October 28 — November 11, 2017
Gujarat is a hidden gem of India, where almost no foreign tourists go. This is the homeland of probably the most famous Indian in the world — Mahatma Gandhi and also the current Prime-Minister of India — Narendra Modi. This is the land where the civilization flourished for more than 5000 years. The land where Krishna used to rule, where the most ancient and magnificent temples of Somnath and Dwarakadish attract pilgrims even today. The largest salt desert in the world, The Great Rann of Kutch, is located here as well. There are austere mosques, white marshmallow Jain temples and fascinating step-wells with bás-relief covered galleries vanishing in the distance. Asiatic lions, crocodiles, wild donkeys and blackbucks. Bright coloured textiles and heavy embroidery of the Kutch tribes. These are two unforgettable weeks in the land of miracles!
--- Play hide-and-seek, frighten the bats and watch the details of the bas-reliefs in the passageways of Gujarati baoli-step wells in Ahmedabad, Patan and Junagadh.
--- Enjoy tribal dance at the Great Rann of Kutch.
--- Climb the sacred mountain of Jains along with hundreds of pilgrims in Palitana.
--- Drive the empty roads of the ex-Portugese colony Diu on a scooter and swim in the Arabian Sea.
--- Track lions in the national park of Sasan Gir.
--- Pray to Shiva in the temple of Somnath and to Krishna in the capital of his ancient kingdom Dwarka.
--- Walk around the shops with beautiful ethnic textiles in Bhuj.
--- Feel the glowing eternity of the salt desert under the full moon at the Great Rann of Kutch
--- Drink strong milk tea from the saucers Gujarati style.
--- Indulge in the delicious sweet Gujarati thali)).
Ahmedabad — Patan — Modhera — Bhuj — The Great Rann of Kutch — Mandvi — Dwarka — Junagadh — Sasan Gir — Somnath — Diu — Palitana — Ahmedabad
The first 3 days will be full of history and architectural sights in Ahmedabad and in its vicinity. Palaces growing not up but down. Mosques, Jain temples and omnipresent Swaminarayan temples coexist here.
Then we start on our round trip of the Kathiawar peninsula. We will spend 3 days in the desert of Kutch district. Here we will stroll around palaces of rich kings of the past who had a crash on everything European, we will see the bright tribal textiles, walk under the full moon in the Great Rann of Kutch, the largest salt desert in the world, and enjoy the empty beaches near Mandvi.
The next part of the trip is full of driving to different places and will be filled with impressions. We will see the ancient temples of Somnath and Dwarakadish which attract crowds of hindu pilgrims. We'll stop in Porbandar, the motherland of Mahatma Gandhi, and enjoy unique atmosphere of Junagadh city. A jeep safari in the national park of Sasan Gir will give an opportunity to see Asiatic lions which are nowadays found only here.
We will spend a couple of days in the middle of the second week relaxing on the quiet Diu Island, an ex-Portugese colony where we will be swimming in the Arabian Sea and driving scooters around.
The last days of the trip will be marked by a pilgrimage climb (3750 steps) along with the Jains to the Shatrunjaya mountain which has a whole temple town on top of it.
Itinerary with photos.
Group — 3-5 people.
Package price — $1725 for 15 days of full power traveling!
Old clients get a 15% discount!
Included: all transportation according to the program (flight Delhi-Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad-Delhi; private car around Gujarat);
accommodation in guesthouses on double-occupancy (single occupancy — $280 extra);
guide (Russian-national, speaks fluent English and Hindi);
excursions as per the tour program;
one day meals at the Great Rann of Kutch and in Sasan Gir;
jeep safari in Sasan Gir and national park entrance fees;
tickets for all the sights.
Not included: food (about $200 depending on your stomach, without alcohol);
flight to Delhi and back to your country;
Indian visa (visa on arrival is available for many countries at $62 — it's necessary to apply online);
scooter rent on Diu island (if you wish);
Would you like to join us? Please drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here. I’ll be glad to answer any of your questions.
Day 1 — October 28.
Arrive to Delhi and fly to Ahmedabad (1,5 hour journey). Check in at the guest-house.
