All about Dholavira Harappan Site (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) : A complete guide

7000 years back, near Kutch on a small isle
Lived the Harappans with flourish and style. 
Dholavira was what they called their land
Which over time got buried under the sand! 
Until now, when it was finally re-discovered
Its walls, reservoirs and secrets – partially recovered.

Learn all about Dholavira Harappan Site in Gujarat and uncover the secrets of the Indus Valley Civilization. This Dholavira tourism guide will showcase all the things to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site -both at the excavated site as well as the Museum. It also, includes tips on how to visit and where to stay. 

It was my school textbook where I first learned about Dholavira and the Harappan civilization. The chapter about the ancient Indus civilization with planned cities akin to the urban world stayed with me over the years. With the excavations in progress, I constantly scoured for updates on the new relics that were being unearthed at the Dholavira site in Gujarat. What I learned made me want to visit Dholavira! And voila! Finally – it was during my recent Kutch trip that I managed to explore this Harappan town in India.

Discover all about Dholavira Gujarat - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Discover all about Dholavira Gujarat – a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Dholavira is one of the few Indus Valley civilization sites in India. Located in the Great Rann of Kutch Gujarat, this is fifth largest Harappan sites found in the world. However in India, it is the second largest and the only one declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town that is still being unearthed has revealed some astonishing facts about the Harappan civilization – from its well-planned water management system to fortified citadels with brick homes and state-of-art granaries. Adding to this intriguing knowledge are the terracotta artifacts, gems and coins found during the digs – all now kept in the Dholavira Museum.

If you are heritage and history buff like me, just the sound of these Dholavira sightseeing attractions is enough to start planning a visit here. That is what I am going to help you with in this Dholavira guide. You will find all the required information about Dholavira– its history and what to see at the excavation sites. To the untrained eye, it might just seem a pile of bricks but I have put together an easy explanation of what to grasp in those ruins.

I have also, included a section on other things to do on the Dholavira trip (beyond the World heritage site). You will also, get tips on the best way to reach this Harappan town, the entry fees, timings of the site and where you can stay. Let’s begin this tour of Dholavira by understanding a little about the Indus Valley Civilization, its history and evidence

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Contents

Where is Dholavira located?

Dholavira is located on an island called Khadir Bet which is in the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. The distance between Dholavira and Bhuj is 130 km while from Ahmedabad, this is around 340 km.

Fun Fact: If you see Dholavira on the map, you will see it is on the Tropic of Cancer in India.

The Indus Valley Civilization and its discovery

To appreciate Dholavira ruins, it is important to have a little background to the Indus Valley Civilization and the various other archaeological sites that these settlements have been found.

Considered as one of the earliest human civilizations, this Bronze age world existed along the banks of the River Indus in the present day Pakistan, Afghanistan and North-West India. This world is believed to have existed between 3300 BCE – 1300 BCE. The civilization is also, termed as Harappan civilization and is renowned for its well-planned cities with elaborate water supply systems, knowledge of metallurgy and trade relations with the western world – especially Mesopotamia. Over the years, several of these towns have been discovered and evidence of their existence established. Here are the six key ones that have been archaeologically detailed

One of the biggest Indus Valley Civilizations - Dholavira Harappan Site which is known for its water management system
One of the biggest Indus Valley Civilizations – Dholavira Harappan Site which is known for its water management system
  • Harappa – the first of the cities to be discovered in Punjab province of Pakistan along the erstwhile bank of River Ravi.
  • Mohenjodaro – the 2nd biggest Harappa Civilization city found in the Sindh region of Pakistan. This excavations here have revealed a well-structured layout of streets, brick houses and planned sanitation system.
  • Rakhigarhi – located in Haryana and is currently noted as the biggest site of harappan civilization.
  • Ganeriwala – believed to be one of the key cities of this civilization. Currently located in Punjab region of Pakistan
  • Dholavira – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best discovered harappan sites in India. The importance of Dholavira lies in the fact that the first of the Harappan signages has been found here – besides the ruins of an well-planned city.
  • Lothal –  this is one of the other key sites of harappan civilization in Gujarat. It is believed to have been a trading center and a port city.

