This guided tour highlights India's western (and lesser-known) state of Gujarat for those seeking to sidestep the tourist trail. Kick-off in Ahmedabad, a 600-year-old-walled city—and India's first UNESCO-listed site—before visiting various palaces and indigenous villages known for embroidery, woodcarving, and mud painting. Continue to Palitana where you'll experience 863 marble temples before circling back to Ahmedabad for any last-minute textile shopping.

Highlights

  • Take a sunrise Heritage Walk to see Ahmedabad's most impressive sites
  • Drive through a salt marsh in a jeep while looking for endangered species
  • Spend two days touring various villages near Bhuj and meet natives 
  • Purchase quality textiles directly from the locals who make them
  • Make a sacred climb up a 2.5-mile (4 km) walkway to see the Jain temples

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ahmedabad Ahmedabad
Day 2 Ahmedabad Heritage Walk - Transfer to Poshina Poshina
Day 3 Transfer to Dasada, via Danta Village, Patan & Modhera Dasada
Day 4 Jeep Excursion in Little Rann of Kutch - Village Tour Dasada
Day 5 Transfer to Bhuj - Free Time Bhuj
Day 6 Bhuj Village Exploration - Day 1 Bhuj
Day 7 Bhuj Village Exploration - Day 2 Bhuj
Day 8 Bhuj City Tour Bhuj
Day 9 Transfer to Gondal - Village Tour Bhuj
Day 10 Transfer to Palitana - Free Time Palitana
Day 11 Explore the Jain Temples Palitana
Day 12 Transfer to Bhavnagar - City Tour Bhavnagar
Day 13 Transfer to Ahmedabad - Museum Tour - Dinner Show Ahmedabad
Day 14 Depart Ahmedabad  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ahmedabad

The Jama Masijd mosque in Makaraba, Ahmedabad
The Jama Masijd mosque in Makaraba, Ahmedabad

Welcome to India! Upon arrival in Ahmedabad—and after completion of the immigration and customs formalities—you will be met by an Active India representative for a traditional welcome and transfer to your hotel. By the time your check-in is organized, your representative would introduce the tour to you and hand over any documents.

From here, take the rest of the day to either relax or explore on your own. This 600-year-old walled city was the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in India and is a major metropolis in the state of Gurajat. Situated on the banks of the Sabarmati River, Ahmedabad is full of centuries-old architectural delights with exquisite carved wooden mansions, Havelis, and labyrinthine lanes, as well as great museums, restaurants, and street food.

Day 2: Ahmedabad Heritage Walk - Transfer to Poshina

Swaminarayan Temple
Swaminarayan Temple

Early birds, rejoice! Before breakfast this morning, you'll have the option to join a Heritage Walk (2-3 hours) to see some of Ahmedabad's best culture and heritage sites. The walk starts from the Swaminarayan Temple and passes by numerous aspects of the old city before concluding at the well-known 15th century Jama Masjid. The walk was initiated more than one and a half decades ago and is now being replicated in several other Indian cities and towns, including Jaipur, Amritsar, and Lucknow

Following breakfast at your hotel, it's time to transfer to Poshina (115 miles/185 km). Upon arrival,  you'll check into your hotel and then explore.  The village of Poshina is home to a number of artisans, tribal arrow craftsmen, potters, blacksmiths, and a bazaar famous for its tribal silver jewelry, sleeved daggers, and terracotta horses. The area around Poshina is also home to ethnic communities, Bhil and Garasia, known for their colorful attire and artistic ornaments.

Day 3: Transfer to Dasada, via Danta Village, Patan & Modhera

Carved idols on the inner wall and pillars of Rani ki vav,
Carved idols on the inner wall and pillars of Rani-ki-Vav

After breakfast in Poshina, you'll depart for Dasada (134 miles/ 215km ), with some stops along the way starting with the village of Danta. Here you will meet the Dungri Garasia tribes, a group that includes half a dozen endogamous hierarchical sub-tribes calling themselves Garasia or Dungri Garasia. These are divided into two neighboring states: Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Next, continue to Patan on the banks of the Sarasvati River to see the Rani-ki-Vav statue. Notice the master craftsmanship as well as the construction of step-wells in Maru-Gurjara style, hence its complex technique and great beauty in the details of the proportions.

If time permits, you will stop at Modhera to see the Sun Temple. Like the Sun Temple at Konark in Orissa, this temple was also designed to let the dawn light rise on the image of Surya at the time of the equinoxes.

After seeing the temple, resume the trip to Dasada where you'll check-in and enjoy the evening at leisure.

Day 4: Jeep Excursion in Little Rann of Kutch - Village Tour

Indian Wild Ass
The elusive Indian wild ass

Today, you'll take a morning jeep ride in search of the indigenous Indian wild ass (or khur)—one of the most endangered species in the world—located in a salt marsh called Little Rann of Kutch. The plains also provide a haven for endangered Indian wolves, as well as desert cats, striped hyenas, and birds of prey.

