Gateway to Rann of Kutch : Bhuj, Gujarat
The headquarters of Kutch district located in western Gujarat, Bhuj is the gateway to the Rann of Kutch which is the famous salt desert region in the state. Bhuj has an extremely rich history and was the epicenter of civilization and prehistoric archaeological findings.
There are multiple ways of getting to Bhuj. The first option travellers have is to take a flight straight into Bhuj. This is the fastest and costliest way to get there. The second option is to take a train to Bhuj railway station which is a more economical option and also the best way to reach the city. The third option is to fly into either Gandhinagar (350 km from Bhuj) or Ahmedabad (334 km from Bhuj) and then take an overnight bus or train.
Owing to its extremely rich history, Bhuj has a few interesting monuments and palaces to visit. The main attraction is Pragmahal which is walking distance from the bus stand and is located in the main market area. This Gothic palace used to be the residence of the rulers of Kutch. Aaina Mahal is located in the compound of Pragmahal and as the name translates it is indeed a palace of mirrors. The palace was renovated after the earthquake in 2001 and houses a museum where crafts from various parts of Kutch are displayed.
The other major attractions include Hamirsar lake and Bhujiyo fort and hill. The lake is in the heart of the city and is a must visit place early in the morning or around sun down. It is an ideal place to just sit and chill. The Bhujiyo fort was built to protect the city from outside invasion and is now nothing but a place in ruins. The huge walls of the fort offer a panoramic view of the entire city.
Getting around Bhuj is relatively easy and travellers have multiple options from tuk-tuks to taxis and even government buses are an option to get around. Most of the attractions are within walking distance from the town centre and one will only need to hop on a vehicle to visit Bhujiyo fort.
Accommodation options in Bhuj are in plenty most of which are located around the bus stand and in the bazaar area. Most of the backpackers prefer staying near the bazaar area as it is a lot more peaceful as compared to the guest houses on the main road near the bus stand.
Food options in Bhuj are also in plenty. With most places being vegetarian, Maharaja restaurant near the bus stand is one such place which serves excellent Gujarati thali. There are plenty of stalls around the bus stop area which serve dhoklas, fafdas and other Gujarati food. The Dhabeli is a must try while in Bhuj.
Alcohol is banned in the state of Gujarat but can be easily sourced from peddlers who smuggle it into the state across the border from Madhya Pradesh. These peddlers often approach backpackers offering them alcohol near the bus stand area. Butter milk (Chaas) made out of curd is a must have local drink while in Bhuj.
Being the headquarters of Kutch, Bhuj has excellent phone reception and plenty of ATM’s all around the city. Kutchi and Gujarati are the main languages spoken by the locals but owing to the increase in the number of tourist the locals are pretty well versed with Hindi and English now.
Bhuj has plenty of handicraft shops around the city with a variety of clothes and other things having this kind of art work. Bargaining is a skill which will come in very handy while shopping in Bhuj.
The best time to visit is during the winter months from November to February end when the temperatures are low and travel around this huge arid land is possible. Light woolens are recommended during winters.
The city of Bhuj is the ideal place to set up as your base before moving into the interior regions of Kutch which is more towards the white desert. A two night stay is more than enough to explore and visit all the monuments and structures in and around Bhuj.
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