Besides Lothal and Dholavira, a few other archaeological sites like Surkotada pertaining to the Indus Valley civilization (IVC) have been found in Gujarat. However, these are still being uncovered and hence, not as popular,

History of Dholavira Gujarat

The Dholavira history goes back to the early Harappan era of 3000 BCE. The currently deserted place was once a living and breathing city that spanned around 100 hectares between the Rivers Mansar and Manhar. Historical evidence has it that the Dholavira civilization was booming right up to 1750 BCE after which it was deserted for a period and later re-occupied from 1650 BCE to 1450 BCE. However, during the last phase, the inhabitation was limited and the size of the city had shrunk to only its citadel area.

Harappan relics found at the Dholavira site
Harappan relics found at the Dholavira site

One of the key evidences about Dholavira links this thriving city with Mesopotamia. The active trade relations between the two finds a mention in the Mesopotamian texts that refer to this island as a settlement of the Meluhas (Harappans). There were also, beads similar to the Harappan ones that were found at the Mesopotamian sites. The interdependency between these two civilizations must have been so tight that the decline of Harappan civilization more or less coincides with that of the Mesopotamian one.

The Harappan city of Dholavira was a well-planned structure with a fortification and a clear division into three areas – the Citadel, middle town and the lower town. As I walked along those excavated ruins, I could see how thoughtfully they had structured the place with proper lanes, sanitation pipelines and an amazing water management system. I could actually imagine happy kids playing around the corners, a bustling marketplace near the fortified walls, women chattering around the wells and well even, royalty walking around the citadel.

The two times that Dholavira was abandoned is attributed to natural disasters and climatic disturbances. The change of the course of Saraswati altered the geography of the place and that was one of the major contributors for the decline of the Dholavira Harappan civiliation. The people from here are believed to have migrated to the fertile plains of Ganga – thus avoiding the arid condition of Kutch. Dholavira faded into obscurity till a chance discovery of the buried pottery during a tilling session in 1968. Jagat Pati Joshi – an archaeologist who was working close by examined the site further and discovered Dholavira once again!

About Dholavira excavations

Dholavira ruins that have been excavated by ASI under the supervision of R.S Bisht
Dholavira ruins that have been excavated by ASI under the supervision of R.S Bisht

Though Dholavira was first discovered by Jagat Joshi in 1964, it was only in 1989 under the supervision of R.S Bisht that extensive excavation of this Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) site. The site at Dholavira excavated by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) involved 13 field digs between 1989 to 2005. What it unearthed was one of the five biggest Harappan settlements to date.

The structures at the Dholavira site revealed the earliest example of planned water conservation system. The structures drew light to the seven stages of progressive urban planning of the city  – which was amazing for a civilization that existed as early as the 2nd millennium BC. There was a copper smelter found that established the practice of metallurgy, burial grounds, entertainment arenas, reservoirs, granaries and more. Among the various artifacts found there were shell ornaments, gemstones, bronze instruments, terracotta seals and pottery and even animal bones – all of which can be seen at the on-site Dholavira museum.

Inscribed seals found at the excavation site and now kept in the Dholavira museum
Inscribed seals found at the excavation site and now kept in the Dholavira museum

Interestingly, unlike the other harappan towns in Gujarat like Lothal, there were no human remains found at Dholavira in Kutch, However, the most significant of the discoveries made during the Dholavira excavations was the first ever signboard of the Harappa. The signboard has 10 letters which are yet to be deciphered but is the first literary evidence discovered among all the IVC sites worldwide.

In 2021, Dholavira Gujarat was awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even today, there are excavations going on at the Dholavira site and with more funding coming in, hopefully at one point, we will be able to extract a whole city that was inhabited for almost 1500 years.

Layout of the Dholavira archaeological site

The ancient city of Dholavira was built in the shape of a parallelogram between the two rivers Mansar in the North and Manhar in the south. The site must have been thoughtfully decided as the city was located on a high ground around the streams where the water flow was neither too torrential nor too calm. These Dholavira rivers were fed by rainwater and were seasonal in nature. Of course, now when you visit Dholavira, you cannot see these rivers but ASI has re-constructed the layout of the original city and kept it near the entrance of the site.

A conjectural view of what Dholavira Harappan Site - created post the excavations
A conjectural view of what Dholavira Harappan Site – created post the excavations

The excavated ruins clearly show the superior nature of Dholavira town planning. The entire city is fortified and within it are three sections – the Citadel, the middle town and lower town. The Citadel and the Middle town are further enclosed by their own fortifications. The Citadel is further split into the Castle and the Bailey. It is believed that the royalty or the upper class of the Harappans resided in this section.