Visit the Sidi Siayad's Mosque, the symbol of Ahmedabad. Walk through the narrow lanes and noisy bazar to the remains of Bhadra fort built by the city's founder in the 15th century. The view from the top is rather nice. Then continue to the Tin Darvaza triple gates and through the full on bazar to Jama Masjid Mosque. From there our route follows the narrow lanes to the temple of one of the richest Hindu communities worshipping Lord Swaminarayan. It's located inside a traditional haveli mansion-house.
Welcoming dinner with huge traditional Gujarati thali meal.
Night in Ahmedabad.
Day 2 — October 29.
In the morning — an informative excursion in the private museum of textiles. Gujarat is famous for various fabric weaving / printing / embroidery traditions. The ladies will definitely get excited with the designs and colors. In addition, the museum is located inside an old haveli mansion-house which itself is worth the visit.
Go to the Sabarmati Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi spent almost 30 years of his life.
See the Jain Hatheesingh Temple to begin the acquaintance with the Jain architecture resembling carved clouds hovering in the sky.
And finally — wander around Dada Hari Vav. This is a step well, which is more like a palace and a maze with many passageways and arches, leading down to the level of the water. Structures as such are very typical for the arid land of Gujarat.
Night in Ahmedabad.
Day 3 — October 30.
Today we will see the best examples of Gujarati step-wells. Our first destination is Adalaj Vav which was built at the end of the 15th century. Its carved walls tell us a tragic story of a Rajput Rani who jumped into the well to avoid marrying a Muslim invader.
In a couple of hours we will reach Modhera with its Sun temple dating back to the 11th century. It resembles the world famous Sun temple of Konark which was built 200 years later. There is a step-well of yet another type nearby.
Then we will drive to Patan (1 hour drive) where Rani ki Vav is situated. Beeing the oldest step-well in Gujarat it is truly impressive. It was built in the middle of the 11th century. It has countless bas reliefs along the walls! The step-well was once flooded with the Saraswati River and remained under the water till the 1980s. Patan is also famous for a rare sari production technique which implies creating the multi-colored patterns by dying yarns prior to fabric weaving. We will see how they are made in a family workshop.
Night in Patan.
Day 4 — October 31.
In the morning we will walk around the streets of Patan hiding plenty of Jain temples.
Drive to Bhuj (300 km — 5 hours).
Bhuj is the capital of the Kutch kingdom which used to be here. Now it is the capital of the district. The Kutch is an amazing place, a 'turtle' squeezed in between Gulf of Kutch and shallow salty wetland of Rann of Kutch. During the rain season it turns into an island. Once there used to be large sea ports and now the region is famous for its bright tribal textiles which we will start to explore in the evening.
Day 5 — November 1.
Amazing Bhuj. We will see the city fortress and palaces of the 18-19th centuries where the interiors of that time are preserved, along with many European things collected by the Kutch rulers. The city was badly damaged by the earthquake in 2001 but is still charming. We will see the Swaminarayan temple (one of those located pretty much in every city of Gujarat) and continue exploring the textile shops — this is the best place to buy bright Indian textiles.
Day 6 — November 2.
We will drive to the Great Rann of Kutch (around 2 hours). Through tiny villages lost in the sun burnt landscapes, to the endless white desert. First we will go to Kaladungar mountain on the border of the salty desert and enjoy the view from the top. There is Dattatreya temple where foxes are fed every morning and evening. Then we will go to the white desert. We will see the sunset here. In the evening we will be enjoying the cultural program with folk dances and when the moon is out we will wander around the glowing emptiness of the desert.
Night in Dhordo.
Day 7 — November 3.
In the morning if you wish we can watch the sunrise in the desert. After breakfast we will drive to another end of Kutch — to the seaside in Mandvi. We will see how wooden ships are hand-crafted here. We will visit Vijay Vilas, a beautiful palace of the 19th century. And enjoy the endless empty beaches.
Night in Bhuj.
Day 8 — November 4.
Drive to Dwarka (8 hours). On the way we will see the palace in the middle of the lake in Jamnagar and visit the temple of Hanuman where Ram praising mantra has been continuously sung since 1964.
