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Stately Homes & Palaces of Saurashtra
FROM THE LUSH HUMIDITY of the western Ghats to the semiarid flatlands of Saurashtra and Kutch – the contrast is palpable. The land slowly turns brown, the trees are smaller and, after a while you will notice they all seem bowed, turning a curved back towards the forceful sea breezes.
Stepwells or vavs are a highlight of the architecture of this region, a wonderful solution to the scarcity of water the region suffers from. Going deep into the ground in a series of steps surrounded by platforms and galleries, they are heavily ornamented and are usually dedicated to dieties whose blessings assure the continuity of the source. This tour covers Mumbai and Saurashtra, home of a large section of the business community of Gujarat and a lot of historic Persian influenced architecture.
In Ahmedabad there is a range of sights to explore. The beautiful Sidi Syed’s mosque, the shaking minarets and the Jami Masjid; the Calico textile museum, set up by the famous Sarabhai family, offers a fascinating view into India’s textile heritage, while on the banks of the Sabarmati River lies the modest but soul stirring ashram in memory of Mahatma Gandhi. Junagarh offers a treasure house of intricately carved buildings. Added attractions are the Fort, the pre-Harrapan Girnar hill temples and Ashokan edicts that date from 250BC. Away from architecture and the past, the tour includes the wildlife reserve in Gir, the only home of the Asiatic lion, and two bird sanctuaries.
The climax of the tour is Palitana, a breathtaking sweep of Jain temples built atop a hill. To reach them you can walk or take an ancient mode of conveyance, the palki. This huge medieval complex is a revered pilgrimage site for Jains and much visited by people of other religions as well. The region is covered with heritage palaces that have been converted to hotels. One of these, in Utelia, is located in the middle of a quiet, sleepy village. It offers the unique opportunity of seeing rural India, while taking you back in time to living a life that princes and aristocrats enjoyed in their luxurious estates – the contrast is significant – it may not be a very opulent outing but you will have the rare opportunity to see the real India, as it was, and is today.
DAY 01 ARRIVAL Reception and welcome at Mumbai
airport followed by transfer to your hotel.
DAY 02 MUMBAI Morning is at leisure. In the afternoon you
can do some sightseeing, including the Prince of Wales Museum
and Crawford Market.
DAY 03 BOMBAY ~ RAJKOT ~ GONDAL Fly to Rajkot and drive
on to Gondal. See the royal family’s private collection of vintage
cars and enjoy the countryside.
DAY 04 GONDAL ~ JUNAGARH ~ GIR Drive to Gir in the morning.
En route stop and visit Junagadh, which means ‘old
Fort’. The town takes its name from the 4th century fort on
the adjacent plateau.
DAY 05 GIR Visit the game park in the morning to see the Asiatic
lions. Also visit the crocodile farm.
DAY 06 GIR ~ PALITANA ~ BHAVNAGAR Visit the ornamental
Jain temple complex at Palitana atop the hill where
the first Jain tirthankara is said to have attained
enlightenment, before driving on to Bhavnagar.
DAY 07 BHAVNAGAR A leisurely day in Bhavnagar
exploring the palace of the former ruler and the semicircular
Barton Museum that houses the wide-ranging private
collection of a British officer.
DAY 08 BHAVNAGAR ~ UTELIA Drive to Utelia via the
Valavadar black buck sanctuary.
DAY 09 UTELIA ~ LOTHAL ~ AHMEDABAD Drive to Nalsarovar
sanctuary to see the flamboyant coral beauty of the massed
flamingoes. Stop at Lothal, the ancient Harappan port city
that has been dated back to 2000BC. Continue on your journey
DAY 10 AHMEDABAD Enjoy a full day of sightseeing in
Ahmedabad city. Dinner at the ethnic Gujarati
DAY 11 MUMBAI/DEPARTURE Fly to Mumbai in the morning.
Day rooms have been booked for you at a hotel near the
airport. Transfer to the airport in time for your onward
3 days at Aurangabad from Mumbai.
THE LOW LYING MARSHLAND of Kutch is full of interesting and unexpected encounters.
The region can be divided into the salt flats and desert of the Great and Little Rann , and the low hill and
plains of the northeast.
Sparcely populated and still relatively untouched by ‘globalisation’, even tourism for that matter, tribal culture and heritage flourishes in all its glory
Most places such as the remote sun temple at Modhera, painted havelis of Siddhpur, Patan weaving centre, Zainabad are off the beaten track. The offer diverse experiences and, in doing so, bring alive this corner of India. The itinerary introduces you to the Rabari tribals, their homes and lifestyle; takes you to the salt flats to run behind the fleet-footed wild ass, and gasp at the delicate pink of the congregation of flamingo that nest here; through one of the most beautiful palaces in the region – Ranjit Vilas in Wakaner with its mix of Venetian , Dutch, Mughal and traditional Indian styles; the beach resort of Mandavi; the ancient city of Lothal, crafts center of Bhuj … and though the 2001 earthquake, decimated much of the region including Bhuj the people have rebuilt their homes and lives.
