Tucked away in southeastern Gujarat, Surat is the state's second-largest city and its industrial powerhouse. Dynamic, prosperous, and exciting, Surat is famous for its diamond cutters and has plenty of historical charm as well.
Surat's army of craft experts polish over 90 percent of the world's diamonds. Head to the Surat Diamond Association on Varachha Road to find cut-price bargain jewels.
Surat has long been a vital port. See the impressive ramparts of Surat Fort as well as Mughal masterpieces from the 16th century, like Mughal Sarai, to get a feel for Surat's historical side.
Surat is Gujarat's culinary capital. Surti food is famous for its delicate but spicy dishes. Don't miss dishes like Rasawala Khaman or Surti Ghari sweets.
Surat is also close to the Indian Ocean coast, and you can easily get to long stretches of sand like Suvali Beach.
Vansda is around two hours drive southeast of Surat, and it's a great place to see tigers, panthers, and leopards in the wild.
Modern India is betting heavily on tech wizardry, and you get a good feel for this at the Surat Science Center. Located in the center of town, the complex occupies over 21,800 square meters of exhibition space, so it's a serious scientific attraction. Highlights include the Science galleries, which look at Surat's specialties (diamonds and textiles) as well as Indian space exploration. but there's also the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Museum, which deals with the Gujarati past and features numerous wood carvings, items of jewelry and miniature paintings.
ISKCON ("the International Society for Krishna Consciousness") is an enormous Hare Krishna complex located next to the Tapi River, and is primarily a shrine to the group's guru Sri Sri Radha Damodar. But it's more than that. This sprawling temple attracts spiritual seekers from across the world, as well as plenty of sightseers to the Lord Radha Damodar Temple. And, on Sundays, you can combine snapping some photos with grabbing some grub, as the residents treat visitors to typical vegetarian cuisine. Definitely a win-win situation.
Situated around 13 miles south of Surat, Dumas Beach is a haven from the city's bustle and noise. You can wander along the black sandy beach and have a dip in the Arabian Sea, but the promenade is also hard to resist, thanks to its string of bhaji sellers with their deep fried delights and their charcoal-roasted sweetcorn. But beware: Dumas is famous for being ranked among India's most haunted spots, so those of a nervous disposition may want to give it a miss as the sun goes down over the ocean. Then again, for most people, that's an unmissable sight.
Built in the 16th century by the King of Ahmedebad, Sultan Mahmood III, Surat Fort has weathered storm after storm, and still stands proudly on Rang Upvan Road, right next to the Nehru Bridge. Architecturally, it's suitably imposing thanks to solid, rounded towers. But look at their tips, and keen observers will see some surprising Portuguese elements. Mahmood's designers were heavily influenced by European intruders when trying to keep out their foes. The walls are also reinforced with iron and lead, but were never really tested. Nowadays, the bastion is also a fine spot to enjoy views of the river and the sea beyond.
Another escape hatch from the noise of central Surat, the Dutch Garden is unexpected and sublime. Located just down the river in Nanpura as a resting place for British and Dutch residents of the colonial-era city, it's a beautifully laid-out walled garden, with a real air of antiquity. After all, some of the tombs there date back to the mid-17th century. It's a lovely place to stroll in the evening, and a welcome spot to relax in between the sights.
October to March tends to be the best time of year to visit Surat, with mild temperatures and relatively little rain. Spring might be ideal, with the city hosting the magnificent Dangs Darbar festival.
Surat Airport (STV) is well connected to Mumbai and New Delhi. From there, a taxi into town should cost around ₹70.
Trains run into Surat Railway Station from Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Delhi, among many other Indian cities.
Highway 48 runs up the coast from Mumbai and also connects Surat to Ahmedabad and Vadodara.
Intercity buses to and from Surat are provided by Raj Express. Buses from Mumbai take around five hours and will cost ₹500.
Some standout options include the Grand Bhagwati, the riverside Gateway Hotel Athwalines Surat, and the affordable, cozy Budget Inn Bellevue.
Dumas Road - home to a cluster of modern malls, Dumas Road also has a lively street market and is easily the city's retail highlight.
City Light Town - probably Surat's most upscale neighborhood, City Light Town features attractions like the Science Centre and the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Museum.
Sagrampura - right at the heart of Surat, Sagrampura offers plenty of dining options, including Sasumaa Gujarati Thali and Taste of India.
Public transportation in Surat isn't as good as it could be, so locals tend to rely on auto-rickshaws to get around (or taxis). Fares start at around ₹14.
Expect taxis in Surat to cost around ₹45 for the meter drop, then ₹30 or so per mile.
You can rent a car in Surat from companies like Surat Car Rental, and prices tend to start at around ₹500-800 per day.
Whether you want to shop for traditional fabrics, craft items, or designer clothes at modern chain stores, Dumas Road is Surat's shopping center. However, there are also diamond boutiques elsewhere, particularly on Ghod Dod Road.
Local supermarkets include Star Bazaar and Dhiraj Sons. As a guide, expect a gallon of milk to come to around ₹190.
For authentic, spicy Gujarati cuisine, be sure to visit Surat standouts like Ziba at the Grand Bhagwati (where the fish masala is spectacular), and Kansar Gujarati Thali or Sasumaa. Meals will usually come to about ₹300-400 per head.