A long coastline lined with beaches, shore temples and sacred summits, palaces and forts, some of India’s finest wildlife reserves and bird watching sites, the unique white desert landscape of Kutch, colourful handicrafts, tribal villages and thriving cities, Gujarat is indeed a tourist paradise. Today, a number of initiatives are bringing many destinations and tourism products into global spotlight.
Little Rann of Kutch
The Little Rann of Kutch supports a variety of wildlife, including Gudkhur (Asiatic wild ass), which is not found anywhere else. Other mammals seen at the bets (islands) are the elegant blue bull or nilgai, graceful blackbuck and chinkara (Indian gazelle). The Little Rann of Kutch is also a home to the endangered carnivores like desert fox, Indian wolf, jungle and desert cats, jackals and a few hyenas and smaller mammals.
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park, the last abode of the Asiatic lion, is located in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat and encompasses an area of over 1312 sq. km. The wildlife reserve is the only protected habitat of the Asiatic lion, which numbers 523 according to the census report released in 2015. The Sanctuary offers a cross-section of habitats, populated by leopards, spotted deer, sambar and other species. This sanctuary is known for its crocodile population and rich birdlife as well.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its temples, special water retaining installations and ancient Hindu architecture represents the culture of 16th century. The regional capital city was built by Mehmud Begda. The site comprises fortifications, religious buildings, agricultural structures and palaces. The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the top of Pavagadh Hill, the Mahakali Temple is a holy shrine luring pilgrims throughout the year.
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell)
Rani-ki-Vav, an intricately constructed stepwell is located in a small town of Patan. More than 65m in length, Rani-ki-Vav is among the largest stepwells in Gujarat. The work of art and architecture made its way to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 2014. Built during the last decades of the 11th Century, the stepwell reflects mastery of the complex technique and beauty of details and proportions. Rani-ki-Vav was constructed by Queen Udayamati as a memorial to her husband Bhimadeva-1.
Modhera Sun Temple in Gujarat was built during 11th Century by Solanki dynasty. The temple enjoys the same significance as the other two Sun-temples in Orissa (Konark) and Kashmir (Martand). The presence of Sun-cult in Gujarat is indicated by the number of inscriptions found in the Sun temple at Modhera. The remains of the exquisite architectural monument testify the sanctity of the site. Built during the 11th century by Solanki Dynasty, the finely carved Sun Temple is divided into three major elements – Guda Mandap, Surya Kund and Sabha Mandap.
Dwarka is one of the holiest temple towns for all Hindus and one of the four dhams – the four most sacred and revered spots of Hindus for pilgrimage (Char Dham Yatra). Legend has it that the city was inundated by the Arabian Sea and subsequently submerged. However, current excavations indicates that this myth has a historical basis.
Adalaj Stepwell was constructed in 1499 by Queen Rudabai. It was serving as the resting place for traders and pilgrims for the hundreds of years. Out of many stepwells in Gujarat, Adalaj Stepwell is the only well with three entrance stairs. All the walls of the five-storey octagonal well are adorned with intricate carving of ornamentation and mythological scenes. The stepwell is the unique example of Indo-Islamic architecture and design.
Gandhiji’s first ashram was situated in Kochrab area of Ahmedabad. Later the Ashram was shifted to the banks of Sabarmati River and it came to be known as ‘Sabarmati Ashram’, which served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhiji stayed at the Ashram during 1917 to 1930. The Ashram has witnessed many significant historical events and was a home to the ideology that set India free. Today, the Sabarmati Ashram stands as a monument carrying the memories of Gandhiji’s inspiring life and philosophy.
Porbandar is a city of significance as it was the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi. The city is also believed to be the birthplace of Sudama, friend and devotee of Lord Krishna, which makes it a centre of pilgrimage. Kirti Mandir, a memorial of Gandhiji and Kasturba, is a place to visit in Porbandar. Other attractions at the city are - the Sudama Mandir, Gita Mandir, Nehru Planetarium, Rana Bapu’s Mahal and Bird Sanctuary among others.
The coastal road from Dwarka leads to Somnath, one of the 12 Jyotirlingams all around the world. It is a popular temple of Lord Shiva located near Veraval in Saurashtra region. Construction of the present Somnath temple began in 1950. The Temple is considered as the seventh temple built to commemorate the glory of Lord Somnath. It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat. Ahmedabad connects Somnath with various modes of transportation like air, road and rail.