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Gujarat Travel Guide – Wildlife & Cultural Destinations in Gujarat

Champaner Gujarat

Gujarat Travel Guide: Wildlife & Cultural Destinations

 

Gujarat is an Indian state located on the Arabian Sea’s western coast. It includes the entire Kathiawar Peninsula (Saurashtra) and the surrounding mainland area. The state is primarily surrounded to the northwest by Pakistan and by the Indian states of Rajasthan to the north, Madhya Pradesh to the east, and Maharashtra to the southeast. Gujarat also shares a small segment of its southeastern border with the Indian union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Together with the Arabian Sea, it surrounds the territory of Daman and Diu.  It has a coastline of 1596 Km (992 miles), the longest among India’s states.  Gujrat is a unique state with rich history, culture, and wildlife. Some of the best Wildlife and Cultural destination in Gujrat are:

 

Wildlife Destinations in Gujarat

Gujarat’s landforms are dynamic, ranging from moist deciduous to marine eco-system, from wetland to moist-deciduous forest. Gujarat is also popular among bird watchers because it is a great place to see a variety of bird species. Gujrat is home to approximately 500 different mammals, almost 500 bird species, and a diverse range of insects, fishes, reptiles, amphibians, and so on. All of this makes India’s westernmost state one of the richest destinations for wildlife viewing. Gujarat has 4 National Parks and 21 Wildlife Sanctuaries which are managed by the Forest Department of the Government of Gujarat. Some top wildlife  & birding destinations in Gujarat

 

Gir National Park

The only remaining habitat where Asiatic Lions can be seen in the wild. Earlier they were found in the whole northern part of India from the western state of Gujarat to Bihar. The park was used as a lion hunting ground by the British during their reign, as well as by the Nawabs of Junagadh, until 1960 when the Government of India had to prohibit hunting due to a significant decrease in the number of Asiatic Lions. It is also known for its diverse avifauna, which includes over 310 bird species.

The majority are local birds, while others migrate from all over the world. The forest of Gir National Park is mixed deciduous with Teak, Ber, Flame of the forest, Jamun, a variety of Acacia, and Banyan trees. Birds ranging from the Malabar whistling thrush to painted storks can be found. Gir is home to a variety of birds, including the endangered Bonelli’s eagle, the crested hawk-eagle, the brown fish owl, the Indian eagle-owl, the rock bush-quail, the Indian peafowl, the brown-capped pygmy woodpecker, the black-headed oriole, the crested treeswift, the Indian pitta, and many others.

 

asiatic lion at Gir national park

 

Total Area

  • Core Area: 300 Sq. Km
  • Buffer Area: 800 Sq. Km.

 

How to reach

  • By Air: Rajkot airport – 180 Km
  • By Train: Junagadh junction railway station – 60 Km & Veraval – 45 km
  • By Road: Well connected to nearby cities: Junagadh – 60 Km & Veraval – 45 km

 

Best time to visit

During the winter season from November to March

 

Velavdar Blackbuck National Park

Velavdar Blackbuck National Park – This beautiful 34-square-kilometer park, located an hour’s drive north of Bhavnagar, includes large areas of pale, custard-colored grassland stretching between two seasonal rivers and is famous for its blackbucks – beautiful, fast antelope with elegant spiraling horns up to 65cm in mature males. The park is home to over 1800 animals, including blue bulls (India’s largest antelope) and birds such as Siberian wintering harriers (about 2000 of them most years). Over 120 different bird species can be found in and around the park. You might even see wolves if you’re lucky! The sanctuary is best visited early in the morning when the chances of seeing the wolves are higher.

A small wetland in the southern part of the Park attracts birds like Pelicans, Flamingoes, Ducks, Waders, Coots, White storks, Painted storks, Sarus cranes, etc. The Park is a heaven for Demoiselle Cranes, Common Cranes, and a variety of Raptors including Certag Spotted Eagles and Steppe Eagles. The Park provides one of the world’s best-roosting sites to thousands of Harriers that arrive here from Central Europe for wintering.

