OFF THE BEATEN PATH ATTRACTIONS IN GOA
Usgalimal Rock Carvings
San Jacinto Island
Cabo De Rama Fort
St. Augustine’s Tower Ruins
Rita’s Gourment Cooking Class
Butterfly Conservatory Goa
POPULAR BEACHES AND DESTINATIONS IN GOA
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Netravali Bubbling Lake
Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim
Ponda Street Market
Planning a trip to Goa? Or wondering just what it is about Goa, India that makes everyone fall in love with the place? Well, there’s a lot to Goa. A Goa trip is not just about the best beaches in Goa or lazing around in the traditional susegaat style, and eating xacuti and choriz pav and drinking beer. There are so many popular things to do in Goa, that if you look for a list of top 10 places to visit in Goa, you’ll find almost every list to be different. Mine is too!
With a little help from my friends, I’ve put together this list of must visit places in Goa, both places that Goa is famous for, and off the beaten path attractions and hidden places in Goa.
Why put together a list of best places to visit in Goa? Well, I’ve been visiting Goa for holidays since I was a kid. It’s easy to catch a flight or train from Mumbai to Goa for a weekend away. Of course back then we could only afford buses, and over the years we graduated to trains and flights.
And over the years, Goa has changed a lot too. It used to be open roads, vast reaches of coconut trees, beautiful beaches and lovely food. Well, it’s still all of that, with a bit of mass tourism thrown in now. I mean the crowd in North Goa in summer nowadays is just crazy!
But Goa still retains some of her old charm, and there are places to visit in Goa that have not been ruined by over tourism. So if my sort of rant above has not convinced you not to visit Goa, and you’re still planning on coming to stay in Goa, keep reading and we’ll share with you a few Goa destinations that you must visit. First, the off the beaten path and rarely visited places to see in Goa, and then the regular and popular Goa beaches and tourist destinations.
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Off the beaten path attractions in Goa
Usgalimal Rock Carvings in Sanguem on the banks of the Kushavati River
By Abby from TheWingedFork
If you’re looking for offbeat things to do in Goa, the Usgalimal rock carvings tops the list! It was a bit difficult to find, but once we got there it was awesome. I realized I like walking into trenches and out of them more than crossing planks across trenches. I also remembered that I need to lose weight. But that’s not really what we’re talking about here.
What we are talking about is 20000 or so many year old petroglyphs that were carved in laterite rocks. Isn’t that amazing? That means they belong to the mesolithic or upper paleolithic era.
Archaeologists say this is the main distinction between these rock carvings and other rock carvings. The rock carvings here at Usgalimal in the banks of the Kushavati River were made in laterite rock, which is usually considered difficult to carve into. The scientists say the rock art or cave paintings in Pansaimol were made with some sort of soft tool. Pansaimol is the other name for this Usgalimal site in the Sanguem Taluka near Rivona, South Goa.
The site is located beyond some old iron ore mines near Usgalimal village. Strange though, we noticed a few dilapidated structures on the way here, but no mines along those winding roads. Need to work on our powers of observation much.
The Usgalimal Rock Carvings discovered by accident when the local villagers show some visiting archaeologists the site in the early 1990’s. Since then it has become a government protected site.
On an area of approximately 500 square metres, we got to see a dancing lady, a human figure, deer, bison, bulls, and a labryinth. There are also human and elephant footprints.
You’ll hardly find anyone visiting here. They ask us to sign a book before we leave, and we see that the last visitors were some French people about 5 days ago. I think the name was Nathalie.
Anyways, the guard named Ramakant showed us around but didn’t allow us to go to the spice farm that was just across the river. A while later, another local passed by and crossed the river to the spice farm, but he didn’t stop him. Hmm.
The River Kushavati didn’t flow much here, and apart from the moss was easy to walk into. I tried to take pics of the fish in it, but I really need a better camera. If you plan on visiting this historic place, don’t go in the monsoon. During the rains the river overflows and most of the rock carvings are submerged and unreachable.
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Galgibaga Beach in Canacona Taluka
By Abby from TheWingedFork
About 30 minutes drive South of Palolem Beach is the beautiful and pristine Galigbaga Beach. I’d wanted to go there a few times, but finally made it one sunny afternoon.
Of course, it turned out to be the wrong time to get there. See, my main reason to go to Galgibaga was not to enjoy the clean and empty beach or shoreline, but to see at least one turtle hatch.
Unlucky! The forest guards there told me that they only come out after 11 pm, and since it was still late November, I needed to wait and come back after a few weeks. Tears in my eyes. Hear that, fairy god father. I need to go back mid December. Okay, no tears really. But if someone would actually pay to transport me there one lovely night in December, I’d get to see those beautiful Olive Ridley turtles hatch.
I’d love to have that scratch off my bucket list, you know. “Saw precious Olive Ridley turtles hatching on a protected beach in Galgibag, Goa in the middle of the night”. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Anyways, since I couldn’t do that, I did take shots of baby crabs and shells moving towards the water. There’s zillions of them out there. And they move so slowly, you almost want to help them. Almost, like playing at naturalist or zookeeper. 😉
But a PS, while you’re at Galgibaga Beach, try the Ceasar Salad at the Holy Turtle. It’s to die for! Sitting out there in the middle of nowhere with hardly 4 people around, staring at the shoreline and eating my olive filled Ceasar salad. What more could one ask for?
Update Nov 2019: We went again with dad and sis this time. Of course, no turtles. They told us to come back in Feb. Haha! But ambling through the shade of the trees under the hot sun was nice!
Anyways, if you’re looking for protected beaches in Goa, India to watch turtles hatch, Galgibaga is the right choice. So are Agonda and Morjim beaches. Maybe you’ll have more luck than me.
