Rann of Kutch – The White Desert. Is The Rann Utsav Worth It?

Kahani Kutch Ki…

Kutch literally means ‘Periodically Dry and Wet’ in Kutchhi. So it’s no surprise that it is most famous for the Rann of Kutch!

The Kutchhis have their own language, customs, dressing, food and hospitality! Kutch has wonderful elements of Gujarati, Sindhi and a few other influences as well thanks to its once thriving port trade. But like much of the ignorance about the distinction among the Southern states of India, Kutchhis too are assumed to be the same as Gujaratis because they form a part of the state of Gujarat. But Kutch has its own stories.

The most famous of the many rulers of the Kutch district are the Jadejas. Many structures and developments are attributed to them. In Bhuj, you will find a fair bit of their history in the form of architectural remains.

To delve deep into the history of Kutch, a good starting point would be Dholavira which is a Harappan site belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization and is a one night trip from the Rann of Kutch.

If you enjoy a fair bit of wildlife then the Little Rann of Kutch should definitely form part of your itinerary. The raw, barren beauty of the place turns into a colour riot with the landing of the migratory Flamingos.

What caught our fancy, though, is the Lakhpat Fort at the India-Pakistan border. A whole town housed inside a huge fort area, stretching into nothing but a clear desert, with a whole lot of history, culture and ruins!

Click Here To Discover Lakhpat Fort
The Hidden Gem Of Kutch, Gujarat

Rann of Kutch

When Amitabh Bachchan convincingly says “Kutch nahi dekha toh Kuch nahi dekha”, there’ll be hardly anyone who isn’t sold! The Rann of Kutch (or White Rann) is on almost every traveler’s bucket list. Being from the neighbouring state of Maharashtra, it was obviously on ours too.

But a journey to this white beauty is not easy, time-wise or effort-wise. So here’s an honest review of our extended weekend getaway to the White Rann of Kutch, with travel tips that’ll help you plan yours.

Is The White Rann Actually A White Desert?

Technically, anything that is barren is a desert. But, the White Rann is not a White Sand Desert. It is, in fact, a salt marsh in the extended Thar Desert, which is a result of the Indus river having changed its course several years ago. The salt hardens around December every year, leaving behind a hard surface of crystalline white desert. So do not go expecting to walk on smooth, white sand!

Tent stay vs. Home stay

The ‘Rann Utsav’ is hosted by the Gujarat Tourism Board in a cordoned off area called the Tent City, Dhordo. If you have not booked a stay or package with one of their tour operators and are not staying exclusively in the Tent City, then the “Utsav” is off-limits for you.

However, if you’re looking to enjoy an unscripted cultural experience, then we recommend staying with the locals in a Home stay. You can enjoy cultural programmes and some shopping for local handicrafts outside the Tent City as well. The Handicraft villages located between Bhuj city and Kutch also make for wonderful shopping experiences for those who are interested. Food at the Home stays are a quintessential taste of the land.

Our colourful home for the weekend, Gorewali – Kutch, Gujarat

Here’s a quick comparison to figure out what suits your style:

  1. Tent stay includes travel to and fro from Bhuj (which is about 2 hrs from Kutch) and some nearby sightseeing depending on the price and length of stay.
    If you opt for a Home stay, you will have to figure your own travels. But given that you’ll have to do that anyway upto Bhuj, we didn’t find it to be a problem.
  2. Tent Stay gives you exclusive access to the Rann Utsav area which has cultural programmes, shopping and certain “hotel-like” amenities.
    If you pick a home stay, you can shop from the stalls near the White Rann and witness the programmes conducted at the White Rann itself. Home stays are very comfortable and have clean toilets and unlimited local food.
  3. Tent stay is quite commercialized with buffet meals, curated cultural shows, group travel, etc.
    Home stay gives you the real feel of the local culture, home-cooked food and hospitality included. The locals can go on and on with their stories. (This is a biggie for us!)
  4. A tent stay gives you the feeling of staying in a tent in the middle of the desert (although, there are enough and more locations in Gujarat and Rajasthan to enjoy a stay in the Thar Desert)
    A Home stay gives you an experience of staying in traditional mud houses called “Bhugnas”. These are Mud huts with one room and an attached bathroom (in most cases). Linens are clean and the beds are as comfortable as any hotel.
  5. Tent stays start from INR 7,000 per night per couple for basic tents and go upto even INR 10,000 per night per couple for premium tents, all inclusive.
    Home stays range from INR 2,000 per night per couple to INR 3,500 per night per couple and includes all three meals per day (and delicious Tea all day round).
  6. Tent stays are not really for solo travelers as the they would charge for for a double room, irrespective, and is definitely not budget friendly for one person.
    Home stays are obviously worth it for solo travelers as well as budget travelers.
Hazrat Sayed Pir Shah Abu Turan Qadri Dargah, Lakhpat – Kutch, Gujarat

