9 ways to enhance your Ahmedabad experience
Ahmedabad is the commercial capital of Gujarat and one of the large cities of Western India. Ahmedabad is a popular arrival / departure point for itineraries of Gujarat and travellers typically stay here for 1 or 2 nights exploring the heritage areas and shopping. However, there is more to Ahmedabad than that. Let me suggest ideas to extend an Ahmedabad stay and enhance your Ahmedabad experience.
1. Birding in Nalsarovar
Nalsarovar (55 kms) and Thol (31 kms) are two prime bird watching sites near Ahmedabad. Nalsarovar has a large lakefront and boating here is popular for tourists. Nalsarovar Lake gets large flocks of flamingos (Lesser and Greater Flamingos) during winter and an early morning boat ride for a sight of flamingos is a sought-after experience. Bushes and little islands formed on the lake are excellent for sighting other species of birds such as Collared Pratincole. Villages around Nalsarovar are good for experienced birders as one can sight a wide range of birds here including Demoiselle Cranes, Indian Courser, etc. Thol has a large lake in the middle and one can walk here for bird watching. It is an excellent alternative to Nalsarovar.
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
2. Heritage Walk in Old City – UNESCO Heritage Site
Ahmedabad Old City is considered an architectural masterpiece in town planning and has recently been added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. It is home to 600 communities living within a small area of narrow bylanes (community area is referred to as “Pols”) and heritage residences (400+ years old). A 2-hour heritage walk in the Old City offers a glimpse into the history and heritage of Ahmedabad. You may visit craft centres, temples, local homes while experiencing the bustle of the Old City. The walk ends with a visit to the Jama Masjid, a fine example of Indo-Islamic Architecture.
3. Excursions to UNESCO Heritage Sites
Modhera Sun Temple (98 kms) and Patan Step Wells (35 kms from Modhera) are the two most renowned UNESCO Heritage Sites, best visited as a day excursion from Ahmedabad. Patan is also renowned for its Patola Silk Saris and therefore, is of interest for textile craft enthusiasts. On the other side of Ahmedabad is Champaner (146 kms), another UNESCO Heritage Site and best visited as a day excursion along with visits to Pavagadh Temple and Vadodara Sayaji Palace Museum.
4. Calico Textile Museum
Calico Textile Museum is one of the best textile museums in India. There are several galleries here that extensively demonstrate the craft heritage of Gujarat and other parts of India. The items here date back to as much as 300 years ago. The galleries here include Textiles for the Mughal and Regional Courts, Export Textiles, Indian Costumes, Regional Embroideries, Techniques of Weaving and Dyeing, Tie-Dyed Fabrics, Embroidery Techniques and Technique of Blocks Making and Printing.
Note: A prior entry permit is required for visiting Calico Museum (only 20 guests are allowed per day).
5. Vision in the Dark
Association of Blind in Ahmedabad runs an award-winning orientation programme called “Vision in the Dark” aimed at orienting travellers towards the life of a blind person. You are taken into a dark room to experience how a blind person would experience visits to the temple, theatre, restaurant, etc. The entire programme offers a fascinating insight into the lives of blind individuals.
6. Gujarati Thali Dinner
Agashiye Restaurant in Lal Darwaja area (part of House of MG hotel) is one of the iconic Gujarati Thali dining options in Ahmedabad. Vishala, a village themed ethnic cuisine restaurant is a popular outdoor dining option in Ahmedabad for travellers for winter evenings. Both restaurants offer a wide range of vegetarian cuisine delicacies as a set meal (known as a “Thali”).
7. Street Food at Manek Chowk
Manek Chowk in the Old City area of Ahmedabad is renowned for its street food in the evenings (after 8 PM). The streets are filled with chairs / tables and locals come here in large numbers every evening for a wide range of street food items. The walk around the area, the buzz and sheer variety of options on offer is a fascinating experience for any traveller.
8. Lunch with a Local
Ahmedabad has a unique option where one can dine with a local. The Old City area has many families that welcome strangers to spend a few hours at their traditional home over lunch. You interact with three generations of the family, get an insight into the history / heritage / culture of the area and get to eat the most delicious home-style Gujarati Cuisine (vegetarian). Incredibly, these families do these luncheons for making friends and for their sheer love for the Old City and Gujarati culture and do not even have a fixed rate for these luncheons (you pay as you wish).
9. Craft Workshop
The Old City area of Ahmedabad is home to some craft centres where a group of friends or craft enthusiasts can spend a few hours interacting with craftswomen and learning different embroidery, patchwork, Tie and Dye and weaving techniques.