Well endowed with fine architectural specimens, interesting archaeological remnants, magnificent religious sites, sparkling beaches and an excellent forest cover, Gujarat poses quite an enchanting picture. From art connoisseurs, backpackers to religious shamans, the state unfolds an array of spectacles for everyone. The hypnotic natural beauty of the state coupled with its man-made creative outbursts makes it one of the most frequented destinations in India. Explore some of the most popular tourist attractions of the state.
Forts & Palaces
|Ahmedabad Fort Gujarat|
Gujarat has an impressive wealth of forts and palaces that stand tall all around the city. These imposing edifices with their architectural beauty and historical significance speak highly of the majesty of a bygone era. The Bhadra Fort located in Ahmedabad is one of the most awe-inspiring monuments of the state that now houses many government offices. Built by the city's founder, Ahmed Shah, in 1411, its architectural beauty is reflected in its intricate carvings and latticed windows. To the east of the fort stands the triple gateway or Teen Darwaja, which was the entrance to the Royal Square during the medieval period. This gate was damaged during the 2001 earthquake, but has been reconstructed now. Some other monuments of Gujarat that exhibit the finesse of Rajput architecture, European architecture and sometimes a crafty fusion of both include Lakhota Fort, Willingdon Crescent, Darbargadh Palace, Pratap Vilas Palace, Bhujio Kotho, etc.
Archaeological relics in Gujarat has been preserved in the form of Lothal located at around 80 km from Ahmedabad. A full-fledged Harappan settlement was unearthed here that gives an interesting insight into Harappan town planning. Other similar Harappan centres of the state are at Rangpur, Rozdi and at some places in Saurashtra and Kutch. The Sun temple at Modhera in north Gujarat, built during the reign of the Solanki king Bhimdev is another interesting architectural specimen of yesteryears. Though in ruins, it still provokes a sense of awe and inspiration. The temple complex stands on a kharasila (basement) and consists of a Garbhagrha (shrines), Sabha Mandap (assembly hall) and a Guha Mandap (a hall). There is a kunda (sacred pond) called Ramakunda in front of the temple. The ornate Sabha Mandapa carved with scenes from the Mahabharata, the richly sculpted dome, and the beautifully incised terraces of the Ramakunda, all lend the composition an unsurmountable aesthetic beauty.
Gujarat has a coastline measuring more than 1660 km, which is the longest among all Indian states. Thus, it holds a spectacular variety of beaches that promise a welcoming blend of sun, sand and sea to tourists. From regal Portuguese architecture, lofty sandstone cliffs, colorful fishing hamlets, exotic birdlife to exciting adventure sports, the beaches in Gujarat has it all. The Ahmedpur Mandvi Beach, adjacent to Diu, is one of the finest beaches of Gujarat. A must-visit place for people who would like to indulge in adventure activities and enjoy dolphin sightings. Another popular beach is the Somnath Beach that offers one a wonderful retreat to the lap of nature. Not recommended for swimming, this beach is preferable for people who would like to unwind in a hammock, gambol in the sands, or simply enjoy a long camel ride. For religious tourists and nature lovers, the Gopnath beach with its Gopnath Mahadev Temple and picturesque limestone cliffs is the best of the lot. Some other popular beaches of Gujarat that merit a visit include the Diu beach, Beyt Dwarka, Chorwad, Nargod, Miyani, Pingleashwar, etc.
|Gir National Park - the largest sanctuary of Asiatic lions|
Owing to its great diversity of habitats, Gujarat is blessed with many popular wildlife parks and bird sanctuaries that shelter a rich variety of flora and fauna . The thick forest covers of Dang and the Gir are crouched by some of the rarest species of animals. The Asian lion, the Indian bustard and the four horned antelope (Chowsingha) are found only in the wildlife parks of Gujarat. Some other important national parks of Gujarat are Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Chinkara, Wild Ass Sanctuary, Blackbuck National Park,, Vansda National Park, Jessore Sloth Bear Sanctuary, Marine National Park, etc. Thol Wildlife Sanctuary, Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary and Porbandar Bird Sanctuary are popular bird sanctuaries of Gujarat famed for successful conservation of a wide variety of flamingos, wildfowls, grey pelicans, ibis, teals, curlews and countless migratory birds.
|Somnath Temple at Veraval|
Gujarat is home to some of the most venerated holy places in India. Dwarka, which was the seat of the Yadava Kingdom of Lord Krishna and the Somnath Temple at Veraval consecrated to Lord Shiva are the two prominent Hindu temples of the state. Palitana in the Shetrunjaya hill is an important religious site of the Jain community. Around 863 Jain temples dot the hill, some of which are carved of pure marble and date back to the 11th century. Girnar and Taranga hills also nestle many temples dedicated to Jain Tirthankaras. The Parsis of Gujarat have their holy places at Udvada near Surat, with Parsi Agiari as the main Fire Temple of the city. Some other important religious and pilgrimage sites of Gujarat that warrants special mention include the Shakti temples dedicated to goddess Mahakali and Bhadrakali at Pavgadh, Ambaji temple atop the Arasur hill, and BAPS Swaminarayan Temple, Ramkrishna Ashram and Jagat Mandir located in Rajkot.
(Tip: Autos are easily available for local sightseeing in Gujarat. They don't run to meters, but one can negotiate for a reasonable charge like Rs 150 for a half-day trip to all the major local temples, inclusive of waiting time.)