The Rann of Kutch is arguably the best backpacking destination in the state of Gujarat, which is endless miles of salty and marshy land in the Thar Desert. The white desert is located between Gujarat in India and the Sindh province in Pakistan and comprises of around 30,000 sq. km of land which includes the Great Rann of Kutch, The Little Rann of Kutch and Banni grassland.
The white desert Rann of Kutch is located around 102 kilometres from Bhuj and the best way to reach the desert is by hiring a private vehicle. For those travelling on a backpacker budget during the Rann Utsav which is held from November to February, opting to take one of the many tourism buses which are operational only during the festival time to aid budget travellers during the festive months is a good option.
The Indian Army has a base at Rann due to its proximity to Pakistan and has army officials patrolling the area through the day. To visit Rann of Kutch, all travellers must have valid id proofs which are checked by the Army official at the entry point.
The Rann of Kutch has a variety of ecosystems including mangroves and desert vegetation. A variety of animals that are endangered call the Rann their home. Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Banni Grasslands Reserve and Chari-Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve are located here.
Gujarat Tourism holds a three month long festival known as ‘The Rann Utsav’ every year from November to February. The Utsav is their main source of income and attracts travellers from across the country and globe, who come to savour local delicacies and to witness the culture and hospitality of Kutch.
Once at Rann Utsav, shopaholics can also indulge in buying authentic Gujarati handicrafts handmade by the Kutchhi people, the locals of the area with a variety of options in clothes, bags and other items such as shoes and puppets.
The star attraction at Rann is the white desert which is the largest of its kind in the whole world. On a full moon night, the place is simply magical with salt crystals shining and glittering in the presence of the moon light.
Watching the moon rise at the Rann of Kutch is something one will remember for a long time. From blood red to deep orange and then finally changing to deep blue, the moon is finally in its purest form of snowy white all in an hour.
At the Utsav, there are various cultural events held every day, ranging from folk dances to puppet shows and even street plays. The Rann Ustav is culturally very vibrant and colourful. Travellers can stay in tented accommodations near the desert or can also opt for an authentic stay in mud home stays a few kilometres away from the desert. The accommodation at Rann is expensive during season and hence it is advisable to pre-book online to be assured a tent while on your visit to the white desert during the Utsav.
Other than the festival months, there is no accommodation option available near the desert. At this time, travellers can opt to stay in one of the handicraft villages around Rann or can even make a day trip from Bhuj.
Food options available at Rann are in plenty from local chaat, Gujarati snacks to Gujarati thalis. Apart from the festival months, there is barely any options available for food. It is advisable to carry water and food if one wishes to visit Rann from March to October.
The best time to visit Rann of Kutch is during the Utsav. But for those who want to skip the crowd, one can visit Kutch towards the end of October or in March. A few other ‘not-to-miss’ spectacles at Rann are the sunset and sunrise which add to the beauty of the white desert by adding different shades of colours to the white sand.
The Rann of Kutch is definitely a must visit place for anyone visiting the district of Kutch. It’s surely the closest a traveller can get to a backpacker experience from Gujarat.