Then we will reach Dwarka — the sacred city, the capital of Krishna's kingdom. This is one of the 4 main pilgrimage sites of the whole of India. We will take a ferry to the island Bet Dwarka where Krishna lived. We will see the temple of Rukmini Devi — Krishna's wife. And Nageshwar temple, home to a jyotirlinga, or a radiant linga.
Night in Dwarka.
Day 9 — November 5.
It will be long and intensive day, full of impressions. It will start in the main temple of Dwarka and end in a garden near Sasan Gir National Park. In detail:
In the morning we will go to the main temple of Dwarka — the temple of Krishna-Dwarakadish or the king of Dwarka. This temple makes Dwarka one of the 4 main pilgrimage sites in India (it's included into Chardham along with Badrinath, Puri and Rameshwaram).
Then we will drive to Sasan Gir. In a couple of hours we will stop at Porbandar where Mahatma Gandhi was born. We will see the memorial site and the house where he spent first 6 years of his life.
2,5 hours more — and we will reach Junagadh. It is an ancient city near the foot of Girnar sacred mountain revered by both Hindu and Jains. There are plenty of Muslim monuments though most of the population is Hindu. It is here that the Muhabbat Makbara is located — it's an unusual Muslim tomb often presented as the symbol of the whole state of Gujarat. There is also an ancient fortress Uperkot (the 4th century B.C.). Inside the fortress we'll see Buddhist caves dated back to the 2nd century along with a mosque and 2 step-wells. The most important edicts of Emperor Ashoka (the 3 century B.C.) were found on the rock at the outskirts of Junagadh.
In the evening we will get into the car once again and continue to Sasan Gir.
Night in Sasan Gir.
Day 10 — November 6.
Sasan Gir National Park is home to a large population of Asiatic lion. In the morning we will go for a 3 hour jeep safari in the park. It's a real chance to see a lion, along with deers, wild boars, crocodiles and other animals.
After safari — we will get some rest at the hotel and start again after lunch.
It's 1 hour drive to the temple of Somnath which is believed to be one of the oldest in India. The fame of incredible wealth of the temple reached the ear of the Muslim invader Mahmud of Ghazni who destroyed it in 1024. The Muslims have ruined it several times since then. The current building dates back to 1950 but the place is miraculous indeed. It hosts one of the 12 jyotirlingas, or radiant lingas. It's a very important Hindu pilgrimage site.
Just a few km away from the temple there is the place where, as the legend goes, Krishna was killed by a hunter who had mistaken him for a deer.
In the evening we will drive to the Diu island (2 hours).
Night in Diu.
Day 11 — November 7.
Diu is a small island near Gujarat and it's a separate administrative unit governed from Delhi. It is an ex-Portugese colony, a sea resort area. But not exactly in the Goa style. It's a peculiar mix of India and Portugal. Great empty roads, sand beaches, rocks... We'll visit the 16 century fortress. Queer caves which the Portugese used to extract building stone from for their construction. We will walk around old town of Diu with its Catholic churches and Lisbon like lanes. Diu is the place to enjoy the seafood, to sunbathe and watch the sunset.
Night in Diu.
Day 12 — November 8.
It's a free day in Diu. It's ok to sunbathe on the beach or drive a scooter around the island.
Day 13 — November 9.
In the afternoon we will say goodbye to the pleasant peace of Diu and dive back into the noise of the mainland. 5-hour drive to Palitana.
Night in Palitana.
Day 14 — November 10.
The hill of Shatrunjaya near Palitana is sacred for Jains as it is here where the first Jain tirthankar Rishabha gave his first sermon. From the 11 th century till now many temples are built here — their number has almost reached 900 now! One has to climb 3750 steps to get to the city of temples and we will do that together with crowds of Jain pilgrims in the morning (around 1,5 hour climb).
Drive to Ahmedabad (6 hours).
Night in Ahmedabad.
Day 15 — November 11.
Flight to Delhi in the morning. Rest/shopping/sightseeing in Delhi. Flight back to your country at night.