Rann Utsav- A weekend at Rann of Kutch, the biggest White Salt Desert in India

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Visiting the Rann of Kutch on a full moon night during Rann Utsav was on my list for quite some years now. I was raring to go!

Frankly, it settled in my mind when I first saw Amitabh Bacchan walking on the white desert of Kutch saying- ‘Rann nahi dekha, toh kuch nahi dekha’. It was an eye catching ad for an extremely eye catching place.

The Great Rann of Kutch is best visited on a full moon day to experience the moonlight reflecting off the salt & giving it that mesmerising look which is on par with the salt pans of Bolivia!

White rann of kutch rann utsav
Rann of Kutch
One of the largest salt deserts in the world, a place like no other. It borderline feels as if you’re walking on a different planet altogether! How often do you experience something of this sort?

Kutch Rann Festival is a carnival on the white desert of Kutch, filled with dance and music performances, cultural shows, ethnic art, camels, shopping, food…you name it, they have it! 

Rann of Kutch famous for

Every year Gujarat Tourism announces the Rann Utsav dates…usually from mid November to mid March. It’s the time when the salt on the Rann of Kutch dries up & crystallizes into a white expanse as far as the eye can see. Kutch Gujarat is a unique destination where you can find beaches, mountains and the famous White Desert, all in close proximity.

 

Finally we planned this trip for a weekend in February and that too, on a full moon night, which I was adamant about. Rann dekhna hai, toh full moon mein hi dekhna hai. 🙂

Rann utsav tent bhuj station

For accommodation at Dhordo, the tent city, departures are at fixed intervals. So those of you coming for the first time & wondering whether the pickup etc. is convenient, yes it is. And it’s right outside Bhuj station where you can’t miss it.

Rann of kutch

Note: We did not book the Rann Utsav accommodation, we had booked another resort with Bhungas- traditional Kutchi stay & our private transportation for 2 days.

Off to Rann of Kutch

 

Yay! Off to Dhordo…I was eagerly looking forward to all the Gujarati & Kutchi delicacies. I loooove a Gujrati thali! And was completely at ease with “Kem Cho”, “Shoo Joiye”, “Aav jo” as I stay in what’s considered as  Mumbai’s Gujarati dominated locality- Ghatkopar.

The roads were good & as we neared the Rann of Kutch area, we began to see salt on both sides of the road, signalling our arrival in the white desert of Kutch…so far so good!

Bhuj to rann of kutch

We went to Kalo Dungar first, then India bridge & reached the resort just in time for lunch. A little rest & we would go to the Rann at Rann Utsav for sunset and then moonrise. The best part of the trip.

We ate a lot of typical Gujarati food around and stayed in a resort of Bhungas, the local accommodation.



Note: Bhuj to Rann of Kutch is around 85 kms & takes approx 2 hours to reach.

Gujarati thali at kutch
Our delicious Gujarati thali!

Sunset at the white Rann of Kutch, finally

 

I visited Rann Utsav in Feb 2020, on a full moon night. Couldn’t wait to get there & see what Amitabh Bacchan had described. 🙂
Had been seeing so many beautiful pics of the place, that it set the tempo high!

We reached the White Desert of Kutch around 5.30pm which was the perfect time! There were lots of people,  food carts, local handicrafts shops…it was really like a fair.

Rann utsav

Camel carts were available for hire right from the gates to the main spot or the other option was to walk down the 1 km stretch after which you begin to see white salt around for miles. This bit was quite a photo spot actually. 

 

We took the colorful camel cart and started moving a little further where there were lesser people, so that we could enjoy the place & take pics of the sunset. (Which was magical with the backdrop of the white desert)

bhuj gujarat
Rann of kutch camel cart

The enormity of this white desert of Kutch really hits you then…it was huge…like really really huge….white salt as far as the eye can see. It was as if nature was showing off how magnificent it can be! Goes without saying, the sunset was glorious.

