Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. Best things to Do and See....
Ahmedabad is called Amdavad by the locals. This is the largest city in the Indian state of Gujarat. Here you really go back in time, the city has some beautiful historical places to visit such as the mosque, the temple and Sabarmati Ashram. Furthermore, it is a really busy city, with lots of people, markets and quite a bit of pollution. Beautiful to visit, but for us 2 nights was enough.
The Sabarmati Ashram was home to Mohandas Gandhi from 1917 until 1930 and served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle. Originally it was called the Satyagraha Ashram, reflecting the movement toward passive resistance launched by the Mahatma.
It was also from here on 12 March 1930 that Gandhi launched the famous Dandi March 241 miles from the Ashram (with 78 companions) in protest of the British Salt Law, which taxed Indian salt in an effort to promote sales of British salt in India. The Ashram can be visited for free, has an educational museum and a lovely quiet garden to relax in.
Hathi Singh Jain Temple:
The Hathi Singh Jain Temple should not be missed during a visit to Ahmedabad. In our opinion, it is the most beautiful building in the city. It was built in 1848 by the Hutheesing family. The inner temple is 52.5 meters high, and the outside even contains 52 small shrines, each with its own image. The Hathi Singh Jain Temple is accessible for free. Take off your shoes, and photography inside is not allowed.
Jama Masjid literally means Friday Mosque. This mosque is located in the old center of Ahmedabad and was built in 1424. Personally not one of the most beautiful mosques in India, but always interesting to visit an Islamic building of this value. The temple is free to visit. Take off your shoes and make sure your knees are covered.
Vadodara was a huge surprise for us, we had heard mixed stories so it was time to experience it ourselves. And from the very beginning everything pleased us here. The city is innovating enormously and is currently being expanded with beautiful hotels, restaurants and shopping centers. The city is also well put together in terms of infrastructure, and it is even very clean in most places, unlike many other cities in India. Vadodara also has a lot to offer for a day of shopping, such as some beautiful Malls with international shops. Our favorite Malls were Inorbit and Eva the Mall. There are also many special hotspots to visit, see below:
Lakshmi Vilas Palace:
The Lakshmi Vilas Palace was constructed by the Gaekwad family who ruled the Baroda State. The palace was built in 1890 and has a very unique and beautiful atmosphere. It is a huge palace which is still inhabited by the Royal family. What we love about this Palace is that the Royals have collected the most beautiful and precious items from all over the world, such as Italian marble, German stained glass windows and Belgian candlesticks. In this way, a unique style of unparalleled beauty has emerged. Entrance for foreigners is 525 INR, Indians pay 250 INR. An audio guide with clear information is included in this price. Photography is prohibited inside and outside is only allowed with a mobile phone.
Sayaji Baug park and Baroda Museum:
Right in the center next to the beautiful university is the Sayaji Baug park. We found this a very pleasant park where it was wonderfully quiet and clean. Here you can also admire the beautiful Gray langurs up close. The Baroda Museum is also located in this park, unfortunately we were too late to visit this museum, but according to many it turns out to be very interesting. Entrance to this museum is 200 INR for foreigners and 10 INR for Indians. Opening hours from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Sursugar lake and the Shiva Statue:
In addition to the above park, you can also relax at Sursugar Lake. You can walk around it pleasantly through a nice quiet path, and you can even take a boat trip on the lake. The center of the lake is formed by the 34 meter high Shiva statue. Today (Nov 2022) the statue was unfortunately covered due to renovation work.
Surat is a city in the western part of India in the state of Gujarat. Surat is one of the cities with the fastest growth rates due to immigration from different parts of Gujarat and other states of India. The highlight of Surat is undoubtedly the Surat Castle. But the city also has some beautiful markets and a large textile industry. There are also some Malls on the western side of the city, the most beautiful one is VR Mall. The other Malls currently have a lot of vacancy which is most likely due to the recent years with Covid. We also visited the Dutch Gardens, but this is actually faded glory, and not directly suitable for tourists. It is true that the streets mainly consist of men, so prepare to be looked at a lot as a Western tourist.
To be honest, we didn't know what to expect beforehand, but soon after arrival we were already very positively surprised. This historic castle was completely renovated between 2015 and 2018, and it must be said that this was done very professionally with a beautiful result. You won't believe your eyes here. The restored castle is of the highest level, but the exhibitions in the castle are also in very good condition and very diverse.
There are many collections to admire such as Armour, Coins, Porcelain, Stone Scultures, Bronze Art, Ivory artifacts, Wood Work, and much more. In connection with history, various theme rooms can also be seen, such as the Dutch room and the British Tea room. Plan at least 2 hours for a visit because there is a lot to admire. Open from 10am to 6pm, closed on Mondays. Entrance fee is 40 INR for Indians and 500 INR for foreigners. We also think this is a big difference, but you will certainly not be disappointed.
Dutch and Armenian Cemetery:
In an old neighborhood you suddenly come face to face with this Dutch and Armenian cemetery. A place where you don't expect it, but that makes it extra special. The large gate is closed, but there is a pedestrian entrance in the alley on the left. The Dutch tombs come in various sizes and shapes, but the one that excels in splendor is the grandiose mausoleum of Baron Adrian Van Reede and is described in detail here. The 16th century cemeteries have been declared protected monuments, but they still show signs of deterioration, both from natural weathering and from human visitors. The residents indicated that these graves are currently being restored, we sincerely hope this.
Which of the three:
Suppose you have to choose, which of the three will you go to? In our opinion, Vadodara is definitely the favourite. The infrastructure is the best here, and the city is innovating enormously. An enormous amount is being built, from beautiful large hotels to the nicest shops and restaurants. Vadodare also has wonderfully wide roads, quiet parks and a beautiful university. In addition, this is also the city with the most women on the street, and that always ensures a nice atmosphere on the street for us. So the above cities all have their own character, but Vadodara is the place where we would have liked to have stayed longer.