Goa, one of India’s most popular tourist destinations is known the world over for its rich Portuguese history and its amazing beaches. But, there is more to Goa than just its beaches, its beach life, its late night parties and flea markets. It’s lush green forests, its rich Hindu and Portuguese legacy, its spectacular natural landscapes, its colourful people and their traditions, its bountiful rivers and its heritage churches pack a punch so hard that you can plan your entire Goan holiday without even stepping anywhere close to its beaches. Here are 10 Goan experiences that will help you make the best out of your holiday to Goa and that will allow you to see Goa in a new light.
Swim under the milky Dudhsagar Falls
One of India’s prettiest waterfalls and one immortalised through the movie Chennai Express, the milky Dudh Sagar is a sight to behold, especially during the monsoons when the entire 310 m tall and 30 m wide waterfall is roaring with water. Before or after the monsoons, when the waters are clearer, the pool at the base of the waterfall makes for an excellent swimming getaway and is a must include in any goa tour package. The trek through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park and being in close proximity to the flora and fauna is just an added bonus. If you wish to relive the Chennai Express moment, you can also board a train that crosses the Dudhsagar Bridge and thus be able to get a different perspective of the waterfall.
Cycle through the Lush Green Villages
In Goa, everything happens at a leisure pace. It is this slow pace of life that appeals to its visitors as it allows them to relax and unwind. Goa is full of cashew plantations, paddy fields, coconut palms, fruit orchards and natural forests that are distributed in and around its beautiful villages. Exploring these village trails on a bicycle is a great way to get a much better feel of the Goan countryside, its people and their traditions while enjoying the leisure pace of life.
Be Lost in the many Altars of Se Cathedral
One of the largest churches in Asia, the Se Cathedral’s fourteen beautifully carved altars is nothing short of magic. Built in 1619 to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese over the then Muslim rulers, Se Cathedral is one of the top highlights of the UNESCO world heritage town of Old Goa. While this church is beautiful on all days, it is special to watch a mass session on Sundays.
Get Mesmerised at the Mahadev Temple, Tambdi Surla
Believed to be the oldest temple in Goa, the 12th century Mahadev temple at Tambdi Surla is the only specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture preserved in basalt store in Goa. Located close to the Goa-Karnataka border, this temple is surrounded by the lush Western Ghats and in the laps of mother nature thus making for a scenic and religious experience. As this temple is still active, one can offer their prayers and seek the blessings of Lord Shiva who is worshipped here.
Lose yourself in the world of Goan Cashews
Goa is known for some of India’s best cashews and what better way to enjoy this than staying in a cashew plantation, watch these nuts at close quarters, see their transition from a brown shell into a delicious snack and even see how the iconic cashew feni is prepared. And while you are at it, you can snack on roasted cashews and freshly prepared feni right in the middle of a cashew plantation. Now, that’s what I call, a special cashew holiday!
Go Birdwatching at Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
All nature lovers and bird watchers would definitely want to head to Goa’s only bird sanctuary that has been named after India’s famous ornithologist. With an estuarine mangrove habitat, the Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located on the western tip of the Chorao island along river Mandovi and is home to many terrestrial and migratory birds, flying foxes, jackals, crocodiles and many amphibian, fish and insect species. One should go here for a rich mangrove experience in Goa.
Try your Luck while floating on the Mandovi
During the day, you might notice a lot of large boats moored on the banks of the Mandovi river near Panjim. At night time, all these calmly moored boats morph themselves into lights, glitterati, music and fanfare. In case you are wondering, these boats are the famous floating casinos of Goa where you can try your luck on any of the many games played on board. Some of the floating casinos stage intoxicating parties and hence perfect for those looking for some energetic and carefree nightlife while floating on the waters off Goa.
Kayak on any of the many water bodies of Goa
In Goa, you are never too far away from adventure sports. While a lot of these adventure sports are concentrated around the beaches, you can indulge in your adrenaline rush even much inland while kayaking and negotiating the waters of the many rivers and mountain streams of this bountiful state. Right from tiny mangrove creeks, calm and broad rivers to gushing mountain streams, one can kayak almost anywhere in Goa. And if you are a strong kayaker, you can even go all the way to the Arabian Sea. While you are at it, do keep a note of tide patterns, underwater currents and other safety precautions.
Feel Goa’s Rich Portuguese Legacy while exploring its Forts
One of the legacies left behind in Goa by the Portuguese is its many amazing forts. These protective structures, while giving us an insightful view of the past also throws in some spectacular views of the Arabian Sea and the Goan coastline. My two favourite forts are the iconic Aguada fort at Sinquerim in North Goa and the quieter and more scenic Cabo de Rama Fort in South Goa.
Revel in Delicious Goan Cuisine
Last, but by no way the least, one of Goa’s best perks is its rich cuisine. From coconut curries to port wine and from amazing seafood to cashew feni, Goan food is a beautiful combination of Portuguese influences, local Konkani styles, the rich waters of the Arabian Sea, the local spices and the famous kokum. The famous dishes that you should try out are humann (fish curry and rice), dangar (Goan fish cutlets), the lentil soup called varan, arroz doce, croquettes and so much more.
I hope that you are now convinced that there is more to a Goa holiday than just its beaches. The icing on the cake is that there are so many cheap air tickets online that are being offered by various Indian airlines to Goa from all over the country. So, do make full use of these super airfare deals to Goa and enjoy a special offbeat and down to the roots Goa vacation.
Note: 2 photographs in this article have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the Creative Commons License and each of them have been linked to their host page.