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iXiGOers Apr 22 2013

What are the top weekend getaways from Ahmedabad?

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Ahmedabad, Manchester of the East, is a heady mix of the ancient and the more contemporary and if weekends out here have come to mean window shopping at the local mall followed with a statutory stop over at the multiplex, then we have just the right concoction prepared for you. Call them weekend getaways or retreats, Ahmedabad is surrounded by a number of incredible places, all explorable over a weekend. Some of the more popular weekend getaways from Ahmedabad are:



Sasan Gir forest (Gir Forest National Park), 342 km Ahmedabad


Hear the Asiatic lion roar, once echoing from the islands of Greece to the once-glorious walls of the Colosseum, in the only place in the world where you can- Sasan Gir forest or Gir National Park as its known. Situated 342 km from Ahmedabad and 65 km from Junagadh, Gir Forest National Park is presently the only, almost, safe haven that exists for Asiatic lions. Declared as a protected zone by the Nawab of Junagadh back in the early 1990s, at Sasan Gir Forest, with its dry deciduous forest spread and bare canvas, you are bound to catch sight of a lioness guarding its kill or panther if not his highness himself that makes for a sight of a lifetime.


Peacocks, deer, nilgais and gazelles welcome you into the lush tangle of Sasan Gir forest. Keep your ears tuned to the voices of the jungle, particularly warning cries of langurs and monkeys as their vocalizations are sure to be followed with an appearance of the jungle cats, albeit a hurried one fast in chase of its hunt. Bordering the reserve are sleepy villages and communities of Maldhari tribes, where you can get a rare glimpse of their unique folk art forms. Out here you will be accompanied by forest guards and trackers on your jungle safari who are well acquainted with the lay of the land. If you sight a lion count yourself exceedingly lucky as the jungle king is not the one to be ‘sighted’ but rather the one who grants audience to you.

Know more about the sanctuary at Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rann of Kutch, 247 km from Ahmedabad


Dry salty air, cracked ground beneath and an expanse of parched earth sprawling around you, Great and Little Rann of Kutch make for a surreal experience. Bordered on one side by Gulf of Kutch known for its extreme tides and on one by the world’s largest salt desert, Rann of Kutch is divided into the Great and Little Rann of Kutch.


Seemingly dead and barren, Little Rann of Kutch actually supports a unique and diverse ecosystem and has India’s largest wildlife sanctuary- Wild Ass Sanctuary. A veritable paradise for ornithologists and amatuer bird watchers, Little Rann of Kutch is best explored behind the wheels of a jeep. Speckled with marshes that are crowded with water birds and dotted with Agarias, salt pan workers, be sure to take a guide along as its very easy to lose your way out in this salty desert. Opt for a bullock cart ride that will take you through the vibrant, multi-coloured villages of Kutch that are only too happy to extend their hospitality to anyone who passes by their barren home. Be sure to visit Modhera Sun temple, Bahuchara Mata temple and Rani ki vav and window shop for the exquisite Patola saris.


Now the Great Rann of Kutch is best traversed atop a camel, with the full moon night best time to glimpse it in its full glory. Full moon nights every month are also the time for cultural events at Dhorodo. For the penultimate cultural experience visit Great Rann of Kutch in December when the festival of Ram Utsav is held.


Best time to visit both, Great and Little Rann of Kutch, is either early morning or late evening as during the daytime salt can get blinding. Being bordered by Pakistan, you will need permission from the DSP’s office in Bhuj to visit it.

Pavagadh-Champaner, 147.7 km/159 km from Ahmedabad


In a state known for its dry dusty plains, the hill station of Pavagadh comes as a pleasant surprise. With its foundations steeped in royal legends, Pavagadh is widely popular for its Mahakali (Hindu goddess of time and death) temple, a Shaktipeeth, situated deep in a dense forest atop a cliff and accessed via a ropeway ride or steps if you are up for the exercise. Pavagadh hill makes for an exciting trek with a number of thrilling trekking trails marking its slope.

Combine your trip to Pavagadh with a visit to Champaner established at its base by King Vanraj Chavda in remembrance of his minister, Champa. In fact, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaelogical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an incredible mix of ancient temples that sit next to centuries old mosques.



Jamnagar, 310 km from Ahemdabad


A magic carpet ride of the ancient, royal and wild, Jamnagar makes for an exciting and eventful weekend getaway. Explore the now eerily silent royal hallways of Darbargadh Palace that must have once resonated with laughter and bugles announcing royal conquests. A fine exemplar of rajput architecture, there are some parts of the palace that have a more European tangent to them. Rounding off the royal safari is Lakhota fort, replete with a fine collection of ancient weapons and adrift in the middle of pearl blue Lakhota lake.


Pay your homage at Bohra Hajira, chhota Kashi, abound with temples, mosques and dargahs and then head over to experience Jamnagar’s under and above ground life at Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary and Marine National Park. Marine National Park is India’s first ever marine park and is essentially an archipelago of 42 islands filled with all kinds of marine life including dolphins and the occasional whale sharks. To take a stroll down Jamnagar’s memory lane visit Bardar sanctuary where the mountain range is speckled with crumbling, desolate temples and remains of ancient town settlements. Jamnagar is also within easy travelling distance of many beaches and coral reefs.


To know more about Jamnagar (about, how to reach, places go visit, best time to visit etc) - read our Jamnagar (about, how to reach, places go visit, best time to visit etc) - read our Jamnagar Travel Guide."

