Day 1. AHMEDABAD – PALITANA 239 km (Appx four hours drive)
Ahmedabad: In the morning, take the Heritage Walk in the walled city of Ahmedabad. This organized walking tour is a great way to see the historic Swaminarayan Temple, exquisitely carved Jain and Hindu temples, ornate wooden havelis and the traditional lifestyle of the dwellers of the old quarters, bird-feeders, the 15th century Jumma Mosque and the mausoleum complexes of the Sultans and Begums of medieval Ahmedabad. c
Stay: Taj Residency Ummed /The House of Mangaldas Girhardas
Eat: Agashiye; Rajwadu; Vishalla
Museums & Art Galleries in Ahmedabad:
» Le Corbusier’s Sanskar Kendra complex
» Calico Museum of Textiles, Calico Mills,
» Shreyas Folk Art Museum.
» Gandhi Smarak Sanghrahalaya, Gandhi Ashram Sabarmati.
» L.D. Institute of Indology, Navarangpura.
» National Institution of Design.
» Tribal Research & trg. Museum, Ashram Rd.
» N.C. Mehta Art Gallery, Sanskar Kendra, Paldi.
» Kite Museum, Sanskar Kendra.
» Veechar Utensil Museum, Vasna Tolnaka.
» Natural History Museum, Kankaria
Day 2. Depart for Palitana calling in on the way Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and the 2400 – 1600 BC Indus site of Lothal for an insight into the Harappan civilization. (Not entirely necessary according to Shonar)
Possible stay at Utelia Palace Utelia (70kms from Ahmedabad)(Lothal is 20 mins away) http://www.nivalink.com/utelia/index.html or go directly on to Palitana.
En route drive to Velavadar National Park.
Known for its large blackbuck antelope population, Velavadar is also one of the few places where the wolf is proliferating in India though they are rarely seen in the day. Jackal, jungle cat and hare are more easily seen and Indian fox on the periphery. Sirkeer malkoha, painted francolin, chestnut-bellied and spotted sandgrouse, rufous-tailed, crested and sykes’ larks, red-rumped swallows, desert and variable wheatears and other birds are seen and many raptors visit specially short-toed snake eagle, imperial, steppe, tawny, greater and lesser spotted eagles, laggar falcon, hobby, common kestrel, red-necked falcon, peregrine falcon, white-eyed and long-legged buzzard, black-shouldered kite, shikra, Eurasian sparrow-hawk and occasionally northern goshawk. Rarities include the Stoilczka’s bushchat. In the evening, witness montagu, pallid and marsh harrier
Day 3. Stay: Nilambagh Palace Hotel
Location: 60kms from Palitana. 8 kms from Bhavanagar Airport and 2 kms from Bhavanagar Railway Station. Nilambag Palace Hotel [ST] ([tel] 0278/242-4241; www.nilambagpalace.com; Rs 3,800–Rs 5,800/$86–$132 double) in Bhavnagar (50km/30 miles away), and have the staff make all arrangements for your Palitana excursion. Built in 1859, Nilambag is run by the Maharani of Bhavnagar, who still has servants quaking in her presence. Spacious palace rooms (no. 210 is the classiest) have high ceilings, antique writing desks and dressing tables, oversize canopied beds, traditional lacquered Gujarati armchairs (sungeda), and lovely rugs on stone tile floors.
Or have home-cooked non-veg and veg dinner and o/n at the six-room Vijay Vilas Palace, the 1906 AD country house of the late Prince of Palitana now run by his granddaughter as a heritage hotel.
This has mixed reviews. Rather visit the Vijay Vilas palace in Madvi, Kucch. See below.
The Palitana temples are considered the most sacred pilgrimage place (tirtha) by the Jain community. There are more than 1300 temples located on the Shatrunjaya hills, exquisitely carved in marble.visit the Jain museum of Palitana and the local bazaar. Early morning ascent to the 863-temple covered summit of Shatrunjaya Hill. This is one of the most awe-inspiring sights of Gujarat and is one of the major Jain pilgrimage sites with an aura of devotion that is mind-blowing.
Day 4. PALITANA – DIU
Diu: Depart after lunch for Diu Island. Enjoy the beaches of Diu.
Stay at Radhika Beach Hotel/Richie-Rich Beach Hotel/Magico Do Mar Beach Resort/Hotel Kohinoor. Visit the 16th century Portuguese Fort, churches, museum and other sights of Diu.
Day 5. DIU – SOMNATH – GIR (120 km)
Drive to Somnath to see the world-famous shore temple and other temples. Drive to Gir, en route visit the fishing port of Veraval known for its hand-built dhows.
Maneland Birding Lodge www.maneland.com
Gir Birding Lodge set in a mango orchard.
GIR (Closes 15th June during monsoon)
Game drives in Gir, the last abode of the Asiatic lion. Gir is also known for its large panther population and for its birds. Between drives, visit interesting villages.
GIR – GONDAL (123 km)
Drive to Junagadh to see the Uparkot Fort & Buddhist cave-sites, Ashoka’s rock inscriptions (3rd century BC), palace museum, 18th & 19th century royal mausoleum complexes, Nawabi buildings and museums. Continue to Gondal. See the 1748 AD Naulakha Palace, the Vintage and Classic Car museum, the Bhuvaneshwari Ayurvedic Pharmacy and the Swaminarayan Temple.