Talpona Beach in Canacona, South Goa
By Abby from TheWingedFork
Another beach that’s as beautiful as Galgibaga is the pristine Talpona Beach that’s about 2.5 km North of Galgibaga Beach and about the same distance South of the Rajbaga Beach. But, getting to Rajbaga Beach involves crossing a bridge and a drive of 6 km, so we didn’t do it this time. Talpona Beach and the nearby villa fishing village get their name from the Talpona River that you cross on the way here.
By the way, there are two ways to get here. One, a really old looking bridge that can only take smaller vessels. We were in a Toyota Innova and our driver wasn’t sure we’d make it across. We were about to turn around and take the longer route when we saw a smaller WagonR go across. Also, spoke on the phone to our host in Talpona and he said our vehicle could cross. So becoming brave, our driver started across. Side windows were about to get scraped off, so he closed them. We inched across the bridge slowly, because there was hardly an inch of room between the sides of the tyres and the walls of the bridge. Some thoughts of whether we’d be able to get out of the Innova if we fell into the foaming brine below flashed across our minds. But soon we were on the other side and breathing heavy sighs of relief. We then drove alongside the Talpona River and then along the beach road until we reached our villa.
But really, that bridge is so old. Heaven knows when it’s going to give way. It’s better if you take the NH66 highway that runs across the Talpona River and is much safer.
We rented a villa on Talpona Beach for a few days and loved the privacy and solitude. At different times of the day, there were hardly a dozen to max 20 people on different parts of the beach. You won’t find hawkers or beach beds here. Just you, the sand and the sea; and a handful of fishermen. Even the dogs on the beach were decent and well-behaved on this South Goa beach.
We went for a swim the first day itself during high tide. The clear green water is just perfect. But try to swim towards the middle of the beach because there are hidden rocks near the Northern section. We actually swam there but only saw the rocks later when the tide was low. Jesus saved us from getting cut, just like he’s done from so many known and unknown dangers. Added that to my list of things to be grateful for. Anyways, swim away from the rocks and you’ll be safe!
Another thing we liked about Talpona beach is lighter colored sand. So different from the Northern parts of Goa. This pic above of dad, sis and me was taken by mom when we went for a walk on the beach on dad’s birthday. The sun did really get in our eyes!
There are just two shacks on the Northern end of the beach that serve really local dishes. Even their sandwiches and butter garlic squid has a local taste. Different spices! We found an abundance of kokum used in most of the food. If you’re apt to try different cuisines and are staying here for a meal though, try the rawa-fried pomfret from Deepiksha restaurant!
If you’re looking for food on the Northern end of the beach, the Peace Garden Resort has a restaurant with wider options in food and drink. Otherwise, head North to Palolem or South to Galgibaga for a meal.
Okay, now it’s time to bombard you with 2 more of my sis’s pics of Talpona Beach. Lucky, aren’t you? I actually wanted to post a dozen. 😉
I love the gold in these pics Sarah took. I have so many more that I want to post, but maybe another time, eh?
Anyways, since Talpona Beach is located in South Goa in the Canacona Taluka just 20 minutes drive South from Palolem and Patnem beaches with their shacks and nightlife; it’s perfect for a quiet getaway from the noise and busyness of the rest of Goa, but close enough to the activity if you ever feel the need to indulge.
San Jacinto Island
By Stuti from Me and My Suitcase
There is a lot to see in Goa but its hidden gems are intriguing. Vasco-da-gama, the commercial city of the state is not very famous for tourism but it does have some fascinating points. When you are on the way to Vasco from Cortalim Junction, you will see an island know as St Jacinto aka San Jacinto island, connected to the mainland by the Silver Gate Bridge.
It is a beautiful little island considered as the most exotic part of South Goa for its lush green forest, houses constructed in old style on the south western coast and a beautiful old church which stands out and can be seen even from far away. The island has got its own charm, looks pure, serene and by being here you can feel the tranquility of mother nature. This beauty is incredibly maintained because of its people who had vowed way back in 1927 not to ever sell or give their island on lease or even to government for construction of any kind. The island also has an old spring which serves for drinking water to the locals, a light house which gives a perfect view and a hilly terrain in the interiors which attracts a lot of hikers to indulge in a little adventure. This beauty on the Panaji-Vasco highway is a must visit.
An addendum to Stuti’s info – The island has a supposedly miracle spring that can heal you if you drink of it’s water. The spring is just 5 minutes walk from San Jacinto Church and filled with a number of fish. There was even a large black catfish staring at us. The cross built in the spring and it’s walls are not well take care of anymore. We asked a local about the miracle cross, and she said “It depends on your faith”.
The San Jacinto Church or Sao Jacinto Church is also called the St. Hyacinth Church or Sao Hycith by locals. Which is why when I saw a boat there named Sao Hycith, I had to take a pic. Also love the old street lamps on the bridge across to the mainland.
Some popular tours in Goa!
By Helene from Masala Herb
Kerim Beach (aka Querim Beach) is located at the northern tip of Goa and is one of my favorite Goa beaches. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy a lovely day at the beach, then this is your beach. Kerim is also special because of it’s pine trees, instead of the classical Coconut trees. That’s why this beach is a welcome change if you want to have another Goa beach experience. Tip: Take the ferry to cross the river (next to Kerim beach) and check out the Tirakhol fort on the other side.
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Morjim Town – Scooter and Kayak
By Ellie & Ravi from Soul Travel
A few minutes ride away from Ashwem beach lies the small town of Morjim. Home to a market, small stores and eateries, this is a useful place to pickup supplies and/or rent a scooter. It’s also a great jumping off point to explore a different side of Goa, and went with our friends at Konkan Explorers to kayak sail along Morjim river and a kayaking trip into some of the mangroves that join the river here. Often overlooked, Mangroves form a vital part of coastal India’s ecosystem and are home to rich biodiversity and wildlife. We highly recommend taking a trip to see this part of Goa that many travellers ignore.