Palanpur, 142 km from Ahemdabad


Once the power seat of the Lohani dynasty, Palanpur, from being a dowry gift to being captured by the Marathas and then eventually the British, has had a pretty chequered history. A widely revered pilgrimage site for Jains with the Jain temples of Motu Derasar and Nanu Derasar particularly famous, Palanpur was once called the ‘flower city’ after the itars (perfumes) produced and sold here.

Silhouetting the skyline of Palanpur is Kirti Stambh, a 22 meter high tower of fame built in 12 AD by a merchant dedicated to Adinathji, first Jain Tirthankara. The entire glorious pillar is carved with images, symbols and icons of the 23 Jain Tirthankaras. Surrounding the city and scattered at various distances are Lord Shiva temples- Ambaji, a Shakti Peeth, Pallaviya Parshwanath temple, Kedar Nath Mahadev temple in Jessore and Balaram Mahadev temple about 14 km away. A holy city, Palanpur is a must for the more religiously and spiritually inclined.


To know more about Palanpur (about, how to reach, places to visit, best time to visit, etc.) read our Palanpur Travel Guide.


Palitana, 215 km from Ahemdabad


Palitana, fittingly named the city of temples and a place of immense sanctity and spiritual significance for the Jain community, is where you can glimpse religious fervour at its grandest and most elaborate. Mt. Shatrunjaya in Palitana, appearing like a scene right out of Hindu mythological tales, instead of being canopied with trees and forest cover is speckled with exquisite marble temples. Believed to be around 3000, these temples have been built over a period of 900 years by successive generations of Jains ever since its foundation in early 11th century.


Make your way up the 4000 odd stone steps and head first to the main temple set atop the hill. Dedicated to Lord Adinath, the first Jain Tirthankar, it is resplendent in its simple, elegant architecture ornamented with religious motifs. While it can be a bit bewildering to decide which temples to visit out of the thousands that canopy the hill in a marble forest, be sure to visit Kumarpal, Sampriti Raja and Vimalshah. Kumarpal has quite a fine collection of jewels and precious stones and you can get a glimpse of them for which you require permission from the temple’s office.


While a sling chair is available to get to the top of this holy mountain but the walk, albeit arduous, up the stairs carved into the mountain’s side makes for a particularly satisfying experience once you reach the top and come face to face with the crowning glories of this historical and holy hill. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to carry any kind of eatable with you en route and atop the hill.


To know more about Palitana (how to reach, places to visit, etc) read our Palitana Travel Guide.

Kumbhalgar, 311 km from Ahmedabad


The birthplace of one of the greatest, most illustrious warriors and kings to walk Earth, Maharana Pratap and brought into existence under the patronage of yet another great Mewar king, Rana Kumbha, Kumbhalgarh is widely popular for the magnificent Kumbhalgarh fort.


Stately, glorious and utterly resplendent in its grandness, Kumbhalgarh fort was once the power seat of Mewar kings and even today its fifteen feet thick walls hold within them 360 temples. Built on a sacrifice with Hanuman pol, one of its seven gateways, commemorating the act, Kumbhalgarh fort houses within it, apart from the temples, Kumbha Palace, Jhalia ka Malia where Maharana Pratap was born and Badal Mahal, highest point in the fort and ornamented with wall paintings, atop which you can get some incredible, sweeping views of the Aravalli range and Thar Desert in the far distance. Daily at night the fort is lit up for a couple of minutes and for a moment you are transported back to the time when the fort was alive with laughter and trumpeting armies.


In addition to the fort Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is another must visit. Residence of some highly endangered species like hyenas, jackals, sambhar, nilgai and even the odd leopard, the sanctuary is actually a good place to spot a wide range of bird species.


To know more about Kumbhalgarh (places to visit, best time to visit, how to reach, etc) read our Kumbhalgarh Travel Guide.


Bhuj, 333 km from Ahmedabad


Travel down mankind’s memory lane and head to Bhuj where the Indus Valley civilisation had once set its roots and a place from where Alexander the Great had once marched in with his gargantuan army. Make your way to Prag Mahal, once the power seat of the rulers of Kutch, get bedazzled by Aaina Mahal, Palace of Mirrors, set in Prag Mahal’s compound and climb up the palace’s bell tower next door.


Walk up to the banks of Bhuj’s blue pearl, Hamirsar lake, and then pay your homage at Shri Swaminarayan temple set near the lake’s bank. Be sure to visit chhatardi, cenotaphs of Kutch’s royalty not far from the lake. A climb to the top of Bhujiyo Dungar, a hill from which Bhuj gets its name, is a must when visiting Bhuj. Overlooking the city like an ancient forefather who has seen eras pass by and tides of time sweep away dynasties and entire civilizations, Bhujiyo hill was an army base until the devastating earthquake that hit Bhuj and is now open to civilians.


To know more about Bhuj (places to visit, best time to visit, how to reach, etc) read our Bhuj Travel Guide.

Valsad, 337 km from Ahmedabad


Abound with fragrant mango and chikoo orchards, Valsad welcomes you with its hallmark sleepy charm where the only thing motionless are the sea waves crashing by Tithal beach. Named after the natural bounty of banyan trees that once canopied the entire landscape, Valsad is as flush and fragrant as the Alphonso mangoes that are grown out here.

In addition to Tithal beach, Valsad is widely known for Sri Sai Baba temple, Swaminarayan temple and Shanti Dham temple, all set by or near the seashore. 16 km from Valsad is the historic Dandi where Gandhiji held his legendary Dandi March. Saifee Villa Museum in Dandi houses a fine collection of artefacts and pictures from Gandhiji’s life.

To know more about Valsad read our Valsad Travel Guide.

With so many adventures mapped out get prepared for a weekend extravaganza.


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