Stay at the Riverside Palace/Orchard Palace of Gondal, both of them are heritage hotels owned and managed by their owners with 11 and seven rooms respectively and the latter also has a converted rail saloon suite.
PLEASE NOTE: As for Junagadh – it’s a devout pilgrimage for Gujaratis and one has to climbs literally thousands of steps so please take into account this is a whole day. If you do not have the time or the inclination then avoid Junagadh and rather do Palitana.
Jamnagar is another Gujarat delight, a fabulous, little-visited city, overflowing with ornate, decaying buildings and colourful bazaars displaying the town’s famous, brilliant-coloured bandhani – produced through a laborious 5000-year-old process involving thousands of tiny knots in a piece of folded fabric. It’s an ideal base for exploring the surrounding coastline that stretches to Dwarka, where rare birds flock to ankle-deep islands, and fine beaches are empty all year-round.Jamnagar is best known for having India’s only Ayurvedic university, where you can learn the techniques of ancient medicine and yoga, and a temple that’s hosted nonstop chanting since 1964 (it’s in the Guinness Book of Records; see opposite). Prior to Independence, the town was ruled by the Jadeja Rajputs. It is built around appealing Ranmal Lake, which has a small palace at its centre, and huge weekend crowds around its edge.
MARINE NATIONAL PARK
This gorgeous, isolated park (Indian/foreigner Rs 30/250, Narara car permit Rs 35/200, camera Rs 50/250, video Rs 2500/US$200; Oct-Jun) stretches 170km along the coast and encompasses 42 islands, 33 of which are ringed by coral reefs. It’s rich in marine and bird life. The best time to visit is from December to March. The Forest Office administers the park, or you can arrange a visit (or a sailing trip to Mandvi) through Hotel President. It takes two hours to reach Pirotan island (timings are restricted because of tides – you must spend 12 hours on the island to wait for the tide to turn), which is the only offshore route set up for visitors. Nearby Okamadhi Beach as one of many sheltered havens.
Day 7. GONDAL – GANDHIDHAM, KUTCH 240 km
Drive to Gandhidham and stay at the Sharma Resort, the only four-star hotel of Kutch District. Visit the colourful handicraft markets and the textile town of Anjar.
Kutch – www.exploreruralindia.org
Day 8. GANDHIDHAM – BHUJ – MANDVI 112 km
Drive to Bhuj to see the monuments of this historic town and then to Mandvi. Stay at the luxury beachside camp in the Vijay Vilas Palace estate.
Ghara Safari Lodge.
Visit the dhow-builders of Mandvi, the Vijay Vilas Palace and nearby villages.
Stay: Mandvi Palace or Mandvi Beach camp
Vijay Vilas Palace: The center of attractions at Mandvi is the Vijay Vilas Palace, a Royal abode set in the middle of well-laid gardens with water channels and marble fountains. The architect and craftsmen from Jaipur designed and constructed the palace in 1920 AD. The palace has all the elements of Rajput architecture and draws largely on the plan of palaces of Orchha and Datia. The central high dome on the pillars, the Bengal domes on the sides, the windows with coloured glass, carved stone ‘jalis‘, domed bastions at the corners, extended porch and other exquisitely stone-carved elements, make the palace worth visiting. The Vijay Vilas Palace has its own private beach which offers air-conditioned tented accommodation. Being private with conditional access it is a must visit for all beach lovers who want to enjoy their solitude and admire its eco-friendly pristine beauty. For these reasons, this palace has been used as the setting in many Hindi films and has now become a popular tourist destination.
Day 10. MANDVI – KUTCH – DASADA (350 km)
On arrival at Dasada, depart for a jeep safari in the Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary in search of endangered desert wildlife like the Asiatic wild ass and witness the sunset at a lake that attracts flamingos, pelicans, cranes and other attractive birds in large numbers.
Stay at Rann Riders, www.rannriders.com, an imaginatively designed safari resort.
Stay at Balaram Palace Resort. www.balarampalace.com
Patan has one of the prettiest step-wells in India. The most significant monuments in Patan are Rani Ki Vav, Sahastralinga Talav and Khan Sarovar. The glory of Patan reached its zenith during the Solanki period the golden age of Gujarat. During these years, the city was a great place of learning and a prosperous trading center. The rulers were great patrons of fine arts and architecture and undertook construction of many civic and religious edifices in the city.
The Jain text, ‘Kumarpala Rasa’, describes Patan as a prosperous fortified town; 18 miles in circumference with 84 town squares, 52 bazaars, mints of gold and silver, well laid gardens with fountains and trees, grammar school of Sanskrit and Prakrit, numerous Hindu and Jain temples and Sahastralinga Talav.
After last Vaghela ruler, Karan Ghelo lost to Ulugh Khan in 1289 AD, the Muslims plundered the town, destroyed the temples and ruined the entire city. Today, one can barely find the traces of such a magnificent town.
Gujarat has the only kite festival in India which is of international interest:
International Kite Festival is held at Ahmedabad on January 14 every year, to coincide with the festival of Uttarayan or Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti is a festival that heralds a change of season marking the movement of the sun into the northern hemisphere – a celebration to mark the end of winter. The skies are blue and clear, a cool breeze blows and a feeling of anticipation, joy and jubilation grips all who celebrate the occasion.