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Road Trip to Gujarat

The below travelogue is an itinerary of Road Trip to Gujarat from Pune. It covers Pune – Daman – Ahmedabad – Bhuj – Rann of Kutch – Rajkot – Somanath – Diu – Vadodara – Saputara – Nashik – Pune . The trip was done during December 2015 and we covered 2100 km in the span of 10 days.

Gujarat is the sixth largest state of India.  It is birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi and is famous for one of the only kind’s in India – The White Desert. Gujarat tourism organizes an Rann Utsav (Rann means desert in Gujarati) during November – February, where an entire tent city is set at the edge of white desert. 

We decided for a road trip to Gujarat and experience the “Rann Utsava” during the winter break of 2015. To explore rest of Gujarat, we included Daman, Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Rajkot, Somanath, Diu, Vadodara, Saputara & Nashik in our itinerary.

Road Trip Prerequisites:

We planned 11-day trip covering all of the above destinations. There are certain things to keep in mind before planning for a road trip in India. Please refer to my following page for some tips

Road Trip Plan:

1. Point of Interests (POIs): We zeroed down to the below POIs for this trip.

  • Daman:  Devka Beach, Bom Church, Moti & Nani Daman Fort, Jampore Beach
  • Ahemdabad: Manek Chauk Market, Sabarmati Ashram, Kankaria Lake
  • Bhuj: Kutch Museum, Aaina & Prag Mahal, Swami Narayan Temple.
  • Rann of Kutch: White desert, Rann Utsava
  • Rajkot: Night Stay to break journey 
  • Somanath: Somanath Temple
  • Diu: Nagoa Beach, Naida caves, Diu Fort, Diu museum
  • Vadodara: Lakshmi Vilas Palace, Sayaji Bauj
  • Saputara: Lake
  • Nashik: Sula Vineyards

2. Set the Itinerary:

Distance between Pune and Kutch is approx. 1000 km. So we decided to break this journey at 3 places – Daman (326 km), Ahmedabad (361 km) and Bhuj (398 km). From Runn we took the return journey to Pune halting at – Rajkot (360 km),  Diu (280 km), Vadodara (406 km) and Saputara (288 km). The Itinerary was finalized as below:

Pune >> Daman >> Ahmedabad >> Bhuj >> Rann of Kutch >> Rajkot >> Somanath >> Diu >> Vadodara >> Saputara >> Nashik >> Pune

Trip Itinerary

3. Book Hotels: The below hotels were booked based on the criteria mentioned in the Prerequisites.

  • Daman: Green Hill
  • Ahmedabad: Hotel Kadamb Inn
  • Bhuj: VRP Guest House
  • Rann: Desert King Resort
  • Rajkot: Park Inn
  • Due: Hotel Maheshwari
  • Vadodara: Sapphire Regency
  • Saputara: Uday Hill regency

Note: While planning for trips, I have taken inputs for road conditions from Team BHP and most of my online hotel bookings are done via makemytrip and yatra

The Journey

Our ride was petrol variant sedan – Maruti Swift Dezire with 1197 cc engine. My fellow passengers were my wife and 2 kids. Me and my wife were to take turns to drive.

Day 1: Drive from Pune to Daman (326 km, 6 Hrs)

We left Pune at 8 am and took NH48 (Pune-Mumbai Expressway). The first stop was for having breakfast at Expressway Food Plaza at Khopoli. It is a nice place to stop between Pune and Mumbai for a quick bite. It offers plenty of food options with ample parking space. By 12 pm we touched Mumbai. We passed via Panvel – Kharghar – Airoli – Thane and joined NH-48. Lunch was at Parsi da Dhaba, which is on the highway in village Talasari and serves authentic Parsi dishes. Continued our journey and took a left turn from Valwada for Daman and reached our hotel (Green Hill) by 5 PM. The evening was spent at Devka beach. This is a very rocky beach with black sand and gravel and there is not much place to walk and relax. 