 

Velavdar Blackbuck National Park

 

Total Area

  • Area:  34 Sq. Km

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Bhavnagar airport –  50 Km  & Ahmedabad  – 145 Km
  • By Train:  Bhavnagar railway station-  50 Km
  • By Road:  Good road connectivity from nearby cities

 

Best time to visit

From monsoon to Winters season

 

Marine National Park & Sanctuary

In the Gulf of Kutch, India’s first Marine Wildlife Sanctuary and Marine National Park were established in 1980 and 1982, respectively. This represented a significant advancement in societal and regulatory awareness of how to interact with the natural world. It is a group of 42 tropical islands located off the northern coast of Jamnagar and the southern coast of Kutch. The sanctuary is located in the intertidal zone, which is the area that is below water during high tide and exposed during low tide. This allows us to see the country’s most diverse marine habitats, including saline grasslands, marshy areas, rocky shores, mudflats, creeks, estuaries, sandy strands, coral reefs, and mangroves. 70 species of sponges are found Coral has 52 species including 44 species of hard coral 10 species of soft coral and almost 90 species of birds.

There are also coral reef fringe islands found at Pirotan, Narula, Ajad, and Poster. There are 7 species of mangroves here, performing vital functions such as maintaining the balance between salt and fresh water systems and protecting the coast from erosion some birds like the Painted Stork, Darter, and Black-necked Ibis use it as breeding grounds for colonies. Some incredible marine animals that can be spotted here are Jellyfish,  Arthropods like include 27 species of prawns, 30 species of crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and other crustaceans. Mollusks like pearl oysters and sea slugs can be seen.  Echinoderms like starfish, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins are present. The fishes found are puffer fishes, sea horses, sting ray, mudskippers, and whale sharks which are endangered species. Endangered sea turtles such as green sea turtles, olive ridleys, and leatherbacks are seen here.

 

Marine National Park

 

Total Area

Area:  163 Sq. Km is the area of Marine National Park

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Jamnagar airport –  07 Km  & Ahmedabad  – 350 Km
  • By Train:  Jamnagar railway station-  07 Km &
  • By Road:   Good road connectivity from nearby cities

 

Best time to visit

The month of October and March is a good time to visit Marine National Park

 

Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

The Khijadia Bird Sanctuary has an incredible number of resident and migratory birds in a relatively small area, especially during the winter. The sanctuary was established in May 1981. The sanctuary and its surrounding areas, on the other hand, have a remarkable diversity of habitats and ecosystems, including marine habitat, freshwater habitat, marshy lands, mangroves, salt pans, open mudflats, intertidal mudflats, creeks, scrubs, sandy beaches, and adjoining farmlands.

Due to its high diversity of landscapes, the sanctuary has a rare distinction of having the maximum bird species density in the state with more than 220 species in a relatively very small area. This diversity has a special conservation value as it has several globally threatened species such as Dalmatian pelican, Darter, Asian open bill stork, Black-necked stork, Black-headed ibis, Eurasian spoonbill, Pallas’s fish eagle, Pallid harrier, Indian skimmer, Osprey, etc. You may, therefore, reasonably hope to enjoy pleasant sighting of the pristine avifauna in large numbers.

 

Khijadia Bird Sanctuary

 

Total Area

Core Area:  163 Sq. Km is the area of Marine National Park

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Jamnagar airport –  15 Km  & Ahmedabad  – 350 Km
  • By Train:  Jamnagar railway station-  10 Km &
  • By Road:   Good road connectivity from nearby cities

 

Best time to visit

The best months are from October to March.

 

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary

The Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary is a breathtaking natural lake with shallow waters and muddy lagoons dotted with 360 islets. Thousands of migratory birds use it as a wintering ground. These birds travel long distances from Central Asia, Europe, and Siberia to escape the harsh winters there. In addition to migratory birds, many residents and local migratory birds visit this location. In April 1969, this lake and the surrounding wetlands were designated as a bird sanctuary. It’s thrilling to canoe through such shallow water and get up close and personal with flocks of pelicans, large groups of flamingos and coots, and various types of ducks. The sanctuary has about 250 bird species, which include greater and lesser flamingoes, pelicans, ducks & geese, rails, coots, cranes, cormorants, herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills, teals, sarus cranes, moorhens, and waders, etc. Both the flamingoes i.e. Lesser and Greater inhabit Nalsarovar. They can be seen during monsoon and post-monsoon periods whereas the latter becomes abundant as the salinity increases after the monsoon.

