This remote region in the far northwest of Gujarat has long been a land apart from the rest of India. A pan-shaped island sandwiched between Indian Saurashtra and Pakistani Sind, it used to be cut off for months on end by monsoon floodwaters and wind-blown tides, though now the gleaming, white salt flats these leave in their wake – the Ranns of Kutch – are crossed by modern causeways.
The area’s extreme isolation explains why it has traditionally been a place of refuge for tribes, castes and clans fleeing persecution elsewhere. Distinguished by their dazzling costumes of mirror-inlaid embroidery, descendants of these refugees still inhabit the arid, undulating Kutchi countryside, in villages famous for spectacular mudwork architecture, traditional clothing and crafts traditions.
The best base from which to explore Kutch’s fascinating interior is the capital, Bhuj. A miraculous survivor of the earthquake that devastated the town in 2001, the 18th-century Aina Mahala palace retains its Hall of Mirrors and exquisite tiled pleasure chamber, both expertly restored since the disaster.