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Cabo de Rama Fort
By Abby from TheWingedFork
The fort where Lord Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, who along with his wife Sita spent 14 years in exile here. That’s the Cabo de Rama fort, or so says legend.
The Cabo de Rama fort existed long before the Portuguese took it over from the local Hindu rulers and the Raja of Sonda in 1763. The fort has passed hand through a few rulers since then, including the British. Post summer, the fort is engulfed in green foliage and you can’t see how steep the drop inside is. But it’s fun to visit again.
So we did that, visited again to see what the fort had in store for us. Just a different we. The last time I visited the fort about 3 years ago, it was around 7 pm and it was pretty dark. When we got there, the driver Rohit told us not to go on the left side, but he didn’t tell us why. So we did, and we stumbled across a number of couples perched on the ramparts. It seems this was a fort for lovers. All of those couples who couldn’t find time alone, seemed to find it here.
We left that area and went towards the now closed church. Going past the church and the ancient graves, we reached more ramparts, and an ancient gate that allowed us to go outside to the steep external section. It was a steep drop from there down to the rocks and the waves crashing against them. I got a few scrapes and bruises down there.
We then went to the other side of the fort where the canons are, and while the Ex-BF went up to view the sea, I took pics of the erstwhile pond.
This time though, almost 3 years later, I went up there alone in the daytime and got some amazing pics. There are a few boats parked on the land below. The land and the beaches across the sea and the dozens of palm trees make for amazing pics. I spent quite some time taking pics while the family of four at the other end were getting their selfies.
Then time to go back down and a thorny bush decides to give me a few scratches. Hmmm…
On the way out we come across a teenage couple writing their names on the old walls. It’s not allowed, but they still do it. Love is strange!
Strange enough it seems that this lovely fort had turned into a place for suicides and lovers quarrels and murders. And the government has closed it past 5:30 pm. Things still happen though.
And whether or not you become part of the strange history of this beautiful fort, it will still make an impression. So take the time to visit!
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Palolem Beach and its secrets
By Abby from TheWingedFork
This beautiful beach in South Goa is where Matt Damon shot the Bourne Supremacy. It’s a really beautiful beach, but is now known for its hippie crowd on the South end and its family crowd on the North end. The Palolem Beach is also close to the famous Canacona Island or Monkey Island that can be accessed either by boat or by wading across at low tide. But if you ask me what to do in Goa if you only do one thing, I’ll tell you to go to Palolem for a midnight swim. The secret of the beach is the phytoplankton that people don’t know about. Read more about it my Palolem post here.
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Church of St. Augustine in Velha, Old Goa
In the Velha region of Old Goa on Holy Hill (Monte Santo) and just off the banks of the river Mandovi sit the ruins of the tower of St. Augustine’s monastery and those of the once enormous church of Nossa Senhora de Graca (Our Lady of Grace). Augustinian friars initiated construction of this once stupendous structure after their arrival in 1587. Construction of the monastery and the church was completed between 1597 and 1602 giving the Nossa Senhora de Graca the reputation of being one of the 3 greatest Augustinian churches of the Iberian world, the other 2 being the Basilica of Escoral in Spain and St. Vincente de Fora in Lisbon.
The tower was one of 4 original towers that stood at this site. Measuring 46 meters this once colossal structure served as a Belfry. Excavations reveal that the church comprised of 8 chapels and 4 altars amongst the many other cells connected to it and a convent. The church had an enormous barrel vault (collapsed 1842) which covered its now exposed nave. The sheer weight of the enormous vault is believed to have quickened the collapse of the church post abandonment in 1835. The bell which once adorned the now dilapidated tower was moved to the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim in 1871 where it is to this day. In 1931 half the tower collapsed and subsequently more sections in 1938.
There is another myth or legend associated with St. Augustine’s Tower and the relics of Ketevan the Martyr, the Queen of the Georgian kingdom of Kakheti. After the death of her husband, she became regent and made her still young son the king. As regent, she was tasked with the duty of being an emissary to Iran. To prevent Kakheti from being attacked she allowed herself to be taken hostage. Queen Ketevan was eventually tortured and killed at Shiraz in Iran in 1624 for refusing to give up her Christian faith.
The Augustinian missionaries took her remains back to Georgia but also secretly brought some of her parts and interred them in the monastery here in Goa. So goes the story of the Queen who lies in two places now. There have been attempts to locate her remains, but so far all that has been found are records documenting them.
These beautiful ruins escaped me on previous visits to Old Goa but I would definitely recommend visiting St Augustine’s tower if you are in and around Old Goa. I most definitely would. Again.
Try these popular museums and monuments tours in Goa!
Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes
Another novel way to experience Goa is by attending the fun and educational Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes. Rita shares her decades of knowledge about Goan and local Indian cuisine with every eager student and traveller. The most famous class is the One day Cooking Class with Local Farmer’s Market Tour (Five Hours)
I asked Rita what she thought was the the essence of Goan food, and this is her reply:
“Goan food is full of flavour, aromas, presentation & taste well backed by years of culinary history. Goan food compliments with the suave people of Goa who love their food, feni and festivities along with a good Susegado life.“
Butterfly Conservatory of Goa aka Mystic Woods
By Abby from TheWingedFork
Ever wanted to dance with butterflies? Get yourself to Mystic Woods.
Okay. You don’t really dance with butterflies, but you can see so many of them in this small piece of land in Ponda that you’ll find a number of naturalists and conservation enthusiasts visiting here.
The owners took up this project as a part of their efforts to reforest land that builders were taking over. When they bought the piece of land from the builders, it was dry and without any plants. Now, 6 years later, it has turned into green land again.
