandavi from Bhuj. The bus service was not good so we hired a cab for my trip.
On the way to Madavi, we visited Prerna Dham / Ambe Maa Temple in Godhra, Vijay Villas Palace, Wooden ship making factory and also went to Madavi beach.
There are windmills on the Mandavi beach, which supply electricity to the town. We saw a beautiful sunset from the beach and enjoyed some traditional Gujarati snacks.
The time required – Day trip from Bhuj
Dwarka in Gujarat
This ancient town was the capital of Lord Krishna according to Indian Mythology. Dwarka is one of the 4 Dhams of Hindu and the other 3 Dhams are Rameshwaram, Jagannath Puri, and Badrinath & Kedarnath. That’s why it is considered one of the most sacred places in India.
The temple of Dwarkadhish is the main reason why people visit Dwarka. Bhadkeshwar Mahadev Temple, Gomti beach, Dwarka beach, Dwarka lighthouse, Rukmani Mandir, Swaminarayan Mandir, and Sudama Setu are some of the important places to visit in Dwarka.
Bet Dwarka is a small island in the sea and can be reached by boat. We went to Bet Dwarka by boat, there are a couple of small temples on the Island.
According to Hindu Mythology, Bet Dwarka was the part of the kingdom of Lord Krishna. During underwater excavation Archaeologist and scientists found proof of an ancient city, which is now under water. According to Hindu scriptures, the city of Dwarka submerged in the sea when Lord Krishna left the earth.
The time required – 2 night
This beach town of Gujarat is best known as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. It is also the birthplace of Sudama, who according to Indian Mythology was Lord Krishna’s childhood friend.
Mahatma Gandhi’s house, Sudama Mandir, Shri Hari Temple, and Chowpati beach are some of the main attractions of Porbandar.
The time required – 1 day
This is one of the most popular places in Gujarat because of its religious importance. Somnath temple is the main reason why people visit Somnath. The shore temple of Somnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it’s the first Jyotirlinga among 12 in India.
Other important places to visit in Somnath are Bhalka Teerth, Dehotsarg Teerth, Triveni Sangam temple, and Somnath beach.
The time required – 1 night 2 days
Sasan Gir National Park
Sasan Gir is 68 Km from Somnath. The Sasan Gir or the Gir National park is the only natural habitat of Asiatic lions in Asia.
It is must visit place for a wildlife enthusiast. During my safari in Gir national park, I saw Lioness and her cubs in Jungle. It was a surreal experience to see wild cats. Other than Lions and Panther, there are different species of deers in the national park.
The time required – 1 night 2 days
Junagarh is 80 Km from Sasan Gir. It is popular for the Girnar mountain range, there are temples on the top of mountains. These temples are auspicious for Hindus and Jains.
Mahabat Maqbara, Uparkot Fort, Damodar Kund, Ashoka rock edict and Majevadi Gate are some of the historical places worth visiting in Junagadh.
The time required – 1 night 2 days
Dholavira or Lothal
These two Harapan or Indus civilizations sites are 4,500 years old and datings between 2900 BC to 1500 BC.
Dholavira is spread in 100 hectares of land. It is a small island surround by flood plains of great Rann of Kutch. The ariel distance from Bhuj is around 55 Km but because it is in surrounded by water from 3 sides. That’s why road distance is 250 Km from Bhuj.
There are 7 stages of excavation done in Dholavira. Lots of building structures, as well as items from that era, were excavated from Dholavira archeological site.
There is only one bus from Bhuj and it arrives in Dholavira around 9.00 PM and departs at 5.00 AM from Dholavira. It’s a worth visit site for every history enthusiastic. Taking a taxi to Dholavira from Bhuj is the most reasonable and practical option.
Another Harapan site in Gujarat is Lothal, which is 75 Km from Ahmedabad. It is much smaller in size in comparison to Dholavira but easier to reach.
I visited Lothal from Ahmedabad by taxi because there were no fix buses for the archaeological site. The site is well marked and gives the glimpse of the culture of Indus valley civilization.
