Thursday, 26 February 2015

Destination Guides


Taj Mahal shines like a burnished beacon beckoning millions of tourists from around the world every year. Voted as one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World, Taj Mahal is the magnum opus of Indo-Saracenic architecture standing testimony to the secular character of the country and the beginning of the end of the mighty Mughal Empire. Agra was at its peak during the reign of the emperor Shah Jehan who built architectural wonders such as the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal both of which are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Besides Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, there are a number of historical landmarks and stunning monuments sprinkled in and around Agra which attracts tourists from around the world. But to experience the breathtaking beauty of these structures one has to endure the lesser attractive aspects of the prepossessing city of India which Agra has become. The polluted Yamuna, crowded city and chaos tell the story of urbanization and rapid industrialization of the city. The industries which include carpets, pietra dura in marble, zari embroidery and leather, have greatly contributed in furthering the woes of Yamuna and Agra.

Today except for monuments such as Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula Tomb and a few other attractions, Agra does not has much in store for the travelers. The roads are crowded and chaotic, movement congested and streets full of touts and agents to fleece the tourists which should better be avoided.

When it comes to food and accommodation, Agra doesn’t lag far behind. There are plenty of options including plush 5 star hotels, guest houses and normal hotels to accommodate the guests and suit their budget. Dining is not a problem as one can choose from an array of international cuisines available at reasonable rates in decent hotels and restaurants. There are many ways in which one can reach Agra to discover its gems as well as its underbelly. Its proximity to Delhi makes it easy to access, both by trains and by taxis or hired vehicle. There’s much to be explored when you are in Agra so the longer you stay, the more you can discover and explore and consequently come to appreciate treasures of Agra and its vicinity.

As a part of luxury train journey, it is ensured that you receive a red carpet welcome as you visit the gem of the city and one of the most enduring icons of India - Taj Mahal. Expert guides and exclusive treatment await as you are taken to a sightseeing tour of Taj Mahal and later High Tea at Taj Khema.

Attractions in Agra

Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal perhaps the most celebrated symbol of love commemorating love. An inspiration to poets and writers alike, Taj Mahal is perhaps one of the most quoted about monuments in world when it comes to inspire love, wonder and awe. Nobel winner poet Rabindranath Tagore described it as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity”.

Built entirely of white marbles, this magnum opus of Mughal architecture took 20 years and 20,000 workers to be constructed. It was built by Shah Jehan in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaj. There are a number of structures inside the complex which include reflecting pools, gardens, mosque and the central iwan itself surrounded by 4 symmetric minarets. Intricate carvings and awe-inspiring symmetry add to the magnificence of the interiors of the main structure where the cenotaph of Shah Jehan and Mumtaj Mahal is located. The precision with lapidary and calligraphy at the cenotaphs are sheer brilliant work of workmanship.

One of the most photographed structures of world, this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sight to behold. No matter how much one has seen it in photos and documentaries, an actual visit is a sublime experience as one beholds the impeccable harmony, symmetry and a flawless carvings and calligraphy. The marbles come alive infused as if with love that Taj Mahal commemorates. A visit to Taj Mahal indeed is an experience of a lifetime.

List of Destinations in India


Jaipur is fondly referred to as the “Pink City” and you will know the reason without even anyone telling you why as soon as you enter this medieval city. The consistent pink color sported by this well planned city narrates its 200 years old history and enthralls and inspires the visitors and tourists alike. Literally meaning city of victory, Jaipur is India’s first planned city founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Amber in 1727.

Today the easily navigable streets of this once well planned city is crowded and chaotic. Though the pink color is still flaunted with pride on the sleeves of city structures, the race with modernity and industrialization has taken its toll. Today the city conjures a haphazard fusion of the contemporary and the ancient monuments scattered across the settlements which have sprouted everywhere as a result of rapid urbanization.