Photographers flock the desert around this time to watch the flaming sun set into the white salt dunes. The hues and the calmness….you feel it in your bones. Right after the moon came out, was another surreal experience.

 

Watching sunset at the Rann of Kutch is one of the top things to do at the Rann Utsav.

Note: Despite the crowds around, there was enough space for everyone to enjoy the views without any obstruction or anyone blocking the views.

Rann of kutch travel blog
Rann travel blog
sunset at rann of kutch

 

P.S- There’s a watch tower built, where you can get an elevated view of the Rann of Kutch. You can see India’s largest salt desert spread till miles…. There’s also a small cafeteria selling tea & snacks nearby.
We stayed back till about 8pm then took the camel cart back to the gates & from there our car.

rann of kutch at sunset

 

Nilu’s pro tip:
The lower layer of this white desert of Kutch is black. (Yep! It really is)
It gets covered by the layer of salt above it and that’s the white bit we see. Sometimes, the sand below is still wet & your leg can sink in the sand….it can be quite wet till December, so I would suggest planning your trip after January only. We went in Feb and still experienced this in some patches.
So tread lightly & carefully.

white desert rann of kutch
Rann utsav 2020

It was a super experience, however not as great as seen in Amitabh Bacchan’s ad. :/

One of my friends spoke to a local and he suggested we visit the non-touristy Rann in the night. What the hell does he mean by the non touristy Rann now? 

 

I later learnt that by that he meant “The best Rann”, read on to be surprised. Pleasantly surprised. :O

Our visit to the non touristy Rann

 

I was super excited about this bit, it was an offbeat activity and we had no idea what to expect.
But I’m so glad we went there! It was literally as if we had stepped on the moon….moon without its dark spots! The landscape was out of this world…I mean it was absolutely ethereal…enrapturing..I don’t have words for it!!

Rann of Kutch at night
The Rann sparkling and glowing under the moonlight

The white salt was like marble, glistening in the full moon night, a totally different place altogether. There was no one else in this massive desert…we had the place, the silence, the beauty…all to ourselves. It made our day, errr night and our trip too!

 

As it was a full moon night, the moonlight strongly reflected off this Rann of Kutch which made the entire place glow. Would recommend everyone to visit the non touristy Rann too, for a much better experience.

Rann of kutch full moon

Comparatively, the Rann Utsav touristy Rann was a pale shadow of what the Rann experience can be like. Be kind to the locals and they shall show you hidden gems is all I can say! 😀

Things to do around Rann of Kutch Gujarat


Kalo Dungar- the highest point of Kutch

We visited Kalo dungar, the highest point of Kutch. Kalo Dungar presented a vantage point to watch the panoramic white desert…extending right till the horizons. Once on top, you can visit the temple there and just walk on a series of steps leading to the view point. 

Kalo dongar things to do in bhuj

We wore colorful turbans at Kalo Dungar & posed with their traditional clothes too. Gotta be at least a lil touristy no! Besides the turbans were so cute, who’s to blame haha. 😛

And guess what, the Turbans’ rent was only Rs. 10!!! :O

kalo dungar view point
Kalo dungar

Post that, we headed to India bridge.

India bridge Kutch Gujarat

We crossed a bridge- India bridge and at the end of this bridge was a BSF post. We were asked to submit our cameras and phones with them as photography was strictly prohibited beyond this point. There was a memorial  further which is closer to the border. Going beyond this memorial is restricted.

India bridge kutch

Rann of Kutch Itinerary

 

Day 1

  • Reached Bhuj in the morning.

  • Had breakfast at Bhuj & moved to Kalo Dungar & India bridge.

  • Hotel & lunch.

  • Evening, around 5pm, went to Rann & stayed till about 8pm.

  • Shopped at the Rann Utsav market.

  • Dinner & went to the non-touristy Rann.

 

Day 2

  • Checkout from hotel & did local sightseeing- Prag mahal, Aina mahal.

  • Had a traditional Kutchi lunch. 

  • Went to Mandvi- Vijay Vilas Palace & Mandvi beach.

