Gentle shores, rocky coastlines and a smooth breeze that gently blows over a state with a culture as rich and diverse as its history – Gujarat is not a destination to be overlooked.
Whilst less famous or well-known than its neighbouring states, Gujarat is home to a large network of cultural sights and experiences that showcase the true beauty of this destination. The capital city has been Gandhinagar since 1970, but prior to that it was Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is Gujarat’s largest and most popular city that was once called home by one of the world’s most famous and inspiring citizens: Mahatma Gandhi.
If you’re looking to learn more about Indian culture and heritage, to discover a destination that’s a little lower key than the hottest tourist destinations in India, then we recommend Gujarat. To help you get around this charismatic state, we have created one of our trusty travel guides. We’ll point out the best sights, destinations and food in Gujarat, whilst also giving you tips on how to navigate your way around and some ideas on where to stay.
Best Time to Visit / Weather in Gujarat
As with any Indian state, temperatures fluctuate dramatically. We recommend visiting in the winter (Nov-Feb) where average daily temperatures in Gujarat are around 29°C and the evenings cool down to around 12°C.
March to May daytime temperatures can average around 41°C and 29°C in the evening. Monsoon season sees things cool down a bit to 35°C during the day and 27°C at night, but it will be raining quite heavily.
Gujarat Tourism Guide
Places to Visit in Gujarat: Tourist Attractions
Gujarat’s rich history and copious number of leaders and rulers is reflected in the wondrous architecture of temples and palaces located throughout the state. But the quiet, inconspicuous nature of this state means that travellers have the rare opportunity to experience areas and communities who have resisted the influence of globalisation.
Ahmedabad was Gujarat’s capital until 1970, when the title was passed over to the newly built and pre-designed city of Gandhinagar, and its history is literally written on the walls, or rather in them. The buildings in the old quarter form a sort of maze of charm and intrigue; from old wooden colonial structures to looming stone temples, there are sights to see for days. The city is fairly vast and spread to its limits, thus getting around does take a bit of getting used to, but is well worth the extra bit of effort.
One of the most compelling reasons to visit this more peaceful Indian state is that it is the homeland of world-famous, human rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, whose teachings ebb and flow throughout the people and streets of Gujarat. Upon his return from South Africa in 1915, Gandhi set up his first Ashram in Ahmedabad; it served as a central hub of operations for his struggle for Indian Independence.
Luckily for us, the kind trustees of this establishment encourage visitors to come and visit the Ashram and participate in a guided tour, all for free. On top of that, the Ashram is open all year round, including public holidays, from 08.30 to 18.30, but we advise getting there as early as possible to avoid the heat of the afternoon.
In 1423 the Jama Masjid was built by Ahmed Shah I and is now considered to be one of the largest, most peaceful, mosques in India. Remnant of the religious patchwork that makes up Gujarat, this mosque used the parts of demolished Hindu and Jain temples to create its walls, thus is a perfect homage to Gujarat’s multi-faceted history. Its main prayer hall comprises of around 260 columns, but in 1819 it lost two minarets that once accentuated the main entrance to this grand room, visitors can still see the remains of these spindle-like towers.
This huge manmade lake was created in the 15th century, but in 2008 it was completely renovated and turned into an amazing attraction, especially for families looking for something to do. There’s a zoo, toy train, a water park with many rides and activities, food stalls and many more. If you find yourself in the area in the last week of December, then expect to stumble upon the Kankaria Carnival; this event celebrates the exciting renovations made in 2008 with cultural and artistic performances, lightshows and fireworks!
The Great Rann of Kutch is a sprawling, seasonal salt marsh deep within the Thar Desert; this incredible sight is believed to be the largest salt marsh in the world. But what exactly is it you may ask? Well, during monsoon season this vast area is nestled underwater, but for the rest of the year this water dries up leaving only its salty remnants behind.
The sheer wonder of this area is why it attracts so many visitors each year, but we recommend you go between October and March, either early in the morning or in the evening as the salt can be blindingly bright in the desert sun. Also, for the romantics out there, the salt marsh is magical in the moonlight, and will leave you awe-inspired and all warm on the inside.
Visitors should be aware though that owing to its proximity to Pakistan, you will need a permit to visit this sensational salt marsh. These can be obtained from the nearby village of Bhirandiyara, and cost 100 rupees per person and 50 rupees per vehicle.
While you’re in the area, nearby is the Wild Ass Sanctuary, located in the Little Rann of Kutch; this wildlife sanctuary is home to a huge array of species that you can expect to hear galloping, scuttling or flying over the scratchy, sandy desert. It is the only remaining home of the Indian Wild Ass, as well as species of antelopes, jackals, wolves, hyenas and so many more, including birds, underwater creatures and crocodiles that linger around the wetlands.
