Splendid Gujarat

  • Days : 1 ­ 2 ­ Ahmedabad

    We meet at 6pm for a short tour briefing before enjoying dinner at one of our hotel's famous Gujarati cuisine restaurants.

    On day 2 we will start the morning on a walking tour through the Old City of Ahmedabad. Recently declared India's first UNESCO World Heritage city, the Historic City of Ahmedabad is a fascinating labyrinth of communities, streets and quite unique social systems that our guide will explain to you.

    Later, we will spend the day visiting the various sights of Ahmedabad, including the Adalaj Stepwell, the Sarkhej Roza and Gandhi's ashram.

  • Days : 3 ­ 4 ­ Jambughoda

    Travelling south to Vadodora, we stop off to visit the extravagantly stunning Lakshmi Vilas Palace, royal residence of the Gaekwad (Maharaja) of Baroda, completed in 1890. The erstwhile royal family still live in the palace, at the time of construction reputed to be the largest private dwelling in the world, and four times the size of Buckingham Palace. Part of the palace is now a museum and even the small section open to the public does not hide the opulence of this grand palace.

    Later we travel on to another, somewhat less opulent palace, Jambugodha, our home for the night. The Maharajah of Jambughoda and his charming wife manage their stately residence which was opened as a hotel in recent years and is situated in the midst of the Jambugodha Wildlife Sanctuary, established in 1990 at the behest of the late Prime Minister of India, Mr Rajiv Gandhi.

    On day 4 we visit the fascinating ruins of the 8th to 14th century UNESCO World Heritage site of Champaner, once the capital of Gujarat. Largely unexcavated, the site includes fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts and agricultural structures.

    Today we also take time to visit one of the small tribal villages ­ home to the Rathwas and Nayaks in the Jambughoda district.

  • Day : 5 ­ Palitana

    A long day of travel on the excellent Gujarati roads brings us to Palitana via the Blackbuck National Park at Velavadar. Established in 1976, the park is home to large herds of the Indian antelope, Blackbuck, along with many other mammals and birds, including wolves, jackals and wild pigs.

    Once a princely state in Bhavnagar district, Shatrunjaya Hill is the most sacred pilgrimage site for the Jain community. There are around 900 exquisitely carved temples located on top of the hill dating back to the 11th century. Our home for the night, built in 1906, is situated just a few kilometres away with views to the hill.

  • Days : 6 ­ 7 ­ Diu

    This morning we make an early start to climb Shatrunjaya Hill before the heat of the sun makes the task more challenging, although if you aren't up to the hike, you can hire a dholi (carry chair) and provide employment to local wallahs by being carried up the hill with less effort on your part.

    After our climb and exploration of the stunning temples, we drive south and west to the old Portuguese colony of Diu. We have a full day to enjoy the unassuming and laid back charm of this Portuguese heritage island town and fort, only a part of India since 1961. Diu is a union territory, and although surrounded by the state of Gujarat, is governed directly from New Delhi and as such attracts many holiday makers and tourists to enjoy the sea, sun and readily available alcohol in an otherwise dry state.

  • Day : 8 ­ Sasan Gir

    After breakfast we have a morning drive to Sasan Gir, the sole refuge of the critically endangered Asiatic Lion. One of the oldest wildlife parks in India, Sasan Gir Wildlife Sanctuary was set up in 1965 to save the endangered cats that were at the threshold of extinction at the start of the twentieth century. Gir has a protected area of 1413 square kilometres and is home to 39 species of mammals, as well as many reptiles and birds.

    The good news from Gir in recent years is that the population of the Asiatic Lion has increased from 359 in 2005 to 523 in 2015 proving that conservation efforts have been successful.

    Arriving in time for lunch and then on to an afternoon safari, we have another safari the following morning to maximise our chances of some quality sightings of this majestic creature.

  • Day : 9 ­ Morbi

    After a second safari in the National Park, and hopefully lots of Lion sightings, we will depart for our next stop, Morbi, enroute to the northern Kutch region of Gujarat.