A large ceremonial ground separates this upper class area from the Middle Town. The Dholavira ruins in the Middle Town area clearly exhibit a grid-like layout – another testament to their urban town planning skills. The lower town on the other hand, is not as well defined as these two sections.

The Dholavira archaeological site also, includes other structures like a cemetery and granaries. However the most significant section of this unearthed layout are the dams, reservoirs and the water channelling systems – all of which I will cover in my next section on the key Dholavira ruins that you must see during your visit.

What to see in Dholavira, Kutch? (Key attractions with a Dholavira Map)

To the untrained eye, the ruins inside Dholavira archaeological site seems like an endless line of brick walls, odd trenches and geometrical outlines. Even the pictures of the site might seem boring but trust me – the moment you begin to get into the depth of things, you will be enamoured by the finds at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every structure has a story that will awe you with how advanced this civilization at Dholavira was.

Dholavira map showing the layout of the archaelogical site as found on the UNESCO World Heritage Website.
Dholavira map showing the layout of the archaelogical site as found on the UNESCO World Heritage Website.

In this section of the Dholavira guide, I will help you decipher the seemingly plain structures that were buried under the earth for centuries. As you go through this journey with me, you will find yourself seeing this Harappan site differently – where the rubbles are not longer lifeless. Keep this handy Dholavira map handy during this walkthrough and also, bookmark it for your visit – so that you don’t miss anything significant.

Dholavira water management system – one of the main highlights of the Dholavira Harappan Site

One of the excavated reservoirs of the Dhola Vira city
One of the excavated reservoirs of the Dhola Vira city

One of the things that Dholavira is famous for is its well-planned water management system. From the current discoveries made at all the Harappan sites, it is believed that the earliest and the best developed water resource and storage system is in Dholavira. Given the dry arid climate of Kachch, the town had to rely on the rains and the two Dholavira rivers for their freshwater requirement. It is amazing how they created a network of check dams, water channels, 16 reservoirs and wells to best manage this precious resource.

Throughout your tour of the Dholavira Harappan site, you will be encountering various structures that are a part of this timeless water management system.

Check Dams at the Dholavira Site

A little behind the East reservoir is the first evidence of a check dam that was built on the River Manhar. This dam had channels that directed the water into the town reservoirs. You will actually see a signboard indicating it as you cross a small bridge like structure on your way to the excavation site.

East Reservoir

East reservoir at the Dholavira excavation site
East reservoir at the Dholavira excavation site

There is no missing out on this enormous attraction of Dholavira site. It is the first thing that you will encounter as you make your way to the gigantic wall structure of the site. What appears to be a trench is actually the largest water reservoir found among the Harappan sites).

Close-up of the steps inside the East reservoir of the Dholavira site
Close-up of the steps inside the East reservoir of the Dholavira site

Here is why you should pay attention to this East reservoir

  • It measures 74m in length and around 30 m in its breadth. This makes it thrice as big as the Great Bath of Mohenjo-daro.
  • If you observe the sides of this reservoir, you will see that it is cut directly into the bedrock.
  • There is a staircase at every corner of the reservoir and each have around 30 steps.
  • You will also, see a rock-cut well inside the reservoir with steps that go further below. The historians believe that this was possibly the first-ever stepwell made.
  • Given the Harappan Stage four type of construction, it is believed that the reservoir was not used during the later stages of the Dholavira Harappan civilization
  • During the excavation, numerous figurines including one of a unicorn. This could be because the reservoir was used more certain rituals and traditions.  

South Reservoir

The interconnected reservoirs that make the big South Reservoir in Dholavira
The interconnected reservoirs that make the big South Reservoir in Dholavira

Circle past the huge fort-like wall (more on that soon) and you will come across a series of pits. This set of five reservoirs are all interconnected and have been termed as the South reservoir. Don’t just give them a once-over and move on. There are some interesting observations to be made when you visit this section of the Dholavira excavated site.

