Ahmedabad in western India is the country's first UNESCO World Heritage City. It was recognised for the cultural value of its mosques, citadel and fort among other historical architectural features. Its rich Mughal heritage can be seen in the pink and yellow sandstone temples, while jewel-toned fabrics piled high on market stalls are testament to its centuries of textile production. Put your map away and lose yourself in the twisting lanes of Old Ahmedabad, stopping on a colourful corner for cup after cup of sweet chai tea.
For hostels in Ahmedabad, choose between light, minimalist dorms and cheerfully decorated rooms with wooden features. Some offer free breakfast, while others have kitchen facilities so you can cook for yourself. Look out for a hostel in Ahmedabad with an outdoor terrace to relax on in the evenings. Air con is available in some places, while others have ceiling fans for keeping cool. Check for these whether you're booking a dorm or private room in which to spend Ahmedabad's warm nights.
Ahmedabad is divided by the Sabarmati river into the Old City on the east bank and the New City on the west. The old quarter has elaborately decorated mosques, and 15 imposing gates – once the guard posts its historic walls. Manek Chowk is the city's oldest square, selling vegetables, gold bullion and street food in a series of lively markets throughout the day. Across the river, the New City is home to universities, shopping centres and GIFT City – India's first 'smart city' technology and finance hub.
To navigate Old Ahmedabad and its many wonders, join the municipally organised heritage walk that departs daily from Swaminarayan Temple. Cross the river to Sabarmati Ashram in the north to see where Ghandi lived and worked during India's journey to independence. On the shore of the perfectly circular Kankaria Lake, indulge in sweet treats and boat rides until night falls and the rainbow light show begins. Travel north out of Ahmedabad to the awe that is Akshardham Temple. This ornate, 10-storey Hindu pilgrimage site is made from more than 6,000 tonnes of sun-baked pink sandstone.
Reach Ahmedabad by flying to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport and taking the 30-minute bus ride to the Old City. Ahmedabad Junction railway station is on the outskirts of this area too, and has connections to Delhi (taking 15 hours), Mumbai (8–10 hours) and Jaipur (12 hours); as well as smaller towns in western India. To get around Ahmedabad itself hail an auto-rickshaw – be sure to negotiate a price beforehand.