Devka Beach

After spending a few minutes and clicking a few snaps, we walked to a nearby – Hotel Jazira for dinner. The ambience and food were excellent at the hotel and is recommended for its non-vegetarian dishes. 

Day 2: Explore Daman

Daman – Places of Interest

Day 2 was for exploring Daman. We decided to visit Jampore beach, Bom Church, Moti Daman Fort and Nani Daman Fort in the same order.

We started the day with Egg bhurji and Pav breakfast at one of the street food vendors near Devka beach and headed to Jampore beach

Jampore beach: This beach is quite away from the main city. It is better to have your own conveyance to visit it and avoid visiting it during late evening or night. Though the beach is better and cleaner than Devka, sea water is pretty far away from the shore. There are shacks offering various veg and non-veg options but nothing worth mentioning.  Daman being a union territory, offers booze at low prices. Lots of people specially from Gujarat (which is a dry state) come to the beaches to sit and enjoy liquor. 

Jampore Beach

Bom Church: It is on the way to Moti Daman Fort. It is a 400 years old church with nicely made interiors but not properly maintained. 

Bom Church

Moti Daman Fort: Moti Daman is the old city of Daman, where the administrative buildings are located. It is basically a walled fort inside which all the buildings are there.

Moti Daman Fort

Nani Daman Fort : This Portuguese fort is located at a point where river meets the sea. It has wide walls and the entrance gate is quite impressive. You can walk along the fort wall on all the sides. An old church and old cemetery is part of the fort along with a large flat ground used by kids for playing cricket. 

Nani Daman Fort

Day 3: Drive from Daman to Ahmedabad (361 km, 5:40 Hrs)

We checked out of the hotel at 9 am. The target was to reach Ahmedabad by 3 pm and spend the evening at Manek Chauk market. We took the coastal highway and joined NH48 at Motiwada. The journey continued passing via Valsad >> Ankleshwar >>  Vadodara. We had breakfast at Desi dhaba near Valsad and Lunch at Sugar n Spice near Surat (Kamrej). At Vadaodara we took NE1 Express road to Ahemdabad. Note there are no restaurants on Vadodara-Ahmedabad Expressway, so plan your fuel and food accordingly. We cheked in our hotel – Kadamb Inn by 4 pm. After taking rest for some time, we left to visit Manek Chauk market.

Manek Chauk Market – The Market is 3.5 km from the hotel and we took an auto to reach there. The market is vegetable market in the morning, a bullion market in the afternoon and a foodie’s hub in the evening. The kulfi and other snacks like bhaji-pau, Dosa, Sandwiches are a must try.

Day 4: Explore Ahmedabad

Ahmedabad-Points of Interest

Day 4 was for exploring Ahmedabad. Plan was to start with Sabarmati (Gandhi) Ashram and then visit Kankaria Lake in the evening

Sabarmati Ashram: Located on the banks of Sabarmati River it is the biggest tourist attraction of Ahmedabad. It was the residence of Mahatma Gandhi. Within the Ashram, there is a museum ‘Gandhi Smarak Sangrahalaya’ which has various items related to Gandhiji on display. There are other buildings also like – Nandini, Vinoba Kutir, Upasana Mandir, and Magan Niwas. These buildings are named after people who were close to Gandhiji.

Sabarmati Ashram

Toran Dining Hall: We had identified this restaurant for lunch. This restaurant, which is close to Sabarmati, serves authentic Gujarati food (thali). As soon as to take a table, you are offered a plate & bowls. Within a couple of minutes, you are served by waiters carrying all the varieties of food and your plate will be filled with Gujarati delicacies like – Kathol, Dal, Farsan, Papad, Sweet Dish, and Buttermilk. Everything is ready and you will not have wait much for anything to come. One is bound to come out with full belly from this place.

We returned to our hotel after lunch and took rest. In the evening to headed for Kankaria lake.

Kankaria Lake: This is a man-made lake, built in the 15th century. It is surrounded by a pathway with food and entertainment stalls. There is also a water and lazer show during evening. A zoo and an open air theatre are placed around the lake. It is one of the best attractions of the city and is a must visit.