  • The South reservoir measures 65m in length.
  • Each of the mini reservoirs has a different purpose. The first two were like sedimentation tanks where the river water would accumulate and stay for the silt to settle down. The clear water would flow through the connecting water channel in the tank to the next one.
  • The 3rd one was the central one that was not only connected to the next reservoir but had a water pipe to the south gate of the Citadel.
Part of the South Reservoir - The first tank used for sedimentation
Part of the South Reservoir – The first tank used for sedimentation
You can see the channels on the walls  - these interconnect the reservoirs  - an ingenious example of Dholavira Water Management System
You can see the channels on the walls – these interconnect the reservoirs – an ingenious example of Dholavira Water Management System
You can see the three different types of Harappa constructions in this Dholavira Reservoir - the bottom most is the bed rock, next is the interlocking grid and the last is the brick wall.
You can see the three different types of Harappa constructions in this Dholavira Reservoir – the bottom most is the bed rock, next is the interlocking grid and the last is the brick wall.
  • Spend a little time at the third reservoir where you can clearly see the various stages of Harappan construction. The bottom part is clearly rock cut and belongs to the early stages of the Dholavira civilization. Then comes the wall which is clearly made using interlocked bricks. And finally the more advanced stage where the sandstone is laid using Multani mitti as a binder.
  • The fourth reservoir is conspicuous with its sloping ramp – which the historians believe was made for wheels to help draw the water – possibly using animals.
  • The last reservoir seemed to be made purely as a tank to store the surplus water.

Fascinating right? Wait till you see the water management system of Dholavira inside the Citadel.

The central tank with the steps of the South Reservoir
The central tank with the steps of the South Reservoir
The Ramp in the fourth tank that makes up the South reservoir of Dholavira
The Ramp in the fourth tank that makes up the South reservoir of Dholavira

The Citadel of Dholavira Harappan Site or the Upper Town

The Castle area of the Citadel or the Upper Town in Dholavira Harappan City
The Castle area of the Citadel or the Upper Town in Dholavira Harappan City

The Harappa town of Dholavira is enclosed within a fortified wall and is clearly divided into three sections  – the Citadel, the Middle town and the Lower Town. The Citadel is believed to be the dwelling of the upper class or the royalty of the town. It has its own brick fortification  – which is what you see when you first enter the excavation site of Dholavira. This section is further divided into two – the Castle and the Bailey.

As you wander through each of these sections, you will come across many other interesting structures like the granary and the North and East gates. Let me share what you should keep an eye out for. I will be following the order in which I saw these structures.

The Bailey

The ruins of a mansion in the Dholavira Bailey area
The ruins of a mansion in the Dholavira Bailey area

In case you are wondering what the bailey is about – well it is the dwelling area of the aristocratic officers. This is the area that you will enter after seeing the South reservoir of Dholavira. You can see the remains of various houses and amid them is one grand mansion with at least 12 rooms. Within this area, there were remains of what might have been a bead workshop. This section is connected to the castle via the East gate.

The Granary

The Granary behind the Castle - one of the key Dholavira sightseeing attractions
The Granary behind the Castle – one of the key Dholavira sightseeing attractions

Just before you enter the castle area, there is a signboard that marks four square-shaped pits. These served as the granary. 4m deep, this structure is made with sandstone and was used as a preservation pit for food grains. Our Dholavira guide mentioned that when this area was excavated pots of food grains – still intact were found in a tightly sealed chamber.

Dholavira was an island and the land was uncultivatable. Hence, food was possibly got in through trade and barter and preserved for future.” – explained our guide. “To preserve the food, it was important to keep it away from air, water, sunlight and even insects. The Harappan people not only sealed the pots in which these were kept but tightly closed the granary to ensure that the food supplies were unharmed. The food grains found here are now a part of the Delhi museum.”

Remains of the Terracotta pipeline

The Terracotta pipe that seems to connect the reservoirs to the Citadel part of the Harappan city of Dholavira Gujarat
The Terracotta pipe that seems to connect the reservoirs to the Citadel part of the Harappan city of Dholavira Gujarat

Somewhere opposite the Granary along the Castle wall, there is a small gap. Peer through it and you can spot the terracotta water pipe running along – possibly connecting the South reservoir to a well in the Castle area. Another testament to the excellent Dholavira town planning and water management system.

East gate

The east gate to the Citadel at Dholavira Kutch
The east gate to the Citadel at Dholavira Kutch

I entered the castle area through the west gate – which honestly, wasn’t much to see. However, had I entered from the East gate which was right opposite the stepwell reservoir, then I would have got to see the quintessential concave and biconcave pillars that were found in Dholavira. Unfortunately on the day I visited, this section was barricaded.

