Imagine a place with spectacular sunrise and sunsets, kind locals, lot many colors,rustic rural life, delicious food and the land of no man; Kutch ,Gujarat in India is the place to be which celebrates Rann Utsav [DESERT FESTIVAL] every year in the Winter.
When it comes to the name of salt flats; one can imagine it must be Salar De Uyuni of Bolivia. I haven’t been to Bolivia but in India you can have similar magical experience at Kutch in Gujarat. It is straight out of fairy tale place with glistering salt flats. Every year from the month of November-February ,Gujarat tourism holds Rann Utsav [desert festival] and people from all over the world comes to witness the glory of amazing salt flats formation which creates the magic on full moon day.
Rann Of Kutch:
The Rann of Kutch is located in thar district of Gujarat,india. It is generally divided in three parts: Greater Rann, Little Rann and Banni grasslands. “Rann’ is hindi word which means ‘Desert’ .This white desert stretches all the way from Gujarat to Pakistan’s sindh province covering 30,000 sq kms area. The Great Rann adjoins the Little Rann of Kutch and together making it one of the world’s largest salt marsh.
The shallow mudflats of the White Rann fill with Arabian sea water during the monsoon (June-Sep) which gradually evaporates by the end of December completely.The white marshy land dries up and the saline crust is formed which becomes whiter and harder. Thus the marsh becomes an unending white desert.
The Little Rann is well known for its wild ass sanctuary whereas Banni region is where most Kutchi people are living. To enhance the living standards of them, few villages in Banni are being developed as village resorts and homestays showcasing local art and crafts, ancient architecture and Kutchi local cuisines. The mini resorts are being run by villagers in collaboration with local tourism.
Whenever you ask anyone about planning a trip to Rann Utsav, they will tell you it is so expensive to visit. But No, it is not. Here is the complete reliable information for planning a trip to Rann of Kutch on budget.
How to Reach:
The closest airport and railway station is Bhuj. It is well connected by major Indian cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad.
From Bhuj to Ran Utsav Camp Site: There are AC and Non AC buses Run by Gujarat tourism to and fro from Bhuj railway station and bus station to the venue. If you want to do sightseeing along the way, you can hire a cab for approx INR 2400 per day. Also local GSRTC buses ply till Hodko village but inquire before you go.
Tourist Information Centre:
When you step outside the Bhuj Railway station, there is tourist information centre by Gujarat Tourism which can give you ample information about your visit to Rann Utsav and Planning a trip.
Rann Utsav takes place in the middle of white Rann near Dhordo village which is approx 80 kms [2-3 hrs] from the Bhuj. You have to take entry permission before BSF check post by showing your identity proof in original and paying the fees INR 50 per person. For foreign tourists; keep ready the photocopy of your passport. If you are travelling with vehicle, Pay INR 50 per vehicle.
Gujarat Tourism has set up a Tent city just beside the Salt desert and its one of the expensive stay option if you wish to experience!!!
Rahee’s tip: White Rann entry close down at 9 PM and again it open ups at 12 AM for star gazing and moon galore.
Best time to Visit:
Rann Utsav takes place in the winter months from [Nov-Feb] and full moon nights are fine to visit. It is a desert land, so the area seems quiet peaceful and weather remains pleasant in winter. Avoid holidays and New Year eves as there will be so many tourists. If you love star gazing then choose dark moon nights for visit.
Take a Detour:
Visit Local Village Nirona:
Start early from bhuj and make a stop at village Nirona. Here is your chance to interact with local artisans and understanding their art work. The village is world famous for its Rogan art.
Every house or lane here has a workshop where you can see the artisans working. You can have unforgettable experience with the display of different arts like lacquer work,copper bells,leather work and more. It is also a good place to buy few souvenirs.
Visit Kalo Dungar:
Your second stop should be Kalo Dungar on the way to Great Rann of Kutch. It is the highest point in Kutch with panoramic view of Great Rann. It looks like sea meets the salt desert in far horizon. The landscapes seem stunning with blue, green and brown colours. It is located very near to Pakistan Border and one can see Indira Bridge as a dot with binocular which is India-Pakistan Border; beyond which only military personnel are allowed.
The Kalo Dungar is also famous for 400 years old Dattatrey temple. As per the Legend,when Dattatreya walked on the earth, he stopped at the Black Hills and found a band of starving jackals. Being a god, he offered them his body to eat and as they ate, his body continually regenerated itself. Because of this, for the last four centuries, the priest at the temple has prepared a batch of prasad, cooked rice, that is fed to the jackals after the evening aarti. You can have your free meal at Lungar which takes place here.
Rahee’s Tip: If you start early from the bhuj, you can visit above places on the way and will reach to Dhordo by Noon. I recommend to taste ‘sweet Mawa’ made from milk with fudge like taste at bhirandiyara checkpost; few Kms before hodko.