    Morbi is an overnight stop and chosen for the stunning 1931 Art Deco Darbargadh Palace Hotel, located on the banks of the Machchu river.

    Hotel: Morbi Darbargadh Palace or similar

  • Days : 10 ­ 11 ­ Bhuj

    After our overnight stop in Morbi, we head into the Kutch region of western Gujarat to the capital Bhuj. Bhuj is our base as we explore the region famous for its handicrafts and tribal villages. We also spend time visiting the various sights in Bhuj itself.

    Many of the handicrafts sold in the western parts of the more famous and touristy northern neighbour, Rajasthan is actually Gujarati or Kutchi in origin and there are many villages where the traditional arts are still practiced. Here you can find, besides the fabulous embroidered mirrorwork and blockprint textiles, wood carvings, leather bags, footwear, copper bells and or course the beautifully decorated mud huts. We spend time visiting some of the villages and seeing how these arts still flourish, before exploring the sights of Bhuj city.

    Most of Bhuj's historical structures, including the Aina Mahal, the Prag Mahal, the fort and the Swaminarayan temple were badly damaged by the 2001 earthquake, but the city has recovered, and many of the buildings not too badly damaged have been restored.

  • Days : 12 ­ 13 ­ Little Rann of Kutch

    Gujarat is not only known for the Asiatic Lion, but the other main endangered species which calls Gujarat home is the Indian Wild Ass. The unique Little Rann of Kutch is a part of the greater Kutch Desert and the Wild Ass Sanctuary covers nearly 5000 square km and is home to around 3000 Ghudkhar (the local name for the Wild Ass). Many migratory birds come to nest in the sanctuary and it is home also to gazelle, blackbuck, fox, jackals, antelope, wolves and hyenas.

    The saline desert of the Little Rann of Kutch is believed to have been a shallow sea and harbours no vegetation except on the fringes and bets ('islands' or elevated plateaus), the largest of which is over 30 square km in size. In the monsoon, the Rann is inundated for around a month and the bets are where the wildlife survive during this period.

    The Little Rann of Kutch is also where you'll find much of India's salt mining, albeit illegal as it is damaging the habitat for wildlife.

  • Day : 14 ­ Poshina

    Today we head east via a couple of Gujarats most evocative religious sites and ruins. First we stop at the stunning Sun Temple of Modhera. Built nearly 1000 years ago, during the 'Golden Age' of Gujarat, this Hindu temple, one of only a few in India dedicated to the Sun God is a brilliant example of Solanki architecture with intricately carved halls and pillars.

    We then move on to Patan, and to the recently excavated Rani Ki Vav, an 11th century Stepwell that was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Monuments in just 2014. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water storage on the Indian subcontinent and the Rani Ki Vav is one of the best preserved of these remarkable wells.

    Excavation of the site began only in the late 1950s and because the well had been silted up for centuries the amazing carvings on the pillars and walls of the stepwell were found to be in pristine condition.

    Before heading to our Palace hotel in Poshina for the evening, we visit the famous Patola weavers of Patan and see some of the beautiful designs made by this fascinating method of dying and weaving.

  • Day : 15 ­ Udaipur

    Today we say farewell to Gujarat and head north into the desert state of Rajasthan, the Land of Kings and to the city of Udaipur, known as the City of Lakes.

    Udaipur, without question lives up to its reputation as India's most romantic city. Rolling hills, white marble palaces and lakes all combine to give Udaipur a very special appeal. It is a centre for artists, dancers and musicians and the shopping is superb. Its other claim to fame is as the setting for James Bond's Octopussy.

    Whilst here in Udaipur, we visit the City Palace, part of one of the largest palace complexes in India. We also wander the local markets and partake in a magical sunset boat trip on the lake.

  • Day : 16 ­ Departure Day

    There are no organised activities today. You may leave at any time, however Udaipur is a mesmerising and very relaxing town and is well worth an extra day or two.

    Udaipur does not currently have a functioning international airport, however there are numerous flights daily to both Delhi and Mumbai from where you can connect to your onward international flight.

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