The time required – Dholavira 1 night 2 days, Lothal is day trip from Ahmedabad
This is one of the lesser known destinations in Gujarat. It’s 135 Km from Ahmedabad and 45 Km from Vadodara.
The Pavagadh is in Champaner area of Gujarat. Pavagadh fort and ruins of Hindu & Jain temples on the hilltop are the main attraction in this area. Kalika Mata Mandir, Jami Masjid, and Kavada mosque are some of the other places to visit here.
Saat Kaman means seven arches is one of the most interesting places to visit in Pavagadh. Only 6 arches are in existence now with the one having demolished.
A ropeway is the most convenient way to reach the top. The view from the top is another reason to visit this place.
It can be visited in July August during monsoon.
The time required – 1 night 2 days
These are some of the best places to visit in Gujarat. It is not possible to visit all these places in a short span of time. I visited these places during my different trips to Gujarat.
Must eat Gujarati food items
Gujarati food is mostly vegetarian and slightly sweet. They add a little bit of sugar or Jaggery in Dal & Kadi as well as in several other food items. Sometimes people from other parts of Indian don’t like the sweeter side of savory items. Gujarati food is nonspicy and there is less chilly in food.
When In Gujarat eat a Thali meal because it is easier to get and most economical. Even in metro cities like Ahmedabad, you will get an unlimited Thali for 100 INR at any regular restaurant. The price will increase if you visit a fancy place.
A thali consists of a Dal or Kadi, 2 to 4 vegetables, Yogurt or Raita, Dessert, achar, chutney, Pappadum, 2 to 4 types of snacks, salad, 2 to 3 types of Rotis, rice or Khichdi and buttermilk. It is a complete meal with protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates.
In most parts of Gujarat, I have found Jalebi and Fafada for breakfast. It is very popular among locals.
Other popular breakfast and snacks in Gujarat are Thepla, Khakkara, Khamman Dhokla, Dabeli, Bhajiya (Pakoda), Khandvi, Chakri and Gathia.
Besan / Chickpea flour is used in several Gujarati dishes.
Gujarati Farsan, which means dry snacks are very popular items as most of these items remain consumable for more than 2 weeks after making.
While Gujarati food is nonspicy but the food from Kathiawad region of Gujarat is spicy as they use a generous amount of chilly.
In general, food is cheaper in Gujarat and you can easily eat a meal in 100 INR. Snacks are available between 20 to 50 INR.
Non-vegetarian food is also available in most parts of Gujarat though it’s not available everywhere like vegetarian food.
Travel guide for Gujarat and tips
* Gujarat is a dry state, which means carrying and consumption of alcohol is illegal.
** Public transport is not good so for day tours from different cities, you need to hire a cab. Consider this cost when planning a trip.
* Carry photocopies of your ID proof because you may need to submit these for the permit while visiting border areas.
** To experience the culture of Gujarat and Garba. Visit during Navratri festival it falls in the month of September or October according to Hindu calendar. This is one of the main festivals of India.
* Travel to Diu for couple of days when you visit Sasan Gir or Somnath. Avoid visiting over the weekend because most of the people from neighboring town visit Diu because alcohol is allowed here.
** Don’t go out alone late at night in secluded areas. Ahmedabad is quite safer as there are a couple of night food markets where families go for late-night food.
* Breakfast culture is very different in Gujarat. You will mostly get fried food items for breakfast. Though at some places you may get Poha and south Indian dishes.
** It is better to book a taxi for a complete trip if you are planning to use it for a few days. It will cost cheaper in comparison to booking every day.
* Ola and Uber available in bigger cities like Ahmedabad.
** Long distance travel by overnight buses is safe, time-saving and economical.
* Don’t carry too many woolens because even in winter months you can manage with a cardigan and shawl.
** When you visit craft villages like Bhujodi or Hodka buy directly from artists. Check this complete guide for what to buy in India.
* Drink lots of water because Gujarat is hot and dry. Check these tips for staying fit while traveling.