FOR MOST VISITORS, Bhavnagar is little more than a convenient base for exploring the magnificent temple town of Palitana. Yet Bhavnagar itself is not without charm – its old bazaar, dotted with merchants’ haielis , has shops specializing in tie-dye textiles and gold and silver jewellery. In the southeast corner of the city, on the road to the airport, is the semi-circular Barton Museum (built in 1895). It houses the private collection of coins, weapons and objets d’art of a British officer, Colonel Barton, who served here in the 19th century. The Nilambagh Palace, once the former rulers’ residence, was built in 1859 and is now a luxury hotel with a great banquet hall and peacocks in the garden.
ENVIRONS: The flat grasslands of the 36 sc-km (14 sq-mile) Velavadar National Park (65 km/40 miles north of Bhavnagar) are home to over 1,000 blackbucks. Blackbucks were protected by the Bishnol community until the state took over this role. A walk through the park at dusk may provide a glimpse of the wolves that hunt this Indian antelope, and of the wild boars and nilgai that congregate at the park’s watering holes.