Despite such strikingly opposite canvas painted by the disparate amalgamation of tradition and modernity which may leave a visitor confounded, the air of Jaipur is redolent with a vivacious blend of the modern energy and colonial charm weaving a distinctive contrast.
When it comes to city tour, there is much to be explored to keep visitors on their toes. From the sprawling City Palace to the Hawa Mahal and from the Royal Observatory to Jai Mahal, Jaipur is dotted with landmarks of historical and cultural significance. In the periphery of city lies the most resplendent of fortresses of Jaipur – the Amber Fort – which is one of the most popular attractions of Jaipur and used to be the seat of power until the base was shifted to City Palace in Jaipur.

Major Attractions in Jaipur

Amber Fort

Capital of Kachhwaha Rajput for more than 700 years before it was moved to Jaipur. The great elongated sandstone walls of the Amber Fort spread across 12 miles are perhaps the longest walled structure in India and might remind you of the Great Wall of China. Nestled by the Aravalis on the bank of Lake Moata, - which serve more of a ceremonial purpose these days – Amber Fort stand majestically inspiring wonder and grandeur alike.

Only this massive fort could have helped Maharaja Man Singh I to manage his 12 wives, as it was he who established this fort in 1592. Man Singh I rose up to be the chief commander of Mughal army and was a great organizer. No wonder he oversaw the construction of this resplendent sprawling fortress. The fort has walled courtyard measuring 150 by 150 square feet each with a central open-sided meeting place. Each courtyard wall has three doors making up for 12, one for each of the Maharaja’s wife.

There is much to be witnessed, explored and appreciated in this magnificent fortress. An unmistakable fusion of the Mughal and Rajput architecture permeates the interiors of the Amber. Exquisite mirror works, stone carvings, sculptures, carved frescos and miniature Mughal Gardens are a sight to behold. The attractions of the fort are the stunning Diwan-i-Aam (hall of public audience), Ganesh Pol, Sheesh Mahal and Sukh Niwas among others.

City Palace

City Palace is grand structure nestled in the heart of the city. There is much to be explored in this royal palace a part of which still houses the members of royal family of Jaipur. Mubarak Mahal built by Maharaja Madho Singh II presents a seamless fusion of the Mughal and Rajput architecture and is a sight to behold with its exquisite stone carvings and stunning latticing. It was converted into a museum and is a fine repository of royal costumes displaying breathtaking collection of shawls, saris, and voluminous clothes of Sawai Madhosingh I.

Other structures of note include Diwan-i-Khas with marble floored chambers, intricate carving and mirror works. Two huge silver containers are also placed in this structure each with capacity of 4000 litres and weighing 340 kilograms and a mention in Guinness Book of World Records.

Seven-storeyed Chandra Mahal is the most commanding structure of the Palace with each floor having a specific name. Except for the ground floor, this structure is out of reach for the visitors. Other places of interest include the Maharani Palace, Diwan-i-Aam and Baggi Palace housing royal carriages used by the members of royal family.

Jantar Mantar (Royal Observatory)

Maharaja Jai Sing II was a renowned patron of art and science. After overseeing the construction of 4 observatories in different parts of North India including the one in Delhi, he built his most exquisite and grand royal observatory in Jaipur. Designed for the purpose of astronomical observation, Jantar Mantar is one of the most significant, well preserved and comprehensive astronomical observation sites. It is also a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its immense cultural, scientific and technological value.

There are 20 well preserved main fixed instruments to chart the course of astronomical movement and measure time, predict eclipses, tracking the location of stars and planetary movements and ascertaining various astronomical data. An excursion through the observatory sprinkled with stone and marble made huge Yantras built to measure the heavenly movements is a one of its kind experience. And a must visit when in Jaipur.

Chokhi Dhani

Chokhi Dhani is a heritage resort built in the outskirts of the city. Designed to recreate the traditional ambience of erstwhile Rajputana, Chokhi Dhani represents the culture, tradition and amazing concoction of colors of Rajasthan in a microcosm.

