Great Rann of Kutch: Essential Travel Guide
India is a vast country covering a total area of around 3.28 million square km. The diversity in history, culture, landscapes, architecture, and cuisines is mind-boggling. There is so much to see and experience, that it may take years to explore the hidden gems. When you have places like the Taj Mahal, Rajasthan, Kashmir, Kerala, Goa, and Uttarakhand to visit, it is not surprising that a small region near the western border of India is mostly overlooked by travelers. But thanks to a successful campaign to promote tourism by the Gujarat government with the charismatic Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador, places like Gir National Park and Great Rann of Kutch are slowly finding a place on the tourist map of India.
What is the Rann of Kutch?
Rann means barren land. The Rann of Kutch is a geographical marvel located in the Kutch district of Gujarat. Kutch was a part of the Arabian Sea, but a massive earthquake in 1809 separated it from the sea. The exposed sea bed was transformed into a vast barren land that remains dry with white salt and sand during summer/winter and looks like a massive sea during the rainy season. The extensive mudflat and salt clay of the marsh, which now lies about 15 meters above sea level, gets submerged by the high tides rising from the Arabian Sea in May-June. During monsoons, the Rann of Kutch also gets flooded with water from the neighboring rivers like Luni, Sindh, Bhuki, Rupen, etc. As the monsoon ends, the seawater slowly evaporates and recedes from the shallow wetland, leaving behind an enormous stretch of crunchy snowy white salt.
The Rann of Kutch can be divided into two separate regions, each offering different experiences – the Great Rann of Kutch covers an area of 18,000 square km and the Little Rann of Kutch is spread over 5000 square km. The Little Rann of Kutch is known for its wildlife reserves, mesmerizing fauna, salt farming, and cracked brown-grey patches. There is a distance of more than 130 km between the two regions of Rann. Today we are going to talk about the Great Rann of Kutch.
Why should you visit the Great Rann of Kutch?
The largest known salt desert in the world, the Great Rann of Kutch provides a surreal and unique spectacle that you might not see anywhere else in the world. Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia offers a similar experience. But, Salar de Uyuni is not a salt marsh, it is a salt flat that was formed due to the transformation of lakes in prehistoric times.
Great Rann of Kutch is a seasonal salt marsh, that remains underwater during the monsoon season, but is visible for the rest of the year. As you stand on the salt-tinted land, the vast expense of white marshland will leave you mesmerized. The emptiness for miles can be scary and the only thing one can see is the white snowy land melting into the distant horizon. Sunrise and sunsets are flamboyant as the changing hues of the sun are gloriously reflected on the white snowy marsh.
If this natural grandiose is not enough, there are lots to keep you occupied. You can shop for gorgeous authentic handicrafts that can be found everywhere in the area – Tent City, small villages, fairs, etc. Bedcovers, cushions, quilts, stoles, jackets, skirts all adorned with exquisite embroidery and applique work are a must-buy. Then there are Bandini sarees, Ghagra-cholis, Juttis, lacquer curios, trinkets, silver ornaments, puppets, and other traditional stuff that you can pick as souvenirs. . During the Rann Utsav, there are cultural and musical performances every day by local artisans. You can enjoy plays, puppet shows, magic shows, folk music, and local dances.
Location of Great Rann of Kutch?
Rann of Kutch is located mostly in the state of Gujarat (India), but some parts spill into the province of Sindh (Pakistan). It lies in the Thar Desert in Kutch, a district situated in North-West of Gujarat. The best way to reach the salt marsh is from Bhuj, which is around 85 km from Dhordo – a small town that has been developed by the government as the Gateway to the Great Rann of Kutch.
How to reach Great Rann Of Kutch?
The Great Rann of Kutch is situated on the Western border of India, and is not easily accessible from most parts of the country – this is one of the main reasons why Rann of Kutch is not so popular amongst travelers. Reaching the Great Rann should not be a problem if you are in Gujarat. Outside of Gujarat, Mumbai is the best place to start your journey to the Great Runn of Kutch. As mentioned before, you must reach Bhuj first and then plan your onward journey. Resorts in the area normally arrange transport from Bhuj.
By Road – Bhuj is 335 km from Ahmedabad and it would take you 7 hours to reach Bhuj. Standard and Luxury buses are available for Bhuj from major towns and cities in Gujarat and roads are in good condition.
By Train – Bhuj is also connected by train. A train from Mumbai-Bhuj takes around 15 hours. It takes 21 hours to reach Bhuj from Delhi by train.