 

Total Area

  • Core Area:  121 Sq. Km

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Ahmedabad airport  – 72 Km
  • By Train:  Viramgam railway station-  40 Km & Ahmedabad railway station-  65 Km
  • By Road:   Good road connectivity from Ahmedabad

 

Best time to visit

From November to April

 

Rann of Kutch

The Rann of Kutch is a huge area of salt marshes that straddles India and Pakistan. It is located in Gujarat, India (primarily in the Kutch district), and Sindh, Pakistan. It is divided into two sections: the Great Rann and the Little Rann of Kutch. There are several wildlife sanctuaries and protected reserves on the Indian side in the Rann of Kutch region. Some important areas here are Narayan Sarovar, Kutch’s Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary.

 

Great Rann of Kutch

It is a seasonal salt marsh in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat, India. It is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. In India’s summer monsoon, the flat semi-desert of salty clay and mudflats, which average 15 meters above sea level, fills with standing water. In very wet years, the wetland extends from the Gulf of Kutch on the west through to the Gulf of Khambhat on the east.  Some important conservation areas that can be visited such as Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, and Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve known for sighting thousands of flamingos in their mating plumage, Common cranes, and other wetland birds including hundreds of Painted storks and Spoonbills.

 

Total Area

  • Area:  7506 Sq. Km is the area of Great Rann of Kutch

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Bhuj airport: 110 Km
  • By Train: Bhuj railway station: 110 Km
  • By Road: Good road connectivity from nearby cities

 

Best time to visit

The month of October and February is a good time to visit the Great Rann of Kutch

 

Little Rann of Kutch

A vast expanse of arid and muddy salt flat land. It was a part geographical landscape that was under the Arabian sea 66 million years ago. The landscape changes dramatically with the arrival of the monsoon when the entire sanctuary area is filled with shallow fresh water. This stagnant water provides a vast feeding ground for the well-known Kachchh prawns as well as a variety of other birds, fish, and invertebrates. There are around 300 species of bird recorded and 42 mammal species including the endemic Wild Ass.  Some birds like Houbara bustard, eagle, pale harrier, black-shouldered kite, pelican, herons, spoonbill, greater and lesser flamingoes, great crested grebe, and common cranes can be spotted.  It is the largest breeding ground of the lesser florican. Some important areas include  Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary and Banni Grasslands Reserve.

 

Total Area

  • Area:  4953.7 Sq. Km is the area of Little Rann of Kutch

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Rajkot airport –  140 Km  & Ahmedabad  – 100 Km
  • By Train: Dhrangadhra – 22 km,
  • By Road:   Good road connectivity from nearby cities

 

Best time to visit

  • October – December:  Breeding season of Indian wild Ass
  • November – February: Ideal for birding

 

Cultural Destinations in Gujarat

Gujarat is one such state in India that is appealing not only to wildlife enthusiasts but also to those interested in history and cultural heritage. Gujarat is home to many ancient city ruins, palaces, forts, and tombs that proudly bear witness to the golden era of dynasties. Gujarat’s landscapes have been ruled by dynasties, invaders, and sellers since its inception. Gujarat’s past is embedded in its current landscape, as evidenced by the ancient and historical ruins scattered across the state. Massive forts, charming Havelis, stunning step-wells, and many other historical sites in Gujarat showcase some of the land’s relics. Some of the top destinations to experience rich cultural heritage are-

 

Ahmedabad

The city of Ahmedabad became a UNESCO world heritage site in 2017.  It is also known as “Manchester of East” or “Amdavad”. On the ancient site of Ashaval and Karnavati, Ahmedabad was found on 1411. The City of Ahmedabad has some of the finest Indian, and Islamic monuments, and exquisite Hindu and Jain temples. The earliest settlements were on the banks of the Sabarmati River, south of the current old city. It was called Ashaval or Ashapalli. Asha Bhil was the ruler of the Archival. Karna of the Chaulukya dynasty ruling from Anhilwad Patan (1072-1094) made the town his capital and named it Karnavati (Karan’s town), Shrinagar (prosperous city), and Rajnagar (king’s town) in the eleventh century. The top places to visit in Ahmedabad are:

 

Ahmadabad

 

Heritage walk of Ahmedabad

It 2-hour heritage walk starts from Swami Narayan Temple at 0730 hrs. And ends at Jama Masjid. The total length of this walk is 2 Km

 

The Calico Museum of Textiles

The museum was founded in 1949 by the enterprising siblings Gautam Sarabhai and Gira Sarabhai. Ahmedabad at that time had a flourishing textile industry. The museum was originally housed at the Calico Mills in the heart of the textile industry. But as the collection grew the museum was shifted to the Sarabhai House in Shahibaug in 1983. It is closed every Wednesday or on National Holidays.

