Add Silvassa to your list of weekend getaways

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Tribal Museum-mumbai weekend getaway silvassaAfter returning from Udaipur, there was going to be no big trip for a while. But my feet were itching to travel. So I decided to do a short road trip to Silvassa.

Silvassa gets its name from the Portuguese word ‘Silva’ meaning wood. The city is the capital of Union Territory – Dadra and Nagar Haveli, sandwiched between Maharashtra and Gujarat, with Daman (another Union Territory) 30 km away.

Silvassa has picked up popularity only recently as a weekend getaway. Most tourists come here for the cheap alcohol; and Resorts are a preferred mode of stay. Unsure what to expect from Silvassa, I played safe by booking a room at a nice resort with a swimming pool and a play zone. If Silvassa disappointed, at least I would have things to do within the resort. But it was the exact opposite that happened!

My stay at the resort was a disaster and one of the worst experiences I’ve had at a hotel. Touring Silvassa, on the other hand, pleasantly surprised me. Notwithstanding the city’s recent industrial growth, Silvassa has a rich cultural past. The city’s Portuguese connect, tribal heritage and decent wildlife preservation initiatives make it a great place for a weekend getaway.

I’m going to share the list of places I saw in Silvassa and other things you need to know about planning a trip here…

Deer Sanctuary-mumbai weekend getaway silvassa

Satmalia Deer Park

Things to see in Silvassa

Tribal Cultural Museum

Tick this off your list the first thing you reach Silvassa. The Tribal Cultural Museum is a great way to start your trip by getting to know about the tribal community, a major population back then in Silvassa. Most of these tribes have now picked up jobs with a better standard of living, thanks to the rapid industrisation in the region. The Government run museum is an initiative to preserve the tribal culture. The museum is low key and very basic and you can tour the entire place in about 45 minutes, although we took longer. I was quite fascinated with the collection of photographs that came with nuggets of information. On display are huge wax models depicting popular scenarios in the tribal community, paintings, vessels and weapons, and a lot of more arts and artifacts symbolic of the tribes.

(L) Tribal Cultural Museum; (R) Wax statues depict the ritual of Exorcism practiced among tribes

The Tribal Cultural Museum is located in the heart of the city near the Tourist Information Center at a cross road. Opposite the museum is an Old Portuguese church dating 1871 which you may want to check out.

Photography is not allowed inside the museum, although I managed to click a couple of pictures.

Swaminarayan Temple

A relatively new structure, Swaminarayan Temple is a welcome addition to the list of places to visit in Silvassa. We caught a glimpse of the place on the way out of the Tribal Cultural Museum. Built over a couple of acres of land, the temple has intricate wall carvings of Hindu gods and a sprawling garden-like lawn. I wandered around the temple for about half an hour until I came across a sign board in Hindi that translated ‘Women should not pass beyond this point‘. I checked with the caretaker and he told me it’s because the saints live in that section and women must not make contact with them. Ridiculous!

The Swaminarayan Temple is closed between 12pm and 4pm every day. Photography is allowed inside the temple.

Swaminarayan temple-mumbai weekend getaway silvassa

Vasona Lion Safari

I confirmed in Silvassa that the Vasona Lion Safari is for real. They do show you lions in their natural habitat and it’s not a zoo, although the condition of the lions is apathetic. We spotted three lions that looked frail and weak. As lazy as they are, the lions were sleeping during our safari. Visitors are taken in a van that is covered with metal mesh. The driver knows exactly where the lion is and he will stop the van for a couple of minutes so you can click some pictures. Here is when you want to get up and beat some of the tourists for screaming and shouting to grab the lion’s attention. Sometimes we behave like morons!

There is an entry charge for the safari that costs Rs. 25. The van can take up to 20 people in one go and the safari lasts only 20 mins, leaving one with an underwhelming feeling.

Satmalia Deer Sanctuary

Within a short distance from Vasona Lion Safari is the Satmalia Deer Sanctuary. A lot more experiential, the Satmalia Deer Park has over 500 deers wandering in the forests. Visitors are driven on the tourist circuit in a mini bus or an open jeep. We caught a glimpse of the white spotted deer that made for a spectacular sight. The Satmalia Deer Park has an entry charge of Rs. 25 per head.

Satmalia Deer Park-mumbai weekend getaway silvassa

Dudhni

Our final stop was Dudhni, 40km from Silvassa. Since we had time on our hand, we decided to check this place out. The roads are great and the drive was scenic as we approached the lake. Dudhni is a tourist complex with boating facility. For Rs. 250, a family of four can take a ride in a shikara for half an hour and have some time to themselves amidst nature. A word of caution for those who do not like crowded places. You might want to skip Dudhni.

Accommodation in Silvassa

Silvassa has a lot of resorts that cater to weekenders. Based on Tripadvisor ratings, I had picked Lords Resort Silvassa. Everything that could go wrong in my stay…DID! The hotel was an absolute let down and I wrote an elaborate review about my experience on Tripadvisor. You can read the review here.

While choosing your stay in Silvassa, book in advance as there are only a handful of good hotels. Ras Resort, Treat Resort and Damanganga Valley Resort are good picks, although expensive. Stick to hotels that cater to families…I realised this when I went out for dinner one evening. Many hotels looked shady with a bar like set up during evenings as alcohol is very cheap here. Do your research!

How to reach Silvassa

mumbai weekend getaway silvassaSilvassa is popular among weekenders from Maharashtra and Gujarat. I spotted many visitors from Mumbai, Surat and Bharuch region.

If you’re coming by train, Vapi is the nearest railway station. From there, the distance is 18km. Rickshaws ply regularly and can reach you to Silvassa without a hassle.

As a road trip, Silvassa is 175km from Mumbai on NH 8. The roads are great and our drive was smooth.

Tips for your trip to Silvassa

  • Almost all the attractions close during lunch time between 1pm and 2pm
  • Meals at a hotel/resort can be expensive but if you go out, choices are limited (especially for non-vegetarians). After much struggle, we managed to find Lalla’s Dhaba that served chicken. Service was sloppy.
  • Summers can get very hot. The best time to visit is between September and February. The Lion Safari and Deer Park would be a disappointment during the rains. Skip monsoons also.
  • One can also plan Silvassa as a day trip. Almost all the attractions can be covered in a day….skip Dudhni, as it’s on the outskirts. Some visitors do an overnight stay and club Silvassa with Daman (Read my post: Daman – Travel guide for a weekender).

(Note: All the amounts and figures mentioned in the post were correct at the time of publishing it)

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Edwina D'souza

Read write watch, 2 left hands and feet, recluse, gazer and occasionally suffer from wanderlust syndrome!!

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