Explore Vasai: A Mumbai Suburb that Really Feels Like Goa (2023)

Peaceful palm-lined streets, unspoiled beach, and pervasive Portuguese heritage make the town of Vasai, on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, surprisingly reminiscent of Goa.

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Is it Mumbai or is it Goa?

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You'd never guess it but Vasai was once of more importance than Mumbai. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was a headquarters of Portuguese rule with a thriving fort city. Nowadays, it's a cool oasis that feels blissfully stuck in a time warp. Unlike surrounding areas, much of Vasai has been spared from development, as it remains delightfully cutoff from the city's encroaching urban sprawl. Currently, the only bridge over Vasai Creek, which separates Vasai from the rest of Mumbai, is a rail bridge.

Vasai's distinguishing history and tranquil environment (with fresh air!) mean it has much to offer travelers who want to get off-the-beaten-track. Two centuries of Portuguese rule still reflect on the religion and lifestyles of Vasai's inhabitants, who are predominantly Catholic. Their culture eclectically blends Konkani, Portuguese, Marathi and British influences.

I visited Vasai on this unique full-day Cultural and Heritage Tour of Vasai conducted by local guide Leroy D'Mello, who owns Amaze Tours. After working in hospitality and hotel management, including stints as a chef in luxury hotels and on international cruise ships, Leroy realized that he wanted to start a tour business promoting Indian culture and traditions. He knows Vasai intimately as his family have lived and owned land there for many generations, and this makes for a really insightful and personal tour. You can visit ornate churches, see artisans at work, sample homemade regional cuisine, and participate in the cooking process.

Read on to learn about the attractions covered on the tour.

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Vasai Fort

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The ruins of Vasai's sprawling fort are undoubtedly the town's dominant attraction. Exploring it will take you back time to a defining period in history when the fort was a prosperous living city during Portuguese rule. Its sturdy walls protected the opulent mansion of Portuguese noblemen, as well as churches, convents, temples, hospitals, colleges, and administrative centers.

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The fort also speaks of the lengthy Battle of Vasai, between the Portuguese and Marathas, which finally ended with the Marathas capturing the fort in 1739 after much bloodshed.

Read More: A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort

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Ornate Churches

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There are about 40 churches in the Vasai area. Some are hundreds of years old. They have remarkable historical significance and are still used for worship today.

Saint Thomas Church, Vasai's most important church, was built in 1566 and was the first church to be founded outside Vasai fort. It was apparently so rich that Muslim Arab invaders from Gujarat looted and set fire to it, in 1571. It was rebuilt in 1573.

It's unknown when the second most important church, Our Lady of Grace Cathedral, was constructed. However, it's believed to be in the 1570s.

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(Video) Exploring Mumbai Suburbs | Vasai | Vajreshwari

Heritage Homes

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135 year old Rautwada is one of the few heritage homes remaining in Vasai, and even in Mumbai. These days, most have been replaced by modern apartment buildings. The house is made of teak wood and the tiles on its exterior are the same type that was used on Chhatrapati Shivaj Terminus (Victoria Terminus) railway station, built by the British in Mumbai in 1887. Inside, there are old implements and antique furniture.

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Religious Statue Carving Workshop

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Surrounded by lumps of wood of all shapes and sizes, statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are industriously carved at the workshop of Roque and Renold Sequeira Brothers in Vasai.

This fascinating business was founded in 1920 and has been operating for three generations. From humble carpentry beginnings, the statue makers have so far collected five UNESCO awards for heritage conservation. Their first award was earned in 2005, from the painstaking restoration of the 140 year old Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum.

When I visited the workshop, a statue from Daman, dating back to the 16th or 17th century, was there to be restored. The Sequerias also receive customs orders from all over the world, including orders for gold plated statues.

It takes about a month and a half to complete a statue. The process begins with clay modelling of the image that's been provided. The model is then recreated in wood, which is usually sourced from Goa and the Konkan region. Its head must be sawed off to insert the lifelike eyes but the join is hardly noticeable afterwards.

A man of many talents, Renold Sequeira is also a keen amateur astronomer. Two of his models are displayed in the Sydney Observatory and Powerhouse Museum in Australia.

