It has been a while since we went for a family trip and just after diwali seemed a good time to plan one as my daughter still had a week of holidays left. I prefer places where I can get to by road (driving) and wife prefers that we go out of Maharashtra, so this time around we narrowed onto Silvassa, capital of Dadra Nagar Haveli.
Getting to Silvassa is fairly straight forward. From my place, we had to get onto Pune Mumbai Expressway (current toll on this is Rs 195), then via Thane, crossed over to Mulund East via Mulund Airoli Road (before Airoli) and joined the eastern express highway (which is also NH 3 or Agra Mumbai highway) (two toll booths on the way both charged Rs 35), took Kapurwabadi flyover to get to Ghodbunder road, continued on this till we hit onto NH 8 Mumbai Delhi highway (at a T junction) and then continued on NH 8 all the way to Bhilad (for about 100 km). Here there are two options – if your hotel is near Naroli (like mine was), get off the highway at Bhilad and then go to the right side from under the flyover to get onto Silvassa Bhilad road. However, if your hotel is on Silvassa Vapi road, then you can continue on the highway till Vapi and then exit it. Most good hotels however are around Naroli or Khanvel. We took the first option.
The entire drive stretch is on excellent roads. On getting onto NH8 for some KMs the road was a bit patchy, but after we crossed the first toll naka (Rs 59), the road was in very good condition and surrounded with greenery. This 100 km stretch was a very pleasant drive. As soon you get onto this, you would notice that the hotels on this road, all have their display boards in Gujarati. There are many hotels on this road till the first toll naka. Thereafter for a long stretch, you won’t find any, till you are near Manor. Here again you will find many hotels on both sides and most are good to take a break and enjoy a meal. You can pretty much stop at any one of them (we usually decide based on number of cars parked). There is a Café Coffee Day as well. We did see Vithal Kamat, but on our way back when we went there, we found the place almost deserted and avoided it, and stopped at Aman hotel. There are two toll nakas on the road and unlike Mumbai Pune expressway the slip of the first one doesn’t works on the second one. You need to take one again, which was Rs 65. You also cross Maharashtra RTO border, which has a very big area marked for check post. We got past using side lanes for cars, but the bigger trucks were getting via toll lanes again on this one. Silvassa is about 30 km from this check post. We did see a pretty big temple coming up, right next to the highway, but this was still under construction.
Just like the entire stretch had greenery on both side, Silvassa is very rich in its forest heritage and we were really impressed to see that the forest department is very active here. There are many gardens, all beautifully maintained and very green. Even though it didn’t rain much this year and the big rivers have almost dried up, the gardens were still lush green. The other impressive and noticeable thing was the internal city roads. The roads are all in excellent condition.
We stayed at Lords resort, Naroli road. Silvassa isn’t a big town and most areas of see here are within 5 km. This includes Vangana garden, Hirwa Van, Balaji temple, Swami Narayan temple, Tribal Museum and Nakshatra park (still under construction when we saw it so we didn’t have to buy entry ticket). The other places to see are near Khanvel, which included Lion Safari, Dear Park and Safari, Butter fly garden, Forest department museum and Brindaban Mahadev temple. Driving further (about 40 km from Naroli) is Dudhani Lake. The lake is very big, as is evident from the map. The drive again is very pleasant. There is boating at the lake in Shikaras. You have option of taking a half an hour ride for Rs. 250 or a one hour ride for Rs. 300, which takes you to the garden on other side of the lake as well. There used to be other water sports facilities like jet skis etc. but all that has stopped now and it is only the boating. If you have time, you should surely visit this place, else you could do boating in Vanganga garden as well, which boasts of a musical fountain as well. The good part is you can enjoy the musical fountain while doing your boating. There are small eateries, so if you enjoy road side food, you will get something to eat at Dudhani, else you will have to drive back to Khanvel to have food. Butterfly garden is a slight detour, but good for us that we took it, since on this detour, another half a km further up from the butterfly garden, we found a good hotel for our lunch – Heritage hotel. Their service is a bit slow, but food was good and cheap. After ages, we got chappaties for just Rs 6 each. Entry fees to most gardens, museum and safari is in the range of Rs 20 - 25 per person. A few places charge extra for parking, like at Dudhani lake, Daman beach etc.
Daman is just about 30-35 kms from Silvassa and if you have time, you can visit the beach and see the Arabian sea. Devka beach is more known and more frequented by tourists, so is more crowded, but is also a bit unclean as well. Jampore beach is less frequented by travelers and is cleaner. As always, snacks, cold drinks will be costlier at the beach. We had to shell out Rs 50 for a Rs 35 bottle. A better choice will be to buy these on the way from a local shop. We bought many snack packets later like those of Lays and Haldirams and were surprised to find them to be priced at a very reasonable Rs 5 each (the ones that we get for Rs 10 typically).
Overall we really enjoyed the trip. The food was also good in most places, though the taste was a concern in one or two places. This, we figured, was mostly due to the water and possibly the cooking oil they use. Freshness of the food wasn’t a problem at all. Food prices were low, even for big resorts. Fairly extensive dinner buffet at Lords resort was Rs 400 per person.
The drive, as I have already shared, was wonderful. Though I did miss my XUV, but driving in my i10 grand was in no way an issue. The comfortable seats ensured that we felt relaxed during the entire stretch. The distance of Silvassa from my place is around 300 km. Including local commuting, we journeyed about 800 km over all, and none of us complained of any back pain or any such thing. My teenage daughter did have a bit of issue in sleeping on the back seat, but it was still tolerable.
For navigation, this time, we relied on ‘here maps’ on my Nokia Windows Phone. We found the map to be pretty accurate, as is google map and apart from prompting us even to the extent of which lane to take, it did prompt us on speed as well. It constantly kept beeping, when I would drive at over 60 km/hr on a road with speed limit at 40. For highway, where we had flyovers to continue going straight (and not take service road on the left to get off the highway), it would prompt – “After 1 km keep right”, then again a bit later “After 400 m keep right” and finally when we would each the flyover - “Now keep right”.
Some photos form our trip can be seen here. In conclusion I would say that Silvassa is a good place to visit. You can typically cover most points around Silvassa in a day and then do Daman and rest of the points on the second day. Any time more than this is as per your personal preference of how hectic you want to make your trip. For staying, I would recommend Silvassa, over Daman. Naroli is centrally located to cover all spots and has good resorts and hotels – Lords, Daman Ganga Resort, RAS Resorts, and Lotus Resort. These are all located fairly close to each other. That’s all for now. See ya!