I recently traveled to Rann of Kutch with my family – the great white desert in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. As it is with me always, I love researching about the places I am traveling to (
and also to win conversations with taxi drivers when they act know-it-all :P). In this case, it was more necessary to research because I was traveling with parents so I wanted to have a rough itinerary at hand.
Researching about this travel to Rann of Kutch left me extremely surprised. I was living with the belief that it’s a very popular destination, especially during the annual cultural fair of Rann of Kutch – Rann Utsav. I expected tons of information online but, to my surprise, there were many blogs with vague information. I had to dig deep to find useful ones. Due to this whole exercise & my own travel to Rann of Kutch, I can now safely say that my experience can help anyone planning a trip there, even on a budget.
Disclaimer: Ours was not an extremely budget friendly trip, but I have shared points how to cut costs without missing on anything.
Read on to plan an amazing trip to Rann of Kutch:
What is Rann of Kutch?
Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in the desert area of Kutch region of Gujarat, India. It appears every year after the sea in this area dries out roughly during November – February. As a result, the whole area appears like a beautiful white desert (but salt instead of sand). It is known as one of the largest white deserts in the world.
What is Rann Utsav?
‘Utsav’ is a Hindi word meaning festival & ‘Rann’ is desert. ‘Rann Utsav’ is the name of nothing but a tent city that the Gujarat tourism builds in one of the white desert villages – ‘Dhordo’ roughly from November to February for tourists to come & stay. Rann Utsav is the official name of the tent city only, however, this term is used popularly for the entire white desert area during the festival period (Nov – Feb).
This is a very vibrant & beautifully constructed tent city with luxurious tents & cultural programs. They try to show their exclusivity by not letting anyone inside if you are not staying in the tent city which arises people’s curiosities even more. However, as much as it maybe a nice luxurious experience just like many other luxurious experiences (read – a spa, a fine dining dinner etc.), I believe you are not missing out on anything unique by not staying in this tent city. Especially, not an authentic experience of staying in the Kutchi white desert. For that, you may have to stay at the actual homes or community homes of the locals who, by the way, are very warm & welcoming towards tourists.
There are many other private tents in Dhordo as well as other villages near to the white desert which are relatively cheaper than the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city (relatively less decked up too though). We stayed at one of the private tents (details in next section) but it’s absolutely not necessary to stay in a tent if you are on a budget & you won’t miss out on much, in my opinion.
How to plan your travel to Rann of Kutch?
1. The itinerary we followed:
- Reached Bhuj (a city in the Kutch region), did some local Bhuj sightseeing:
- Some palaces: Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal
- A Museum: Kutch Museum
- Gorging on lots of Gujarati street food ❤ ❤
- Bhujodi: This was the highlight of my whole trip & I am going to do a whole post about Bhujodi. It’s a small village next to the city of Bhuj where villagers create & sell handicrafts. More in the next post!!
- Please note that there are many more palaces, lakes, museums etc in & around Bhuj in case you are interested. A quick Google search will give you all.
- Left for the white desert:
- On our way, we took a slight detour for Maa Ashapura temple, as suggested by our taxi driver.
- Reached the tents we had booked, ate lunch & rested for a while to leave for the white desert area just in time to watch sunset. Our tent was in the village Gorewali, some 4-5 kms away from the Dhordo tent city. We stayed at Nova Patgar tents, we got a good deal then, it was a good experience & their food was absolutely mind-blowing. ❤
- Reached the white desert area, walked through the white desert while the sun gradually set in, night-time crept up & cultural programs in the area began. Please note that cultural programs like folk dance & music happen all around this area, not just inside of the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city.
- Started from our tents towards Mandvi Beach & Vijay Vilas Palace which is on the way to Mandvi Beach.
- I think you should try to fit in Mandvi Beach in your itinerary because beach in a desert was a new experience for me & sighting camels on a beach was definitely my first time! 😀 However, only as a beach, there is nothing great to talk about.
- Vijas Vilas Palace is also a very beautiful architectural piece but since I have done most of the Rajasthan palaces early in life, so far I find other palaces underwhelming in comparison. If it helps, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was shot here. 😀
2. How we traveled to Rann of Kutch:
During Nov-Feb, the flights to Bhuj are extremely expensive, so we booked flights till Ahmedabad. We hired a taxi from Ahmedabad to Bhuj & further. You can also reach Bhuj from Ahmedabad by bus or train & its a comfortable journey. From Bhuj onwards, you will have to hire a taxi or motorbike for other destinations like White Desert area (Dhordo tent city area), Mandvi Beach etc.
3. Make Bhuj your base location & take day trips to other places, if not staying in tents:
We stayed in a tent for one night but it’s absolutely not necessary. You can take a trip on your hired vehicle from Bhuj to the Dhordo tent city, enjoy the white desert till night & come back to Bhuj. It is totally convenient. There are many good, budget stay options in Bhuj.
4. What we didn’t do, but you should:
- This one village called Dholavira is known for its Harappan Civilization archeological site but what many don’t know is that on the way to Dholavira, you spot a cleaner white desert part because of less tourist intervention. It is so white & absolutely beautiful especially compared to the Dhordo area white desert which is very crowded with tourists. Dholavira is on the way from Ahmedabad to Bhuj but it doesn’t have a lot of proper stay options, do your research on where to stay. Else, you can take a longer road trip by not staying there.
- Mundra has the largest private port in India located in the north of Gulf of Kutch, you can consider visiting.
- Barren crack-land in Little Rann of Kutch: Read this post here, his posts helped me the most in planning this travel to Rann of Kutch.
5. Useful Tips:
- The obvious one – book flight tickets as early as possible because November – February is the peak season.
- Check the Rann of Kutch calendar on Google & plan your trip during a full moon, the white desert looks amazingly pretty during a full moon night.
- Many people, including locals, will suggest you to reach the white desert area right before sunset. While that is optimal, it doesn’t hurt to be slightly more early and have a day time look also. It will be hot, but that way you get to have a day time as well as night-time view. If you are staying in one of the tents, you can have a sunrise view also. 🙂
That’s all from my side. I do understand that this post has become very word-y & super lengthy. If you read till here, it means a lot to me & I’ll love to hear from you! 🙂
Happy exploring! 🙂