So, you’ve been to Goa so many times that you’re curious if there is more beyond the beaches. Or maybe you like the sea but hate the sand, especially the ickiness of wet sand all over the bathroom floor. Or, you are a heritage and culture geek. Do you fit into any of those three types? If yes, this article is perfect for you.
We often forget that Goa is a state and not just a line of beaches, shacks and endless parties. The winters are trembling around the corner and this time when you visit our favourite beach state, maybe you can be more than a beach-bum! Munch on our top 10 suggestions to experience Goa beyond the sea and sand.
Spend a day in historic Panaji.
If you thought Panaji was a boring capital of this party-state, think again. Spend a day here: walk along the small roads, follow the banks of the Mandovi River, choose the house you wish to live in at Campal and watch the sunset at Miramar or even further at Dona Paula. If you want an art break then head to a restored Portuguese house in Altinho that houses Sunaparanta—an art gallery-cum-workshop space. Don’t forget to have a bite in their cafe. Psst… they offer free wi-fi!
Drive across the state to Budbudi Tali & Dudhsagar Falls.
Imagine a small temple tank with bubbles rising to the surface. There is no reason why this pond has bubbles rising to the surface, theories float around but nothing has been proved, or so I’ve read. Any budding scientists want to take a pot-shot? Nearby is the famous Dudhsagar falls—with milk-like white foamy water cascading down from great heights. Go just after the monsoons if you don’t want to be disappointed. Make the long drive count with a visit to the old houses near Quepem and Margao like Palacio Do Deao.
Go Book shopping in a quaint little book shop Literati at Calangute.
This bookstore is set in an old Portuguese house. The owners have donated half their house to this enterprise and even run a mobile book library. You can buy new books or scavenge in the racks of seconds. You know you’ll find me! If you are lucky, the resident labrador might keep you company.
Visit one of the oldest temples in ‘catholic’ Goa.
Almost adjacent to the border between Goa and Karnataka, lies a 12th century temple popularly called Tambdi Surla. This temple is dedicated to Shiva. Black basalt rocks rise out of the verdant green setting, with the gentle sounds of the river as the background score. These large rocks that form the temple structure have carvings that have weathered over time yet shine in their simplicity.
Immerse yourself in the Portuguese past at Old Goa.
Around 10 kms from Panaji, lies the older, one could say original, capital of the Portuguese Colony in India. Towering ruins of a bell tower, perfectly maintained facades and landscaped gardens are but a small glimpse of what it all must have looked like during its heydays. 2014 is also the year of the Exposition of relics of St. Francis Xavier at Bom Jesus Basilica; be warned it will be crowded!
Take a walk around the Latin Quarter or Fontainhas
Fontainhas is a good reminder of the history embedded in Goa. Stroll down narrow roads with names like Rua 31 de Janerio and Rua de Natal, ogle at houses inspired by Portuguese architectural styles and immerse yourself in the atmosphere till you forget which country you are in. End with a bite at Panjim Inn’s Verandah Cafe or Hotel Venite, not for the food but for the atmosphere.
Grab a drink at Cantare in Saligao.
The shacks of Goa are top priority to most visitors, but if you’ve tired of them, head to Cantare. You drive up a tiny road, park in a lane, and hardly expect to chance upon a resto-bar in a village, but then, that’s Goa! Set in a restored heritage house, Cantare, has live music, a gracious owner who welcomes you like his personal guest, good food and tonnes of atmosphere. Hog the corner table in the balcony and dream a Goan dream.
Visit to the Islands of Chorao and Divar.
There is something about visiting the past without having a time-machine! These two river islands can do exactly that. Connected to the mainland only by ferry even today, a short drive through these islands transports you to a time long past. Meandering roads with expansive bungalows on either side, the camera clicks away as if possessed. If you thought life in Goa was slow, well, this is even more susegado. Time just l i n g e r s.
Eat your way to heaven at Vivienda dos Palhaços at Majorda.
This is a restored Portuguese house that is now a heritage hotel. Even if you aren’t staying there, you can experience it with a meal; book in advance. Delicious Portuguese and Goan cuisine will leave you unbuckling that belt under the table. The meal is set in a community dining room with all guests huddled around a large wooden table. Vegetarians don’t fret, there’s brilliant food for you too. Don’t forget to check out the decor of the common toilet and ask Simon, your host, for the photograph album of the restoration of this house.
And with that we’re at the end of our list of places to get you off the beach and experiencing the heart of all things Goan. Discover more on your next trip and help us add to our list!