By Air – Bhuj has a domestic airport. There are non-stop regular flights from Mumbai to Bhuj that takes two hours.
Best Time to visit Rann of Kutch?
The best time to visit Rann of Kutch is from November-February when The Rann Utsav organized by the Gujarat government takes place. During these winter months, days are pleasant but it can get freezing cold at night, especially in December and January. March also sees a few tourists, but by end of March all accommodations, eateries, and basic facilities close down. Summer(April-May) is scorching hot, and the temperatures can touch 50°, making it impossible to explore the region. The Rann of Kutch is parched for most of the year, but there is rainfall between June to September. The Rann begins to dry up in October, transforming the Great Rann into a wide ocean of salt.
The full moon is the most coveted time to visit the Rann of Kutch as miles and miles of salty marshes sparkle like precious gems under the moonlit sky. The White Rann glows steely blue reflecting the bright moonlight. The Great Rann comes alive with local artists performing folk dance and songs on the white saline desert.
Where to stay in Rann of Kutch?
Staying in Dhordo is the most convenient option to see the Great Rann of Kutch. If you are visiting the region during the Rann Utsav, you can camp at The Tent City – the complex built closest to the entrance of the Rann. The Tent City provides you luxurious and spacious tents with all the amenities required for a comfortable stay. Another option is White Rann Resort where you can lodge in the tents as well as the mud Bhungas (huts). These two packages offered by Gujarat Tourism are all-inclusive and you don’t have to worry about anything. They also organize a permit to visit the Great Rann. They are expensive but well worth the cost.
If you are looking for cheaper options, you can stay in one of the many resorts and homestays that have sprouted in Dhordo in recent years due to the increasing popularity of the Rann Festival. Due to its proximity to the Pakistan border, you require a permit to visit the Great Rann of Kutch. The permit can be acquired at Bhirandiyara check post, located around 20 km before Dhordo. Indian tourists can also apply online for the permit.
What is Rann Utsav?
Gujarat Tourism holds a Rann Utsav(festival) every year from November-February. The Rann Utsav is a vivid and colorful festival showcasing the best of Kutch culture, handicrafts, cuisine, and heritage. Around 350 luxurious tents are set up in Dhordo in a large complex spread across an area of 5,00,000 sq. meters. Around 35,000 visitors stay at the Tent City every year. The sprawling complex is abuzz with folk performances, vibrant shopping options, festive fervor, and multiple adventure activities. You can opt for a 1-2-3-night all-inclusive package. The package price includes pick-up/drop from Bhuj, food, stay, sightseeing trips, and adventure activities.
Events are also held in different locations around the Kutch area to give tourists a peep into the local culture and traditions. The festive extravaganza adds much-needed color to the white barren land. The carnival not only gives you the opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring spectacle of the endless salt marshes but also brings the unique and ethnically diverse culture of the Kutch region to the forefront.
Other things to do in the Great Rann of Kutch?
If you are looking for other places to visit during your visit, there are a few interesting places nearby. Mandvi Beach, Dholavira, Narayan Sarovar, Kalo Dungar (which offers panoramic views of the entire region), are a few of the places that can be visited if you have the time. Camel ride, camel-cart ride, ziplining, paramotoring, ATV rides, archery, rock-climbing, meditation, Yoga, spa are some of the activities offered during the Rann Utsav. There is also a Kid’s Zone to keep the little ones entertained.
Some useful tips
- Two days are sufficient to explore the Great Rann of Kutch and the surrounding attractions.
- The best time to visit the salt desert is early morning or evening as the salt can be blinding
- During the winter months, days are sunny and pleasant, but it gets very cold and windy at night. Carry all your woolens – thermals, coats, caps, gloves, boots, socks, etc. You will need them during sunrise and full-moon excursions. Summers are really hot and humid, so pack loose, breathable, cotton clothing.
- The tents in The Tent City do not have any sort of locks. Anyone can open the zip and enter the tent. However, the whole complex is under CCTV surveillance and quite safe.
- You will get the best of Kutch and Gujarati cuisine, but non-veg food is not served. Gujarat is a dry state and alcohol is not allowed in the entire region.
- Paramotoring over the Great Rann is an experience that should not be missed.
- Bhuj airport is a defense airport and you cannot take photos and videos.
- The region of the Great Rann of Kutch has good internet connectivity and you won’t face any problem in using your mobile phone and other gadgets.
It is difficult to describe the beauty of the shimmering unending landscape, as it is something so rare, harsh, and unique. You have to see it to experience it. So, start planning.
Looking for more information? Feel free to use the comment section for any queries.