Kankaria Lake

Day 5: Drive from Ahmedabad to Bhuj (398 km, 7:00 Hrs)

Day 5 was to drive to Bhuj which is the nearest city to the White Desert. Bhuj was in news during January 2001 when a massive earthquake had devastated most of the city. We left Ahmedabad early in the morning at 9 am and took NH 947. The highway further joins NH27 (Bhuj Bhachau Highway) at Khirai and NH341 to Bhuj.

Ahmedabad to Bhuj

On the way we came across a couple of salt farms. This region is a major exporter of raw salt in India.

Salt Farms

We reached our hotel – VRP Guest House by 4 PM. After having lunch, we decided to explore the city in the evening.

Walking distance (400 meters) from our hotel was the Kutch Museum. The Museum is one of the oldest museums of Gujarat. There are multiple galleries in the museum related to archaeology, weapons, music instruments and stuffed animals. Also, there is a section devoted to the tribal community where one can see ancient artifacts, folk arts, and crafts and information about tribal people. The museum has an entry fee of INR 5 and is closed on Wednesday’s.

There are lot of street food vendors selling variety of items. The famous “Kacchi Dabeli” is worth giving a try.

Kacchi Dabeli

We returned to our hotel by evening and after dinner retired for the day. Next day was planned for visiting the rest of the Bhuj’s attraction – Swami Narayan Temple, Prag & Aina Mahal.

Day 6: Explore Bhuj and drive to Rann of Kutch (62 km, 1.5 Hrs) 

Bhuj-Points of Interest

Kutch is 1.2 hours drive from Bhuj and hotel check-in at Bhuj was at 12 pm. We had scheduled the rest of the Bhuj attractions for morning.

Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS): Bhuj is one of the six places where Lord Shree Swaminarayan constructed the temple himself in 1823. Unfortunately, the Earthquake in 2001 destroyed part of the temple. The temple was later rebuilt and took 7 years for its completion.  

The new temple is constructed of marble and is beautifully carved with stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Swami Narayan Temple (BAPS)

Prag Mahal – This is a palace commissioned by King Pragmalji in the 1860s, designed by Colonel Henry Saint Wilkins in the Italian Gothic style. The entire palace is made from Italian marble and sandstone. The palace has a clock tower, which offers the panoramic view of Bhuj. A portion of the palace is converted into the museum, exhibiting several remnants and personal collection of royal family. The palace became popular after part of the Bollywood blockbuster ‘Lagaan’ was shot here.

Prag Mahal

Aina Mahal – Close to Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal is divine creation of architect – Ramsinh Malam, who mastered his art in Netherlands. Spread over two floors, the palace has Darbar Hall, a hall of mirrors, and suites belonging to the various members of the royal family.

Aina Mahal

By 11 PM, we took NH341 left Bhuj to travel to the final destination of our road trip – “The White Desert” at the Rann of Kutch. 

Bhuj – Rann of Kutch

Due to its proximity to the Pakistan border, written permission is required to visit the salt desert. This can be obtained on the way at the Bhirandiyara village checkpoint, about 55 kilometers from Bhuj. The cost is 100 rupees per person + 50 rupees for car. You’ll need to submit a photocopy of your ID, plus show the original. The permission paper has to be shown to the officers at the army checkpoint at the entry to the salt desert.

12 km from the Bhirandiyara check post is “Desert King Resort” which is in village Hodko. This resort was not listed on any of the online booking portals in 2015. Mr. Gulab Pathan at +91 94085 28545 can be reached for booking directly. We reached the resort by 12 PM. The resort has 8 cottages setup in a rural ambiance.

Desert King Resort

After having lunch, we took some rest and headed for “White Desert”. The White (Salt) desert is 19 km from the resort and takes approx. 30 minutes. We crossed the BSF checkpoint by submitting the permission and parked our car in the parking lot of the tent city at Rann Utsav. From the parking lot, there is 2-3 km long road which leads to the Salt Desert. You can either walk or hire a camel cart to reach there.

