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Mandvi is an intriguing port town on the Gulf coast, around 60 km south west of Bhuj, in the state of Gujarat. It is renowned for its wooden dhow-building industry and huge, clean, undeveloped beaches – and it makes the ideal base for exploring the southern tract of Kutch. Mandvi has attracted ships and traders from as far as East Africa and Southeast Asia since ancient times – it declined when Bombay became a powerful trading entity – and local merchants exploited a niche market in precious stones and fine textiles. It also attracted many artisan families who settled near the port.

For visitors today, Mandvi offers a chance to see a working shipyard in action and view the high standard of craftsmanship, which has been passed down through generations for over 400 years. Here, workers construct the dhows by hand from huge pieces of wood that come directly from the rainforest. It is painstaking work, where timber must be slotted together exactly to create a watertight vessel.

The centre of Mandvi is beautifully preserved and easily explored on foot, through its narrow streets lined with pale-hued buildings. It is interesting to note that these buildings have a mix of traditional architecture and western features such as angels or stained-glass windows. The town has several bazaars, which are great places to observe local way of life and to try fresh fruit or purchase bandhani material.

On the seafront is the dominating Vijaya Vilas Palace, made of red sandstone and topped with domes, which overlooks a beautiful swathe of golden beach and is backed by manicured gardens, greenery and fountains. The palace was built during reign of Maharao Shri Khengarji III in 1920, as a summer palace for his son and is in fact named after Yuvraj Shri Vijayaraji. Today the Kutch Royal Family live in the palace.

For travellers seeking time downtime, Mandvi provides ample opportunity on its wide and empty beaches. Kashivishvanath Beach has plenty of space with provisions such as food stalls and camel rides for the intrepid. Mandvi Beach has a wonderful sweep of sand that turns to golden as the sun sets; a perfect place to sip a fresh coconut and watch the sky streak with colour.

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