Bhuj is known as a desert city, with a history dating back to kingdoms and empires, palaces from the rule of the Naga chiefs, the Jadeja Rajputs, the Gujarat Sultans and the British Raj. With numerous temples, small streets, and traditional handicrafts, Bhuj is one of the unique historical sites in India. It is a municipality in the Kutch district of Gujarat. The city was left in a state of devastation after the 2001 earthquake and is still in the recovery phase.
However, Bhuj connects its visitors to a range of civilisations and essential events in South Asian history through prehistoric archaeological finds, remnants of the Indus Valley Civilization (Harappan), places associated with the Mahabharata and Alexander the Great’s march into India. The land of Bhuj is home to various historical sites, like the 2000-year-old Kshatrapa inscriptions in the kutch museum, hall of mirrors in the Aina Mahal, the bell tower of Prag Mahal, the sculptures in Ramakund stepwell, and the beautiful Hamirsar lake. Hence, Bhuj is a blend of vibrant history and ethnic cultures.
Places to Visit
Also known as the Great Rann of Kutch, the White Desert is a vast area of pristine white salt desert often explored for its natural beauty and ecological importance. It is also called the world’s largest salt desert which stretches from the mouth of River Indus to the Gulf of Kutch.
The contrasting landscape of the White Desert is one of a kind in India and draws tourists in large numbers. Besides being a filming location for several Bollywood movies, the White Desert of Kutch is strongly scrutinised as it lies on the northern India-Pak border. The White Desert is cited with numerous sanctuaries for wildlife, floral and wetland preservation.
Situated in the Kutch region of Gujarat, Mandvi Beach is a pristine and tranquil seashore which is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the region. In addition to being a laid back beach location, Mandvi Beach is popular for its camping and water sports facilities.
Standing near the Vijay Vilas palace estate in Bhuj, Mandvi Beach is a secluded and undiscovered beach destination with clean water and beautiful views. Take a long walk along the shore as you witness the sun setting over the horizon, or go for bird spotting and discover the beauty of Kutch through its fauna.
Another activity to pursue here is camel riding, which takes you on a round of the entire property as you bobble up and down on this majestic animal’s back, or practice some yoga to the tune of the gentle sea. With its tranquil surroundings being it’s most alluring quality, Mandvi Beach makes for an enchanting rendezvous with nature and its beauty.
Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary
Less than 100 km away from Bhuj, this sanctuary is spread over an area of about 7505.22 sq. km. in the Kutch District of Gujarat. This wildlife sanctuary is considered as one of the largest seasonal saline wetland areas.
It has a water depth that ranges between 0.5 to 1.5 m and preserves various species of flamingo birds. Also sight other species such as the greater flamingo, Indian porcupine, spiny tailed lizard, black-necked storks, wild ass and Indian cormorant. The best time to visit this sanctuary is during the months of winters. Also, lying close by, is the buried city Dholavira of Harappan civilization which was excavated here, which attracts hordes of archaeologists here from all across the world. This sanctuary also contains the Indo-Pak International border and hence some part of it is restricted to civilians. This sanctuary is also famous for its flat snow white surface with extensive deposits of salt crystals and it provides a very unique and beautiful view.
The Aaina Mahal palace, or ‘Hall of Mirrors’ was built during the flamboyant rule of Lakhpatji in the middle of the 18th century. The responsibility of engineering, architecture and embellishment was entitled to Ram Singh Malam – a genius of an artist who took his training in Europe for 17 years but came back to India seeking name and fame. He was asked by the king to create this palace of dreams for him, and thus the Aina Mahal came into existence.
However, what once stood proudly with glittering glasses, antique clocks and exotic tile works was shaken and dishevelled in the 2001 earthquake that hit Bhuj. The loss was tragic, but it has now been recovered and renovated for people to visit safely again. The Aina Mahal is at the northeast corner of Hamirsar lake, easily walkable from most of Bhuj. Be sure to explore the rest of the compound outside the palace, with its beautiful carved doorways, elaborate window boxes and balconies.
Hamirsar Lake is the heart of Bhuj town and located in the western end of Kutch, Gujarat. Bhuj is known for hot and dry summers. This lake is considered an oasis between saline and arid Kutch. The kings built the lake to fulfil the domestic needs of the people of Bhuj in ancient times. Hamirsar Lake was well developed with a channel and tunnels that used to carry water from three rivers to fill the town’s water reservoirs. But after the earthquake of 2001 in Bhuj, this water system was gravely disturbed distorted.
The municipality and people of Bhuj took initiatives to revive the water system to its original form to fulfil the needs of its people once again. This was achieved in 2003. The water of Hamirsar Lake became potable. This manmade lake was named after Rao Hamir, a Jadega ruler who ruled around 450 years ago. Rao Hamir is considered the father of Rao Khengarji, the founder of Jadeja dynasty in Kutch.
Shri Swaminarayan Temple
Originally built in the year 1822, Shri Swaminarayan Temple was the first of many Sampradey Swaminarayan temples.
But the 2001 Bhuj earthquake destroyed much of this temple, except for the many divine deities and thereafter, a new temple was constructed where all the divine idols were moved. Located in Bhuj, Near Hamirsar lake, it is an architectural masterpiece built from marble and is a stunning place to visit. The completely white structure of the temple is surely going to be a treat to your eyes.
