Kutch, Gujarat

Trying to pick twelve travel destinations in India is a little like choosing the twelve best feathers on a peacock’s train, but pick we must. The most dramatic phenomenon we’ve observed in 2012 is the rising number of Indians choosing their own country for a great holiday. At one end of the spectrum, they are hitchhiking and backpacking. At the other they are patronising the most luxurious hotels and resorts once reserved for tourists brandishing wads of foreign exchange. Keen to experiment, they are experiencing everything from scuba-diving to cycling. Many are taking to wildlife and landscape photography with a passion. Here’s our selection of the 12 most captivating Indian holiday destinations of 2012. Feel free to argue but, most importantly, get up and pack!

In summer Kutch is arid, baked to a crisp in the unforgiving sun. But winter transforms India’s second-largest district into a haven for thrill-seekers.

Vast fields of flaky salt stretch to the infinite horizon. This is the Rann -- the local name for the salt-marshes. Though Kutch has no sandy dunes, there are a variety of grassland landscapes, thorn forests, extinct volcanoes, scenic seasonal river beds and seafronts rich in birdlife. To experience this unique landscape, a comfortable stay at Sham-e-Sarhad resort in Banni grasslands is recommended. The resort replicates an authentic Kutch village experience, serves lip-smacking good meals, and is open to guests October through March.
Kutch is home to treasures archaeological and architectural, and is inviting to birdwatchers, geologists, enthusiasts and fossil-hunters. If it is artifacts and jewelry you are after, the tribal silver of Kutch is much coveted. If you are a history buff, nothing beats the overwhelming sensation of gazing at the 5,000-year-old archaeological excavations at Dholavira, a lost city of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization.

Textiles, handicrafts and silverware are among the top buys for shoppers. Stop by Qasab, an outlet of a craftswomen’s collective, for handicrafts and exquisite embroidered dress materials. Puppet Handicrafts on Anam Ring Road is recommended for Kutchi apparel for men, women and children.
Bhuj, the district headquarters, is connected to Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad by air while there are plenty of train connections from other Indian cities. Don’t miss out on the street food -- a variety of fried snacks from samosas and jalebis to phaphdas and khakhras tempt the palate. Scout for delicious mutton biryani, fried kababs and sheekh rolls in the city’s Muslim quarters.
Read more on Kutch.

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