Top Tips for Planning a Trip to the White Rann

  1. Do not cram your travel
    Distance between Ahmedabad and Kutch is about 420kms and takes about 7-8 hrs by road. While Bhuj to Kutch takes about 1.5 – 2 hrs and is at a distance of about 85 kms.
    Check out our itinerary at the end of the post to plan your travel
  2. Pack proper shoes
    The White Rann is a salt marsh and walking in the marsh with improper footwear is highly uncomfortable as you tend to sink a little with every step (due to the moisture of the salt). There is hard, flat ground in the interior parts, which are pristine white too. But with the number of footfalls, the initial walk is bound to be a little mucky.
  3. Buy Permits
    Unless you are staying in the Tent City, buy your permits online (including vehicle permits, if applicable), in advance at https://www.rannpermit.com/ to visit the White Rann, as it is a BSF protected area. Else, you will have to wait in queue to get a permit at the entry.
  4. Experience both sunset and sunrise at the White Rann
    Permits taken for the previous day are accepted until 10 a.m. the next morning in case you want to witness the sunrise too (Even though the ticket does not specifically mention it. It is a well known local norm)
  5. Photography
    You can have a lot of fun with perspective photography in the horizon-less desert (check out some of our clicks!) You can keep some gears handy like a tripod to capture the golden hour at dawn and dusk.
    Drone photography is not permitted
  6. Weather is chilly so keep a jacket handy
  7. Shopping
    Shop for unique prints, embroidery and materials in clothing. You can also find metal bells, well carved wooden items (like jewelry boxes) and hand-made puppet dolls for furnishing. Thread and mirror work sandals can also be found here. All of these are trademarks of Kutchhi artistry.
  8. Commute for Self-Planned Trips
    Direct flights to Bhuj are expensive and inconvenient while, the direct train to Bhuj from Mumbai takes 13 hrs.
    It’s better to reach Ahmedabad by Flight/Train/Car and hire either a Taxi/Rickshaw/Self Drive Car to Kutch.
    We choose to fly to Amhedabad and hire a self-drive car from Amhedabad to Kutch and back (The roads are fantastic!).
Trying our hand at perspective photography
Trying our hand at perspective photography

Itinerary For Rann of Kutch
(Self-Planned Trip)

Day 1: Land in Ahmedabad in the evening (or really early morning)

Day 2: Start around 8 a.m. and drive to your stay in Kutch, to make it well in time for the sunset at White Rann. Enroute you can tick-off Prag Mahal/Aina Mahal/Bhujodi/Chhatedi in Bhuj depending on your interests.

Experience the magical sunset at White Rann and enjoy an evening of music, dance and shopping at the Public side of the Rann Utsav.

Day 3: Start around 8 a.m. towards Lakhpat Fort. Keep about 2 hrs or more for exploring the hamlets inside the Fort and be back by 2 p.m.
Head to Kalo Dungar to watch a magical bird’s eye view of the setting sun reflecting on the White Rann like a mirror. You can also witness the local version of J&K’s Magnetic Hill, on the way down.

Day 4: Experience sunrise at the White Rann. After breakfast, start your trip to Ahmedabad. Check out one (or a couple) of the artisan villages enroute. Reach Ahmedabad in the evening.

Evening/Night return flight from Ahmedabad.

Shopping in Kutch
(All that in INR 2000/- including the bed spread)

Relevant Links

Happy Family Homestay, Gorewali, Kutch (Contact: Malsi – 9426891630/ Rajhkumar – 9427759630

Pristine Residency, Ahmedabad

Self-drive Rental Car: Revv Cars

Flights: (BOM-AMD-BOM) Booked on points through InterMiles

Trip Cost (For Two)

Accommodation with all three meals for both days in Kutch – INR 5,000 per couple for two days

Accommodation in Ahmedabad: INR 3,000 per couple for one day (We’ve had bad experiences with hotels in Ahmedabad at cheaper prices)

Rental car: INR 8,000 (Maruti Ciaz plus Tolls and Fuel) for 3 days; One can get a cheaper car as well

Flights BOM-AMD-BOM: INR 2,200 (all inclusive) for two people on Intermiles

Shopping and other expenses: INR 2,000 per couple for all days.

Dawn at The White Rann – Kutch, Gujarat
Glorious Sunrise at The White Rann – Kutch, Gujarat

If you liked the tips, share it with your loved ones and drop us a comment 🙂

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