However, here is what my guide shared with me – “Besides the concave and the bi-concave pillars that you have seen in pictures, there are a few more standing ones that look like phallus. In fact, there is a drawing of the foreskin on them. These pillars were made with limestone and the East gate seems to be one of the main gateways to the castle.”

Sigh! I sure would have loved to see this one!

The remains of the pillars of Dholavira that I could not see
The remains of the pillars of Dholavira that I could not see PC: Wikimedia Commons

Buildings inside Dholavira Castle area

The circular house that were a part of Stage 7 of the Dholavira Harappan Civilization
The circular house that was a part of Stage 7 of the Dholavira Harappan Civilization

The castle area can get pretty overwhelming with just lines and shapes of bricks. However, pay close attention to the formations as they give you a clue of what existed there. For one, if you see the building areas, you will see stone walls rather than bricks. This is one unique thing about the Dholavira site where the castle buildings were made with stone. The other Harappan sites have these structures made of bricks.

The second interesting thing is the circular structures of some of the houses. These represent the Harappa Stage Seven (last stage) of Dholavira when the inhabitants came back and settled after deserting the site once. The houses are akin to the Bhungas – traditional home found in Kutch. (read more about them here).

Remains of a grinder found on the Dholavira Site
Remains of a grinder found on the Dholavira Site

I could see a few grindstones around this area. Possibly kept there on purpose or maybe later they will be moved to the Dholavira archaeological museum.

The well, bathing area and drainage system – part of the Dholavira water management

The well in the Upper town of Dholavira
The well in the Upper town of Dholavira

Amid these ruins of the Dholavira castle area, you cannot miss the large well. This is believed to have been connected to the South reservoir with pipes. The well has been built such that there is a cascading effect allowing water to flow in naturally from the reservoirs built around the castle. Such is the ingenuity of the construction of the Harappan era.

The well also has rope marks indicating that the water was also, pulled up as required. To avoid wastage, a small channel is near this rope-inscribed area. As explained, this channel would ensure that the water that spilled was recycled back for use.

Ruins of a bathing chamber found in the Upper town of Dholavira Harappan City
Ruins of a bathing chamber found in the Upper town of Dholavira Harappan City

Close to the well is the royal bathing area which has steps leading down and is roofed off. This area even has small underground chambers- possibly functioning as dressing rooms.

The drains that run between the houses of Dholavira
The drains that run between the houses of Dholavira

There are drains connecting the various houses and wells. One would assume that these are for sanitation management. However, historians believe that these drains connect the homes for the water supply and double up for rainwater harvesting.

North gate

The North gate of the Citadel in Dholavira
The North gate of the Citadel in Dholavira

I finally exited this area through the north gate which connects the castle area to a large ceremonial ground. This gate seems to be quite significant as it has an elaborate L-shaped staircase with chambers on either side. There is also, proof that a large door (possibly two-storeyed) existed here as a part of the gate.

However, the most important thing that makes this gate important is the very thing that Dholavira is famous for – the only Harappan signboard that was found here.

The Dholavira signboard – one of the significant finds of the Dholavira Harappan civilization

Replica of the Dholavira signboard - one of the significant findings that Dholavira is famous for.
Replica of the Dholavira signboard – one of the significant findings that Dholavira is famous for.

It is believed that the Harappan language includes 400 symbols and is read from right to left. There have been several seals with a combination of these signs found across the Harappan sites – including Dholavira. However, only one huge Harappan signboard has been ever found. It was at the North gate of Dholavira.

The original Dholavira signboard is a wooden board that is 3m long and has 10 gypsum letters that are 37cm big. This is no longer at the Dholavira site and has been moved for conservation. However, you can see these letters at the entrance of the Dholavira World Heritage Site. To date, no one has been able to decipher this language. Someday we will be able to unlock the magic!

Some of the Dholavira seals with the Harappan signs
Some of the Dholavira seals with the Harappan signs

The Ceremonial ground and the little ground

The ceremonial ground that divides the Upper Town from the Middle Town in Dholavira
The ceremonial ground that divides the Upper Town from the Middle Town in Dholavira

A large expanse separates the Upper town from the Middle town. This is believed to have been grounds used for entertainment. At certain points, this was also, used for seasonal trading markets. There are several seating arrangements around the ground, based on the hierarchy of the society.

