A little geography lesson
The Rann of Kutch is located in the Kutch district of Gujrat quite near to the mouth of the great Indus river. As you stand at the periphery of the desert you can see only white sand as far as the eye can see. However it is not actually sand in the Rann. It is hard sun baked crust of salt. Once this geographical area was part of the Arabian Sea. With the passage of centuries and shift in the topographical features the connection with the sea was cut off. Yet every monsoon the Rann is flooded with sea water. As the sea water recedes, it leaves behind copious amounts of salt. Over the ensuing months the harsh sun dries and hardens the salt to such an extent that you can drive a vehicle over it. And the resultant is the one of a kind great white desert.
About the Rann festival
Every year the Rann festival attracts hundreds of tourists. The festival carries on for 3 months and you get to experience the beauty of the Rann at close quarters. This year in 2016 the Rann festival is from 1 Nov 2016 to 20 Feb 2017. The best time to attend the Rann festival is on a full moon night when the bright moonlight illuminates the white desert.
How to reach the Rann
The Rann of Kutch lies about a 100 odd kilometres from the town of Bhuj. Bhuj has both a rail head and an airport. You can hire a cab from Bhuj to reach the Rann. Another major city is Ahmedabad which lies about 336 kilometers away. There are daily buses plying between Ahmedabad and Bhuj.
Various attractions at the Rann festival
The main attraction of the Rann festival is to be able to stay in tents in the middle of the desert. The Rann festival is a popular destination and it is advisable to book your tents at least 45 days in advance. At the venue you can enjoy various cultural events, food festivals, traditional dances, amazing Kutchi handiwork, Gujrati handicrafts and much more. Kutch is famous for its block printing, bandhani work, mud paintings, wood carving, metal work, embroidery work etc.
Apart from the Rann festival there are many other places that you can visit nearby.
About 90 kilometres away from Bhuj the Kala Dungar mountain is the highest point in Kutch. From the top you get a panoramic bird’s eye view of the white desert all around.
Merely 60 kilometers away lies the Mandavi beach with its golden sand. Apart from enjoying the sea and surf you can also visit the Swaminarayan temple, the Topansar lake, Bandhni bazar, Mandvi port and Shitla Mata temple. Mandavi used to be the summer retreat of the Maharaja of Kutch. The erstwhile Vijay Vilas Palace of the maharaja is now a heritage hotel with its own private beach.
A less touristy kind of place near the Rann is the Pingleshwar beach. Situated about 70 kilometers away from the Mandavi beach this place is still untouched and pristine. If you want to be away from the mad rush at Mandavi then this is the ideal place to visit. You can also visit the nearby temple of Pingleshwar Mahadev.
Aina Mahal or the Hall of mirrors is located at the northeast corner of the Hamirsar Lake. It is a 250 years old heritage building that presently houses a museum. You can easily spend an hour or two admiring the architecture and the artefacts housed in the museum.
If you interested in wildlife then there are a number of bird and wildlife sanctuaries nearby. The Rann is a popular spot for migratory birds. Each year about 2 lakh migratory birds and endangered species make the Rann their home. You can visit the Great indian Bustard Sanctuary, The Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary, The Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, The Chari Dhand Wetland Conservation Reserve and the Banni Grasslands Reserve. Typical to this place are the Wild asses and the flamingos.
Climate during the Rann Festival
If you want to avoid the mad tourist rush then you should plan to attend the Rann festival in the month of November. The only drawback is that a major part of the Rann is still marshy and the salt cover is treacherous underfoot. There will be a temperature difference during night time and day time. days will be very hot and dry while the temperature will fall during night. This variation in temperature will be even more pronounced in the month of December. The night temperature will plummet and you will require heavy jackets. Days will be pleasurable warm. So depending on the duration of your travel you should pack accordingly.