Later in the afternoon, you'll visit some nearby villages, inhabited by a number of interesting communities. The women here are experts in embroidery and you can watch them at work. They tend to use herringbone stitches interspersed with small mirrors along with occasional chain stitches for peacocks and other motifs.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Dasada for the evening.

Day 5: Transfer to Bhuj - Free Time

Locals embroidering
Locals working their magic with embroidery

After breakfast in Dasada, you'll transfer to Bhuj (171 miles/275 km). Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel and then explore the city at your own pace, specifically its network of narrow, busy streets in the old town. 

The name Bhuj is derived from the Bhujia Fortress, located on a nearby hill with excellent views of the city. A local ruler Maharoa Hamir founded this city in 1510 and it was declared the capital in 1549 during the rule of Rao Khengarji I. During British rule, the city was an independent part of the Princely States; after independence, it became a part of India.

Bhuj is also known for its quality textiles and there are many shops to browse through. Here you'll find different forms of handicraft including embroidery, block-printing, and tye-dye.

Day 6: Bhuj Village Exploration - Day 1

The local village of Ludiya
The local village of Ludiya

Today, after breakfast, you'll begin a day-trip to visit a group of villages near Bhuj where you'll meet natives and learn about their culture.

Places on today's itinerary include: 

  • Banni: In the area of Banni in Kutch, the Meghwal-Harijans who emigrated from Rajasthan use Kambira, Kharek, and Kudi Stitches in their embroidery. Also, the satin dot outline and embroidery of the area—and the very tiny mirror designs—are similar to the famous Mutwa embroidery of the region. You'll find wall hangings, vests, and wallets in Kharek Stitch, and beading on portable fans, bracelets, toys, and belts.

  • Hodka: The name Hodka derives from the Gujarati word 'Hodi' which means 'boat'. Since then, the villages here are called jheels, where drinking water is available. Hodka is as famous for its beautiful embroidery and mud work as it is for its leather. Men and women actively participate in the development of the artistic and craft tradition of the region.

  • Ludiya Village: Harijans and Muslims are the main communities of this village and their main occupations include monsoon culture, cattle rearing, wood carving, embroidery, and mud and wall painting for home decoration. (Harijan men are involved in wood carving; women in embroidery and wall decoration).

  • Dhordo Village: This is the best place to see the beautiful traditional mud houses (Bhungas) and fine Mutwa embroidery using small mirrors.

In the evening, return to your hotel in Bhuj.

Day 7: Bhuj Village Exploration - Day 2

Scenery on today's route
Remote scenery on today's route

This morning, get ready for another full-day excursion where you'll visit more villages around Bhuj! The places you'll see today are known for their distinctive styles of embroidery, tye-dye effects, and other handiwork, like weaving, block-printing, and Rogan-painting.

Places on today's itinerary include:

  • Niroma Village: This is a famous place to see Rogan painting (sometimes called printing). This is the art of cloth printing using a paint made from boiled oil and vegetable dyes, which is then laid down on fabric using either a metal block or a stylus.

  • Bhujodi Village: During this visit, you'll meet a national award-winning artist and witness how the locals do traditional weaving. You'll also visit the Shurjan Store for potential shopping.

  • Mandvi: This town is located on the banks of the Rukmavati River, walking distance from the Arabian Sea at the Gulf of Kutch. Here, you'll visit Vijay Vilas Palace, a royal abode set in the middle of well-laid gardens. The architect and craftsmen from Jaipur designed and constructed the palace in 1920 AD, and it has all the elements of Rajput architecture. This is a prime example of the traditional skill of craftsmen of the early 20th century.

In the early evening, return to your hotel in Bhuj. 

Day 8: Bhuj City Tour

Aina Mahal
Aina Mahal: one of two palaces you'll see today

After breakfast, you'll have an entire day to learn more about Bhuj!

Today's city tour includes the following visits:  

  • Aina Mahal: This ornate palace was constructed by Rao Lakhpatji, a great patron of art, architecture, music, and literature. Aina Mahal is a unique example of an Indian palace built in the mid-eighteenth century with a European influence.

  • Prag Mahal: Conveniently located next to the Aina Mahal is the Prag Mahal, a 19th-century palace. It was Rao Pragmalji II who appointed the famous architect, Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins, to design it. Constructed in Italian Gothic style—using various types of stones available in the Kutch region—the palace has spacious rooms, wide verandahs, and a lofty bell tower. This is a fine example of Indian craftsmanship combined with European architectural design.

  • The Kutch Museum: Formerly known as the Fergusson Museum, the Kutch was founded by Maharao Khengarji III in 1877 AD and is the oldest museum in Gujarat. Constructed in the Italian style, the museum has a picturesque setting on Hamirsar Lake and draws scholars due to its large collection of Kshatrapa inscriptions, curious archaeological objects, and various crafts from the Kutch region.