A smaller area, close to the reservoir side is termed the Little Ground which was also, used for similar purposes.

Middle Town

Middle town of Dholavira that exhibits Stage 3 of the Harappan Civilization
Middle town of Dholavira that exhibits Stage 3 of the Harappan Civilization

The Middle town also, has its fortifications and is set around one main road that continues past its gates into the Lower Town. However, unlike the Upper Citadel area, the houses are set in a grid-like layout and are not circular. In fact, they exhibit Stage Three of the Dholavira civilization.

There are drains as well as a well in this town. One bead workshop too, has been found in the center of the section.

Lower Town

This is to the east of the Middle Town and to be honest, I did not visit it. The layout found here is not as structured as the other two sections of Dholavira and there is no fortification too.  If you are in the Middle town, then this will require you to walk straight along its roads towards the entrance of the excavation site.

Cemetery of Dholavira

This is one of the places to see in Dholavira that is located outside the fortification walls and requires quite a walk. I wish I had the time to visit it for it does promise some interesting sights. For one, there are large mounds called Tumuli that have been found. One of them has spokes on it. There is a theory that these were possibly the earliest forms of Buddhist stupas.

Remains of Harappan bangles and other jewelry found at the Dholavira excavation site
Remains of Harappan bangles and other jewelry found at the Dholavira excavation site

Upon examination and excavation, no human remains were found here. However, tons of terracotta pottery, gems and jewelry were found within the burial chambers. A lot of these you can see in the Dholavira museum attached to the site.

There was an interesting explanation about the death rites that our guide shared. “The Harappans allowed one to choose the kind of death ceremony they preferred. Cremations, burials, sea burials and even leaving the carcass for the animals were some options. “

True or not, this does explain the absence of bodies at Dholavira.

Dholavira Museum

Terracotta pottery at the Dholavira museum
Terracotta pottery at the Dholavira museum

The Dholavira Archaeological Museum has several of the finds displayed within its premises. You will find a variety of seals including ones with the famed unicorn on them. There are beads, gems, jewelry, coins, and stone weights as exhibits. The large terracotta pots found during excavation occupy a big space as do the gameboards that could have been used for chess.

Harappan gameboards - or part of them that you can see in the Dholavira museum
Harappan gameboards – or part of them that you can see in the Dholavira museum

What I would highly recommend here is the short film on Dholavira and the Harappan civilization that they play in their audio-visual room. It helps you imagine the lost city of Dholavira.

Other Dholavira sightseeing options

The Greater Rann of Kutch or the white desert is actually a salt marsh
The Greater Rann of Kutch or the white desert is actually a salt marsh

Well, for now I have taken you through the ancient site of Dholavira with all the key things to see. You should include this trip as a part of your Kutch trip – just as I have suggested in this post. It might also, be a good idea to extend your Dholavira trip so that you can cover the other interesting places around.

  • Dinosaur Fossil Park – This has an interesting collection of fossils, including a rare Dino egg. The park landscape itself is quite unique with its weirdly shaped boulders.
  • Dholavira village – This is a tiny hamlet of just 50 families but is a place to shop. You get your typical handicrafts from Kutch at a reasonable price.
  • Sunset Point  – This is where you can experience a mesmerizing view of the white desert of Kutch at sunset. It isn’t too far from the Dholavira site and the Dinosaur fossil park
  • Rann of Kutch – As mentioned in my earlier, you can do Dholavira as a part of your Rann of Kutch trip. The white salt desert is the largest in the world and is quite a unique landscape
  • Road to Heaven – If you are anyway headed to Bhuj or Kutch, you will be taking this road. This newly constructed Dholavira highway has mesmerizing views on either sides. You will see flamingos on the water, the white desert and the sea. The best time to drive through is either sunrise or sunset.

So – don’t you agree that you might need overnight to see the key Dholavira attractions. The rest of this Dholavira tourism guide is going to prepare you for not just the stay but on ways to get to Dholavira, the best time to visit and more.

 Common FAQS about Dholavira Site

What is the best way to reach Dholavira?

