While the Great Rann of Kutch ranks No 1 in Things to do in Kutch, here are some of the other places you could consider visiting during your stay in Kutch. All of the below places can be visited by staying in Bhuj, as it acts like a central hub.
Lakhpat: Border town junkies, this one’s for you! Although the border is about 40km away from Lakhpat, it’s uninhabited because of the marshy land. This ghost town is situated where the Kori creek meets the Great Rann of Kutch and gives you an interrupted view of the Rann. Lakhpat is enclosed within a 7km fortress wall and used to be an affluent town earning revenues in excess of one lac (hence the name Lakhpat); now what remains is a barren desert and remnants of the fort, quipped our driver. He went on to tell us that it was the earthquake in the 1800s that displaced the Indus River leading the town to get barren. One may wonder what is so great about visiting a dilapidated town. But there was something strangely exciting about visiting the last town before the Indo-Pak border which was once a prosperous port.
Distance from Bhuj: 135km
Pingleshwar Beach: The drive to the beach is really pretty as you see gorgeous wind farms along the way. This beach is frequented mostly by locals and can be desolate at times, so it’s better to go in a big group. There are no amenities or food facilities available so plan accordingly. It’s a quiet and charming beach, so head there during tea time with a picnic basket and leave after sunset. Sometimes it may get too windy so check the weather before you visit.
Distance from Bhuj: 100km
Mandvi: Visit the Vijay Vilas palace for its stunning architecture and beauty. Popular with a lot of Bollywood directors, the palace has served as a set for several movies. The 1st level is shut for visitors as the royal family of Kutch currently resides there. But the ground level and the balcony are open to visitors. The delicate carvings, the murals and the ornate furniture transport you to a bygone era. Beach bums! Head to the private beach of the Vijay Vilas palace instead of the public beach as it’s cleaner and less crowded. Go for a swim, relax on the beach and enjoy a hearty meal. The string of windmills by the beach makes for a lovely view. The entry to the private beach is priced at Rs 600 per person inclusive of one meal. Plan your day in a way that you reach the palace by 10-10.30 in the morning as soon as it opens and before it gets crowded; then have lunch at the beach, chill for a bit, and leave for Bhuj post sunset.
Distance from Bhuj: 60km
Bhujodi: This artisan village is a great place to browse through the work of different craftsmen and also interact with them. From fabrics to saris to linen to home decor items with the traditional kutchi work, this place has it all. Meet Mr Khimji Vankar- taking his family tradition and business forward, he was one of the first few who started out with hand woven cotton sarees with kutchi work. He had some beautiful sarees on display, so I started chatting up with him. Armed with a team of 10 people under him, he retails and distributes his saris from his workshop in Bhujodi. He said approximately 420 gms of cotton is required for making one sari and the below pink sari took him 9 days to make and is priced at Rs 4000.
Distance from Bhuj: 21km
Kala Dungar: Although this place was recommended heavily when I was doing my research, I personally felt it was a bit overrated. It is the highest point in Kutch and gives an aerial view of the sea meeting the white desert. You also get a view of the Indira bridge connecting India and Pakistan. Chat up with the BSF guards on what it is like to be posted here. There is also a Dutta temple which you can visit. Make it in time for either the morning (12 pm) or the evening aarti (6pm) because if you’re lucky you might just be able to witness an interesting tradition. After the aarti, the pandit leaves the prasad at a particular spot and the wild jackals from the nearby forest come regularly to eat it. As soon as the aarti bells start ringing, they start assembling at the spot. It’s quite cool to see these carnivores feasting on the prasad.
Distance from Bhuj: 90km
The circular elevation is where the prasad is kept for the jackals
Authentic Gujarati cuisine at Prince Restaurant: Enjoy a sumptuous Gujarati thali at Prince restaurant in Bhuj. From ghee laden rotis to the lip smacking basundi; from an array of sabzis to the quintessential gujarati dal, the food is worth every calorie. Make sure you go on an empty stomach as you can’t stop yourself at one helping!