“Spotting the Great Flamingos at the Great Rann of Kutch, exploring the vast plains of the salt flats, standing in awe of the mighty Jamma Masjid in Ahmedabad and visiting Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram, where he led the Dandi march, are just some of the incredible experiences Gujarat has to offer.”
– Brian and Noelle, Founders of www.wanderingon.com
Sun Temple, Modhera
Delicately situated on the banks of the River Pushpavati in Mehsana, is the Sun Temple of Modhera, a structure dedicated to the Hindu Sun God, Surya. Gujarat’s architecture varies throughout the state owing to its various rulers and religious leaders and this temple was built in 1026AD by King Bhimdev of the Hindu Solanki dynasty.
This astounding sight appears to be constructed so mathematically, but is really made up of intricate carvings of demons and deities of the Hindu religion. In January the temple transforms into a multi-coloured light stadium as it hosts the Modhera Dance Festival, a 3-day celebration of traditional dances.
Gir Wildlife Sanctuary
India is famous for its tiger sanctuaries, but you will find no tigers at the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary. Disappointed? Fear not, what you will see are lions. Wild lions.
For animal lovers, Gir Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-do on your list of places to visit in Gujarat. This wildlife park located approximately 43km away from the city of Somnath, is final remaining natural home of the Asian Lion, not to mention a range of other animals such as hyenas, foxes, black bucks and many more.
There are a number of different tour options available when visiting the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, including 3-day holiday packages or taking on an open-roof Jeep safari. We recommend you stay at least two days to make sure you spot every animal possible, and see as many majestic lions as you can muster.
Dwarka – Jagat Mandir (Dwarkadhish Temple)
Jagat Mandir is a Dwarkadhish Temple, built to honour the Hindu God Krishna. This structure was built over 2,500 years ago by the grandson of Lord Krishna himself; it has since been enlarged in the 14th and 15th century and remains one of the most exquisite pieces of architecture in Gujarat (and potentially all of India).
Situated on the banks of the River Gomti, in the region of Dwarka, visitors are able to marvel at the intricate carvings that adorn this vast temple, and crane their necks looking up at its 51.8m tower. The temple is open from 7am-12.30pm and 5pm-9.30pm; and make sure you also go inside this sacred building and explore the lashings of colour and bask in the sweet smell of incense.
The Marine National Park is located in the Gulf of Kutch if you’re seeking a different sort of wildlife to get up close and familiar with. There’s a range of quirky creatures to be discovered here, including octopuses that change colour! Gujarat is fairly large, so there are plenty of other cities for you to pilot your way through, including: Gandhinagar (the capital), Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot.
Or if you feel like dipping your toes in the water, why not try Mandvi a beachy area in the district of Kutch.
We wish we could sit here and describe every wondrous spectacle there is to see or do in Gujarat, but we also appreciate the concept of a good surprise, so we’ll just a list a few more must-sees and wait for your feedback!
“In a country known for its culture and diversity, Gujarat stands apart from the rest of India. From the beaches of Veraval and stunning beauty of Dwarkadhish Temple in the west, to the art and festivals of Vadodara in the east — Gujarat’s cultural capital — one can easily spend a month traveling Gujarat and still remain captivated by new and impressive discoveries on a daily basis.”
– Derek Freal, Founder of www.theholidaze.com
Gujarat Tourism Guide: Food in Gujarat
Gujarat is known for its famous Thalis, these are sharing platters usually made up of all sorts of goodness, including rotli, daal or kadhi, rice, vegetables and an assortment of spices! Usually, there’s another curry to go with this exquisite dish, whose flavours are more subtle but no less distinct than other regional dishes.
There is an insurmountable number of amazing food locations in Gujarat, but being that it is a whole state, we can only offer up our absolute favourites. If you’re a foodie, we know these destinations will definitely mould your choice of locations to visit in Gujarat.
Gujarat street food market
Seek out Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad a vegetable market by morning, a bullion market at midday and a street food market at night. This chameleon-like destination is overlooked by several historical buildings and also intermingled in-between all the tasty food are a number of jewellery and textiles stalls, selling all manner of bangles and vibrant materials.
If you’re not looking to break the bank, Gujarat is a great place to find tantalising dishes at more than reasonable prices, such as Toran in Ahmedabad. This rustic and authentic restaurant, located down an alley off the Ashram Road, serves up one of the most delicious thalis you will ever experience in Gujarat. Well-reviewed and highly rated by pro-travellers, this dinner will only set you back 500 rupees for two people.
If you’re looking to have a more magic in the moonlight kind of experience, try Vishalla, where the atmosphere and décor will make you feel as though you’ve been sent back in time to one of the quaint village of yester-years. Also prepare to be wined and dined, as whilst you tuck into your tasty thali under the open night’s sky, you’ll be entertained with folk music, dancing and puppet shows.