The White Desert is a salt marshy land in the Thar Desert. During monsoons, the waters of the Gulf of Kutch flood into this desert. As the monsoon ends, this water starts receding and evaporating and leaves a thick layer of salt, making the desert the White Rann of Kutch.

Rann of Kutch – The White (Salt) Desert

We watched the sun set and then walked back to the we visited the Rann Utsav.  The Utsav is hosted from November till February every year. There are plenty of things to do here like –  Camel Cart Excursion, Paramotoring, Meditaiton, Yoga and Enjoying Gujarati Culture. The place has lot of options to eat and entertain.

Day 7: Drive from Kutch to Rajkot (292 km, 6 Hrs)

Rann to Rajkot

Kutch was the last destination of our road trip. From there, we were scheduled for return trip to Pune via Diu, Vadodara and Saputara. Diu is 549 km from Kutch and takes approx. 12 hours. Though, we could have covered this distance in a day but since we wanted to visit the Somnath temple, we decided to break the journey at Rajkot which is 310 km on the way and takes approx. 6 hours. 

We left Kutch at 9 am. Took NH341 (Bhuj – Bhachau Hwy) till Kukma. From there we joined SH 42 (Lakhpat-Bhachau Hwy) – NH41 & NH27 (Rajkot – Morbi Hwy) passing through Morbi and reached Rajkot by 3 pm.

After checking in to Hotel Park Inn, we did not much to do in the evening. We strolled through the nearby market and watched evening show of Sharukh Khan’s latest release – “Dilwale” at nearby Girnar Cinema Hall.

Day 8: Drive from Rajkot to Somnath and Diu (280 km, 6 Hrs)

We checked out of the hotel at 9 am and took NH27 till Jetpur. Followed NH151 passing through Junagadh – Keshod till Gadu. Gadu till Somnath was via NH 51.  

Rajkot to Somnath
Somnath Temple

We reached the Somnath temple at 3 pm. This temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva in India. The temple’s architecture includes beautiful carvings, silver doors, an impressive Nandi idol and the central Shiva linga. Reconstructed numerous times over the centuries, the Somnath temple’s structure is impressive and has outlived repeated sackings by numerous invaders and armies. It is calming to gaze at the roaring waves of the Arabian Sea from the temple premises.

After spending an hour at the temple, we left for the next destination – Diu, which was 85 km. We followed NH51 to reach Diu and checked in Hotel Maheshwari at 6 PM.

Day 9: Explore Diu

Exploring Diu was on cards for Day 9. We stated with Diu fort, followed by Naida caves and Nagoa beach.

Diu-Points of Interest

Diu Fort: This is a 16th century Portuguese fort situated close to the seashore. From this fort, one can get a panoramic view of the Arabian Sea. The fort is surrounded by the sea on three sides and is connected with a canal on the fourth side. Few canons can still be seen at the fort, which belonged to the Portuguese army. The fort has a large light house at its end.

Diu Fort

Naida Caves: Located close to Diu fort, the caves have a network of tunnels and huge step-like structures that make the caves a must visit. It is believed that the Portuguese during their rule sourced building materials from these caves to build the Fort. However, studies also suggest that the caves were formed due to geological erosion process over a significant amount of time.

Naida Caves

Nagoa Beach – This beach has fine sand and has all good resorts and restaurants situated around it. Though it does not match beaches of Goa and Kerala, it is definitely the best in both Daman and Due. 

Nagoa Beach

Unique attraction of this place are Hoka trees – said to have been brought in by the Portuguese from Africa. This tree produces a unique kind of fruit and coal baked seeds are sold by several street food vendors.

Hoka Fruits

Day 10: Drive from Diu to Vadodara (403 km, 9 Hrs)

From Vadodara, we could have followed the route via NH48 back to Pune but we had planned a bit of a detour by driving via Saputara, which is the only hill station of Gujarat. We left Vadodara at 9 am and took the below route to reach Saputara by 3 pm.

