Apart from the temple, there’s not a lot. Somnath is situated 4 km (2 1/2 miles) up the road from Veraval. From Diu, it’s 30 minutes by bus to Oona, then 2 1/2 hrs from Oona to Veraval. Regular Rs2 local buses ply back and forth between Veraval and Somnath, or you can take an auto-rickshaw for about Rs12. If you leave Diu early, you can cover Somnath and be in Sasan-Gir for the late afternoon. Sasan-Gir has better facilities, food and accommodation.
Temple Town Tour (on foot, 2-4 hours)
Prabhas Patan Museum-Jain Temple-Somnath Temple
Coming into Sonmath from Veraval by bus, look out for the richly carved Mai Puri, which used to be a Sun Temple, and the Junagadh Gate (1 km; 3/4 mile) further on. This is the ancient triple gate that Mahmud of Ghazni stormed to enter the temple town. Off the bus, bear left into Sonmath town, a small relaxed place of quiet, narrow streets, with local traders selling tiny stocks of vegetables or making up clothes on vintage sewing-machines from tiny house-front shops.On the right of the path leading down to the sea you’ll see, opposite a large pink Jain Temple, the small government-run Prabhas Patan Museum. This is a small, grubby place, more like a warehouse than a museum, with lots of uncatalogued rubble lying around the central courtyard; but is the place to see what remains of the remains of Somnath.
Enough is left of the 11th-century, fourth-version temple to give you an idea of its original magnificence, and you can climb onto the courtyard parapets for decent views of the sea. There’s a strange collection of holy and not so holy waters in little bottles, collected from famous rivers all over the world—from the Nile to the Danube and the River Plate. Open 9 am-noon, 3-6 pm daily, except Wednesday. Admission is Rs0.50, and there’s a charge for each photo taken which is not rigorously enforced.For the best sneak-preview of the Somnath Temple, climb to the top of the Jain Temple opposite the museum.This is a clean, modern structure where temple musicians give impromptu recitals.The Somnath Temple has a magnificent location, overlooking the Arabian Sea and a long stretch of grey but sandy coast. Just inside the entrance, a richly raimented Nandi bull faces onto the Shiva shrine, shielded by a pair of massive silver doors.
A small fee gains you access to the upper storeys. Bypass the first floor with its boring wooden boxes containing faded photos, bits of rock, dusty neon tubes, and climb to the good second-floor museum. This has an interesting photographic exhibition describing the history and archaeological background to the seven versions of Somnath temple. Slip over to the balcony for fine views of the coastline, and of the temple’s beautiful upper-storey carvings. These show a definite Orissan influence especially the regal, now extinct Oriyan lion figures.If you’re staying over in Somnath, the best time to visit the temple is at sunrise or sunset, when Shiva is invoked in a lively, elaborate ceremony called arKi.
WHERE TO STAY
As Somnath is not yet geared for tourism, there is still only one decent accommodation— the Hotel Mayuram, Triveni Road (tel Prabhas Patan 362, 268). This has clearand respectable double rooms with attached bathroom for Rs45. It also provides goc Rs12 Khali meals in its clean, popular restaurant. Other than this, it’s a straight choicer between the Somnath Guest House near the temple, with basic, simple rooms for Rs12-15, or a berth on the beach.Many travellers opt to stay in the small port town of Veraval, just 4 km (2 1/2 mile= down the road. It has a State Tourism Toran Guest House near the beach with adequate doubles for Rs80, and the basic, friendly Satkar Hotel near the bus-station with clean, basic rooms and air-conditioned rooms for Rs30-140. Veraval also has a couple of food places: the Swati air-conditioned restaurant and the New Apsara, both offering cheap vegetarian fare. Despite this, Veraval is a noisy, dusty little town; very unrelaxing. If you can, stay by the beach.
No tourist office. For information, contact the manager of the Somnath Temple Trust (tel 212). His office is right by the temple.