DAY 01 ARRIVAL Reception and welcome at Mumbai airport followed by transfer to hotel.
DAY 02 MUMBAI After a morning at leisure, enjoy the vibrant intermingling of the traditional and contemporary cosmopolitan spirit of the city as you visit heritage sights.
DAY 03 MUMBAI ~ AHMEDABAD Fly to Ahmedabad in the morning. The city awaits discovery in the afternoon.
DAY 04 AHMEDABAD ~ ZAINABAD The drive to Zainabad is enlivened by halts at the Modhera sun temple, Patan and the havelies of Siddhpur.
DAY 05 ZAINABAD A full day devoted to tracking the distinctive wildlife of this region. A jeep safari, following the endangered wild ass as it races across the flats, can can be an exhilarating experience.
DAY 06 ZAINABAD ~ BHUJ Drive to Bhuj in the heart of the salt flats, quite correctly said to have the best handicrafts of the region.
DAY 07 BHUJ ~ MANDVI A Rabari tribal crafts village makes an interesting halt en route to Mandvi.
DAY 08 MANDVI Enjoy the beach at leisure taking time off to explore the town which is famous for its bandhani (tie and dye) fabric.
DAY 09 MANDVI ~ WANKANER Drive on to stay overnight at Wankaner hosted, at the Palace’s guest house, by the royal family who still reside in a part of the palace
DAY 10 WANKANER ~ UTELIA Arriving at Utelia by midmorning, explore the village at leisure. Then experience the beauty of the heritage palace.
DAY 11 UTELIA ~ AHMEDABAD Stop at the ancient Harrapan port city of Lothal on the drive back to Ahmedabad.
DAY 12 AHMEDABAD ~ MUMBAI DEPARTURE Fly back to Mumbai in the morning to connect with your flight out in the evening. Day rooms have been booked at an airport hotel.
3 days at Aurangabad from Mumbai.
GUJARAT, WHOSE MOST FAMOUS SON was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – a seemingly frail little man with a will of iron and a vision that realized the independent Republic of India. In many ways he epitomized his home state whose long and sheltered coastline has, since time immemorial been dotted with ports that traded with contemporary cultures in goods as well as culture and philosophy. Ever open to the winds of change, it has never been blown away by them, developing instead a rich mix of cultural heritage that gives it an identity all its own.
This itinerary takes you to the excavated port of Lothal where, 4,500 years ago, ships from Eygpt, Persia and Mesopotamia anchored regularly. You visit the ancient temples at Dwarka where the Lord Krishna is said to have founded a city 5,000 years ago, which has since then been submerged by the sea; stop at Porbandar where Gandhiji was born in 1869; discover the lair of the extremely endangered Asiatic lion in Gir, the small forest reserve that remains his last sactuary.
There are temples, forts, palaces and museums with hours of stories, legends and antiquities to explore at Bhavnager, Ahmedabad, Champaner, Junagarh, Palitana Vadodara … enough to have you planning another visit.
DAY 01 ARRIVAL Reception and welcome at Mumbai airport followed by transfer to your hotel.
DAY 02 MUMBAI After a leisurely morning set out to explore the many faces of this cosmopolitan city and its people.
DAY 02 MUMBAI ~ AHMEDABAD The morning flight takes you to Ahmedabad. Explore the city, the textile museum and intricately carved mosques in the afternoon
DAY 03 AHMEDABAD ~ VADODARA Drive to Vadodara in the morning. The many museums and palaces here will fill the entire afternoon.
DAY 04 VADODARA Full day excursion to the Fort at Champaner and the tribal villages of Chhota Udepur.
DAY 05 VADODARA ~ LOTHAL ~ BHAVNAGAR Visit the excavation site of the ancient port city of Lothal in the morning on the way to Bhavnagar. The modern city will be toured in the afternoon.
DAY 06 BHAVNAGAR A full-day excursion to Palitana to view the beautiful, highly ornamental Jain temple complex atop Shatrunjaya hill.
DAY 07 BHAVNAGAR ~ SASANGIR Drive to the national park at Sasangir in time to take an afternoon safari into the jungle.
DAY 08 GIR A full day to explore the Gir forest, a small reserve that is the only surviving habitat of the very few prides of Asiatic lions left in the wild.
DAY 09 GIR ~ JUNAGARH ~ PORBANDER Drive to Mahatama Gandhi’s birthplace, breaking journey en route at the historical city of Junagarh.
DAY 10 PORBANDER ~ DWARKA A coastal road takes you to Dwarka - where Lord Krishna established a city.
DAY 11 DWARKA ~ RAJKOT ~ MUMBAI Drive to Rajkot to connect for your flight to Mumbai. The evening is at leisure.
DAY 12 DEPARTURE Transfer to the airport in time for your flight out.
3 days at Aurangabad from Mumbai.