Formerly known as Baroda, Vadodara has a wealth of architectural and historical marvels. Among them is the Laxmi Vilas Palace, which is four times the size of Buckingham Palace; the townhouse of Tambekar Wada that houses 19th-century murals depicting scenes from the epic poem Mahabharata; the Kirti Mandir (Temple of Fame), which is a royal mausoleum of the Gaekwad dynasty; and Sursagar lake.
From here, head to Champaner and explore the Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a one-hour drive from Vadodara. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located within a 16th-century Hindu city, complete with palaces, fortresses, mosques, tombs, temples and stepwells.
Where to stay: For a luxurious stay, try WelcomHotel Vadodara or The Gateway Hotel Akota Gardens; budget travellers can book a room at Hotel Prudent, Shagun Hotel or Ginger Hotel.
Gandhinagar is the capital of Gujarat and India’s second planned city. The Akshardham Temple, dedicated to Lord Swaminarayan, is its most famed landmark. Although it’s a Hindu temple, devotees from diverse backgrounds flock here for its peace and quiet, religious teachings and spectacular architecture, which includes ornate carvings and sculpted pillars. Its complex houses six exhibition halls that run audio-visual presentations focusing on Hindu culture and art and sprawling gardens hold a laser water show every evening (except Monday).
Your next stop should be the Indroda Dinosaur and Fossil Park, which is home to large dinosaur fossil remains dating back over 65 million years. Along with dinosaur statues, the park also has a botanical garden and a zoo. While you’re here, it’s worth taking a side trip to the 15th century Adalaj Stepwell. Located about nine kilometres from the park, it is a five-storey stepwell, with a blend of Islamic architecture and the carvings of Hindu deities on the walls and pillars.
How to get there: Located just 26 kilometres away from Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar is easily reachable by taxi. Those who are driving should take the Gujarat State Highway 71 and then follow the Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad Road. Government and private buses take about half an hour to get from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar.
Where to stay: The best budget options in the city are The Grand Midway Hotel, Hotel Marigold and Hotel Siddharth Inn. Meanwhile, moderate to luxury accommodations include Fortune Inn Haveli or Prominent Corporate Residency.
For history buffs, the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Patan is certainly worth the trip. Founded in 745 AD, it is an ancient fortified city studded with historically significant landmarks, including Rani Ki Vav, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Also known as Queen’s Stepwell, Rani Ki Vav is an abandoned stepwell built in the 11th century by Queen Udayamati in memory of her husband King Bhimdev I (of the Solanki dynasty). It is about seven stories deep and ornately carved with images of various gods and goddesses, mostly dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his forms.
The rest of the weekend is best filled with a visit to some of the city’s beautiful Jain temples, including the Panchasara Jain Temple and the Shankheshwar Parshwanath Temple, which is an important Jain pilgrimage centre.
Before heading back to Ahmedabad, visit a local store to buy the handwoven Patola Silk Saree unique to Patan.
How to get there: Patan is about 125 kilometres from Ahmedabad and can easily be reached by road via bus or a taxi for hire. Alternatively, daily trains can be booked as they run every day to and from Ahmedabad.
Where to stay: Patan doesn’t have any fancy hotels, but there are plenty of affordable lodgings available. The Grand Raveta, Hotel Tulsi and Hotel Navjivan are the more popular choices.
Although Modhera can easily be explored in a day, there’s enough to see for an overnight stay. Its most noteworthy attraction is the 11th century Sun Temple dedicated to the god Surya. The temple features an assembly hall, a sacred reservoir and a shrine surrounded by stone sculptures. If you happen to be visiting in January, the famous Modhera Dance Festival, which is a celebration of Indian classical dance and music, is worth experiencing. Round off the trip with visits to the Modheshwari Mata Mandir and 16th-century Gyaneshwari stepwell.
How to get there: Modhera is about 97 kilometres away from Ahmedabad – you can either take a bus or a cab from the city.
Where to stay: There aren’t any hotels in the area, only a few decent ones can be found in Mehsana, just half an hour away from Modhera. Hotel Bhagyoday is one of the best accommodation options.
A five-hour drive from Ahmedabad will put you in the lap of Rajasthan’s only hill station, Mount Abu. Located at an altitude of 1,220 metres, it serves as a perfect respite from the summer heat for residents of Ahmedabad and Rajasthan. The scenic landscape encompassing the Aravalli mountains, serene lakes and lush jungles makes it perfect for adventurers who can indulge in outdoor activities such as mountain biking, rappelling, rock climbing, zip lining and boating.
An unmissable sight in the city is the Dilwara Temples, which have been elaborately carved and date back to the 11th to 13th centuries. Finish off the trip at the Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for the Indian leopard, sloth bear, jungle cat, sambar and grey junglefowl.
Where to stay: From lavish resorts to quaint hotels, there is a range of accommodations available in Mount Abu. If you’re looking to spoil yourself, opt for Cama Rajputana Club Resort, Hotel Udai Garh or Manek Manor. For mid-range prices, check out Hotel Lake Palace, Kesar Bhawan Palace or Rising Sun Retreat and for less pricey stays, head to Hotel Vishram, Hotel Blue Valley or Hotel Shree Vinayak.
Nestled on the banks of River Gomti, Dwarka is one of the seven sacred Hindu cities and one of the four main holy places in India. Known as the city of Lord Krishna, it is home to numerous Hindu temples that attract thousands of devotees every year. Of particular note is the Dwarkadhish Temple that is believed to be more than 2,000 years old. It is a five-storey site constructed on 72 pillars, complete with intricate sculptural detailing. The ceremonies and rituals held here are particularly interesting, especially during the Janmashtami Festival (the birthday of Krishna). After visiting the temple, spend the day at Dwarka Beach and make a pit stop at the nearby lighthouse for spectacular views of the Arabian Sea.
How to get there: Dwarka is located about 442 kilometres by road from Ahmedabad. The best way to reach it is by bus, which takes about eight to nine hours. Overnight trains from Ahmedabad to Dwarka are also available.
Where to stay: There are many hotels and dharamshalas situated in the area. Some of the best ones include Dwarka-Gayatri Shantivan Dharamshala, VITS Devbhumi Hotel, Dwarkadhish Lords Eco Inn and The Grand Dwarika.
This getaway is perfect for wildlife enthusiasts. The Gir Forest National Park is well worth the 203-mile-long (326 km) drive as it is the only place in the world where you can spot the majestic Asiatic lion. Once as low as 20, the population of the endangered species reached 650 in 2017, the highest number recorded since 1936. It is also home to plenty of other wildlife, including sloth bears, striped hyenas, golden jackals, jungle cats, Indian leopards and around 300 species of birds. The picturesque park can be explored via a jeep safari.
Entry fee: INR 5,300 for Indians and INR 12,800 ($187) for foreigners (up to six people). You can book the jeep safari online here.
Best time to visit: December until March (if you want to see the lion, we recommend visiting between March and May).
How to get there: State and private buses operate from Ahmedabad and take about seven to eight hours. It is the cheapest way to get to the park and you can book the bus online via redBus. Alternatively, hire a taxi/cab, although this option will be heavy on the pocket.
Where to stay: Hotels and resorts are located within the park’s vicinity. The best budget options include Hotel Umang and Gir Birding Lodge. For a luxury experience, opt for Amidhara Resort or The Fern Gir Forest Resort. Book early as lodgings within the park fill up quickly.