Daman is one of the smallest union territories in India, sandwiched between Gujarat and Maharashtra. It is a great getaway for weekenders with alluring places to explore. Of course, cheap alcohol is a bonus!
Daman has a history that dates centuries old and a Portuguese influence which is hard to ignore. Portuguese ruled Daman along with Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Goa for over 400 years. The 4 territories were ceded by Portuguese in 1961. While Goa was declared an Indian state; Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli remain Union Territories governed by Delhi. It is worth noting that although Daman and Diu are always said in the same breath, geographically they lay at different locations on the map. The latter is in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat.
What’s in it for travelers?
Rarely spoken of as a tourist hub, visitors from near-by Gujarat eye this location for its laid-back life and freely available alcohol. Gujarat is a dry state, so visitors head to this neighboring union territory to quench their thirst for booze. But there is more to Daman than being a getaway to guzzle bottles of beer. The Portuguese have left behind a legacy in the form of ornate churches and imposing forts in this sleepy coastal town.
Two riverfront forts of an era gone by
The Sao Jeronimo Fort in Nani Daman is a huge structure with impressive fortifications. Inside the fort is the church of ‘Our Lady of Sea’ and the Stella Maris Primary School. A beautiful chapel and a Portuguese cemetery lay adjacent to the church and school. The fort overlooks the Daman Ganga River, offering a spectacular view.
Small Chapel and Portuguese cemetry inside Sao Jeronimo fort in Nani Daman
Daman Ganga River is Daman’s lifeline. It has silent waters but commerce bustles here. There are fishermen and boats, jeeps transporting fresh catch to markets, and ferries taking passengers across the river to Moti Daman – another Portuguese remnant. The river separates the towns of Nani Daman and Moti Daman. Getting from one town to other is also possible via a bridge.
Moti Daman Fort is a township in itself. Quaint Portuguese houses are still existent. Occasionally, you’ll see a resident sitting in the verandah, watching movement of vehicles and passersby.
Whilst in Moti Daman, you must visit the Bom Jesus Church, dating back to 1603 AD. It’s modest architecture and intricate carvings on the altar often leave visitors spellbound.
Ornate interiors inside Bom Jesus Church
The Dominican Monastery also lies inside the Moti Daman fort. These ancient ruins are worth your camera capture. Also, don’t miss the Lighthouse at the far end of Moti Daman fort. The view from here is amazing. The ancient lighthouse dating around 1600’s still stands here but is no more in use. A new lighthouse has been built for seacoast operations. The towering structure will have your attention for most of the time you will be hanging around the area.
(L) Dominican Monastery; (R) Old Lighthouse and the newly constructed light house in Moti Daman Fort
Daman is gifted with beaches that have their own charm and distinct characteristics. Devka Beach in Nani Daman is flocked for its black coloured sand and rock formations. It is touristy since its shore is dotted with hotels and resorts. I wouldn’t recommend swimming in this beach for danger of unpredictable tides and unsuspecting rocks beneath the water surface.
Jhampore Beach has golden sands and is less crowded than Devka beach (although weekends may still see crowd). This beach is ideal for family picnics with plenty of food stalls, horse carriages and camel rides. You can relax in the shade of the Casuarina trees along the shore or even have a picnic lunch under the shade.
Shopping in Daman
The main market area is near the bus stand in Nani Daman. The local shopping scene has nothing to boast of. Items on sale are mostly imports. Near the beaches, stalls sell souvenirs made from objects found at sea. If you plan to purchase, remember to BARGAIN!
Accommodation in Daman
Budget hotels can be found near the market area in Nani Daman. Hotels near Devka beach are mostly resorts from mid-range to expensive. We stayed at the Sandy Resort near Devka Beach.
Foodscene in Daman
Not governed by Gujarat, alcohol is cheap and freely available. As a coastal town, sea food is bountiful. But I would also recommend some Parsi cuisine in Daman. Try Duke Hotel near Devka beach.
How to Reach Daman
Daman can be entered via Vapi in Gujarat, which is a major station for inter-city trains. The distance from Vapi to Daman is around 12 km. Taxis ply regularly from Vapi to Daman and back. They charge on a per head basis.
Alternatively, you can drive down to Daman using National Highway 8. Vapi still remains your junction to enter Daman.
Valsad ~ 35 km, Surat ~ 117 km, Vadodara ~ 252 km, Mumbai ~ 170 km
Daman Ganga River (Photo: Noella D’souza)
In a Nutshell
Spread just over 70 km², covering Daman wouldn’t take more than two days. You can always stay longer for a more immersive experience. Daman along with other union territories has been trying to break out from the weekend getaway tag into a more serious tourist hub. But that needs infrastructure development and creation of some more tourist attractions. Tough task ahead!
Until then, ensure Daman is on your list as a great getaway destination offering distinct beaches, quaint churches and impressive forts. For those coming in from Mumbai, you travel interstate and back over a weekend – How cool is that?
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