Inside Chokhi Dhani resort, one can attend an array of traditional dance performances performed by local artistes, puppet show, camel rides and other events bearing strong cultural influence of Rajasthan. It’s like discovering and living all of Rajasthan in one place. A 5 course traditional Mewari meal to tantalize the taste buds is also served for the platter of the guests in a traditional ambience.
List of Destinations in India


Betwa River Orchha
The charm of Orchha lies in it being a nondescript destination as compared to the nearby Khajuraho Temples. Whereas the erotic sculptures at Khajuraho are world famous and subject to various research and studies, when it comes to popular destinations in India Orchha is a sleepy little town with small population attracting limited number of tourists,or I'd say mostly travelers. Orchha has it fair share of sculpted temples, palaces and other landmarks but none compares to the exquisite craftsmanship displayed at the 'love temples' of Khajuraho. However where Orchha scores over its more popular counterpart is the natural landscape, convivial inhabitants and relatively pristine ambience.
Morning in Orchha Betwa RiverThere's nothing like the sight of the mist covered forests as the sun casts its first shadow on earth. The moment is too ethereal, too sublime to describe in words, it can only be experienced first hand. Take a jaunt by the forest feeling nature brush past your senses, let the silence takeover; its transcendental.

Sitting by the bank of meandering Betwa River during the sunset and beholding the silhouette of the Chhatris, or the sight of Laksmi Temple and the Orchha Palace was simply mesmerizing. One thing that sets apart Orchha is the friendly locals and mouth watering street food.

Jahangir Mahal is one of the major attractions in Orchha. Even as you approach Jahangiri Mahal you’ll notice the amalgam of Indo-Saracenic architecture. The legend associated with this 3 storied structure with hanging terraces and domed apartment has it that it was named after the Mughal Emperor Jahangir who had Kingdom of Orchha returned to Bir Singh, then king of the kingdom. The palace building boasts of 132 multi layered chambers. The chambers bear significant amount of ornamentation and carvings depicting various Hindu deities and animals and birds.
All that can be said is that Orchha is an enchanting as well as rejuvenating destination, a veritable oasis far from the hullabaloo of other popular destinations and the din of city.

Lush Orchha
List of Destinations in India


For those looking forward to savor the vibrant colors of life amidst stark desert of Rajasthan, Jodhpur is an apt destination. Situated on the edge of Thar Desert, Jodhpur is the second largest city of Rajasthan after Rajasthan. The city is also known as the Blue city due to the blue-painted houses around Mehrangarh Fort. Jodhpur was founded by Rao Jodha, the leader of the Rathore clan, in 1459 AD. The city was built to serve as the new capital of Rathore kingdom, Known as Marwar. Owing to its strategic location near road linking Delhi - Gujarat trade route, the city thrived from the trade in copper, silk, sandals, date palms and coffee.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan
A panoramic view of the blue city Jodhpur from the ramparts of Mehrangarh fort
Attractions in Jodhpur
The city of Jodhpur is a popular tourist destination owing to its royal heritage. Places of tourist interest in Jodhpur include massive fortress, striking palaces and spectacular gardens. Besides forts and palaces, the cultural festivals in Jodhpur are a major attraction for travelers. Some of the famous attractions in Jodhpur are as follows:

Mehrangarh Fort
Perched on a 150 meter high hill, Mehrangarh fort is one of the largest forts in Rajasthan. The fort was founded as the site of Rao Jodha’s new capital in 1459 AD. The massive fort complex has many palaces and temples which include Moti Mahal, Sheesh Mahal, Phool Mahal, Zenana Deodi and Chamunda Mataji Temple. A museum in the fort houses an exquisite collection of howdahs, palanquins, fine arts, music instruments, and weapons and is well worth your time.
Forts and Palaces in Rajasthan
A view of the massive facades of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Jaswant Thada
Located 1 kilometer downhill from Mehrangarh fort, Jaswant Thada is a striking white marble cenotaph of Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. Jaswant Thada, fondly called the Taj Mahal of Marwar was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh to commemorate his father Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. The main cenotaph was given a shape of temple with intricately carved marble stone.