See My Photos of the Statue Carving Workshop on Facebook

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(Video) Unexplored beaches near Vasai | Bena beach | Mini goa beach | Vasai-Virar | Mumbai vlogs

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Mahila Mandal Restaurant

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For inexpensive, hygienically prepared food that's just like what you'd get at home, head straight to Mahila Mandal near the New English School on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Vasai. It looks nondescript. However, the food is scrumptious and there is a special story behind it.

The restaurant is part of a super inspiring NGO that was set up 25 years ago by local teacher Mrs Indumathy Vishnu Barve to employ women in need. (Unfortunately, many families lost income after the mills in Mumbai closed down). Now, it has seven centers in and around Vasai, with more than 250 women involved! And, Mrs Barve is more than 90 years old and still active!

Not surprisingly, the food is very popular. I had a plate of batata bhaji (dry Maharashtrian style potato dish) and chapatti for about 30 rupees. There was no time to take a picture as it was so good, I greedily devoured it in 2 minutes flat! Instead, this is a picture of the ladies who made it.

Read more about Mahila Mandal and its founder in this article.

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Local Cuisine and Cooking

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(Video) Vasai - Mumbai's Green Zone || Maharashtra || India

The Catholic community in India is known for its distinctive cuisine that's a fusion of cooking styles. Of course, a cultural and heritage tour of Vasai wouldn't be complete without experiencing the food!

Visiting the home of a lovely lady with a passion for cooking, I got to participate in making sandni. This local type of flatbread is prepared from a batter of split black bengal gram and rice flour, which is steamed.

The bread complemented the delicious lunch that was cooked by Leroy's mother. The predominantly meat-based dishes in Catholic cuisine are a non-vegetarian's delight.

Prior to lunch, we made popular delicacy foogyas (also known as gulgule). These fried balls of flour, coconut milk, cumin, sugar, salt and yeast are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. It's impossible to eat only one!

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The Bottom Line

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Vasai is a recommended side trip from Mumbai, not only to escape the city's crowds and chaos but to learn about India's minority Catholic community and the town's historical importance.

The town has a surprisingly large number of attractions. Unfortunately I didn't have time to see all of them. In addition to what I covered on the action-packed full-day Cultural and Heritage Tour of Vasai, it's possible to go on boat ride and visit Vasai beach, local fishermen's colony, and local farmer's residence.

See Photos of My Vasai Tour on Facebook

In reality, to get the most out of a trip to Vasai, you should stay overnight. There's so much to pack into one day, it gets exhausting. Leroy aims to add a homestay for visitors soon, which will really enhance the experience.

Getting There

Vasai is located about an hour north of Mumbai. The Mumbai local train is the most convenient way to reach Vasai, as the only bridge across Vasai Creek (which separates Vasai from the rest of Mumbai) is a rail bridge. Take a Virar-bound train, originating from Churchgate on the Western line, to Vasai Road railway station. (Avoid peak times, as this is a notoriously crowded train!). From the station, take a bus or auto rickshaw. Vasai Fort is around 20 minutes away.

If you go on a tour with Leroy, he will pick you up from your hotel and travel with you by train to Vasai. Otherwise, if driving from Mumbai, the only option is the Western Express Highway (National Highway 8), which is a much longer route.

(Video) Best Clean Beach Near Mumbai Suruchi Beach Vasai Very Beautiful

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, Tripsavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

FAQs

How would you describe Vasai? ›

Vasai (Konkani and Marathi pronunciation: [ʋəsəi], formerly and alternatively Mahratti; Bajipur, English: Bassein; Portuguese: Baçaim), is a historical place and City near Mumbai (Bombay)'s western suburbs, located in Palghar district which was partitioned from the Thane district in 2014.

Why is Vasai famous for? ›

Vasai was the main naval base and sort of ship-building centre of the Portuguese. it was here in 1802 AD, the Peshwa Bajirav signed the infamous 'Treaty of Bassein' which virtually dissolved the Maratha Confederacy. Finally, the fort and the city of Vasai were ceded to the British in 1817 AD.

How do you spend your day in Vasai? ›

Spending A Day In Vasai - 6 Things You Must Experience In Vasai
  1. Chulna Lake.
  2. Bhuigaon Beach.
  3. Churches In Vasai.
  4. Bawkhal of Vasai (Traditional Water wells)
  5. Shramik Mahila Mandal.
  6. Bombay Bakery.