Wild orchids growing on cashewnut tree at the Butterfly Conservatory of IndiaThere is a pond onsite with guppies that nibble on your feet if you put them in. But they’re not garrarufa, so the risks and benefits of that, I’ll leave to you to decide. There is waterfall that flows with rain water that has been harvested nearby. A few wild orchids had been grafted onto a cashewnut tree and were thriving there.
We reached around 2 in the afternoon, so only saw a few butterflies. There were many of the glassy tigers around though. The others seemed to have wandered off. We were told the best time to see more butterflies is in the morning from 9 am to 11 am. The tally of butterflies seen so far by naturalists who spend time there has gone up to 133.
Kakolem Beach or Tiger Beach
By Abby from TheWingedFork
There are beaches aplenty in Goa, but a little bit North of the Cabo de Rama fort that was once well known for its local lover escapades, is this hidden beach. By local lover escapades, I mean the couples who were perched on the left side of the ramparts. Nowadays, the fort is closed post 5.30 pm, although it was technically closed at that time earlier too. There’s an armed guard there now in the evenings. But I digress.
Kakolem beach aka Tiger Beach is as beautiful as Butterfly beach. And similar to that, it can only be accessed by boat or by hiking down a rather deep incline. I didn’t have the heart for it that sunny day. Neither did my mom or our driver guide Rohit. So we just took pictures, and went on ahead. Me, I figured the next time I’m here with the BF, I’ll hike down there. Of course I’m not talking about the ex-BF, he has chosen to be history because of a 30% thing. So dear future BF, if you’re reading this, just be prepared. You’ll be guiding a somewhat clumsy creature who is deathly afraid of worms down a hiking trail. Good luck to you!
The family just chimed in, “She’s serious!”
I think I’ll just drop of the earth now.
But getting to the beach really requires either the short steep hike or a boat. Which is why, if you’re looking for privacy, Kakolem beach is perfect!
By Abby from TheWingedFork
The first time I went to Butterfly Beach was in 2011 on a guided tour. Since we took a boat from Panjim to get there, some of the tourists were under the impression that it was a faraway Butterfly Island. When in fact, Butterfly Beach is just a secluded cresent shaped beach on the South coast of Goa. It lies 15 minutes North of Palolem Beach and 30 minutes South of Kakolem Beach and so can be accessed via both by boat.
The name butterfly beach obviously comes from the number of butterflies that are known to inhabit the beach. We didn’t see any though. We did like the clear water for swimming and the odd crabs that were around. Snorkelling here means you will see a few fish and sea cucumbers. But the beach is great for just plain ‘ol swimming too. Post which you can enjoy lunch on the shore.
The fact that you cannot drive here keeps the beach clean and away from the crowds. But if you are the adventurous type, you can get here by hiking through the nearby jungle for about 2 to 2.5 hours.
On the way back, we did dolphin watching in the same trip. Didn’t really expect to see them, but we turned out to be lucky. Yippee Yay! Wish we had better cameras though.
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Popular beaches and destinations in Goa
By Priyadarshini from Glorious Sunrise
It is known that Goa is popular for its beaches, but travelers say that Calangute beach is among the best beaches in this coastal state. Calangute is in the northern part of Goa and is a charming town with friendly locals. Apart form its world-famous beach, this town has many other attractions for tourists including Saint Alex church, Casino Palms and Tibetan Market.
Calangute beach is quite a beautiful and long stretch along the Arabian Sea covering about 6 kilometers. It is a favorite for tourists as well as locals and is fondly called as the ‘Queen of beaches’. For this reason this beach is packed in May and from December to January. So, if you do not go well with crowds, try to book your vacation for non peak season to enjoy this beach’s exquisite beauty.
Parasailing, water skiing, water mobiling are some of the popular water activities to do at Calangute beach apart from swimming. With numerous palm trees around the beach, it would be easy to just plop down and relax on the beach for the whole day too. Of course, this spot has a throbbing nightlife and great spots to grab some delicious food.
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Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
In the Southern part of Goa, in the Canacona Taluka is the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary that was set up in 1968 to protect this part of the forest. Although we can’t see bigger cats here, they still have flying squirrels, deer, porcupine and pangolins.
But the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is better known for the birds that can be seen here and is a bird watcher’s paradise if you are patient enough. The white-bellied woodpecker, velvet fronted nuthatch, kingfisher, swallow, swift, egret, heron, speckled piculet, and many more.
There are a few hiking trails for those who don’t like the confines of a vehicle. One of them takes you to the observation desk that’s about 20 metres high up in a tree. The climb may get your heart racing.
There is also a snake proof camp sites for those who have taken prior permission to spend the night here.
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This 15 km stretch of canal that connects the rivers Zuari and Mandovi has a unique feature. It is inhabited by mugger crocs that are fresh water creatures but have adapted to a salt water lifestyle. We hired a boat from one of the many centres nearby and took a trip in the lush mangroves to spot those beady eyes looking at us. They didn’t seem to care about the humans taking pictures of them and went on with their slumber or rest. Some of them were swimming across the creek too. We also spotted a few birds and a number of fishing boats. If you are visiting, carry a DSLR or SLR camera to get better shots.
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Mapusa Market in Mapusa, Bardez
By Abby from TheWingedFork
The best local Goan market to shop at for anything and everything, the Mapusa market is held every day within the Municipal Market quarters. It’s probably also the largest Goan market out there. One can find food and clothing, but not shelter. The sun beats down hot on your head as you shop here, so if you want shelter, you need to either wear your cap or get your umbrella along.
I’ve been going there on holidays since I was 12. My parents pick up all the items they want to bring home to Bombay from here – cashews, wine, doce, bibique, jaggery, kokum, sausages and more.First stop Simonia’s for the sweets.
They’d also buy the fare for lunch and breakfast sometimes. Because dinners in Goa were always had at one of the many local restaurants. Of course there were days we stayed in too. But why stay indoors when you have local Goan cuisine and culture at your finger tips?
