Kutch, located in western Gujarat, is the largest district in India. Kutch means something which becomes intermittently wet and dry – and that’s what the Great Rann of Kutch is all about. Major part of Rann of Kutch is submerged in water during monsoon rains. It later dries up resulting in the formation of marshy salt pans known as White Desert or The Great Rann of Kutch. Interestingly, in Sanskrit tortoise is also called ‘kachchh’.
While ‘Rann of Kutch’ is the name we all know, searching for it on maps would indicate a location that’s in the middle of a water body. Hence, for travelers relying on google maps, Dhordo is the place to look for. Dhordo is a small village in Kutch which connects to Rann of Kutch.
Tent City in Dhordo is indeed a great attraction during the Rann Utsav of Kutch and lets you stay right in the heart of the desert. You can choose from various options available on Gujarat tourism’s website that offers flexible stay packages along with transportation from Bhuj.
However, this is not the only option for staying at White Desert. One can also stay in Bhuj and drive to Dhordo. Bhuj has a huge range of accommodation options and a few of them offer Kutchi style huts. We opted for one such resort ‘City – The village Resort’ and it was indeed a delightful stay.
About the resort:
‘City – The village Resort’ is worth mentioning as the place was not only beautiful, but also very well-maintained.It was clear that a lot of thought was put into designing the resort. This “authentically traditional luxury hotel”, as they describe it to be, is indeed one of a kind experience.Air conditioned, yet maintaining its traditional feel, these Kutchi cottages display intricate art work on every single piece of furniture and accessory provided in the rooms.The doors, windows, curtains, roof, floorings – all have a traditional touch and remind you of being in Kutch!
‘If you don’t treat your customer well, someone else will’ read a note at the resort reception; the whole staff understood this very well and followed it so perfectly that their hospitality made us wish we had stayed longer! All this and then the spellbinding view of moon over cute little huts at the poolside on a breezy evening was an instant stimulant!
Places to visit in Bhuj –
After a comfortable stay at the resort, we started for Kutch the next morning. Starting early we decided to pay a visit to the famous art village Heeralaxmi Memorial Craft Park in Bhujodi.
Heeralaxmi Memorial Craft Park –
This handicraft village was created to preserve and promote the arts of Kutch which were getting lost due to lack of financial aid. This handicraft village facility is a win-win situation for both artists and tourists as it enables local Artists to directly sell to the customers and the tourists get access to various local Artworks at one place. The artisans are provided with meals, lodging and boarding free of cost along with a stipend. You can find Copper Bells, Leather works, Lippan Art, block printed fabrics, cotton sarees, woolen shawls, stoles, cotton/woolen carpets, Kutch embroidery fabrics etc. We also got to see demonstrations of saree weaving, carpet weaving, laakh (sealing wax ) painting on wooden spoons, Katputli (cotton dolls) and much more by various artists! This craft park also flaunts a beautiful garden and a small pond to add to its beauty.
Due to lack of time, we couldn’t check out other famous places near Bhuj. If historical sites and forts interest you, these places in Bhuj are must visit –
- Shree Swaminarayan Temple
- Prag Mahal Palace
- Kutch Museum
- Aaina Mahal
- Narayan Sarovar
- Bhujia Hill, Fort
- Tapkeshwari Temple
After some shopping and a quick lunch we started our much awaited journey towards The Great Rann of Kutch.
How to Reach Kutch:
Planning it yourself? Self-driving as well as Hiring a local vehicle from Bhuj are good options to reach Kutch. Alternatively, it can be done through a travel agency. One can reach Bhuj by plane, train or road and then pick one of these options to reach the desert. Although, if road trips interest you, driving from Bhuj to Kutch is something you should not miss! Taking the long straight road amidst barren land will make you lose the sense of time; you might wish for the road to never end, and realize that journey can be just as beautiful as the destination!
Bhuj to Kutch: 75 km, 1.5 hours
Bhuj is located in the northern part of Gujarat and is connected to Kutch via NH341. This road is picturesque and unforgettable in a very unique way. While we traversed the long, straight, clean road amid flat barren plateau, we got a glimpse of a distant sand storm. Sparse trees, shrubs on yellowish sand flats, occasional sightings of buffaloes and camels if you are lucky – it all felt as if we were in the middle of no man’s land!