Following the tour, return to your hotel. 

Day 9: Transfer to Gondal - Village Tour

The main entrance of Swaminarayan Temple in Gondal
The main entrance of Swaminarayan Temple in Gondal

After breakfast in Bhuj, it's time to continue the journey with a drive to Gondal (169 miles/272 km). Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel and get settled. Gondal is a picturesque town with plenty of gracious architecture, wide tree-lined roads, and European lampposts. Here you can enjoy a taste of the royal lifestyle in the Maharaja’s palace (now a heritage hotel).

Later in the afternoon, your guide will take you to Bharwad and other pastoral villages around Gondal town. The tour also includes visits to the Riverside Palace, Royal Garages, and Naulakha Palace. You will also visit a vintage car museum boasting a collection that includes a pre-1910 version that belonged to Maharaja Bhagwat Sinhji. 

Return to your hotel following the tour. 

Day 10: Transfer to Palitana - Free Time

Jain Temple at Palitana
The Jain temples in Palitana

After breakfast in Gondal, you'll drive to Palitana (99 miles/160 km). This is an important place of worship in Jainism, and its belief system revolves around non-violence toward all living things: people, animals, and even insects.

Here you'll find a staggering number (863, precisely) of magnificent marble Jain temples, built on the slopes of the nearby Shatrunjaya Hill. The temples were constructed over a period of over 900 years by various generations of Jains, starting from the 11th century. The 2.5-mile (4 km) ascent, via the 3950 steps, takes about two hours—an effort that will be saved for the following morning.

In addition to these magnificent temples, Palitana also offers hand weaved bamboo products.

Day 11: Explore the Jain Temples

Spend a day exploring the Jain Temples
Views from the top

Get ready for an exciting day that begins with an early climb to the hills of Palitana, known as the ‘Abode of the Gods’. The hundreds of temples here offer finely carved spires and towers that glisten in the sunlight as pilgrims make the uphill journey on foot. The climb will take about two hours each way, so please bring water and a sun hat. From the top of the hill, a breathtaking panoramic view of the Gulf of Cambay and the countryside can be witnessed.

The temples were built at different times but most belong to the 16th century and bear many common architectural features. While here, pay a visit to the main temple, dedicated to Shri Adishwara, one of the most magnificent and sacred sites of Shatrunjaya Hill. After this, you can visit the Chaumukha (also called the four-sided temple), which has a picture of Adinath facing in the four cardinal directions.

You'll have free time to explore on your own before you begin the journey back on foot.

Day 12: Transfer to Bhavnagar - City Tour

Visit a local market and sample some street food in Bhavnagar
Visit a local market and sample some street food in Bhavnagar

After breakfast in Palitana, you'll drive to Bhavnagar (34 miles/55 km), arriving in time for a half-day tour. Bhavnagar is the fifth-largest city of Gujarat and the second-largest city in the Saurashtra region (it is also known as the cultural capital of Saurashtra). The city offers vibrant shades of traditional Gujarati culture.

In the afternoon, you'll visit Takhteshwar Temple, located in the center of the city with a panoramic view of the entire city. You'll also find Gandhi Smriti, a memorial that has a library of Gandhian books and photographs providing glimpses into the life of Mahatma Gandhi. It also has a fine collection of art objects representing the culture of the Saurashtra Region.

Later in the evening, you'll make a visit to Bhavnagar's local market.

Day 13: Transfer to Ahmedabad - Museum Tour - Dinner Show

Local textiles in Ahmedabad
Local textiles in Ahmedabad

After breakfast in Bhavnagar, it's time to return to where it all began: Ahmedabad (109 miles/175 km). Upon arrival, check-in at your hotel.

You'll then join a museum tour of the city. Your first stop is the Calico Museum of Textiles, one of India's leading specialized museums. Inaugurated in 1949 by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, the museum contains beautiful textiles starting from the 15th century. 

Next, you'll visit the Shreyas Folk Museum, containing a vast collection of folk art from each state in India and various other countries. Completed in 1974, the museum attracts students from all over the world as well as scholars and art-lovers. The objects were once used in ceremonial or domestic use and include masks, costumes, weapons, toys, musical instruments, and handicrafts.

There will be some free time before dinner. If you haven't picked up any textiles to take home yet, now is the time!

Later in the evening, you'll join a traditional Gujarati dinner show at Vishala Village Restaurant—a great way to celebrate your last evening of the trip.

Day 14: Depart Ahmedabad

Goodbye, Ahmedabad!
Goodbye, Ahmedabad!

It's time to say goodbye to Gujarat! At the designated time, transfer to the Ahmedabad airport to board your departure flight. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Hidden Treasures of Gujarat - 14 Days
Map of Hidden Treasures of Gujarat - 14 Days