Rajasthan tours
Jaswant Thada, cenotaph of the maharaja of Jodhpur is often referred to as Taj Mahal of Jodhpur
Umaid Bhawan Palace
Umaid Bhawan Palace was built by Maharaja Umaid Singh and is one of the largest private residences in the world. The palace is also known as Chittar Palace due to the extensive use of Chittar sandstone and its location on Chittar hill. At present, the palace is divided into three functional parts- a luxury five-star hotel, a museum and residence of the royal family.
Rajasthan package holidays
Umaid Bhawan Palace is one of the largest private residences in world a part of which is now converted into hotel and is managed by prestigious Taj group
Desert safari in Jodhpur
One of the must do things while you are in Jodhpur is a camel-back safari in the Thar desert. Jodhpur is often referred to as the gateway to Thar. A safari in the undulating sand dunes of the desert with a camping session in night to behold the morning glory of sunrise is always on prescription in Jodhpur. Savor the mystical experience as you behold the golden hue of the sand during sunrise.
Rajasthan tours
A camel safari in the sand dunes near Jodhpur is always recommended for its sheer mystical aspect

List of Destinations in India


Once a simple, seaside retreat strung with resort hotels, Goa is graduating to a destination with a range of sophisticated lodging and world-class dining options aimed at the tasteful traveler. Goa with its serene beaches, exquisite crumbling architecture, vibrant nightlife, spa & yoga, distinct colonial charm and an openness seldom seen anywhere else in India is a tiny emerald cradled between Arabian Sea and Western Ghats. With a great balance between modernity evident in the party scenes, luxury hotels, spas and restaurants and the rustic charm of Old Goa with its Churches and Cathedrals and traditional villages reminiscent of its Portuguese legacy, Goa is a destination like no other in India.

Goa tours
Churches and Cathedral of Goa: Colonial legacy of Old Goa, a designated World Heritage Site
The tourist paradise, Goa is the ideal place for tourists to spend their vacations underneath the sun and rolling waves palm fringed beaches. With a number of deluxe 5 star hotels and resorts in Goa coming up at some of the most breathtaking locales, tours to Goa has an upper hand over other destinations not just in India but around the world. The most appealing aspect of Goa is the romance which suffuses the environs drawing romantic couples and honeymooners alike from around the world.

Goa India
Sun and sand paradise Goa
Beaches in Goa
Goa is regarded as a tropical paradise with an array of beaches draped along Arabian Sea coast. With an unparalleled languidness and cosmopolitan hospitality, beaches of Goa are irediscent beacon drawing millions of tourists from around the world. Some of the most visited beaches by tourists in the city are Baga, Anjuna, Calangute, Majorda, Colva, Bogmalo, Vagator, Dona Paula, Miramar and Sinquerim.

Holidays in Goa
Glittering beaches of Goa are its most appealing aspect when it comes to Goa tours and holidays

Rustic Charm of Old Goa
Old Goa was once compared with Lisbon and London back in 1500s. Crumbling architecture which includes scores of Cathedrals and imposing Churches, some of which are largest in Asia, are reminiscent of the bygone splendor of this once fabled city. A visit to Old Goa is a must if you are looking for a glimpse into the colonial legacy of Goa evident in its streets, building, culture and exquisite landmarks.

Goa tourism
Old basilica Bom Jesus in Old Goa: A part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Goa

Basilica of Bom Jesus, St. Catherine’s Chapel, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Church and Convent of St Monica are some must visit attractions of Goa. The Churches and Convents of Old Goa are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site and had been influential in spreading both faith and the Portuguese style of architecture in Asia. These grandiose structures and remnants of humanity in the Old Goa which once was compared to Lisbon itself is one of the most distinctive and appealing feature of holidays in Goa.

Goa hotels
Goa is one of the most preferred honeymoon destinations and romantic getaway in India
List of Destinations in India


Kovalam name to fame was the discovery of its pristine beaches in early 1970s by hippies. An erstwhile backpacker’s paradise, Kovalam has developed into a world class tropical beach paradise in Kerala. It is a favored destination of honeymooners and those looking forward to a rejuvenating time in sand and sun. Another important factor contributing to tourism in Kovalam is Ayurveda and wellness activities to invigorate your body, mind and soul. Kovalam is one of the most important destination not just when it comes to Kerala tours, but also when it comes to beach destinations in world.
Kovalam Beaches: Destinations in Kerala
A mesmerizing view of the sunset by the Kovalam coastline
This crescent shaped beach also referred to as the paradise of the South was once the favorite haunt of the hippies. Once a sleepy little hamlet and backpackers paradise, Kovalam today is one of the most popular and exclusive beach destinations in India. Frenzied urbanization and international tourists flocking to this sun and sand paradise has led to premium pricing in Kovalam. Nonetheless, Kovalam still beckons generations of nouveau global nomads owing to its tropical coastline swathed in coconut groves, Ayurveda and spa, mouth tingling cuisines and vibrant shopping scene.

