Kachchh, India’s wild west, is a geographic phenomenon. The flat, tortoise-shaped land (kachbo means tortoise in Gujarati), edged by the Gulf of Kachchh and Great and Little Ranns, is a seasonal island. During the dry season, the Ranns are vast expanses of hard, dried mud. Come the monsoon, they’re flooded first by seawater, then by fresh river water.
Jamnagar is another little-touristed but interesting city, brimming with ornate, decaying buildings and colourful bazaars displaying the town’s famous, brilliant-coloured bandhani (tie-dye) – produced through a laborious 500-year-old process involving thousands of tiny knots in a piece of folded fabric. Perhaps best of all, people here are exceedingly friendly.
Vadodara (or Baroda as it’s often known) lies 106km southeast of Ahmedabad, little over an hour’s drive along National Expressway 1. Vadodara has some interesting city sights, but the main reason for coming here is the stunning Unesco World Heritage Site of Champaner and Pavagadh nearby.
Rajkot is a large, hectic commercial and industrial city that isn’t easy to love with its heavy traffic, lack of open spaces, and scant worthwhile sights. But the old city, east of the newer centre, still has plenty of character, with narrow streets, markets, and farmers still selling ghee on street corners.
Champaner & Pavagadh
This spectacular Unesco World Heritage Site, 47km northeast of Vadodara, combines a sacred, 762m volcanic hill (Pavagadh) that rises dramatically from the plains and a ruined Gujarati capital with beautiful mosque architecture (Champaner). The whole area is referred to as Pavagadh.
Somnath’s famous, phoenix-like temple stands in neat gardens above the beach, 6km southeast of Veraval. The sea below gives it a wistful charm. The small town of Somnath is an agglomeration of narrow, interesting market streets with no car traffic, so it’s easy to walk around and enjoy. There’s a State Bank ATM on your right as you approach the temple.