Is Vasai good to live? ›

Vasai West is a good locality. It has good connectivity to schools, colleges, hospitals, markets, malls, temples, parks, banks and ATMs.

How many people live in Vasai? ›

Vasai-Virar
Vasai–Virar
Elevation11 m (36 ft)
Population (2011)
• Twin City1,221,233
• Density3,900/km2 (10,000/sq mi)
20 more rows

Is Vasai rural or urban? ›

Urban/Rural Population - Vasai Taluka

Thus around 91.6% of total population of Vasai Taluka lives in Urban areas while 8.4% lives in Rural areas.

Is Vasai beach clean? ›

This is an environment-friendly and clean beach. Located in Vasai Nagar, Suruchi Beach is a perfect choice for beach lovers who love to spend time away from the daily hustle bustle of life.

Is Vasai a metro city? ›

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) spread over 6,328 sq. km. consists of 9 Municipal Corporations viz. Greater Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Navi Mumbai, Ulhasnagar, Bhiwandi- Nizamapur, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayandar and Panvel; and 9 Municipal Councils viz.

When did Portuguese came to Vasai? ›

Portuguese Era

According to historian Manuel de Faria e Sousa, the coast of Bassein (Vasai) was first visited by them in 1509, when Francisco de Almeida on his way to Dio captured a ship off Bombay Harbour, with 24 citizens of Sultan of Guzerat aboard it.

How far is Vasai Road from International Airport? ›

49 km. Mumbai Airport To Vasai Road Distance & Time : Mumbai Airport to Vasai Road approximate distance is 49 Kms and takes approximately by road.

How many beaches does Vasai-Virar have? ›

Rajodi Beach is located at Vasai Virar coastal belt, far North Suburb of Mumbai at Thane / Palghar District on western railway route. Mostly frequented by locals, this beach is cleaner and is one of the 4 connected beaches with Arnala, Kalamb and Navapur.

Which city does Vasai belong to? ›

Vasai-Virar, formerly Bassein or Vasai, city (municipal corporation), western Maharashtra state, western India. It lies on the Arabian Sea coast north of Mumbai (Bombay).

Is Vasai posh area? ›

Vasai is very posh locality with all amenities nearby such as D mart, mall, multiplex, temple, club house, hospital all just within 1 kilometer distance. Vasai. Vasai is a very prime residential locality and well connected with the other parts of the city.

Is it good to invest in Vasai? ›

Final Words On - Best place to invest in Vasai

Vasai has excellent growth potential in terms of real estate as many projects b reputed builders are under construction. The key growth drivers for real estate in Vasai are Ghodbunder road, the Western Express Highway and the Western suburban railway line.

Is Vasai costly? ›

The average cost of living in Vasai is $393, which is in the top 5% of the least expensive cities in the world, ranked 8792nd out of 9294 in our global list, 38th out of 220 in India, and 7th out of 21 in Maharashtra.

What is Goa population? ›

1,570,000

What is the rent of industrial area in Vasai? ›

Factory for Rent in Vasai East Mumbai
Property DetailAddressPrice
(6875 sq.ft.) Factory for rent in Vasai Eastnull Vasai East₹ 1.1 L
(5000 sq.ft.) Factory for rent in Vasai Eastnull Vasai East₹ 1.3 L
(1100 sq.ft.) Factory for rent in Vasai Eastnull Vasai East₹ 45,000
7 more rows

How many churches are there in Vasai? ›

They erected 3 big churches in North Vasai and about 5 churches in South Vasai. There were churches built by them in Palghar and Dahanu Talukas. Today, they do not exist anymore. The Catholics of the former 8 churches are being served today by the 33 ecclesiastical units which form the major part of this diocese.

How big is Vasai? ›

How many villages are there in Vasai? ›

There are 50 villages and 2 towns in Vasai Taluka. As per the Census India 2011, Vasai Taluka has 318180 households, population of 1343402 of which 709771 are males and 633631 are females.

Who is MLA in Vasai? ›

Vasai Assembly constituency
Vasai
Constituency Details
Current MLAHitendra Thakur
PartyBahujan Vikas Aghadi
Elected year2019
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Which water purifier is best for Vasai? ›

What are the four best water purifiers in Vasai Virar?
  • Doctor Fresh - Life Star.
  • Doctor Fresh - Life Guard.
  • Doctor Fresh - Life Veda.

