“The landscapes that look as green as if they are painted freshly by a painter who brings life to its art; the cloudy sky and the dewy leaves, the terrifying sound of the Dhudhsagar waterfalls and the never-ending avenue stretching along the sandy beaches that are washed away with crazy monsoon sea waves… ” this is how the world’s favourite beach destination looks like in monsoon. And who wouldn’t wish to run away to enjoy such offbeat Goa!! Goa is unarguably much more beyond just its beaches.
However, Goa is one of those places frequented by travelers in almost every season. And the winters of Goa are undoubtedly amazing with those blushing beaches kissed by the setting sun. You would say that Goa is a place to just have a pint of beer and chill on a sunny day. And I would say, there are end number of non-cliched things to do in Goa. Though almost nothing in this world is so offbeat anymore, you can always find something interesting and mindful.
Walk or Cycle around the Colourful Portuguese Houses
While most of us tend to treat the capital city Panjim just as a crossroad, a tiny colony of colorful houses totally go unnoticed. Goa was under the Portuguese rule even after India’s official independence. While the Portuguese officials had left India long back, their colorful quarters were then occupied by the Goan Christians. They have not only preserved these heritage houses but have also beautified them with their unique artistic sense.
For the foodie in you, the pastries and wine cookies from the oldest bakery in Goa would fill your stomach with sugary delights.
Tempted enough to explore the Latin Quarters of Fonteinhas? Get a complete guide to this area in this detailed blog of mine.
Enjoy an Offbeat Stay at Goa in a Latin Quarter
While most of us run on a budget, a few of the Latin homes converted into heritage hotels. It would really give you a taste of the Portuguese lifestyle worth its prices. During my last trip to Goa, I literally missed staying in one of these cute little houses. They are like heritage museums in themselves. Moreover, interacting with the hosts and listening to the stories of the bygone era is like some choco-chips on the top of an ice-cream.
While many of them are budget-friendly for a couple or a family you can surely check out some great deals online. You can also choose to stay in the Old Quarter Hostel in Fonteinhas.
Visit Chandor – A Sleepy town’s Classic Portuguese Mansion
At the 12 km of distance from Margao, Chandor sings the glory of its varied past. In the 11th Century, it served as the capital ‘Chandrapur’ of King Bhoja of Kadamba Dynasty in Karnataka. It was also an important town during the Portuguese Era when it was home to many rich Landlords and Merchants.
One of the Landlords built a huge mansion crafted and decorated with expensive antique items bought from all around the world. The house has now curiously become a tourist attraction. Unfortunately, owing to a family dispute, the mansion is now divided into two parts, Bragança House and Pereira House. Both the houses are open for tourists on payment of 150 INR per head. I chanced upon visiting the Bragança House where Ms. Joth explains the history, artifacts and ornate furniture in the house. It is nothing less than a palace where the furniture is as classic as in Buckingham Palace and the Ball Room is studded with some of the most expensive Chandelier. Pereira House or the other part of the house is almost similar and thus, a visit to Bragança House where you have a distant relative of the family guide you through the parts of the house should be a better choice. However, you are free to visit and take a tour of both the house if you have enough time. There 2-3 other similar houses in the village that you can visit too.
If you wish to try authentic Goan seafood, a Garden Restaurant named ‘Flames’ is a local suggestion. My partner Vinod had some delicious fish curry over there, however, a vegetarian might have to return disappointed. A Shahi Biriyani Place near the church serves aromatic mutton and beef Biriyanis.
How to Reach Chandor:
By Road: You will have to rent a bike either from Panjim or Margao for a day and follow an amazing pathway on google map. It is more convenient to reach from South Goa. Panjim is 45 km from Chandor. You can also visit the Spice Plantations and Big Foot Museum on your way to Panjim from Chandor.
By Rail: Frequent trains are available from Margao Station.
Get Splashy at Waterfalls of Goa
The beauty of Dudhsagar Waterfall is splendid in the rainy season. However, in winters you might get lucky to dive right into the natural pool created by the waterfall. And if you are an adventurous soul, you may continue trekking further towards the railway track and reach an old hilly station named ‘ Castle Rock’. (Note: trekking on/near the railway track is no more legal)
Other worth visiting waterfalls include:
- Arvalem Waterfalls and Rock-Cut Caves
- Netravali Waterfalls in Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary
- Tamdi Surla Waterfalls near Tamdi Surla temples
- Hivre Waterfalls
Take That River Cruise or Dine in a Casino Bollywood Style
Live music, a table set for my fiancé and me with two glass of young rose wine (as per my instruction) , glittering city of Goa reflecting on the gentle waves of Mandovi, a few rich lads trying their luck with money.. in short a flabbergasting view with a Bollywood style set up is what my memory of cruising is.
I am sure most of us would have seen that in Mandovi river in Panjim. While many of you would have thought it to be reserved exclusively for a certain class, let me tell you that even if you don’t play, you can go for dinner with live music on a cruise just for 1500 per person (or just google the current price).
