There are many reasons to visit Gujarat, the coastal state located in the western part of India. Its home to the Asiatic Lion witnessed in all their glory at Gir National Park. With a history dating back thousands of years, it’s dotted with temples, mosques and other historical monuments that transport you back in time and shed light on its glorious heritage. Gujarat is also home to several natural wonders like the Rann of Kutch, the largest salt desert in the world.
If the remnants from the past leave you captivated, wait till you see the wildlife of Gujarat. The roar of the Asiatic Lion rings through your ears, while the sight of the feisty Blackbuck is a sheer delight. One also witnesses various eras of history, whether at the excavations at Lothal and Dholavira or at Sabarmati Ashram from where Mahatma Gandhi planned several national movements. If you haven’t yet visited Gujarat, you are missing out on an incredible experience. Here are some of the amazing tourist attractions and places to visit in Gujarat.
Somnath Temple, located in the district of Junagadh, is considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. The fabulous wealth of Somnath Temple attracted various invaders who attacked and plundered it ruthlessly. However, every invasion was followed by its reconstruction which restored it to its former glory.
Architecturally, the temple displays magnificence. Built-in the Chalukya style of architecture, it boasts a shikhara almost 50m tall. The temple impresses visitors with its intricate carvings, silver doors, the famous Nandi idol, and the prime attraction, the Shivlinga. Its enormous courtyard houses the mandapa (hall) and the main shrine. From the temple, you can also enjoy incredible views of the Arabian Sea. Another exciting time to be here is during the Kartik Purnima Fair, held over a period of four days.
Gir National Park
Gir National Park is the only place in the world where one can spot the majestic Asiatic lion. Nowhere else will you get a chance to spot them as close as Gir National Park. Spread across an area of almost 1,412 sq. km of land, it’s the only national park in India where a tribal community has perfected the art of harmonious co-existence with wildlife.
Gir National Park is among the topmost places to visit in Gujarat mostly due to the Asiatic Lion. However, the park also boasts the largest dry deciduous forest in Western India. Apart from the Asiatic Lion, the park is also home to around 300 species of birds and a variety of other animals. The best way of enjoying the sightseeing in Gir National Park is through a jeep safari.
Rani Ki Vav Patan
Rani ki Vav Patan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another of the tourist places in Gujarat, is a fine example of the kind of water conservation practiced in India during the ancient times. The building of Rani ki Vav Patan was commissioned by Rani (Queen) Udayamati in 1603 in the loving memory of her husband King Bhimdev 1 of the Solanki dynasty. It’s interesting to note, however, that the “vavs” of Gujarat weren’t just used for collecting water and socializing, they possess great spiritual significance too.
The construction of the stepwell was quite simple in the initial years but became more intricate as the years went by. Rani ki Vav Patan consists of more than 800 elaborate sculptures among seven galleries. The central theme of the stepwell is Dasavataras, or the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, including Lord Buddha. A special attraction awaits you at the water level where you come across a carving of Sheshashayi-Vishnu, where Vishnu is depicted reclining on the thousand-hooded serpent Shesha.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
Today, the deserted city of Champaner provides a glimpse of the kind of prosperity which must have existed at one point in time. Located in the foothills of Pavagadh, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site that rests on a rocky hilltop and is dotted with mosques, forts, temples, and palaces. The architecture of many old mosques reflects a blend of Islamic and Jain tradition. You also come across various heritage monuments belonging to the 16th century including mosques, temples, fortresses, and palaces, among others.
Some of the famous attractions worth checking out on your visit to Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park are Jama Masjid, Lila Gumbaj ki Masjid, Lakulisa Temple, Pavagadh Fort, and Helica step-well, among the others.
Surely, you must have heard of Indus Valley and Harappan civilizations, and been fascinated with them. Lothal, which means, “Mount of the Dead,” is the most extensively excavated site in India. Upon a visit to Lothal, one of the best sightseeing places in Gujarat, your mind recreates the scenes which these remains must have been witness to at one point of time, a civilization far advanced than the time it existed in.