Road to Heaven - one of the new attractions of Kutch connecting Dhordo to Dhola Vira

Dholavira does not have its own airport or railway station. The closest airport would be at Bhuj which has limited connectivity. Rajkot on the other hand, has a better frequency of flights. Alternatively, you can choose to land in Ahmedabad which even has international flights. 

The best way to get from Ahmedabad to Dholavira is by road, as there are no direct trains or flights to Dholavira. The distance by road is approximately 360 kilometers, and it can take around 5 to 6 hours to travel, including breaks. There is also a public bus that runs between Dholavira and Bhuj, however the frequency is limited to only twice a day.
If you are starting from Bhuj airport, the distance to Dholavira is about 210 kilometers, and you would travel on the new Dholavira highway (road to Paradise) to reach there.
Rajkot to Dholavira is a distance of 260 km and it takes around 4 hours by road.

What is the best time to visit Dholavira?

Consider visiting Dholavira during the winter months – between October to February. March onwards the summer sets in and it becomes extremely hot for an outdoor excursion. The temperatures sometimes cross 45 degrees Celsius. The monsoon months between July to September can be good but at the same time, this region is prone to cyclone showers.

If you visit in winter, you also, get to see the gorgeous White Rann of Kutch. You can plan a visit to coincide with the Rann Utsav – the White Desert festival that takes place from December to February

Which is the best place to stay in Dholavira?

There are limited places to stay in Dholavira. The two most popular ones include the Dholavira tourism resort which is run by Gujarat Tourism and the Rann Resort. You can book these using popular online sites like Trivago, Agoda or Booking.com.

During the winter months, there was a Dholavira Tent City set up (an extension to the Dhordo Rann of Kutch tent city). This could be a good option for a stay in Dholavira.

Is Dholavira worth visiting?

Dholavira ruins that hide tons of secrets

If you are a history enthusiast, then there is no missing out on Dholavira. The place showcases one of the earliest and most well-developed civilizations with actual historical facts and proofs that you can see with your own eyes. It is definitely worth visiting once to see how the Harappans actually lived and how ingenious their urban planning was.

Who discovered Dholavira?

Dholavira Harappan site, was discovered in 1969 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi. He was working close by when a farmer discovered ancient pottery while tilling the land. He further investigated the site and unearthed numerous insights into the urban layout, script, and lifestyle of the Dholavira civilization. The discovery of Dholavira has been pivotal in understanding the sophistication of Harappan urban settlements and their significant contribution to the ancient world.

What are the timings of the Dholavira UNESCO World Heritage Site?

Dholavira excavation site is open from sunrise to sunset on all days. The Dholavira museum on the other hand opens only at 10 am and closes at 5pm – on all days except Friday when it is closed.

How much time do you need at the Dholavira archaeological site?

You would need at least 2 – 3 hours to fully explore the Dholavira excavation site and the museum.

What is the entrance fee for Dholavira Harappa Site?

Currently, there are no entrance fees at Dholavira UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is bound to change in the future.

Should I hire a tourist guide at Dholavira?

Ideally yes, if you can get a tourist guide for Dholavira, you will enjoy the place better with the excavation details. It is honestly a little hard to appreciate the ruins if you do not know what they mean. The museum office is the best place to find one.         

What is the difference between Dholavira and Lothal?

Dholavira and Lothal are both prominent archaeological sites from the Indus Valley Civilization in Gujarat, India. Dholavira is known for its advanced urban planning and water conservation systems, including reservoirs and stepwells. It stands out for its unique layout, divided into multiple sections with fortified walls. Lothal, on the other hand, is famous for its dockyard, which is one of the world’s earliest known, suggesting Lothal’s significance in maritime trade. Lothal also had a well-planned town with a grid layout, a drainage system, and evidence of bead-making industry. While both sites show the ingenuity of Harappan urban design, their distinctive features highlight different aspects of the civilization’s progress and adaptation to their respective environments.

General tips on visiting Dholavira Kutch

  • Carry a lot of water and wear flat shoes.
  • There is a small restaurant and shop opposite the Dholavira site for snacks and refreshments.
  • Restrooms are available near the entrance of the Dholavira site
  • Go slow and try and understand the science revealed by the ruins. Do not just rush through or it will feel as if you are only seeing walls.
  • Do not litter. Please carry back your trash till you find a dustbin.
  • Do not scribble or damage the walls and the other findings at the site. Be respectful and a responsible traveler.

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Dholavira tourism guide
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