Is Vasai safe? ›

Crime rates in Vasai, India
Level of crime16.67Very Low
Crime increasing in the past 3 years50.00Moderate
Worries home broken and things stolen33.33Low
Worries being mugged or robbed33.33Low
Worries car stolen25.00Low
8 more rows

Which part of Goa is cleaner? ›

Calangute Beach

Situated just along the Baga Beach, Calangute Beach is ranked among the cleanest beaches in Goa.

Which is the No 1 city in India? ›

Known otherwise as “city of dreams” and the “city that never sleeps”, Mumbai, the capital of Maharastra is home to the significant financial, economic and entertainment industries of the country and is the top most populated cities in India.

Who destroyed Vasai fort? ›

Chimaji Appa began the siege on 1 May 1739 by laying 10 mines next to the walls near the tower of Remedios. Maratha soldiers charged into the breach caused by exploding four of them. Almost immediately, they came under fire from Portuguese guns and muskets.

Is Mumbai bigger than Dubai? ›

Comparing the land area results on Wiki, Mumbai is only 600 sq km compared to 4000 sq km for Dubai and even 3500 sq km for Karachi.

What was Bombay called before the Portuguese? ›

Where did the British get the name Bombay (which was changed to Mumbai in 1995)? From the Portuguese Bom Bahia, or Good Bay, for the deep natural harbour they took over from Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat via a treaty in 1534. The name Mumbai has a parallel history.

What did the Portuguese call Mumbai? ›

Charles II (r. 1660–85) married Catherine of Braganza in May 1662. Part of her large dowry was the Portuguese territory of 'Bom Bahia' (Bombay) on the western coast of India, modern Mumbai. The king agreed to transfer control of Bombay to the East India Company and it soon became their base.

Who ruled Mumbai before Portuguese? ›

The city was ruled in the 6th–8th century by the Chalukyas, who left their mark on Elephanta Island (Gharapuri).

Does Vasai come under Mumbai? ›

So far, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) was spread over 4,355 sqm, including areas in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivli, Mira-Bhayander, Vasai-Virar, Matheran, Karjat, Uran and Alibaug, with Virar as its northernmost limit.

Which station is before Vasai? ›

Vasai Road railway station
Preceding stationMumbai Suburban RailwayFollowing station
Naigaon towards ChurchgateWestern lineNallasopara towards Dahanu Road
TerminusVasai Road–Roha lineJuchandra towards Roha

Who made Vasai? ›

Originally built by the Portuguese in 1536, the 110-acre fort was captured by the Marathas in 1739 and eventually by the British after the First Anglo-Maratha War in 1802. The fort is the standing testimony of India's diverse history.

Is Virar good for living? ›

Nice Locality. The locality has a nearby Market, main road, auto stand, east-west flyover bridge, star bazaar, and Pizza hut. Nice Locality. Prominent suburbs of Mumbai are close to Virar West and with several schools, hospitals, banks and offices situated in the proximity.

Why is Virar famous? ›

Virar is famous for Jivdani Temple (Virar East) and Arnala Fort and Arnala Beach in the west in the northern coastal area of konkan region. As per provisional reports if Census of India, population of Virar in 2011 is 1,222,390; of which male and female are 648,172 and 574,218 respectively.

Why is nalasopara famous? ›

Nallasopara is accepted by scholars as the Shurparaka (lit. city of braves; Śūrpāraka) or Supparak of ancient India and was a busy trade centre and an important seat of Buddhism. It was one of the administrative units under the Satavahanas and is mentioned in the inscriptions of Karle, Nashik, Naneghat and Kanheri.

How would you describe Thane? ›

Thane, formerly Thana, city, western Maharashtra state, western India. It lies at the mouth of the Thana River and head of the Ulhas estuary, northeast of central Mumbai (Bombay). The city is colloquially known as the “City of Lakes”, given the 30 scenic lakes located within the bounds of the city and district.

What is the village of Vasai? ›

List of Villages in Vasai, Thane, Maharashtra
ActanAdneAgashi
MoriMukkamMulgaon
NagaleNaigaonNale
NavaleNavasaiNirmal
PaliPanjuParol
29 more rows

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