Gujarat sits on the western coast of India, bounded by the Arabian Sea to the west, and surrounded by the states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. This diverse state will reveal many hidden treasures including incredibly ornate temples and palaces, stunning architecture amongst a vibrant multi-cultural society.
Day 1: On arrival in Ahmedabad you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Your place of accommodation in Ahmedabad is one of the finest Heritage hotels in Gujarat- the home of textile industrialist Mangaldas Girdhardas, which is operated today by his family. Depending on your flight schedule, you may have some free time today to explore the historic area around the hotel on foot, or if you arrive early in the day take an afternoon tour of the Sarkhej mausoleum and royal compound a few kilometres outside the city and the Vishala Village complex with its superb utensils museum. Overnight in Ahmedabad, House of MG
Day 2: Today’s full day of activities in Ahmedabad starts with a visit to the Calico Museum of Textiles, one of India’s leading specialized museums. The vast collection includes textile swatches of Indian origin found at archaeological sites of Egypt, silk sarees from across India, and a wealth of fabrics from different areas of India covering much of the last 5 centuries of the country’s history. Your expert guide will show you the collection in detail with excellent explanations and ample time for questions. After your museum tour, visit some of the temples and mosques of Ahmedabad including Hateesingh Jain Temple with its incredibly ornate and detailed carving and Rani Rupvati’s mosque. In the afternoon visit the exquisitely decorated 15th century Adalaj step-well and the ashram of Mahatma Gandhi- an oasis of calm and tranquillity in the heart of the city. The Mahatma lived in Ahmedabad from 1915-30 and his spartan room is preserved to this day as a lasting memorial to his life and achievements. In the evening you will be able to visit the famous night markets of Ahmedabad.Overnight in Ahmedabad at House of MG
Day 3: First thing in the morning, join the local Historical Society on their guided heritage walk in the old ‘walled city’ sector of Ahmedabad. This walking tour begins at the ornately decorated Swaminayaran temple and offers an opportunity to see the old parts of Ahmedabad lined with beautifully carved wooden facades of havelis, tiny local temples, hidden passageways and all the colour and vibrancy of local life. The tour concludes at Jama Masjid, the main mosque of Ahmedabad, with its huge central courtyard and spectacular worship hall. Return to House of MG for breakfast and check out, and drive out of town heading south towards Palitana. On the way, you will be able to pay a visit to Lothal, an ancient port and home to one of the earliest known cities of the Harrapan civilization which flourished in this area around 4000 years ago. There is a small museum with some very interesting artefacts on display, and the extensive site is open for you to explore and try to imagine how it would’ve looked in its prime. Proceed on past wetlands and grassy plains with opportunities to see blackbuck and large flocks of flamingos and reach Palitana in the late afternoon. Check into your accommodation here. Overnight at Vijay Vilas Palace
Day 4: The ascent to the summit of Shatrunjaya Hill near Palitana sounds daunting- climb up 3500 steps cut into the rock- but the reward is a fantastic view from the top, not to mention the more than 850 Jain temples which have been built on the hill over several centuries. These range from tiny shrines cut into notches and caves in the hill, to giant edifices topped with golden flagpoles and decorated with coloured glass and intricate carvings. .The steps are all identical in height and depth making the climb a lot less difficult than it might sound. There are also teams of dholi bearers who will carry you to the top for a fee! Return to Vijay Vilas Palace for breakfast. Later in the morning drive to Gondal, the heart of the small former principality of the same name and check into the Orchard Palace heritage hotel. In the afternoon visit the Navlakha Palace which was built in the 18th century and houses some of the collection of arts and treasures gathered by the royal family of Gondal. The true legacy of the dynasty which ruled this area until independence is in its commitment to education and the modernization of Gondal- this was one of the first parts of India to have widespread use of electricity and a good rail and road network. The esteem in which the royal family (particularly Maharajah Bhagwat Sinhji) was and still is held by the local populace is evident throughout the town. Another must while you are staying at the Orchard Palace is a tour of the Maharajah’s remarkable collection of vintage motor vehicles! Not something you might normally expect to see in a relatively remote outpost of India, but this is no ordinary royal family.Overnight at Orchard Palace Gondal
Day 5: A day excursion to Junagadh to visit the ancient Uparkot Fort, Gothic palaces of the Nawabs, massive step-wells and the flamboyant 19th century mausoleum complex here. Junagadh is a small, beguiling town clustered at the foot of a small hill upon which sits the Fort. There is also a small museum and an ‘old town’ with impossibly narrow lanes and alleyways which just cries out to be explored on foot. Return to Gondal, calling in en route to see the 4th century Buddhist caves of Khambalida.Overnight at Orchard Palace, Gondal
Day 6: Drive from Gondal to Dasada via the Watson museum at Rajkot which is home to early Indus Valley Civilization artefacts, textiles, paintings and colonial memorabilia. On arrival at Dasada, check in at Rann Riders eco-resort. In the later afternoon you will have the opportunity to join one of the resort’s famous jeep safaris into the Rann of Kutch- this formidable and inhospitable landscape is home to a surprisingly large number of animal species including Khur (Asiatic wild ass), nilgai (blue bull), desert fox and a huge bird population. Overnight at Rann Riders, Dasada
Day 7: The first stop today will be at the 11th century Sun Temple at Modhera, quite simply one of the finest examples of Hindu temple architecture in western India. Continue on to Patan and visit the 11th century Ranki Vav step-well with a wealth of staggeringly intricate carving. From here head north towards the foothills of the Aravali mountain range and reach Danta by early afternoon where you will check into Bhavani Villas, another charming heritage hotel owned and operated by an esteemed local family. The owner, Maharana Mahipendrasinh, is a genial and welcoming host and will most likely take you on a tour of the estates which still belong to his family (in times gone by his forebears were quite literally the lords of all they surveyed) and show his horse stud and agricultural land. Dinner with the family and overnight at Bhavani Villas, Danta
Day 8: Arise at dawn for a guided walk through the hills around Bhavani Villas- the area around the homestead is home to tribal people who adhere to ancient agricultural practices and live simple lives in harmony with their surroundings. After breakfast, depart Danta and drive to Taranga where there are 12th century Jain Temples and to historic Vadnagar with many historic buildings. Continue to Ahmedabad and check in at House of MG for overnight stay.
Day 9: After breakfast depart Ahmadabad for Vadodara (formerly Baroda) a city of significant influence during various eras of Gujarat’s history. It was once a seat of government for the surrounding princely state of Baroda, and many remnants of this period remain in the form of Indo-Saracenic architecture and an impressive palace- Laxmi Vilas of which two areas are open to the public. Proceed on to Champaner and Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site where the highlights include an impressive central mosque (Jama Masjid), step-wells, citadel and significant fortifications. Today’s drive concludes at Heritage Hotel Jambugodha Palace - overnight here.
Day 10: Leaving Gujarat, head north into Rajasthan and reach Udaipur, en route visiting Shamlaji (site of a spectacular Vishnu temple) and continue on with a tour of Rajasthan. Alternatively, return to Ahmedabad (180km) for connecting domestic or international flight.