  • Back to Bhuj- Vande Mataram Memorial with light & sound show.

  • Train back to Mumbai.

camel cart at rann

Where to stay at the Rann of Kutch

 

The temporary tent city of Dhordo is specially created in the middle of this white desert to welcome the hordes of tourists visiting Rann of Kutch each year. Fascinating, isn’t it? 

The local market there sells traditional clothes, jewellery &  handicrafts, and is in full fervour. The place is as vibrant as it gets!

things to do at rann of kutch

Have listed types of hotels here. Just click on them so that you are able to read about them on TripAdvisor before you make your bookings.

This festival is extremely popular! Remember to make your Rann Utsav bookings in advance.

Rann Utsav – The Tent City

The tented & walled city is especially put up for Rann Utsav every year. To experience this RannUtsav Tent Festival, you have to book their package – it includes accommodation ,all meals,pick & drop from Bhuj airport & station, drop to Rann, traditional shows etc.

dhordo kutch
dhordo
dhordo rann utsav

Note: The tented city of Dhordo is only for the residents, if you don’t book accommodation there, you can’t visit its premises. But the Rann can be visited by all.

Bhunga style resort

Traditional  Eco house made of mud & liberally splashed with colors and mirror work. Remember Kareena Kapoor’s house in ‘Refugee’?

bhunga house of kutch
bhunga kutch

Best time to visit Rann of Kutch

This white desert of Kutch located within  the Thar desert has a very harsh climate.

Generally, November to early March, the pleasant winter climate is the best time to visit the Rann festival. Nights are quite cold though, so do carry warm clothes. Gujarat Tourism announces the Rann Utsav dates every year.

Kutch nahi dekha toh kuch nahi dekha

Ideally one should visit the white Rann of Kutch only early in the morning or in the evening. Reason being, the salt can literally be blinding at other times. Also, Rann of Kutch  full moon nights are the best for photography!

Rann utsav 2020

Important dates for visiting the desert during the Utsav are:

  • 31st Dec and 1st Jan – New Year Celebration

  • 14th January – kite flying festival

  • 26th January – Republic day celebration

  • 14th February – Valentine’s Day for a romantic candle lit dinner in the desert

kite festival gujarat

Permits at Rann of Kutch

The Rann is near to Pakistan & is one of the borders between India and Pakistan and hence,  a  sensitive area. Permits are required to reach this desert. You need a photo id proof to get it; the good part is Indians can receive it online.

P.S- The permits aren’t expensive at all. Around Rs.100 pp.

bhuj things to do

How to Reach Rann Of Kutch

The best way to reach this white salt desert is via Bhuj. We took the train from Mumbai to Kutch. Many people visit Rann of Kutch from  Ahmedabad. Which is good too if you haven’t been to Ahmedabad before.

Bhuj to Dhordo is 2 hours by road. It’s located on the edge of the Thar desert.

 

  • By Air

If you are choosing to fly, the nearest airport to this salt desert is located in Bhuj. You can find flights on a daily basis from major cities.

places to visit in bhuj

  • By Train

The best way to reach Bhuj is to take a train from Mumbai/ Ahmedabad. From Bhuj, you can arrange for a car or use public transport.

  • By Road

The Rann is well connected by good roads from nearby cities.From Bhuj, it is only a 2 hour ride. 



Note:
Travel time between Bhuj to Rann of  Kutch – 2 hours
Travel time between Ahmedabad to Rann of Kutch – 9 hours

rann utsav in kutch

Food at Rann of Kutch

Gujaratis are big time food lovers. You will find awesome vegetarian food & snacks here. Start your day with a breakfast of jalebi & fafda. Do have a gujarati/kutchi thali here for lunch.

gujarati thali bhuj

The types of savoury snacks – namkeens here were awesome. This trip is a culinary treat for veg food lovers!

dabeli bhuj places to visit
gujarati snacks bhuj

Shopping at Rann Utsav

You can find many shops selling traditional clothes & handicrafts here. Top souvenirs to buy from the tent city, Kutch and Bhuj are: silver articles, traditional embroidered kutchi jackets, Bandhani sari and handicraft items.

