Before Independence, Saurashtra, also known as the Kathiawar Peninsula, was a jumble of more than 200 princely states. Today it has a number of hectic industrial cities, but most of them retain a core of narrow old streets crowded with small-scale commerce. Outside the cities it’s still villages, fields, forests and a timeless, almost feudal feel, with farmers and maldhari herders dressed head to toe in white, and rural women as colourful as their neighbours in Rajasthan.
Saurashtra is mainly flat and its rare hills are often sacred, including the spectacular, temple-topped Shatrunjaya and Girnar. The peninsula is liberally endowed with wildlife sanctuaries, notably Sasan Gir, where Asia’s last wild lions roam. On the south coast lies the very quaint, laid-back, ex-Portuguese island enclave of Diu. Saurashtra is also where Mahatma Gandhi was born and raised: you can visit several sites associated with his life.