When one stays at the Garden Palace Heritage Homestay at Balasinor, Gujarat, there is ample entertainment provided by the nearly 40 species of resident birds and someone like me will be able to pass all their time just chasing them with their camera 😀
However, Balasinor and its surroundings also offer some unique places of interest and despite being a relatively remote town, it surprisingly has locations of global appeal.
The hosts at the Garden Palace will help to curate guided excursions based the interests of the guests. Some of those possibilities that range within 100 km of the palace, are listed in this post for your reference.
My sightseeing tours were courtesy my hosts at the Garden Palace, who arranged transport and guides and created my itineraries according to my available time, so that I could have an optimal experience.
And speaking of time, one can grab some gorgeous sunsets in this region.
In the limited time that I had, I visited the Dinosaur park, the Timba Tua hot springs and the Galtheshwar temple.
I could not fit in the Wanakhbori Dam, Laliya Luhar Qila or the palaces of Lunawada and Santrampur, which are on the itineraries offered by the Garden Palace. But of course, that is why there is a ‘next time’ 😀
Dinosaur Park and Museum –
The star attraction of Balasinor that draws people of all ages right from children to adults, is undoubtedly the Dinosaur Park and Museum in the village of Raiyoli. A mere 12 km away from the Garden Palace, this was discovered in 1981 and is declared to be the 3rd largest dino fossil site in the world. A state of the art museum has also been opened in June 2019 and Princess Aaliya of the Garden Palace, who has been responsible for the development of this site, also conducts tours to the park and museum.
More details on the Dinosaur Park are available here.
Timba Tua hot springs and temple –
Located in the village of Timba in the Panchmahal district about 25 km from the Garden Palace and 15 km from the city of Godhra, are the mysterious hot water springs of Timba Tua.
Water ranging from cool to lukewarm to boiling hot, constantly gushes out of several circular and square springs (kunds) within a large square tank. The flow is said to be perennial and originated when Lord Ram visited the place and shot an arrow into the ground to cure a sage who was suffering from a skin disease.
Today people with all kinds of medical problems like arthtitis, rheumatism, skin issues etc come and bathe here in the sulphuric springs which are said to have healing properties.
There is also a Shiva temple near the spring which traces back to the Mahabharath and it was here that one of the Pandavas, Bhim married the demon Hidimba.
A large pair of footprints embedded in rock and said to belong to Bhim according to the writing that says Bhim na paglaa.
There are also a few Shivlings ensconced in sunken chambers lined with stone slabs with ancient carvings.
I went there in the peak of the afternoon heat and the hot sun above and the boiling water below, ensured that I was evenly cooked from all ends 😀 It was quite impossible for me to tolerate the hot water and I hopped out of there in a flash like a cat on a hot tin roof.
However, my guide from the Garden Palace was insistent that I should benefit from the magic of the place and most obligingly waded through the tank, bringing me containers of water of varying temperatures for me to pour over my hands and feet. I would have had far more fun had it been winter 😀
Galtheshwar temple –
A small but beautiful Shiva temple lies in the village of Sarnal on the banks what is said to be the confluence of the Mahisagar river and Galta river.
A dirt track leads to the temple and the path can get quite messy in the rains. Street vendors have their food stalls flanking the path and the approach is not very clean.
The temple however, is quite magnificent and from the information available there, I gathered that it was built in the 12th century in the rare Malwa style of architecture with Chalukyan influences. Its outer walls are carved with floral and geometric designs and sculptures of birds, animals, gods and goddesses.
The shikhara (top) is missing, rendering it open to the sky. According to legend, the temple was to be built overnight by Shiva himself and the roof remained incomplete because the sun rose before he could finish it.
This place is thronged by devotees on the festival of Mahashivaratri every year.
Unfortunately there was some repair work going on and the beauty of my photographs were marred by the scaffolding.
Several species of birds can be spotted on the surrounding trees, when they come back to roost in the evenings.
The Garden Palace is around 35 km from the temple and since we visited in the evening, I also managed to capture a gorgeous sunset en route, with my guide’s assistance.
Pilgrims also take a dip in the Mahisagar river after visiting the temple. There is a low lying bridge across the river that is said to go underwater when the river floods in the rains. In fact my guide informed me that the temple itself gets submerged during heavy monsoons.
Wanakhbori Dam –
Wanakbori Dam on the river Mahisagar which is 15 km away, is a scenic spot. Guests of the Garden Palace can have a picnic meal packed to enjoy by the waterside, on the rocks (the real rocks of the prohibition kind, Gujarat being an alcohol free state :-D)
Dhamod/Laliya Luhar Qila –
Another excursion that is conducted by the Nawab of Balasinor himself for a minimum group of 6 people and only in winters, is a hiking trip to Dhamod. This is a 35 km drive from the Palace, followed by a 2 km easy hike to an old ruined fort on the hill called Laliya Luhar Qila. The trek culminates with High Tea on the ramparts of the fort amidst its picturesque environs. The entire session takes 3 hours.
Visits to other Palaces –
For guests who are there for a longer duration, visits to the palaces of Lunawada and Santrampur can be arranged along with a meal.
Champaner and Pavagadh –
Day excursions can also be arranged to Champaner and Pavagadh which are world heritage sites 75 km away (1.5 hrs). More information here – The Champaner and Pavagadh Archaeological Park.
Statue of Unity –
Excursions are also organized to the famous Statue of Unity in Narmada district 170 km (3 hrs) away. More information here – Statue of Unity, Gujarat.
Please Note – This trip was made in collaboration with Garden Palace Balasinor. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.
This itinerary was specially curated hence some of the features might have been personalized accordingly. Before booking, please check the facilities offered in your package.
Sep 23rd – 25th, 2019