Anyways, at Mapusa market you literally can buy everything. There’s a section for veggies, fruits and flowers. There’s a bit for chicken, meat and fish. Even dried fish and prawns. There’s a section where you find t-shirts, shorts, nightgowns, dresses, caps, belts, undies, bras, wholesale cloth by the metres, carpets, and almost everything else. Don’t forget to bargain here! You’ll find pottery, cutlery and plastic items. You’ll find almost cashewnuts in almost every flavor from the local growers. Tamarind balls, jaggery pyramids, kokum, dried chillies, and spices and more.
We buy both regular and choriz sausages from the aunties sitting with their baskets on the floor. They are homemade and taste better than the ones in the stores. Tangier and spicier!
To experience shopping like a local, this is the place to be. I also find the products in Mapusa market to be cheaper than those in Madgaon (Margao market) and still of quite good quality. 😉
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Budbudyache Taley aka Netravali Bubbling Lake
By Abby from TheWingedFork
There’s a lake that’s really a pond and bubbles year long. If you’ve visited more than once you probably know what I’m talking about. The mysterious Netravali Lake or Budbudyache Taley in Netravali, Vichumdrem keeps bubbling all day and night.
I tried to take a video of the bubbles, but my phone betrayed me. The bubbles kept coming up just after I’d given up and pressed stop. Almost 10 times they did that! Blimey! It was just a few of them that made it into the video above.
No one knows where the bubbles in this pond that’s called a lake come from. Scientists have tried testing them under the aegis of the government. They wanted to see if the bubbles were cause by methane gas. But that has been proven wrong given that a few varieties of tiny fish live in this pond.
The bubble also respond to some sounds. Clap your hands and the bubbles rise faster through the clear water to break at the surface. The lake or really pond is a centre of religious significance to the locals along with the neighbouring Gopinath Temple.
The lake can be accessed all days of the week from 8 am to 8 pm. And a tidbit to leave you with – ‘budbud’ means bubbles in the Konkani language. Hence the name of the lake, Budbudyache Taley or Bubbling Lake.
The lake is quite close to a number of spice farms. So if you’re in the area visit the Tansikhar Spice Farm, Kushavati Spice farm or any of the others.
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Arvalem Caves aka Pandava Caves aka Harvalem Caves
Near the Bicholim Taluka and Arvalem Falls are the Arvalem Caves. They can easily be reached via a short drive from the Arvalem Falls and are open from 9 am to 5 pm with a break from 1 pm to 2 pm.
The caves were dug out of a single laterite rock in the 6th century by Buddhist monks but may also have Brahmin origins due to the presence of the four shivlings. Locals believe that the caves were earlier occupied by the 5 Pandava brothers during their exile – namely, Sahadev, Bhim, Yuddhistir, Arjun, and Nakul.
The Shivlings in the caves that have been carved out of granite are similar to those at Elephanta caves and Ellora caves. There isn’t much more to see, but the caves stand testimony to the enduring works of man.
If you’re looking for these caves, you might have to look out with the alternate names, Harvalem Caves or Pandava Caves.
This beach in North Goa is a hot spot for local and international tourists. The flatter banks make it a tad safer for swimming. At the Northern end there are backwaters that are calmer too.
You can see fishing boats lined along the shore, children frolicking in the water, and adults getting their sun tans here. The numerous restaurants also offer sunbeds for visitors to lounge. At the end of the beach, the hawkers sell their trinkets and bhel or other Indian snacks, while the restaurants offer a respite from the heat with their chilled beers and local flavours.
I’ve never thought of taking pictures here, because it’s where we’ve been going almost every year for a holiday since we were kids. But this time I promised myself, take pictures, come rain or shine. And “it came rain”, haha! But got them pics anyway.
Here’s mom and dad at the windy Baga beach.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim
Built as a small chapel in 1541, the church was converted to current size in 1609. The church overlooks the passing traffic in the busy city of Panjim, Goa’s capital city.
The bell in this church once adorned the Augustinian ruins of the Nossa Senhora da Graça or Our Lady of Grace that’s located in Old Goa, and is the second oldest bell in Goa.
The baroque facade is painted white to represent Virgin Mary’s purity, while golden alters with Saints Peter and Paul on either side of the Virgin adorn the interior.
The church doesn’t have to much to offer, but does provide a bit of peace and quiet in this noisy centre of Goa.
Ponda Street Market
Quite close to the daily municipal market that sees vegetable, food, fish and meat vendors, there is the street market that fills Upper Bazaar Street or Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Locals from neighbouring areas come here with their produce, making it the perfect spot to get fresh fruits, vegetables, and more.
The streets are also lined with vendors selling household goods and cheap items of clothing. We stopped by here to get our favourite ginger covered malvani khaja that my Goan friend says is called kaduo buduo. See those things hanging in the packets? Yep, that’s them! Yummy!
Located in the North of Goa, Candolim Beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. Although it’s not as crowded as Calangute Beach, you’ll find throngs of Indian tourists there most of the time. The once quiet beach access has over time turned into a busy promenade filled with stores, hawkers and restaurants.
You can still find just enough space to swim here. But don’t be surprised when you find Indian tourists going into the water fully clothed; or if you find both men and women staring at your swimwear. It’s an everyday occurrence here. Take it with a pinch of salt. Well, most of the time! There are some times when you just can’t.
Anyways, there are also options for boat rides and other watersports on this beach. You won’t have to look for them. The sales guys will come up to you offering different rates, sometimes all of them at once. Noisy!
Where is Goa? What should I know about Goa?
Goa is a small state on the Western coast of India. It is bordered by the Indian states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, and of course the Arabian Sea. Goa International Airport is a military airport and located at Dabolim near Vasco Da Gama. It’s easily accessible via direct flights from most cities in India. Some major international destinations also have direct flights to Goa. Most outstation trains mostly stop at either Madgaon aka Margao, Tivim or Vasco Da Gama in Goa.