 

Bhadra fort

Bhadra Fort was built by Ahmed Shah, the founder of the city, in 1411 AD. The fort’s name was taken from the Bhadrakali Temple that stands nearby. The fort was also called Aark fort centuries ago. The British captured the fort in 1817 and used it as a prison until Independence.

 

Bhadra Fort Gujarat

 

Sabarmati Ashram

The Sabarmati Ashram is proof of Mahatma Gandhi’s role in the country’s independence. It’s similar to a museum, with numerous paintings and photographs depicting Gandhi’s life. The library contains a large number of books about his life and freedom movements. Some of his personal belongings are also on display in his cottage, Hriday Kunj.

 

Rani Ki Vav, Patan

Rani Udayamati of the Chaulukya Dynasty built the stepwell in 1063 to commemorate her husband, Bhimdev I. Merutunga, a Jain monk, wrote in 1304 that Udayamati, the daughter of Naravaraha Khangara, built this stepwell in Patan. The stepwell was commissioned in 1063 and completed 20 years later, according to the same composition. In the 1890s, archaeologists Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited it when it was completely buried under silt and only the shaft and a few pillars were visible. The stepwell was rediscovered in the 1940s and restored by the Archeological Survey of India in the 1980s. Since 2014, the stepwell has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

Adalaj ni Vav, Gandhinagar

Mahmud Begada built the stepwell in 1411 to honor Queen Rudabai, wife of Vaghela chieftain Veersinh. It served both a utilitarian and spiritual function for the people who surrounded it. A number of people from the surrounding villages used to fill their water containers from this stepwell. The flamboyant 15th-century stepwell has retained much of its grandeur over the centuries. The intricate carvings on the pillars that support the five storeys are mostly intact to this day; the beams serve as rest stops for pigeons flying in and out, and the structure still leaves swarms of people speechless. The step-well represents the Indo-Islamic fusion architecture that permeated the period’s many stepwells.

 

Dholavira, Great Rann of Kutch

Dholavira is the larger of the two most remarkable Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan culture excavations, dating back 4500 years. While the other site, Lothal, is more comprehensively educated and more easily accessible, a visit to Lothal only supplements, rather than replaces, a visit to Dholavira. This site provides a unique insight into the pioneering Harappan mind, with one of the world’s earliest and best-planned water conservation systems and what may be the world’s first signboards, written in ancient Indus script, in the intense environment that comes with being surrounded by the Great Rann of Kutch. UNESCO has included Dholavira of Kutch in the list of World Heritage Sites in 2021.

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Bhuj airport –  221 Km  & Ahmedabad  – 100 Km

 

Champaner and Pavagadh

Champaner and Pavagadh, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are frequently grouped together as one of Gujarat’s most captivating historical attractions. Pavagadh stands on top of a hill overlooking the sprawl of monuments at Champaner’s base. From the eighth to the fourteenth centuries, the duo forms a rich heritage site dotted with forts, mosques, monuments, tombs, arches, temples, step-wells, and fortresses. Pavagadh became the capital of the Chauhan Rajputs around 1300, but was captured in 1484 by Gujarat Sultan Mahmud Begada after a 20-month siege; in the face of defeat, the Rajputs committed Jauhar (ritual mass suicide). Sultan Mahmud Begada transformed Champaner, at the foot of the hill, into a magnificent new capital after capturing Pavagadh. When Mughal emperor Humayun captured Champaner in 1535, the Gujarati capital reverted to Ahmedabad, and Champaner fell into ruin.

 

Champaner Gujarat

 

How to reach

  • By Air:  Vadodara Airport –  45 Km

 

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