Now it comes to main Part- Famous White Desert [Great Rann of Kutch]:
The Rann Utsav takes place at Great Rann of Kutch. It is salt marsh spread across thousands of square Kms area. The Tent City built by Gujarat Tourism is set up in the vast area for experiential and luxurious stay with lot of activities to offer to tourists. There were 30-40 stalls set up near tent city which were selling handicraft items, bedsheets, purses, clothes etc at reasonable rates. If you are not a shopaholic like me; then also I recommend taking a stroll around those stalls for gorging on vibrant colours and trying delicious food at those stalls.
From Venue to Salt Flats:
Rann Utsav venue is before the BSF check post. After the BSF check post, one has to park their vehicle in Parking lot area. As it is border area, you will find army personal at the entry gate of Great Rann.
There is paved road from the entry gate to vast salt flats which is 1-2 km away; if you don’t want to reach by walk, you can take a camel cart ride [INR 50 per person] to reach.
When I reached, sun was about to set; there were no words to describe my feelings by walking on salt flats and leaving behind my footprints on it. There is family saying that ‘if you put your feet above the salt, misfortune will be followed’. But at that moment, I didn’t care about it and just socked myself in the grandeur of the white Rann. In one word, it was surreal experience. There was nothing but pure white land that melted into the horizon; not so many buildings in sight, it was like I reached at the end of the earth.
Activities you can’t miss:
At the desert, folk musicians and local artisans play rustic music which feels the air with vibrant local feel. Even I had seen many tourists who were dancing and playing garba on the beat of local music. Even you can see cultural performance shows at the venue.
Don’t leave the salt flats till sunset and Moonrise. The sunset I witnessed was mesmerizing and one of the different kinds which I have experienced till date in my life. I witnessed its different transformations like red and orange hues with slowly melting down.
As sunset happened; it was time to moonrise. It was full moon day and slowly moon started appearing in its gradual increasing size. In the glory of moon light, salt flat was sprawling like crystals. I was in awe by witnessing the galore of moon rays across the desert.
I witnessed spectacular sunrise and moonrise simultaneously which is the pure magic of nature.
Places to Visit around:
If you think Rann Utsav is only about visiting Salt flats, it is not true. There are so many other places to visit in Kutch; you can spend more than a week here.
- Visit Chhari Dhundh from White Rann which attracts migratory birds like pink flamingos in winter.
- Make a day trip to Mandvi and visit glamorous Vijay Vilas Palace,India house monument and witness the sunset at Mandvi beach.
- Day trip to Dholavira which is a reminder of the Indus Valley Civilization; is a fascinating place.
- Little Rann of Kutchh which is famous for endangered wildlife ass sanctuary. It is also a major bird watching site.
- Spend a day at Bhuj and visit few historical places and indulge in Gujarati food.
- Visit nearby Dhordo, Khavada,hodko and Bhujodi villages for interacting with locals and to see them working at workshops. You can also visit few NGOs who support the local artisans.
- Visit west coast – Lakhpat(A ghost town which is famous for Lakhpat fort), Koteshwar,Mata no Madh and Narayn Sarovar from bhuj.
Where to Stay:
If you want experiential luxurious stay, you can choose to stay at Tent City of Rann. But if you are travelling on budget and want to have local experience; I highly recommend staying at nearby villages. There are so many resorts and home stays at Villages Hodko [8 Km] and Dhordo [4 Km].Here you can stay at Kutchi ‘Bhunga’ which is a mud hut made with clay and wood. These resorts are made by villagers to survive their livelihood and come with modern amenities with local touch.
I have stayed at Kutir Craft Homestay at Hodko [blog post coming soon] which was cheapest available place near White Rann. The hospitality of the owner and the staffs were exceptional. You can book it here OR Contact at (+91) 94287 4992, (+91) 94277 68528.
Rahee’s tip: All the resorts/home stays near White Rann can be priced approx at INR 3500-5000 per night[including all meals] on full moon days. If you want to save money on staying at expensive Bhungas, Visit White Rann as a day trip from Bhuj.
Quick Itinerary for Visiting Rann of Kutch:
Day-1: Arrive at Bhuj and transfer to Rann Utsav [2-3 hrs]. Reach Bhuj early in the morning and head straight to the Kalo Dungar. Witness the stunning views of landcapes and have darshan at Dattatrey temple. By noon, reach to your resort and have delicious Kutchi cuisines in lunch and the evening is free to roam around Rann Utsav Campus, buying souvenirs, enjoying cultural shows. Don’t miss sunset and moonrise on full moon day.
Day-2: Watch sunrise at White Desert and leave for Mandvi. On the way visit nearby villages like Nirona and Khavada. At Mandvi, explore Vijay Vilas Palace and witness sunset at Mandvi Beach. Head back to Bhuj.
Day-3: Do local sightseeing in Bhuj. There are lot many things you can do at Bhuj. Visit historical places, swaminarayn temple, do shopping and try delicious cuisines. After Lunch head to Bhujodi village Hira Laxmi craft Park/Vande Mataram Memorial [closed on Monday] for handicraft works and catch a late train back to home.
If you still have any query regarding planning your trip to Great Rann of Kutch, leave a comment OR write an email to me at email@example.com