Local transport in Goa includes buses, ricks and cars. Try to haggle for a price, but in the end you’ll have to live with the higher costs. Don’t worry, they overcharge us too, and we’re from Mumbai who’ve been visiting Goa for over 20 years.
Panaji or Panjim is the capital of Goa, while Vasco Da Gama is the largest city. Since it is located on the Western Ghats, it has a diverse variety of flora and fauna. Goa is famous for its sandy beaches, places of worship, forts and heritage sights. The food and culture of Goa though unique in its own way draws many cultural influences from the Portuguese who occupied it for over 450 years, before India annexed her in 1961. That’s enough information about Goa for now. 😉 Best go experience it yourself.
When is the best time to visit Goa?
The best time to go to Goa is in the cooler months from November to February. But you can also visit Goa the rest of the year. October and March to May are very hot but still busy months. If on the other hand, you like the rains, visit Goa from June to September and enjoy long drives along open roads engulfed in green. Be careful of the flooding in some areas though. Many of the restaurants in Southern Goa shut down for the monsoon season. So you’d be left to cooking your own food or buying it from a local Goan ‘auntie’. PS. It’s a thing in India. We call everyone auntie and uncle, even strangers.
The best places to stay in Goa
Wondering where to stay in Goa? We’ve got a tried and tested list of beach resorts in Goa from my friends and myself.
Lazy Frog Resort on Carmona Beach
By Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far
We initially booked to stay in Lazy Frog Resort for just a couple of days, but ended up staying for more than a week! Simply put, we didn’t want to leave and had such a wonderful time there. As we are budget backpackers, we are always trying to find the highest quality accommodation on a budget, and honestly think Lazy Frog Resort is your best bet in Goa.
It is incredibly modern and clean, and they even have a pool. Which, is actually very hard to find when searching for cheap accommodation in Goa. The guys who run the place are very friendly and the on-site restaurant is equally as affordable, and serves up wonderful Indian cuisine. So, if you find yourself in Goa and are looking for somewhere to stay for a few nights, I would highly recommend stopping in!
Lazy Frog is in Orlim Rd, Carmona, Goa 403717, India
Phone: +91 70661 53390
Yab Yum Resort at Ashwem Beach
By Ellie & Ravi from Soul Travel
North Goa is not known for its peace and quiet, but we got lucky with our discovery of Ashwem beach and the beautiful Yab Yum Resort. Set just back from the beach, Yab Yum is something of an oasis. The accommodation is made up of cosy and earthy mud-huts, completed with palm thatched rooftops – giving the feeling of being completely at one with nature. Inside the rooms are large, with plenty of windows and luxurious beds. Bathrooms with windows allow you to shower and enjoy a (non-overlooked!) view out to palm trees at the same time. Don’t miss the early morning yoga and a walk on Ashwem beach all to yourself (if you’re early enough!).
Yab Yum is at Ashwem Beach, Mandrem, Goa 403527, India
Phone: +91 86696 92229
Sea Star Resort at Agonda Beach
By Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Situated in South Goa, Agonda Beach is a golden crescent of powder soft sand, where the pace slows down to the meditative sway of the palm trees, and where cows come to congregate at sunset. This is a far cry from the concrete jungles and party beaches elsewhere in Goa; although you will still easily find WiFi and Western Food.
We were visiting Goa with kids (aged 2 and 4) and loved the huts at Sea Star Resort. There are a few one-bed sea-facing huts, and a couple built on stilts for an elevated sea view. However, we were allocated a two-bed hut, with adjoining bathroom, which sat back behind the beach-front restaurant along a little sandy strip. Huts come with a fan, mosquito net, and reliable hot water. A little veranda, with a chair and floor mattress, invites weary travellers to relax with a beer and a good book. But the real treat is falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean. Bliss.
Sea Star Agonda Resort
Agonda Beach North side
Dhawalkhajan, Agonda 403702, Goa, India
Phone: +91 99233 32896
Maaria Riose – Melody of the Sea in Dabolim
On our last night in Goa, we chose to stay at this affordable and comfy boutique hotel close to the airport. Mariaa Riose or ‘Melody of the Sea’ was a 7 minute drive from the airport and a 10 minute drive from Bogmalo beach. It was also about 100 metres from the Indian Naval Aviation Museum.
Monish and all the staff were very helpful and friendly. The management ensures that guests get free drops to the airport and the Bogmalo Beach. (within reasonable hours.) There is no elevator, so if you have difficulty climbing stairs, ask for rooms on the lower levels. You still might have to do one level of stairs though. My mom took a bit of time to climb, but managed to get up two flights of stairs.
We chose to stay in the more spacious deluxe rooms that also had two sofa chairs. The rooms also have a small fridge, safety deposit box, AC, TV, and a kettle for coffee. WiFi is only available in the lobby area.
The food at their restaurant and for room service is okay. The bathrooms were clean. The best part though was the bed. The mattress was the comfiest I’ve ever seen, even comfier than in some 5 star hotels. I wish I could have taken the mattress home.
Another plus, if you reach too early before check in time they allow you to make use of the pool while waiting for your room.
1/6B, Gallint, Opposite 1st Navy gate, Alto Dabolim, Goa 403801, India
Phone: +91 832 253 8666
Cinnamon Agonda on Agonda Beach Road
In South Goa, away from the maddening crowd of South Palolem, is the Agonda beach. The area is quieter compared to Palolem and so are most of the visitors. If you’re looking for peace and quiet instead of noise and parties, this is the place to be. There were quite a few good resorts here, so we had a difficult time choosing. But we ended up spending 2 nights at the Cinnamon Agonda.