Mandovi River Cruises are another fascinating mode of exploring Goa. Most of these cruises have a planned tour taking you with the flow of this mighty river. The guided tours show you the famous forts and attractions along its bank and also explain to you the history of Goa.
Go Offbeat: Explore the Unique Temples of Goa
Temples? In Goa? Yeah, you read it right, the state which has gained its popularity for its churches and Christian culture also has a secret religious history. In order to save the holy Hindu shrines from the attacks of the Portuguese, the communities of Sharshwat Brahmin (Who also, surprisingly, escaped the conversion) built the colorful temples resembling a Latin Quarter. A few of them, like Mangeshi temple and Malasa temple, has attracted quite a number of tourists because of their interesting customs, architecture, and beliefs. Did you know Malasa temple is handled by Mallya (not Vijay Mallya’s in particular) family? And it is known to be a place of justice, quite ironical, isn’t it? 😉
And even if you subtract the temple part, the whole trail is amazingly beautiful. Thus, it’s worthwhile to ride that bike to this amazing trail, or say a Temple Run in Goa!
Tamdi Surla Temple, that can be easily reached by local buses from Panjim Bus Stand, has also become quite popular among trekkers and travelers. It would be a must-visit especially post-monsoon. However, the architecture and history of this oldest temple of Goa that survived all Muslim and Portuguese plunder are equally fascinating.
Trek in the Lush Green Forest of Goa
As I mentioned it earlier, Goa’s beauty reaches its zenith in monsoon. Many organizations plan special monsoon treks covering a number of waterfalls and forest trails. So what if the beaches are inaccessible, the forest welcomes you with the roar of the dazzling waterfalls. Keep a check on YHAI’s State Level Adventure Programs and you might join one of their monsoon treks in Goa.
Museums in Goa aren’t that Boring at all
IF you, just like me, find the museums boring, then wait till you visit the Big Foot Museum or the Goa Houses Museum, both would surprise you with its unique representation of an ancient Goan culture that was obviously as lively as the current one. Either a personal or an audio guide makes it more lively as you stroll across different communities and structures in the Museum.
The main attractions here is an auspicious foot of a saint and the biggest monolith of Saint Meera of India.
Other worth-visiting Museums of Goa are:
- Goa Chitra Museum
- Houses of Goa Museum
- Big Foot Cross Museum
- Archeological Museum of Goa
Go Gaga over the Tropical Spices and the Feni Shots 😉
A few kilometers away from the Big Foot Museum are the fields of the Tropical spices that have played a very important role in Indian History of International trading. Most of them provide a guided tour explaining to you about the spices and their importance. And trust me, looking at a few of the fruits and spices you would really be baffled. For an instance, cloves are just the dried flower buds and vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world! (Did you even think of that while hogging that vanilla ice-cream?)
Most of them also grow cashews and are involved in the process of making feni A local Goaan drink) out of them. During the lunch, they would also let you try the feni shots. 😉
Though I have only been to Sahkari spice plantations, you can also try Tropical Spice Plantations or Dudhsagar Spice plantations.
The Forts of Goa for their Locations and View-points
Goa has also been a muse of most film-makers. Be it the movie Deewar or Dil Chahta Hai, Goa is featured as a heaven for the beach lovers. An evening ride to Chapora fort, that now lies in ruins, can be like creating unforgettable memories with your friends. The views of the beaches like Vagator at sunset from Chapora Fort is equally reminiscing.
Other Must visit Forts of Goa are:
- Reis Magos Fort
- Agoda Fort
- Fort Tiracol
- Corjuem Fort
A Day Trip to Diwar Island
Diwar Island ride would take you to a sleepy village looked over by an old church built upon the only hill on the plain land. The view from this Our Lady of Compassion church is something to devour into as you would be able to see the majestic river of Mandovi.
The island is divided into three main villages out of which, Piedade is the most flourishing one. It also has the ruins and carving belonging to the Kadamba dynasty of Karnataka. The church was once a venerated Hindu Shrine which is now converted into a Christian shrine. The carving inside this church dates back to Kadamba dynasty which once ruled this area. Local food and drink are also worth trying. A milder version of feni, known as Urak, is very popular among the travellers and locals on this island. A day trip to Diwar Island is also a worth taking road-trip by crossing the river Mandovi.
How to Reach Diwar Island:
Take one of the following three ferries – : (Time 7 am to 8 pm)
- From Old Goa – near Viceroy’s Arch -Takes you to the South of the Diwar Island
- Another connects the east coast in the village Naroa of Bicholim district (Take this one to visit the Saptalokeshwara temple and Koti Tirth Thali (other 108 temples))
- The third Ferry is from Ribandar to Southwest of the island.
Witness the Relics of St. Xavier
Who doesn’t do that, old Goa is at the top of the list. It is a must-visit especially when the relics of St. Xavier is brought down and exhibited for the devotees. Thousands of people from all over the world come to Goa only for this exclusive moment that comes once in four years.
You might have to stand in a queue and it can be boring too. Just in case you are interested, you can take a direct entry from the other side and see the relics from a distance.
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