2020 is almost over, people! Gone are the dark days we spent in quarantine, wishing desperately for a saving grace while our inner clock counted the minutes to the moment we would be allowed to step back out and celebrate our presence in this world. With the end of December looming on the horizon, the excitement for a new and better year is almost palpable. Our dreams seem to be within reach again. And with that hope, the desire to achieve them returns in full force.
For some of us, travelling the world is one of those things we can’t live without. It could be the differences in culture that fascinates us, or the thirst for history or beauty or assorted cuisine… it could be the mere awe of seeing something we have never seen, or of revisiting a place we have already fallen in love with once before. The idea of an experience like that is thrilling. And today, we are going to talk about one such experience.
Since international travel is currently suspended, let’s focus on our very own Incredible India and start with a place in Gujarat we have all heard of: Dang. Being the smallest and the least populated place in Gujarat, the stunning natural beauty of Dang is mostly untouched. The word ‘Dang’ means ‘hilly village’ and the area is blessed with lush greenery, marvellous waterfalls, undulating mountains, and a calming atmosphere of peace. The region is also known for its vibrant tribal culture, all the tribes collectively called ‘Dangi’ that have their own language, traditions, dances, and festivals that can be easily experienced during your visit.
Dangi food is also quite good, served at traditional tribal hut-like establishments called ‘Nahri’, which are famous for being run by women in red saris who sing while they cook and shower you with warm hospitality while you indulge in freshly prepared Nagli (ragi) rotlo, black gram daal, and nagli papad.
There are a number of tourist places worth visiting in the district, but for the purpose of this introductory article we are going to be focusing on a select few.
Waghai Botanical Garden
Situated on Waghai-Saputara Road, approximately 107 kms from Surat, the Waghai Botanical Garden is the largest and one of the most beautiful gardens in Gujarat. It is a worthy rest point for tour to and from Saputara but more than that, with its overwhelming variety of native and exotic plant species, it’s a place one must surely visit if they’re looking for peace, serenity and nature.
Even after the restrictions on international travel will have lifted, not all of us will be able to hop on a plane to Canada to see the Niagara Falls. Lucky for us, we have a wonderful alternative close to home. Just a few kilometres away from Waghai Botanical Garden, Gira Waterfalls is a frequently visited tourist spot, at its best during and after the monsoon season, and flaunting the most picturesque sight in the district. The waterfall is 30 m high and the speed with which the water plunges into the Ambica River creates an awesome foggy look that will take your breath away.
In case you get the hunger pangs while frolicking around by the falls, there are delicious food stalls nearby that ensure you don’t go away on an empty stomach.
Saputara Hill Station
Nestled in the Sahyadris or the Western Ghats, Saputara is a charming little hill station popular for its vivid, colourful landscapes, dreamy winding roads, and great trekking opportunities. It is located at a height of 875 metres above sea level and is a perfect getaway for eco-lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and people who love adventure sports. It’s also a family destination, ideal for short vacations with your loved ones.
Saputara literally means ‘abode of serpents’ and derives its name from the Snake God revered by the tribals of the region. The river Sarpanganga is also shaped like a serpent, and on its banks is the image of a snake that is worshipped by Dangis on festivals like Holi. It’s a very interesting lore that forms a certain image of Saputara in our minds and helps us understand the place better.
You can make a day trip here if you want but I’d recommend spending at least a night here so you don’t miss out on must-see attractions like:
Sunrise Point (or Valley View Point)
A spot where you can go watch the sun rising over the horizon and paint the sky yellow, orange and pink with its soothing morning rays. The panorama is pleasing to the eyes and has been a backdrop to many a pre-wedding shoots.
Sunset Point (or Gandhi Shikhar peak)
Exactly opposite the sunrise point is the sunset point which offers a lovely view of the Dang forest and an opportunity to get aboard a cable car to the top if you don’t prefer the long climb. You can breathe in the cool air and feast your eyes on the exquisite scenery while you wait for the sun to set.
Cable car ride – 15 minutes
Cost – Rs. 40 per head
I love boating, but even those who are not much taken with this activity say you haven’t truly seen Saputara if you haven’t been boating on the Saputara Lake. Snuggled between colourful gardens on both sides, this lake is a tranquil place to simply hang out with your friends and family, hire a boat and go pedalling, and enjoy the crisp morning breeze. Stalls selling food and other merchandise are available for you to shop at.
You can also visit Saputara museum which is just 3 minutes away from the lake and exhibits the lifestyle, culture and history of people of Dang, majority of whom are Adivasis.
One skill rooted in the Dang culture is their passion to paint and craft. If you are someone who is a keen collector of souvenirs and mementoes from your travel adventure then a visit to the Artist Village is a must. Just a kilometre from the bus station, it is situated bang opposite the Saputara Lake and you can get a wide variety of tribal artifacts at reasonable rates. The exhibit includes bamboo craft, warli paintings, jewellery and pottery, etc.
Table Top (or Townview Point)
This is one of the more well-known tourist attractions in Saputara. Located on a higher level than the town, the plateau offers a superior panoramic perspective of the whole hill station. The best part about this place is the spectacular night view of Saputara that it offers. You can participate in a variety of activities at Table Top, including, but not limited to, camel riding, horse riding, bike riding, and other activities for kids. And don’t forget to try Maggi ke bhajiye.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a shot at the paragliding joyride in Saputara. It’s bound to be a memory you will never forget.
One thing we can say with one hundred percent commitment and passion is that if you’re going to Saputara, please don’t miss a trek to Hatgad Fort. It is a 16th century fort (a watch tower of sorts at the time) built by Chhatrapati Shivaji on top of the highest plateau in the region. Being simply 5 km away from Saputara across the Maharashtra border, it’s a short ride to the fort and not a very difficult trek uphill either. You can take your kids with you; I’m sure they’d enjoy their time there as well.
Once you reach the top, the view from the fort is spectacular, especially if you’re there at dusk and the sun is going down in all its glory. Every nook in this place is insta-story worthy, so don’t miss out on this historical attraction.
On the way back to Surat, why not stop at Don Hill Station, the second hill station in the state after Saputara and also higher in elevation than the former? It is a place for adventure enthusiasts and backpackers looking for trekking and camping trips. Here, one can also indulge in paragliding and parasailing. Every year usually in February Don Mahotsav attracts tourists at large to Don Hill. The festival involves songs and dances by the tribal population of the village and is a sight to behold.
Other places you can visit on your tour around Dang:
Vansda National Park, Purna Wildlife Sanctuary, Step Garden, Nageshwar Mahadev Temple, Tribal Museum, Forest Nursery, and Echo Point among others.
There are quite a few good hotels in Saputara where you can stay but we highly recommend Shilpi Hill Resort because it is located in the heart of Saputara and offers great service, nice clean rooms, and delicious food options.
So, friends, the Dang region is a great place for the perfect family getaway and at a fraction of the cost of any international destination. What are you waiting for… pick up that phone and bring your dream visit to fruition.
Gallery (click to enlarge)