A view of the Lighthouse Beach in Kovalam
 Alas as with most popular tourist destinations in world, the center of attraction in Kovalam have become a bit crowded and seldom offer what they were once famous for. But to discover and explore the true colors of Kovalam, you but have to wade a bit deeper.

To discover the exotic beauty for which Kovalam is romanticized internationally dig deep into the inner recesses of the city to less crowded coastline, particularly into the rice paddies and palm groves that stretch far inland. Do try out the mouth tingling seafood while you are in Kovalam.

And accommodation is not a problem in Kovalam. Whether you are a budget traveler or looking for exclusive stays, a hotel for every need and budget is available in Kovalam to suit your pocket and occasion. Kovalam beach indeed is an idyll retreat when it comes to holidays in Kerala.

holidays in Kerala
Succulent seafood is another specialty of Kovalam 
List of Destinations in India


Delhi is an ancient city which has witnessed power shift through many hands. Consequently present capital of India is home to an amazing diversity and untold cultural and architectural wealth. India's capital city, New Delhi has transformed from a relatively sleepy city to a vibrant melting pot graced with wide roads, stately monuments and effervescent nightlife! This truly multi-dimensional city might bamboozle you at the first sight due to its amazing diversity, but the imperial city of New Delhi is sprinkled with fascinating monuments, enlightening museums and art galleries, bustling markets and remarkable eating joints.

Dotted with an array of World Heritage Site, Delhi is a major destination for holidays in India famous for its vibrant culture, shopping, sightseeing and mouth tingling cuisines presenting India in a microcosm. Attractions in the city include World Heritage Qutub Minar, Red Fort and Humayun’s Tomb along with Jama Masjid, India Gate, Lotus Temple (Baha'i House of Worship), ISKCON Temple, Lodhi Gardens and Akshardham Temple among others. Tours to India is never complete without Delhi. Delhi also happens to be a major link to North Indian and South Indian states and Delhi travel packages include an eclectic assortment of remarkable holidays in India.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Top Ten Places to Visit in Gujarat

10. Junagad 

Mahabat ka Maqbara, Junagarh
Mahabat ka Maqbara, Junagarh. Photo courtesy 
Literally meaning the “Old Fort”, Junagad is a fortified city steeped in history. Sprinkled with Mosques, temples both Hindu and Buddhist and other historical structures, Junagad was ruled by the Babi Nawabs till India’s independence. Interestingly, the Nawab of Junagad wanted to side with Pakistan after partition but since majority of populace was Hindu, Nawab had to leave his princedom and flee to Pakistan.

Junagad is mostly overlooked by tourist and serves mainly as the base to visit Gir National Park. But this city is home to some marvelous historical monuments. Mahabat ka Maqbara is one such example of exquisite architecture. You can also find a Ashokan Rock Eddict here. Several Jain Temples are also located close to the city build on the tops of Girnar Mountain which could be reached by the flights up stairs.

09. Ahmadabad

Akshardham Temple, Gujarat
Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar is close to Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad, the fifth largest city in India, is the commercial hub of Gujarat and also one of the best places to be in Gujarat. The city is renowned for its deep rooted culture, exquisite architecture and exuberant people. Ahmedabad was founded by the King Karnadev in 11th Century and was named after him as Karnawati untill Sultan Ahmed Shah invaded the kingdom in 1411 and renamed the city after himself.

The tourist attractions in Ahmedabad include Bhadra Fort, well laid out historical buildings, mosques and lakes. Mahatma Gandi's ashram, known as Sabarmati Ashram is one of the major draws of the city along with the nearby modern marvel Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar.