Malissha and her staff are super helpful and friendly. (They helped us arrange for pickups from the airport at good rates. Distance from airport – 67 kms.) The rooms were spacious and clean. The beds were bouncy. All of the rooms are carpeted and come with a safety deposit box, a wardrobe, free WiFi. You can choose between air conditioned and regular rooms.
There’s also an outdoor seating area to enjoy the sunset with a beer in the company of your friends, the mosquitos. 😉 Who am I kidding? I had really big spots on my arms and legs from the mosquito bites. But my trusty natural mosquito repellent made it bearable. The last rays of sunlight disappearing through the trees make for a pretty picture.
There is a steel frame pool at the centre of the property facing the bar. If you want a room close to the bar, ask for rooms 101, 102 or 103.
The in house restaurant has been closed but room service is still available. Breakfast is included in the price of the room and served at what they call the ‘terrace’ at the back. I would have loved a little more variety with the breakfast, but I liked the cinnamon French toast and dark coffee.
The beach is a short 4 minute walk away, while other restaurants and shops are less than a minute away. Other attractions in the area include the Cola Beach (3 kms), Butterfly Beach (6 kms), Cabo de Rama Fort (9 kms), Palolem Beach (9 kms) and Patnem Beach (10 kms) and more.
Agonda Beach Rd, Canacona, Goa 403702, India
Phone: +91 91588 06297
Colonia Santa Maria in Cobravaddo, North Goa
These colonial-style villas are equidistant to both Calangute and Baga beaches. They’re clean, spacious and also have a big lounging area with sofas, cable TV, minibars and tea and coffee kettles. The staff at the hotel are eager to serve. We liked our stay there some years ago.
There is a pool to lounge at, but with the sea just 60 seconds away, do you really need it?
The onsite restaurant called the Balcao serves European, Continental and North Indian cuisine.
Colonia Santa Maria
CSM road, Khobravaddo, Calangute Goa 403516, India
Phone: +91 832 227 6107
Fernandes Wooden Cottages in Palolem, South Goa
We went on another trip to South Goa in April 2016 and stayed at Fernandes Wooden Cottages. They’re eco-friendly cottages, so expect wooden walls that you can hear the neighbours through at night, wooden furniture and simple clean amenities. No TVs naturally. You’re here to relax, enjoy the sea and spend time with nature.
We stayed in the Garden cottages for the first night, but it was really hot, so we moved to one of the sea-facing air-conditioned rooms atop the Fernandes Restaurant for the next 3 nights. What did scare us a bit was the way the shack swayed every time the guy in the neighboring room went up and down the stairs, but the cottages are still standing, so all’s well. The upper floor rooms also had beach chairs on the balcony, so that was great. I’m not sure of the prices right now, but at that time the garden cottages were INR 1200 and the air-conditioned rooms cost INR 1600 a night.
Sash Fernandes and his staff are very helpful and can arrange vehicles for trips to other parts of Goa. You can ping him for more info at email@example.com or Whatsapp him at +91-7875232056
Fernandes Wooden Cottages
Palolem Beach, Canacona Goa 403702, India
Talpona Paradise Beach House
A little green-colored house on a quiet beach, the perfect place to relax away from the noise and busyness of Northern Goa beaches. That’s where we spend dad’s 68th birthday weekend; in an old Goan home on Talpona Beach, South Goa that’s been converted into a rental. We took a cab down from Candolim, and once we got here we got our keys from Bhandari who works at the nearby Deepiksha Restaurant and walked about 50 m to our villa. A little later Deepak, the Assistant Manager came by to make sure everything was fine. And an hour later, Guy, the rental Manager came by to welcome us with two bags of fresh fruits, tell us about the places nearby and check if we needed anything else. He was followed by Prasanna, the maintenance and cleaning staff.
The 55 sqm green villa has 2 rooms, a living room, bathroom, and a small kitchen that’s equipped with a fridge, gas stove, cooking utensils, plates, cutlery, and more. So if you want to eat in, you can cook here too. But if you want to try some truly local cuisine, the restaurant next door called Deepiksha serves Goan cuisine cooked very different from the food we’ve tasted in other parts of Goa. It tasted like they use much more kokam in the curries or something like that. It’s very very very local and may be different for some people to palate. But if you’re open to tasting hyper-local cuisine, give it a go. Deepak manages the restaurant and even does home deliveries to the rental villas. He’s quite a friendly fellow and will chat with you for a while. There a few more restaurants on the beach that you can try. Another option is heading over to the nearby beaches of Galgibaga, Patnem or Palolem for a meal.
But getting back to the rental, it has interiors that belie the weather-worn or salt-eroded exteriors; it’s clean, has tiled flooring, and some amazingly soft mattresses covered with white sheets. You might also get woken up by the bathroom door creaking when someone else goes at night. Me, I was also woken up at 4 am by a white moth than careened into my neck and then just wouldn’t get out of bed; but a few bugs are expected if you stay in these secluded offbeat locales. But listening to the sound of the waves crashing on the shores is the loveliest sound to lull anyone back to sleep.
On our second day, the internet and electricity went off for a few times for about 15 to 30 mins; but that’s normal in Goa too.
If you’re a bigger group or if you need more modern housing, there’s a white house about 100 m away that has 2 rooms and 2 bathrooms. Guy also has 2 new rooms nearby that can house 2 guests each. What you’ll love most about any of these rentals is the solitude and lack of crowds.
We had a pristine beach just outside and didn’t even need to carry beach towels or anything else. Just put your swimming clothes on and walk into the clear green waters. Avoid the rocks on the Northern side of the beach and enjoy the waves and warm waters on the Southern end of Talpona.
Guy, Deepak and Prasanna are always available if you need anything. If you book directly it’s cheaper than Booking.com or other sites. To connect with Guy for a booking, the details are below.