Capturing as many pictures as we could on this route, we reached the point where the permits for Rann of Kutch are to be taken – Bhirandiyara village checkpoint. A permit is mandatory to enter Rann of Kutch. Vehicle and visitor Permits are easily available on submitting photocopy of ID proof and answering basic police verification questions.
After getting the required permits , we visited Kalo Dungar (Black Mountain).There is an alternate route to reach Rann of Kutch which can be taken from the checkpoint directly. But if you have time, you should definitely go via Kala Dungar. What looked like a burnt hillock initially had much more to it… A steep narrow road surrounded by rocky hills followed by a 5 minute walk led us to the unimaginable – a grand view of Rann of Kutch from the hilltop!
The vastness of the white sand wouldn’t have been visible from anywhere else but the Dungar. One side of the hill was completely black because of the black rocks (why the name Kalo Dungar probably), the other side, gave us a breathtaking view of the white desert and the famous gulf of Kutch.
Another very interesting view from the hill top was of the India-Pakistan Bridge. We also tried to spot villages from Pakistan but failed to do so as those weren’t any nearby the village be visible to bare eyes.
The Great Rann of Kutch (Dhordo):
Finding directions to the Great Rann of Kutch wasn’t really a task since we had Google Maps to our rescue. At the entry point to Rann, the Permits are checked, without which, you will be asked to return. Unless you have a travel agent who would do it for you, make sure to stop at Bhirandiyara village checkpoint and take the permits for vehicles and individuals. As we travelled past check point, we could see intermittent white patches of salt. You will be required to park your vehicle approximately 2 km away from the destination. You can easily walk this distance or take horseback rides or Camel carts to reach the White Desert. We had reached 15 minutes before the sunset and felt so lucky to have given a miss to the scorching heat. As we took the camel ride, we could see the white land turning pale orange as it seemed to absorb colors of the beautiful red sky.
We finally reached White Desert – The Great Rann of Kutch!!
Who had imagined that nothingness would be so beautiful… that color white was so attractive…that something as simple as salt would turn a terrain into such grandeur!!!
What forms this amazing place is salt – spread across thousands of kilometers, much beyond what your eyes can see. Saying that the view was beautiful is an understatement. It was hypnotic. Sun setting to the left and full Moon rising to the right; everything looked more colorful in the pure white backdrop. A hundred photographs would fall short to capture the scenery that changed every moment with the setting Sun.
Night fell and the desert shined even brighter in the moonlight. A romantic camel back ride
under the moon to cover a few more miles in the hope to reach the far end only left us wanting for more. Desert never ended. 10000 square kilometers of barren land couldn’t have possibly been covered that night.
Rann of Kutch is different because of the way it is formed, year after year, by nature! White desert is nothing but dried white salt. This area is submerged in sea water in Monsoon which later starts receding and then dries up leaving salt spread all over the place making it the shiny white land. It is open for visit from October to March as it is a marshland before October and too hot to handle after March. With a heavy heart, we had to leave but we made sure that we etched this journey in our hearts permanently to live it over and over again. We drove back to the famous tent city where we did some shopping, had our dinner and then continued our return journey to Bhuj. We got so lost in the serenity that we were left with no time to visit out next destination – India Pakistan Bridge.
India Pakistan Bridge
15km from Dhordo is the India Pakistan Bridge. Due to lack of time we couldn’t visit this place but it is said to be very interesting as you get to meet the Army men at work and listen to their stories if you are lucky! But here is a picture of the bridge that we managed to capture from Kala Dungar..
The famous Rann Utsav at Tent city organized by the government is not far from the desert. Rann Utsav takes place from November to Mid-February every year. It is the festival of music, dance, shopping and cultural performances – a very colorful experience indeed in the White Desert. While you stay in the tent city at Dhordo, you can experience all of the above along with many other adventure activities. The bookings can be done on the official site of Rann Utsav for packages ranging from 1 Night to 3 Nights
Other places near Kutch:
- Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary
- Dattatreya Temple at Kalo Dungar
- Chhari Dhand for bird watching
- Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary
- Topansar Lake