Jhoolta Minar, Ahmedabad
Jhoolta Minar or the Shaking Minarets in Ahmadabad
Bhadra Fort, Jhoolta (shaking) Minarets and Teen Darwaza are the historical wonders in the city. Natural beauties include the emerald Kankaria Lake and Vastrapur Lake.

For cultural immersion, visit Ahmedabad during the major festivals that are celebrated in this city. Uttarayan (Makar Sakranti) and Navratri are two most famous festivals here that are celebrated with great zeal and gusto. The International Kite Festival is celebrated here with great gusto and kite flyers from around the world gather and showcasing their kite flying skills.

Other specialty of Ahmedabad is the sumptuous cuisines. The city is renowned for its ice-creams thanks to the white revolution and abundance of dairy products in the state. The local penchant for sweets is renowned as well. Gujarati specialties include Dhokla, Khandvi, Srikhand, Haandvo and Bhajiya amongst others.  For food lovers Khau Galli in Law Garden area and Khan Pan Bazaar in Manekchawk is the place to be for the authentic taste of Gujarati cuisine.

Splurge: Stay in Ginger Hotel or Lemon Tree for a luxurious stay. Hotels to suit the pocket of everyone are available in plenty in Ahmedabad.

Off the Beaten Path Excursion Adalaj ka Vav

Adalaj ka Vav a 5 storey step well located just 18 kilometers from the heart of the city is a must visit place even if you are not into architecture. Adalaj Vav was constructed in 1499 by Muslim king Mehmud Begda for Queen Rani Roopba, widow of Veer Singh, the Vaghela chieftain.

Adlaj ka Vav
Adalaj ka Vav or the Adlaj Step well
The step well or 'Vav', as it is called in Gujarati, is a spectacular specimen of fusion of Indian and Islamic elements of architecture. This five storey step well is renowned for its intricately carved interiors.

Steeped in history, Adalaj Vav has an interesting legend associated with it. As per the legends the Muslim King Mohammad Begda invaded, defeated and killed Veer Sing who ruled here. It is said that Begda after seeing the beautiful queen was enamored and longed to marry her. The queen promised to oblige him once he constructed the step well.

Begda ordered the construction of the step well which was finished in record time. Open completion Begda pressed the queen to fulfill her promise to marry him. But the queen, who was still devoted to her slain husband decided to end her life by jumping in the same step well. The entire episode is depicted in the walls of the Vav.

08. Vadodara/Baroda

Laxmi Niwas Palace, Vadodara
Laxmi Vilas Palace is the prime attraction in Vadodara
Vododara, referred to as the cultural capital of the state is one of the most visited tourist places in Gujarat. After the waning Mughals were expelled by Marathas the Gaekwads, the local generals of Marathas established Vadodara as their capital. The city offers a seamless fusion of the past and present. The city flourished and modernized under the aegis of Maharaja Sayajirao II and enjoyed great autonomy even during British Rule in India.

When it comes to things to do in Vadodara, you may visit Kadia Dungar Caves, the Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Nazarbaugh Palace, Makarpura Palace, Sursagar Talav and the amazing Sayaji Baug.
Sayaji Baug was built by Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1879 and is named after him. The Sayaji Baug also called Kamati Baug includes 45 hectares of garden grounds, a flower clock, two museums, a planetarium, a zoo and a toy train.

07. Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park

Pavagarh Hill, Gujarat
Top of the Pavagarh Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Located 50 kilometers East of Baroda City is the Champaner Pavagarh Archaeological Park. This ancient site with its religious structures and ruins dating back to 8th century was inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.

It is a must visit place for history buffs and those interested in culture and architecture. Complete with its military, religious and agricultural structures, the site was built and expanded between over the period of 600 hundred years. Abandoned soon after briefly becoming capital of Gujarat under the independent Sultan Mehmud Begda, it is the only unchanged pre-Mughal site in existence.

Sakar Khan Dargah, Champaner
Dargah of Sakar Khan at Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park
The Jama Masjid constructed here during Begda reign is a great example of the Indo-Islamic fusion architecture and later served as a model to build other Friday mosque across India. The ruins of this archaeological site also include residential buildings, military precincts, palaces, agricultural buildings and water-retention installations.