We also bought lots of snack items & sweets!

shopping at rann utsav
Shopping at rann utsav
rann utsav shopping

Is Rann Utsav worth visiting?

It’s a definite resounding YES! The Rann of Kutch, this white salt desert is a unique place & you must experience it once. It can be a little touristy, but if you want to experience the peaceful Rann, you can plan your tour to include a little off beat Rann like in Ekal ka Rann or Dholavira.

For a no tension visit, book  the Rann Utsav  package or book your hotel & transport separately.

sunset at rann utsav

Tips to help plan your journey better

  • Best time to visit: Between  11th Nov 2020- 28 Feb 2021 on a full-moon night

  • You will need: An entry permit, which could be gotten done online 

  • Nearest station : Bhuj

  • To carry: Warm clothes for cold nights & closed shoes for salt on the Rann

  • Stay : In special tents or bhungas for different feel

  • Nearby destinations: Bhuj, Mandvi, Dholavira, Ekal ka Rann,Narayan Sarovar and Lakhpat. Ahmedabad can also be clubbed with Rann trip.

  • Famous foods: Kutchi thali, kutchi dabheli, jalebi-fafda, namkeens

Rann of kutch rann utsav white desert

If you’ve already been to the festival, don’t forget to share your experience and travel tips in the comment section!

  • Will there be the Rann Utsav this year in 2020?

Yes, the Gujarat Government has given permission for continuing the Rann Utsav 2020-21.

  • Which is the nearest station to Rann of Kutch?

Bhuj is the nearest railway station for Rann of Kutch.

 

  • Can we take tents/ accommodation in Dhordo Rann Utsav tent city  without a package?

No, the tents, food & excursion are a package. You can choose between 1/2/3 days packages.

  • Which are other places to experience Rann of Kutch?

Dholavira & Ekal ka Rann are nearby & not so touristy as the Rann Utsav.

  • Why is Rann Kutch famous?

The Great Rann of Kutch is in the Thar Desert in the Kutch. It is a salt marsh that’s spread across 7,500 kms- one of the largest salt deserts in the world!

  • Why Should you Visit Rann of Kutch During the Rann Utsav

The tent city & markets are put up during the Rann Utsav attracting hordes of tourists. Musical programmes, shows, trips are organised & the atmosphere is lively. Most importantly, the weather is good in winters & the salt dries up giving Rann its famous look.

  • What is Rann Utsav? Where Is Rann Utsav Celebrated?

Rann Utsav is celebrated in the Rann of Kutch desert region. Rann of Kutch Gujarat is an exotic salt desert in Gujarat.  There is a temporary city created in the middle of the desert with accommodations, markets, shops, and other facilities.

  • What is included in the Rann Utsav package?

It’s an all inclusive package. Accommodation,all meals, tea, snacks, pick & drop to Rann, pick & drop to Bhuj airport /train, entertainment are part of the package.

  • What should I wear in Rann of Kutch Gujarat?

Comfortable colorful clothes & preferably sports shoes/ covered shoes. It’s not easy walking on the salt, if some of it sticks to your open chappals, it will be difficult to walk. 

  • Are there basic facilities near white Rann of Kutch?

There are stalls to eat & drink at the start of the public Rann entrance.  There are washrooms as well.

Once inside, there is a shop selling basic snacks & tea.

19 Thoughts on “Rann Utsav- A weekend at Rann of Kutch, the biggest White Salt Desert in India

  1. Wow, this is my first time hearing about this salt plains in India and the yearly festival held there. I’m going to put this on my bucket list. This is the kind of things I like to do when I travel.

  2. The camel ride sounds like so much fun. It looks like you’re in another world! We were supposed to be in India this year (so hopefully next) I’ll have to see if it’s possible to add this.

  3. Very good post. Highly informative for travellers who want to witness the Rann Utsav in Kutch. Keep up the good work.

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