Gujarat Street Snacks
But, we’ve saved the best until last. Gujjis are the inventors of some of the most lip-smacking delicious snacks about. Where best to find them? The streets! Head out after dinner and slurp your way through a delicious Malai Kulfi; a sweet, conical shaped ice cream in an array of flavours. Not a big ice cream lover? No sweat, try Baraf Gola: shaved ice layered with all different flavoured syrups and then wrapped round a wooden stick, just like an ice pop.
“Gujarat may not be known as the food capital of India, but it’s hard to beat a good Gujarati thali (plate) for exciting and delicious flavours put together in unexpected combinations. A series of small dishes and condiments are served on a large thali in flavours ranging from spicy to sweet.”
By Mariellen Ward, Founder of www.breathedreamgo.com
Gujarat Tourism Guide: Nightlife in Gujarat
Gujarat is one of five dry states in India, so drinking is strictly prohibited. Visitors should bear in mind that the laws surrounding this include consumption and possession of alcohol. However, Gujarat is a perfect example of not needing a drink to have a good time; the town is full of dynamic things to do once the sun goes down.
There are countless dining experiences to be had, with restaurants on every corner and sweet scent of street stalls filtering through the roads. Or if you are on the coast, then why not take a stroll along the shores, in the romantic moonlight under the twinkling stars? Look out for the camels! Or if you’re a fan of movies and arts, then why not try a movie theatre or seek out some of the countless performance put on for tourists and the culturally intrigued around the state?
Where to Stay in Gujarat: Best Gujarat Hotels
We think there’s so much of Gujarat that falls into the ‘must-see’ category, that when you visit this beautiful state, you should travel around as much as possible. Hotels are in no short supply, and there’s something to suit everyone’s needs. To give an idea of what you can expect to find, we’ve outlined a few of our favourites, each located in a different budget and some in different areas, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is on offer.
Luxury Hotels in Gujarat
If you’re looking to spend your time in the lap of luxury, with massages, swimming pools and delicious cuisine on 24hr call, then the Hyatt Regency in Ahmedabad will tick all of those boxes. The five star hotel has all you can want and more after a long day of exploring, or even if you want to spend your time relaxing in the resort. Alternatively the Novotel Ahmedabad offers a sleek and sophisticated experience, without sacrificing any of the comfort; amenities include an outdoor pool, valet parking and a health and wellness spa.
Both of these hotels in Ahmedabad are family friendly, something you can expect across mostly all of the hotels in Gujarat, as they welcome travellers coming to explore their intriguing state. To live it up in this life of luxury, visitors should expect to be spending at least 5,000 rupees per night, dependent on time of year and how many of you there are.
Mid-Range Hotels in Gujarat
If you’re looking to tighten the purse strings a little more, there are plenty of mid-range price hotels that offer great amenities and facilities, and will provide more than enough comfort on your excursion. Furthermore, Ahmedabad isn’t the only place to do some exploring in Gujarat; why not try the OYO Premium Limda Chowk hotel in Rajkot, where you’ll be close by to the tranquil Jubilee Gardens and the Watson Museum.
Or if you prefer, why not stay at somewhere like the Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Vadodara where you can try and steal a glimpse of the lavish Laxmi Vilas Palace, where the Vadodara’s Royal Family once resided. These hotels typically vary a lot in price, hugely dependent on time of year, but expect to be spending around 2,000-3,000 rupees for every night you stay.
Budget Hotels in Gujarat
Sometimes we’re not feeling like a Maharaja, and a budget hotel is a better option, especially if we’re looking to spend as much as we can on great experiences around Gujarat. If you stay at the 3 star OYO Rooms Gandhi Ashram Road, you’ll not only find yourself only a short distance away from the Hathi Singh Temple and Gandhi Ashram, but you’ll have access to a free continental breakfast and dry cleaning service!
Similarly, staying at the Hotel Ashish you’ll only be a 15-minute walk away from the Jama Masjid and Manek Chowk and when you get back you’ll be able to access the free Wi-Fi to tell all of your friends and families about your adventures.
Getting Around: Transport in Gujarat
In order to visit all of the wonderful sights of Gujarat, you’re going to need to know how to get around. There are several ways to navigate this vast city, including trains, buses, taxis and rickshaws! However, Gujarat’s intercity bus service has excelled recently, and is fast becoming very popular as users are able to reserve seats in advance.
You can do this by either reserving seats online before your journey or alternatively, many of bus stands have reservation windows, so if it’s a last minute decision there is no need to worry!
Click below for a printable version of our Gujarat Tourism Guide.