Kalika Mata Temple
Kalika Mata Temple atop Pavagarh Hill draws a large number of devotees
An important Hindu shrine named Kalika Mata Temple is also located on the top of Pavagarh Hill draws large number of devotees throughout the year.

06. Sasan Gir National Park

Asiatic Lion at Gir National Park
A young lion at Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat
The only place in Asia where you could spot the king of jungle prowling in the open wild, Sasan Gir National Park is located in the Junagad District is one of the most visited tourist places in India. The main draw is Asiatic Lions but there is more to this protected area.

A Lion Couple at Gir National Park
Lions of Gir
The park is home to hyenas, leopard, marsh crocodiles, antelopes, sambar and huge number of bird species which makes it an ideal candidate for one of the top wildlife sanctuaries in India. Although people come here for lions, birding enthusiasts head to Gir to have one of the finest bird watching experiences in India.

Best time to visit Gir National Park is from November till March but for the best chances to spot lions visit the park in hotter months of April and May.

05. Dwarkadhish Temple

Dwarkadheesh Temple
Dwarkadheesh Temple in Gujarat is the most sacred Hindu Temple and a part of Char Dham Yatra
Situated on the Gomti Creek, Dwarkadheesh Temple is one of the finest temples in India believed to have been built by the grandson of Lord Krishna himself. Appearing to be rising from the waters of Arabian Sea, the temple is renowned for its exquisitely carved architecture. It is considered the holiest Hindu Temples and part of the Char Dham Yatra, the most sacred of the all Hindu pilgrimages.

According to the legend, Lord Krishna settled down in Dwarka with his Yadava Clan. Upon his death as Krishna avatar, the entire Dwarka Island was submerged in the sea. The recent archaeological excavations have supported these theories that present day Dwarka is one of the 6 ancient cities that existed here.

04. Rani ka Vav, Patan

Rani ka Vav
Rani ka Vav or Queen's Step well in Patan, Gujarat
One of the rare monuments erected by a queen for her beloved king, Rani Ka Vav is a spectacular step well in very well preserved condition. It was commissioned by Rani Udayamati in memory of her deceased husband King Bhimdev I in the year 1063.

Soon after completion, the step well got flooded by water and silt from the nearby Saraswati River. It was only in 1980s that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavated this Vav and desilting was undertaken.

The structure that was uncovered was a majestic specimen of carved sculptures, niches and compartmented pavilions with pillars. Rani ka Vav is one of the largest and finest and unique step wells and is currently in the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sculptures of Apsaras, Raani ka Vav
The sculptures of Apsaras representing 'solah shringar', the different form of make ups
This subterranean step well leads down through stepped corridors which are marked by pillared pavilions. The central motif of the intricately carved sculptures is the Dasavataras, or the 10 incarnations of Hindu god Vishnu. The avatars are accompanied by sadhus, brahmins, and apsaras.

The sculpture of apsaras painting their lips and adorning themselves in different style represents the ‘solah shringar' or the 16 ways to make up to look more attractive. In total there are four hundred niches on the walls displaying carvings in this vav.

Pillared Pavillion, Rani ka Vav
The intricately carved pillared pavilions are unique feature of Rani ka Vav making it distinct from the other baolis (step wells in India)
Bonus Tips: If you are looking for cultural immersion whilst in Patan don’t miss the opportunity to visit Patola sari workshop. The gracious people working here take great pains to explain the ancient process of textile weaving.

03. Bhuj

Aina Mahal, Bhuj
One of the top attractions in Bhuj is the Aina Mahal or the Mirror Palace
Perhaps the phrase “steeped in history” was coined to refer exactly to Bhuj. With connection to a range of civilization beginning from prehistoric times, Mahabharata, Indus Valley and the times of Alexander the Great to the regional sultans, British and then modern India, Bhuj with over 4000 years of inhabitation is a cultural potpourri and one of the best places to visit in Gujarat for cultural immersion.

Parag Mahal, Bhuj
Parag Mahal is yet another things to do in Bhuj
The major draw in Bhuj is the Aina Mahal (Mirror Palace), Parag Mahal, Kutch Museum with rare artifacts, ramakunf Stepwell and Hamirsar Lake. But Bhuj is more than just sightseeing, it’s the cultural interactions be it traditional handmade textiles and crafts, enameled jewelries and cultural excursions to surrounding villages which draws bulk of the international tourists.