Karjan >> Bharuch >> Ankleshwar >> Kamrej >> Navsari >> right turn from Kharel >> Vansda

Vadodara – Saputara

Day 11: Explore Vadodara

We had identified 2 POIs in Vadodara – Laxmivilas Palace and Sayaji Bauj. Having read good reviews on “Raju Omlet”, we decided to give it a try for dinner.

Lukshmi Vilas Palace: Spread across an area of about 700 acres, it is still home to the royal family of Vadodara, the Gaekwads. The lush gardens with a golf course adds to the beauty of this palace. The palace was constructed in 1890 and took nearly twelve years to complete. The architecture of the palace is hybrid of the Hindu, European and Mughal architectural forms. It also incorporates several other buildings within its complex like- Moti Baug Palace and the Maharaja Fateh Singh Museum. An audio tour is included in the ticket price (₹150 for Palace + ₹60 for Museum). The palace is closed on Mondays. 

Lukshmi Vilas Palace

Sayaji Baug: This is probably one of the largest park we have visited in India. It is located in the center of the city, close to the railway station. It was built by Maharaja Sayajirao III in 1879 and named after him. It will easily take at least half a day to fully explore the 45 hectares of garden with 2 museums, a zoo, a planetarium, a flower clock, and an operational toy train. You can rent out a bicycle to ferry within the park.

Sayaji Baug

Raju Omlet: We learnt about Raju Omlet from the famous NDTV show – “Highway on my plate”. It bagged “The Times Now Foodie Award – 2012” in the ‘Best Roadside Dhaba’ Category. We had decided to pay it a visit for dinner. It is located near Urjita Hospital in the Karelibaug area. It opens during evenings hours and offers various egg dishes loaded with cheese and butter (if you are too health conscious, give it a skip). There is no seating arrangement, so be prepared to stand and eat. We ordered “butter boiled tikka” and “egg bhurji” with “pav”. The preparations taste good and are moderately priced.

Delicacies at Raju Omlet

Day 12: Drive from Vadodara to Saputara (287 km, 6.5 Hrs)

Vadodara – Saputara

From Vadodara, we could have followed the route via NH48 back to Pune but we had planned a bit of a detour by driving via Saputara, which is the only hill station of Gujarat. We left Vadodara at 9 am and took the below route to reach Saputara by 3 pm.

Karjan >> Bharuch >> Ankleshwar >> Kamrej >> Navsari >> right turn from Kharel >> Vansda

Saputara is located on a plateau in the Western Ghats, at the border of Gujarat and Magarashtra, thus attracting tourists from both states. It is not very crowded like many other hill stations of India. It has just about enough to spend a quiet weekend. We spend most the evening boating at the Saputara lake, which is probably the one and he only major attraction of this hill station.

Saputara Lake

There are a couple of good restaurants near the lake where you can enjoy a good meal. In evening, we left for our hotel – Uday Hill Regency which was about 7 km from Saputara.

Day 13: Drive from Saputara to Pune via Sula Wineyards (336 km, 6.5 Hrs)

The last day of the journey was to travel back home to Pune. Pune is 336 km from Saputara and takes about 6.5 hours. On the way, we had plans to visit the Sula Vineyards in Nashik. We reached Sula by 12 pm. Sula is India’s most famous winery located on the outskirts of Nashik. The winery is open to visitors, who can enjoy a wine tour and tasting. It is open from 11.00 a.m to 11.00 p.m and the wine tours are conducted every hour. In 150 rupees you get an escorted tour of the winery and tasting of 4 wines – Riesling, Shiraz, sparkling and one dessert wine. 

Wine tour at Sula Wineyards

After having lunch at one of the in-house restaurants – Little Italy, we continued our journey to Pune. Pune is 210 km from Nashik and takes 5 hours. We took NH60 and passed via Sangamner and Manchar to reach Pune by 8 PM. 4 laning of this route was ongoing during December 2015, which slows the traffic at several places. An alternate to this route is via Ahmednagar, which is about 65 km longer but the highway is in a very good condition.