The Rann of Kutch is a salt marshy land in the Thar Desert in the Kutch district of western Gujarat. It lies between Gujarat in India and the Sindh province in Pakistan. It comprises of around 30,000 sq. km of land which includes The Great Rann of Kutch, The Little Rann of Kutch and Banni grassland.
The Rann of Kutch is famous for its white salty desert sand and is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world.‘Rann’ means desert in Hindi which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Irina’ which also means desert. The inhabitants of Kutch are called Kutchhi and have a language of their own with the same name. Most of the population in Rann of Kutch comprises of Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Sikhs.
For transport options one could hire a private vehicle from Bhuj which is 102 km from Rann. From December to February there are also regular buses plying from Bhuj and Ahmedabad to Rann. The nearest railway station and airport are also situated in Bhuj.
The climate in Rann owing to its desert land is considered to be one of the harshest and hottest temperatures recorded in India. The summer temperatures go as high as 50 degree Celsius. The winters are also quite extreme with temperatures dropping to as low as 0 degree Celsius. During the monsoon, the salt desert is covered with water considering its proximity to the Luni, Rupen and Indus rivers. The marshy desert is only about 49 feet above sea level.
The Rann of Kutch region is also home to a range of ecologically rich wildlife such as the flamingos and the wild ass that can be spotted around the desert often. Rann is also a part of a few sanctuaries such as the Indian wild ass sanctuary, Kutch desert wildlife sanctuary etc. It is a paradise for wildlife photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.
Due to its proximity to Pakistan, the Indian army has a base at Rann and has army officials patrolling around the area through the day. To visit Rann of Kutch, all travellers must have valid id proofs which are checked by the army official at the entry point.
The government of Gujarat holds a three month long festival known as ‘The Rann Utsav’ every year starting from December to February. This is the main source of income for the locals around who welcome visitors from across the globe to savour in local delicacies and to witness the culture and hospitality of Kutch.
At the utsav, there are different cultural events held everydays where travellers can stay in tented accommodations in the desert or can also opt for an authentic stay in mud houses a few kilometers away from the desert. Considering the magnitude of the festival, the accommodation at Rann is expensive during season time and hence it is advisable to pre-book if one wishes to visit the white desert during the utsav. Other than the festival months there is no accommodation option available in the desert, in this case one could opt to stay around Rann or could make a day trip from Bhuj.
Once at Rann Utsav the shopaholics can also indulge in buying authentic Gujarati handicrafts handmade by the Kutchhi people with a variety of options in clothes, bags and other items such as shoes and puppets.
During season, a variety of food options are also available at Rann starting from local chaats, Gujarati snacks to full fledged Gujarati thalis. Apart from the festival months, there are barely any options available for food. It is advisable to carry water and food if one wishes to visit Rann from March to November.
The best time to visit Rann is during the utsav, but for those who want to skip the crowds, a visit Kutch in November or March is a better option. A few other ‘not-to-miss’ spectacles at Rann are the sunset and the moon rise or a new moon night which adds to the beauty of the white desert by adding different shades of colours to the white sand. The Rann of Kutch is definitely a must visit place for anyone visiting Gujarat.