One such cultural side trip is Bhujodi. Located 7 kilometers away from Bhuj, Bhujodi is a village of weavers. Yet another village trip is Ajrakhpur, located 15 kilometers from the city, a village of block printers. These trips give you the opportunity to meet artisans, see demonstrations, and buy handicrafts.

02. Somnath

Somnath Temple, Gujarat
Somnath Temple in Gujarat is the most sacred jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva
Somnath is the first and most sacred of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. According to the legend the Hindu moon god known as Soma built a temple entirely of gold to pay reverence to the lord’s glory and compassion and the temple came to be known as the Somnath Temple. As per the legends the same temple was reconstructed by Ravana in Silver, Krishna in wood, and by King Bhimdev from stone.

Lying on the shores of the Arabian Sea, this temple has been destroyed then reconstructed on number of occasion and finally after India got Independence.Each year millions of devotees seek the blessing of Lord Shiva at Somnath, rated one of the top temples in India when it comes to religious significance.

01. Rann of Kutch

Rann of Kutch
The White Salt desert of the Great Rann of Kutch
There’s a saying that goes in Gujarat. “Kutch Nahin dekha to kuchh nahin dekha” which translates to “you haven’t seen anything if you haven’t seen Kutch.” Kutch is the deserving top desination to visit in Gujarat especially when the Rann Mahotsav is in full swing.

Wedged between the Arabian Sea and the boundless Thar Desert, Rann of Kutch is mesmerizing symphony of salt and sand. This white symphony reaches its crescendo on a full moon night. What makes Kutch even more surreal is that during the monsoon, it gets submerged in the water.

For the remaining eight months of the year, it's a gigantic stretch of white salt lending it the look of white desert. During full moon nights cultural programs celebrating Gujarat’s rich culture and traditions are usually held at Dhordo. A moon light camel safari is the Rann of a Kutch is one of the must to do things.

Full moon night, Rann of Kutch
A spellbinding vista of  the Rann of Kutch during full moon night
When winter arrives, the Great Flamingoes arrive at the Great Rann of Kutch all the way from Siberia for breeding lending the white desert a pinkish hue. Many other migratory bird species such as the Busturds, Blue Tailed Bee Eater, Ceraneous Vulture and Demoiselle Cranes also arrive here in large number.

Great Flamingoes, Rann of Kutch
Great Flamingoes at Rann of Kutch add mesmerizing pinkish hue to the barren white landscape
Yet another thing to do in Kutch is to visit the Wild Ass Sanctuary. Located in Little Rann of Kutch, Wild Ass Sanctuary in Gujarat is the only place in the world where the endangered Indian Wild Ass could be found.

Indian Wild Ass
The endangered Indian Wild Ass at the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann of Kutch
For History buffs Dholvira is yet another must visit archaeological site in Gujarat. It is considered to be one of the modern cities dating back to the period of Indus Valley Civilization. It is situated near Bhachau Taluka of Kutch.

Important Travel Tips: Rann of Kutch is located close to the Indo - Pak border therefore all tourists require prior written permission from the DSP’s office in Bhuj before traveling there. On Saturdays and Sundays DSP office is closed so plan accordingly.

Kutch Rann Utsav

To experience the Kutch at its most colorful and vibrant, Rann Mahotsav is the time to visit this destination in Gujarat. It is a cornucopia of music, dance and myriad colors & culture of the state. A three day annual razzmatazz, the white desert comes alive with music, dance, live tents, camel safari, arts & crafts on display and cultural performances during the Rann Utsav.

Rann Utsav, Kutch

Some of you might be wondering where the other names are that should have been featured in this list. But considering we could list only 10, we could only talk about these. With some notable omission like Jamnagar, Balasinor with its Jurassic Park and Saputara, the only hill station in Gujarat; some hackles might rise, but we would appreciate your feedback and more names so that we could have a Part II of the Top 10 Places to visit in Gujarat.