Gujarat is located on the west coast of India between Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and until recent years, it was not really on the tourist map. The addition of the Statue of Unity and a series of highly successful advertising campaigns with Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan changed that. Tourist interest in the state has grown considerably. Gujarat actually has a very interesting and extensive history dating back to the Harappan civilization and its establishment of coastal trading ports from 2400 to 1900 BC. Much later, warrior communities came to set up kingdoms in the state. They were followed by the British, the Mughals and the Sultanates of Delhi and Gujarat. However, Gujarat is best known as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi.
Gujarat’s heritage legacy includes remarkable architecture, temples, palaces and mansions (many of which have been converted into hotels), and crafts. The state also has rare wildlife and many birding sites. It’s worth it to get out, get away from the big cities, and explore. You will be surprised with what there is to see and experience. Gujarat is truly one of India’s most underrated destinations! If you are serious about bird and wildlife watching, archeology, or textiles, Soar Tours are highly recommended for guided tours.
Note that vegetarian cuisine predominates in Gujarat and the state is dry, so alcohol is not widely or freely available. Visitors from out of state can get liquor permits at upscale Gujarat hotels that have liquor stores.
1. Old city of Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat for many centuries, was declared India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City in 2017, beating Delhi and Mumbai. Its old walled city was founded in the 15th century by Sultan Ahmad Shah and is home to various Hindu, Islamic and Jain communities. The old town is divided into many poles (historic residential neighborhoods with winding alleys and carved wooden houses). It has some of the finest examples of Hindu Muslim art in India and Indo-Islamic architecture. Explore the region on this fascinating Ahmedabad heritage walk. You can even stay in French Haveli, a heritage mansion.
Another of Ahmedabad’s main attractions is Gandhi’s Ashram. It was the starting point of his movement for the freedom of India through non-violence.
2. Baroda (Vadodara)
Baroda (renamed Vadodara) is distinguished by its royal heritage. The Gaekwad royal family formed their kingdom here in the 18th century, and its expansive Laxmi Vilas Palace features imposing Indo-Saracen architecture. It sits on 500 acres of parkland and is reputed to be the largest private residence in India and four times the size of Buckingham Palace in England. Part of the palace is open to the public every day; this includes the Coronation Hall, the Gaddi Hall (containing the throne of ancient kings), the Darbar Hall and the Royal Armory. Cost of tickets is 200 rupees and include an audio guide. Homestay at Madhav Baug Palace offers an authentic heritage experience.
Baroda is also known for its art scene and the lively dances of the Navratri garba festival.
- Where: Via the Ahmedabad Vadodara highway, 115 km southeast of Ahmedabad.
3. Statue of Unity, Kevadia
The tallest statue in the world, dedicated to Indian independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (1875–1950), was completed in 2018. Standing 182 meters tall, it is twice the size of the Statue of Liberty. Patel was the first Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of independent India, and is highly regarded for his leadership in bringing India’s 562 princely states closer together. The area around the statue has been developed as a complete tourist destination for the whole family, with enough activities and attractions to occupy at least three days. Besides the statue, these include a sound and laser show, a butterfly garden, a cactus garden, an Ayurvedic wellness center, an ecological and medicinal plant nursery, craft shops, a valley of flowers. , a forest with native trees, a children’s park with train and maze of mirrors, safari park and zoo, zip line, rafting, bicycle and boat on the lake. Emphasis was also placed on the empowerment of local women, through training and job creation. Accommodation is provided in luxury tent towns, hotels and local host families.
- Where: About two hours (90 km) southeast of Vadodara.