According to archaeological findings, Lothal was established by the people of the Indus Valley Civilization, initially by the sea-faring merchants and later by the smiths, masons, and potters, among others. It’s worth mentioning that Lothal soon grew to become an industrial center and an extremely important part of the empire. Explore the ruins and visit the museum during your visit to Lothal.
Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach
If you are looking to have an enjoyable time relaxing or trying your hand at water sports, then Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach is where you should be headed to. Although a lesser-known beach, it provides various avenues for entertainment. Lying adjacent to the island of Diu, which lies just across a creek, the Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach extends as the Ghogha Beach. Enjoyment here means enjoying a swim in its delightful waters or trying out the various water sports. A particularly delightful experience here is dolphin sighting
Chorwad Beach, located around 37km from Somnath, once served as the royal residence of the Nawab of Junagadh. However, tourists come here mainly to enjoy the lovely views of the sea ahead. Although the beach is unsafe for swimming, it is quite clean and great for enjoying a relaxed day at the beach.
Wild Ass Sanctuary
Wild Ass Sanctuary, located on the Little Rann of Kutch, is the only place in the world home to the endangered Indian Wild Ass, locally known by their popular name, “ghudkhar”. The wild ass is a fascinating creature, standing more than a meter tall at the shoulder and almost two meters in length. Being very agile creatures, they can run at a speed of almost 50 km/h. The Wild Ass Sanctuary is home to almost 3000 wild asses and is often seen in herds.
Apart from the wild ass, the sanctuary is home to almost 32 other species of mammals including the chinkara (Indian gazelle), two types of the desert fox (Indian and white-footed), nilgais (the largest antelope of Asia), blackbucks, Indian wolves, and striped hyenas, among others. If you are a bird-lover, then you have much to see here. Due to the proximity of this place to the Gulf of Kutch, it’s an important site for birds to feed and breed in. Some of the birds which one can spot here include the cutaneous vulture from Egypt, houbara bustard of Iran and demoiselle cranes from Siberia, among others.
Laxmi Vilas Palace
Laxmi Vilas Palace is one of the must-visit tourist attractions in Gujarat, and a testament to unparalleled opulence and grandeur. Built-in the Indo-Saracenic school of architecture, Laxmi Vilas Palace is almost four times the size of Buckingham Palace. Till today, it is the residence of the royal family of Baroda, who is highly revered by the locals even today.
There are numerous important buildings inside the compound including Moti Baug Palace, Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum building and LVP Banquets & Conventions. Another attraction is the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum, which contains a spectacular collection of paintings by Raja Ravi Verma. In addition, you come across portraits of the royal family in addition to those of Hindu mythology. The museum is also home to works of foreign art, copies of famous masterpieces of Italian Renaissance.
Saputara Hill Station
Saputara Hill Station is where you go to when you want to spend your time amidst nature. Located in the Sahyadri range at an altitude of almost 1,000m, this hill-station derives its name from the snake god which is highly revered by the tribal people. Saputara means “the abode of serpents”. The road to Saputara is itself delightful. As the bus makes its way towards Saputara, you gradually feel the silence embracing the air, leaving the unrelenting commotion of the city behind you.
There are many activities to keep you thoroughly entertained. One of these is trekking to Gandhi Shikhar during dawn and watching the sunlight gradually clothe the landscape. The dense forest cover captivates your attention. During the summers, enjoy a leisurely stroll on the Governor’s Hill and watch the sun drape the sky in crimson at the Saputara Lake.
What makes Ahmedabad the top tourist attraction in Gujarat and a UNESCO World Heritage City is its history, heritage, and culture. There is much to keep you interested here as a tourist, from the historic structures to the museums, markets to art galleries.
For exploring the walled city’s historic past, visit its historic structures like Teen Darwaza, Siddi Bashir’s Mosque, Jhulta Minar, Bhadra Fort, and Lothal, besides others. To get a glimpse of its glorious heritage, head to Sanskar Kendra and the Auto Vintage World Car Museum. The cuisine of Ahmedabad which includes food items like namkeen, chakra, maska-bun and FAFSA, among others. If all you want is some moments of peace, head to Kankaria Lake, which is a great place for friends and family. One of the city’s prime attraction, however, is the Sabarmati Ashram, the place from where Mahatma Gandhi launch several movements for India’s independence.