One of the best ways to explore smaller towns in India is in an auto rickshaw. Even Delhi has an ‘auto rickshaw tour operator‘ now. Diu, with its small size and picturesque attractions, particularly lends itself to such tours. Easily reachable from Mumbai by flight (1 hour) or Ahmedabad by road (7 hours), the island also known as Ilha de Calma (Isle of Calm) and situated off the coast of Gujarat, makes for an idyllic weekend getaway. Quieter than Goa but much more liberated than the rest of Gujarat, Diu is increasingly in the limelight thanks to the recently concluded Festa de Diu and its inimitable small town charm. Here are the 12 sights that must feature in your itinerary if you’re planning a getaway to this erstwhile Portuguese territory. The ideal duration for a trip to Diu is two nights and three days and it can get really hot in the summers; so time your visit between October and February.
1. Naida Caves
This breathtaking network of over 100 caverns with weather-worn walls, strange porous rock formations and tiny openings that mysterious sun rays filter through, is worth scheduling a trip to Diu for. Smooth and untouched, the caves have been preserved as they were, during the Portuguese era. Although no one seems to know the exact history of these caves, they might have been formed when the Portuguese hacked off part of the land for building material. A few of the more precarious caves are not open to the public.
2. Diu Fort
Close to Naida Caves is the majestic Diu Fort, covering such a large expanse that your feet will ache by the time you cover every nook and cranny of the fort complex. Dating back to 1535, this Portuguese fort features several chapels with steep walkways that can lead to unceremonious falls if you are not careful, sweeping views of the sea from various look-out points, a double moat, cannons and fragments of tombstones. There is also a causeway into the sea, where beautiful sea birds can often be viewed closely.
3. Gangeshwar Temple
As far as temples go, this one offers a truly immersive and unique experience. Hewn into the ground, the cave temple is a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that the Pandavas frequented this temple during their exile and so did Sanjay Dutt during the shooting of a film. One has to climb a flight of stairs and then crouch down low to see the five shivlings amidst the rocks of the sea. Devotees enjoy dipping their feet in these cool pools of water, sheltered from the sun. Don’t be surprised if you see youngsters clicking selfies with the sea in the background.
4. INS Khukhri Memorial
Not only is the ship a delight to look at, the surrounding lighthouse, amphitheater and seaside walkways allow for great views of the sunrise and sunset and beautiful walks where you are bound to run into some villagers. They are only too happy to help in case you’re lost but for the drawback that many don’t speak Hindi. The memorial pays tribute to Captain Mulla who chose to sink with the Indian Naval Ship Khukri when a Pakistani submarine fired at the ship during the India Pakistan War of 1971.
5. Seashell Museum
According to Captain Devjibhai Vira Fulbaria, the man behind this humble treasure, the museum houses the largest collection of sea shells in Asia. Collected from his many travels around the world as a navy man, the shells and sea creatures are displayed in a manner that is both interesting and informative. Magnifying glasses have been installed for a closer look at some of the smaller shells. The friendly Captain is always ready to share the story behind each of the 3000 kinds of sea shells. Don’t miss the sculptures decorated with sea shells of various shapes, sizes and colours.
6. Nagoa Beach
Just a stone’s throw away from Diu Airport, Nagoa Beach is the most popular coastal strip in the island. Here, you will have ample opportunities to see local families and children frolicking in the sea and building sand castles. There are a variety of inexpensive adventure sports to be tried as well; but don’t expect international standards. The walk along the cool and shaded lane adjoining the beach is particularly pleasant; you can sample corn on the cob and pistachio fruits from the vendors or have them pose for a happy picture.
7. Jallandhar Beach
Come to Jallandhar Beach if you want to get away from the crowds of Nagoa Beach. And you are bound to stumble upon this part of Diu during the course of your sightseeing. The shore here is clean and free of litter and the water as blue as the summer sky.
8. St Paul’s Church
This is the largest and best known church in Diu. It’s not one of the prettiest churches I’ve seen by any stretch of imagination but it’s well maintained and the garden outside is welcoming. There is also a statue and a small waterfall, along with a replica of a rocket. The church lies right next to Diu Museum.
9. Diu Museum
The treasures of Diu Museum lie without rather than within. Housed inside are the worn statuettes of various Christian saints and photography is prohibited. But Diu Museum is worth a visit for its impressive architecture and gardens faintly reminiscent of Jardins de Trocadero leading up to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There is also a children’s park next to the museum where you can relax with a book on a quiet afternoon.
10. Summer House
The summer house is a popular picnic spot overlooking a beautiful stretch of Jallandhar Beach. One can climb the steep way to the summer house and relax in its cool interiors but the drawback is that visitors often litter the area. Adjunct structures also allow you to take in the view and gaze at sea birds treading water in the distance.
11. Fudam Bird Sanctuary
The sanctuary is an oasis of serenity and primarily a marsh area that attracts several species of birds. The ideal time to visit is early in the morning and an observatory tower is still being built, at the time of writing this post. The mangrove scrubs in the sanctuary make it a good breeding ground for fishes as well.
12. Dinosaur Park
This one is still under construction but it’s poised to be an innovative dinosaur-themed park for children with a nice lane to walk on and a tiny temple within the garden premises.
There is also the Fortress of Panikota in the middle of the sea, accessible only by motor boat or canoe. Clearly visible from Nagoa Beach, this sea fort also houses a lighthouse and chapel consecrated to Our Lady of the Sea. Other sights in Diu include a couple of churches, a few beaches and the colourful Nagar Sheth Haveli featuring three storeys and curved balconies and porticoes constructed in the Portuguese style.
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