Goa!! In India, I am sure the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind is beaches and all-night parties.
When everyone was cribbing about how horrible their work life was in big cities like Bangalore and Bombay I decided to chuck all those and get myself a job in Goa. To live the Goan life and discover what Goa actually has to offer.
So first things first you have to rent a bike to travel across of Goa. If you don’t and rely on public transport then you will have to go back to your room by 9 as that’s the lastest the buses run. And then you will have to shell out a bomb in taxis as there are no Uber or Ola here.
Let’s start with North Goa:
It is not just Baga, Calangute and Anjuna that are in the North. There are many more beautiful, calm beaches all along the state. A little above the Anjuna, Baga stretch is Vagator which I have to admit is simply more mesmerizing than the other three. Of course, if you are looking at the parties and shacks Baga does have the crowd but if you want the same experience with less crowd head further up north, maybe all the way to Querim beach which is right at the Goa Maharashtra border.
Why go to Chapora fort in the day during tourist hours, when you can head there directly after one of the late night parties. Sit and hear the waves lash up against the shore as you sober up and finally when the sun comes up, view of the coast of Vagator and Morjim beaches. But make sure you stop by at Mapusa on the way here to eat Pav Bhaji or Rass omelet from those roadside stalls as they are famous for their all-night cheap snacks.
Parties in the north:
Mambos, Titos, Shiva valley are not the only place which host parties. Of course, if you are coming as a tourist with the intention of going to a party in such clubs then you can go ahead but there is more to Goa than this. There are many more clubs with nice ambiance and a good local crowd where you can drink, dance and have a memorable night. And they don’t charge cover fees.
After the party gets done, one can head to Sinquerim fort, listen to some music and look at the waves lash up against the fort walls under the moonlight. There are 2 bastions at this fort and tourists usually stop at the first one but if you walk further inside in the dark alley you reach the other bastion. Sitting here under the moonlight with a beer and talking all night before going to work the next morning was one of our favorite pastimes.
While at Sinquerim, worth stopping by is the Aguada fort right behind. Instead of just visiting the fort and the lighthouse one can walk behind the fort complex and reach a cliff along the shore from where we can watch the sunset. It is beautiful. One can also trek down this cliff and reach the shore. But make sure you come back before the sun sets as it can get dark and there isn’t any source of light around. Just the Aguada lighthouse.
For nature lovers:
Goa has the western ghats and hence there is no shortage of treks to go on, waterfalls to swim in, and greenery especially during monsoon. We made one such hidden discovery which was the Tambdi Surla temple trek. On my first visit there we just went to the temple and played in the water of a stream which flowed next to the temple. We went back the next weekend for the trek which takes about 4-5 hours. We have to navigate through small streams, muddy paths, fallen trees and you feel like Bear Grylls walking in Amazon (without the risk and difficulties he faces). There isn’t any steep climb so you won’t feel too tired. At the end when we reach a mighty waterfall after this long trek, you get to sit in the lap of nature and soak it all in.
One can also go to Dhoodhsagar falls, but it has been commercialized a lot.
There is also Bondla wildlife sanctuary here but it isn’t worth it if you want to see the wild animals. But if you want to just have a relaxing walk amidst greenery while seeing a few animals here and there, go for it.
People also visit Arvalem caves which are said to be carved during the Pandava period but there is nothing to see here. This just feels like three hollowed rocks with a stone deity placed. But if you have come all the way here, visiting the Arvalem waterfalls will make it worth it. The waterfall is next to a temple and it forms a pool which is not too deep and you can go swimming.
Now down to South Goa:
People assume its just North Goa which has all the fun but Palolem beach in the south is equally amazing. So is Canacona. We can take a boat ride into the sea to check out dolphins, and visit two islands there- butterfly and honeymoon. One can also trek to these small shores but there is not route laid out so it is not for the faint-hearted.
When here one can also to visit Cabo de Rama. It is another fort in its ruins but if you go during the monsoons it is very beautiful. The sun and clouds playing hide and seek to let only a few streaks of sunlight fall on the ocean is a view worth going there for. But if you go during summer when the grass is not green and the sun is blazing you will probably hate it. Here too one can trek down to the beach where the fishermen fish but it is little risky as the path is narrow and slippery during the monsoons.
Goa has hundreds of them and Basilica de Bom Jesus is not the only one. There are 5-6 churches in the vicinity of the Basilica located in old Goa. St. Cajetan, Se Cathedral, the church of our lady of the mount to name a few. From the lady of the mount, we can see all the other churches jutting out from between the greenery and the river flowing along the side.
The ruins of Saint Augustine is also worth going to during or after the monsoons especially when the land is green against the brown of the laterite.
On the main highway as you ride across Goa, there are numerous little churches you see, go ahead and get into one. Madgoan, Panjim, Britona. Anywhere.
The capital, Panjim:
In Panjim, one can visit the Immaculate church and spend a Sunday evening listening to music in the garden near the church. Every Sunday except during the monsoons local bands perform in the garden at around 7 and everyone gathers for drinks, food and a relaxing musical evening.
Dona Paula and Miramar beaches are where you can walk/take a bus to if you stay in Panjim. Bambolim beach is also a nice place to visit and it has the oyster shells along the coast which are used to make the famous shell windows and doors one can see while walking down the street along any Portuguese colony.
Go to Kala Academy for a blast of art and architecture. Designed by the famous architect Charles Correa, you should give this place a visit and walk around the exhibition and spend some time by the waterside.
Also, take a walk through the streets of Fontainhas and Altino to get an authentic Portuguese Goan feel. The streets usually don’t have much traffic and have a vibrant feel due to the colors used. There is a Maruti temple if you go further down the road towards Mala and you can get a view of the city from there. One can come here to spend a quiet evening away from the hustle bustle of the main city and go back in time.
The Reis Magos fort and the Coco beach which are all near Panjim are worth visiting. You can take a ferry across the Mandovi river from Panjim on your rented bike and go to this fort which was restored by a local Goan architect. The view from the top where you can see the city of Panjim makes you go back in time to where this might have served as a watchtower overlooking the city and imagine the canon being burst out on any enemy ships which sail by this route.
If you are a bookworm, Panjim has the best government library I have ever seen, like discovering a hidden treasure chest. Located in Patto plaza near the Kadamba bus stand, this library houses one of the best collection of books for every type of book lover. It most definitely is a loot and you can spend one of those hot afternoons here in the AC exploring their vast collection.
So go out there and venture beyond Baga and Anjuna! Happy exploring!!