Kutch Bustard Sanctuary
Popularly known locally as the Lala Prajan Sanctuary, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary’s primary aim is to conserve the Great Indian Bustard. It is located in Jakhau village in Naliya Taluka, Gujarat. Among many other different varieties of wildlife that can be found within the reserve, there are three different kinds of Bustards themselves in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary covers an area of just over 2 sq. km, but still houses some of the excellent species including harriers, common cranes, black partridges, sand grouses, Black and Grey Francolin, Spotted and Indian Sandgrouse, quails, larks, shrikes, coursera, plover, Imperial Eagle, flamingos, herons, egrets, sandpipers, etc. Some other wild animals which are present here are wolf, caracal, desert cat, jackal, striped hyena, fox, mongoose, blue bull, chinkara, spiny-tailed lizard and various types of snakes.
Pirotan Island spreads over an area of 3 square kilometres and is one of forty-two islands in the marine park area, nestled within the vicinity of the Marine National Park in the Jamnagar district of Gujarat on the western coast. As part of the first marine national park – the Gulf of Kutch Marine National Park, established in 1982, Pirotan Island offers an undisturbed rendezvous with nature in its abode. It is one of the two islands in the area which is normally permitted for tourists and visitors, Narara Island being the other one.
With only a handful of people living here which includes people from the forest department, Mujhavar at the Khwaja Khizer Dargah and a couple of people from the lighthouse, this enchanting island is much away from human habitation and way of life and comes close to being ideal if you are looking for a secluded getaway.
Although visits require permits from the local Forest Department, Customs & Ports Department, the hassle is entirely worth it. The island is a secluded getaway from the hubbub and commotion of daily life and deserves a space on your bucket list!
Shopping In Bhuj
Being an incredibly beautiful, picturesque and colourful city, shopping in Bhuj offers a great variety of market stuff. It consists of an excellent community of craftsmen. The items on display in bazaars include embroidered quilts, grain containers, wall hangings, glass beadwork, vegetable colour dye printing, beautiful shelves, embroidered garments, cupboards, leather articles, handicrafts, textiles, tie and dye,’Rogan’ art, woollen shawls and the list goes on.
The shopkeepers are dressed in traditional Gujarati clothes. Bhuj is the Seventh Heaven for the people obsessed with shopping. It is drenched in the colors of creativity. Bhuj is famous for embroidered and handicrafts material. From the best apparels to best accessories, you will find everything here in the bazaars of Bhuj. Being the textile hub of India, the cloth rates are 30% lesser than other states.
Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary
Situated at 125km drive away from Bhuj, Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary covers an area of about 444 sq. km. and is one of the distinct eco-system in the Kutch district of Gujarat state. Also known as Narayan Sarovar Chinkara Sanctuary, it is a home to number of mammals such as chinkara, the endangered Indian wolf, wildcats, desert foxes, honey badger and wild boar.
Tourists can also see around 184 distinct species of birds in this sanctuary including waterfowl, black partridge, houbara bustard, lesser florican and great Indian bustard. Around 252 kinds of plants can be found in the sanctuary like gorad, babul, kerdo and more.
Must Try Food in Bhuj
1. Umiyaji Dining Hall
2. Nilam Hotel
3. Noorani Restaurant
5. Farzana Restaurant
6. Vikram Garden Restaurant
7. KBN Restaurant
8. Ten 11 Lounge
9. Flavors Restaurant
10. Sardar Restaurant
How To Get Here
The Bhuj Airport, also known as the Rudra Mata Airport is the city’s own airport. This domestic airport is situated about 5.5 to 9 km from the Bhuj city centre and can be covered by a 15 to 20-minute drive. The Bhuj Railway Station is just about 4 km from the city and can be reached through a 15-minute taxi ride.
There are quite a few bus stands in Bhuj, with the nearest ones at Lal Tekri, Ghanshyam Nagar and Sanskar Nagar. These bus stops are within a radius of 2 km from the city centre. The farther bus stations are at Mirjapur and Madhapur, which are about 4 to 5 km from the Bhuj city centre.
Since the Bhuj Airport is a local airport, it hosts only a handful of domestic flights from select cities. Alliance Air is among the limited airlines hosted by the Bhuj Airport.
There are direct flights from Mumbai, and connecting flights are available from Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Marmagoa, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai is the layover for connecting flights to Bhuj.
Nearest Airport: Bhuj Airport (BHJ)
Bhuj owns well-connected roadways with various nearby and far away cities. However, while opting for a taxi or a self-long-drive, it is more convenient to choose points that are relatively close to Bhuj city. Some of such feasible options include Rajkot, Jamnagar, Patan, Mehsana and Palanpur, all of which are a 6-7 hour journey each.
The Bhuj Railways Station hosts a couple of regular trains from various cities such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bangalore, Bandra, Andheri, Madurai, Banjar, Adilabad, and Kharagpur.
Some of the prominent transit lines include the Jaipur Express, Bhuj BRC Express, JP BDTS Special, Kutch Express, Bareilly Express, Bhuj Dadar Express and the Ala Hazrat Express. Although most of these connecting trains, there are direct trains available between Bhuj and Ahmedabad.