Talpona Paradise Beach House
Talpona Beach House #190, Canacona, Goa 403702, India
Phone: Guy Weisman +91-7066129588
Must eat at restaurants in Goa
There’s a super long list in my head of the places I liked eating at in Goa. Here are some of them.
St. Anthony’s Bar & Restaurant, Baga Beach
There’s a lot to try at St. Anthony’s Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Baga Beach. The butter garlic squid, the tiranga platter, the fried fish, all amazing! Get a table facing the beach with a view of the sea and enjoy your food with a chilled glass of beer.
During season, the place is packed to the brim and you sometimes have to wait for a table. But if you go off season during the rains, there’s a totally different feel. The smell of sea air mixed with the rain has a mellow sort of calm even with the skies thundering and the waves crashing against the shores.
Is it just me, or is Goa the perfect place to be in all seasons?
The nearby shack Britto’s is pretty good too, but I haven’t taken any pics yet.
Find St. Anthony’s at Baga Beach, Calangute-Baga Road, Goa 403516.
Holy Turtle, Galgibag
Went here with mom when we were searching for the turtles I mentioned earlier. Although we didn’t get to see the turtles hatching because we were a bit early, we did get the chance to enjoy the clean beach and beautifully clear water.
Just facing the beach are a handful of shacks and we picked the Holy Turtle to set ourselves down. With a vantage point of the sea and just a couple of other people there, we enjoyed our beers with a paneer wrap and an amazing cesar salad.
I’ve had a lot of caesar salads in my time, because they’re one of my favorites, but the blend of tastes and textures in this caesar salad and the abundance of olives were to die for.
Update: Nov 2019
This was the second time we visited the Holy Turtle on Galgibaga Beach. Mom and I loved the beach and the Ceasar Salad here last year. It was full of toasty chicken and loaves, rich Olive oil, olives, salad leaves, and some yummy dressing.
So this November we took dad for his birthday, and sis as well. The Ceasar Salad wasn’t the same. It had a honey mustard dressing instead and my favorite olives were missing, but it was still nice. The cook had probably changed.
But the other dishes were tasty too. We enjoyed the squid rings, king prawns in a butter garlic sauce, and fish fillet, and washed it all down with the peachy local Eddie Eight Fingers beer that our friendly waiter Suraj recommended. We also enjoyed chatting with our host Galy as we hadn’t met him the year before. There are other restaurants on the beach, but the Holy Turtle has a better location with great sea views, friendly staff, and tasty food.
Find Holy Turtle at Galgibaba Beach, Canacona, Goa 403728.
Joets Bar and Restaurant
This place was so amazing that we totally forgot to take pictures, so I asked the people at Joets for some and got this one. It’s the seafood platter. Mouthwatering, isn’t it?
Joets located at the North end of Bogmalo Beach just a 5 minute drive from the airport and 15 minutes form Vasco Da Gama. Even perfect for a last beer before the dash to the airport!
The ambiance, staff and music was great. The bartender was pretty yummy too.
If you get here, you must try the beef xacuti, fish fingers, butter garlic squid, and cheese garlic naan. And wash it down with a pint or two of beer.
Find Joets Bar and restaurant at Bogmalo Beach, Baillichall ward,
Vasco da Gama, Goa 403806.
Try these food tours of Goa!
The Pink Flamingo in Candolim
This family restaurant was on the Fort Aguada Road a short distance from where we stayed. It’s smack-opposite the Fisherman’s Cove that we went to the last time; which reminds me I need to take pics of the food there the next time. Anyways, the waiters here are friendly, and some even say hello when you’re just passing by on other days. The two times we went here we were served by Ranjan and Sanatan. Sanatan is quite conversational and even told us about his roots in Bengal.
The menu is quite extensive and the fare is a mix of traditional and continental. We tried a couple of different starters, crispy chicken, butter garlic squid, beef chilly and more, and a few pastas, and fish curries on different days; some tasting good, some were just okay. But their cocktails are awesome! Whoever their bartender is, really knows how to add some punch to his mixes. It was difficult to decide between beer and cocktails, so we some of each on different days.
The show stopper, however, is Nelly. This amazing Goan singer entertains guests with oldies to local Goan classics to popular current songs, Nelly has a voice that will get you on your feet and dancing in no time.
Here’s her clear voice singing John Denver’s famous ode to his wife ‘Annie’s Song’. And my parents naturally dancing. 😉
And a while later while Nelly was singing Stumblin’ In and my poor dad who was the only guy on the floor, he got taken away from my mum by a Russian lady, and then from the lady who took him away. It was funny to watch, but I can’t find the video. Haha!
Anyways, if you want to catch Nelly singing this season, she’s at The Pink Flamingo in Goa from 8 PM to 10:30 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Find The Pink Flamingo at Villa Sol Areia, Fort Aguada Rd, near Newtons SuperMarket, Candolim, Goa 403515
Phone: +91-90110 58876
Zanzibar Beach Shack in Baga
My cousin and his friends spent their time in Goa doing a test of all the beef chilly and sausage fry at different restaurants in North Goa. And they say the best one’s were at Zanzibar in Titos Lane. What do you think?
Find Zanzibar at Titos Lane, Baga Beach, Baga, Goa 403516.
Valencio’s in Bardez
The cousin DFon and his friends also loved the beef chilly at Valencio’s nearby.
Their masala squid rings were pretty amazing too!
Feni with raspberry. Now that’s an innovative and delightful combination. You won’t be able to stop at one. Warm your tired bones with this drink!
Find Valencio’s in Titos Lane, Saunta Vaddo, Calangute, Mardez, Goa 403516.
There are a lot more restaurants and cafes that we’ve eaten at over the last two decades that need to go on this list, but I haven’t taken pics of all of them. I’ll try to add more as soon as I can.
What do you love about Goa that’s unique? Comment and let us know.
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