I have always loved Goa, even before I visited. One of those places you just belong to in your imagination. Last year, husband and I made a sudden plan to visit Goa in July since we were occupied with multiple things in the preceding months and were moving to the US in August.
While people strongly opposed the idea of visiting Goa during monsoons, I still went. Off-season traveling has its own benefits. Though I did witness torrential rains and was drenched completely on more than one occasion. Still, I relished every bit of Goa as the monsoons transform this place into a stunner!
Goa is frequented by millions of people across the globe and doesn’t need any introduction. Generally, people only talk about beaches, booze and party with respect to Goa which I think is unfair because Goa has much more than that! So for the greater good, I have collated a list of must-do-see-eat things in Goa.
Kala Academy – Located in Panjim, this place is a mecca for art lovers. On the recommendation of a friend I visited this Academy and ended up spending around 2-3 hours strolling across the campus. They regularly host a variety of programs catering to different interests and you can buy tickets to watch their shows.
Although I couldn’t watch any show or attend an exhibition, I loved sitting endlessly staring at the river right behind the campus. Your creativity accelerates when you are studying art at such a spectacular academy.
Divar Island – Standing distinctly in the middle of Mandovi River, Divar Island tends to take you to another world that’s completely disconnected from the noise of North Goa. Ferries, which are free, run every 15 minutes from Old Goa to take you to this oasis where you can just roam around to admire the vast natural and architectural beauty. Here the houses came right out of a fairy tale.
Old Goa – The moment you step in you would come across a lot of historic structures, cathedrals, gigantic trees and a whiff of fresh air! I was definitely intrigued because of my interest in history which led me to examine the magnificent structures of Se Cathedral & Basilica of Bom Jesus thoroughly.
After exploring the historic sites, we started on our quest for food and stumbled on Sanman, a plain restaurant run by the Goa Development Corporation. This place was over-crowded by tourists but it was worth a stop with all the sumptuous delicacies they managed to serve. I devoured merrily and was content post the meal.
South Goa -I wouldn’t get into the age-old debate about how South Goa is better than the North, but would just point that you must visit this part of Goa to understand how locals live here. Maybe that’s how North Goa was in the good ol’ 80s, untouched by commercialization. The beaches are pristine, clean & crowd-free and if that’s the kind of beaches you prefer head to South Goa. Apart from that, the villages in South Goa are splendid with narrow roads & lush-green fields all across and you would find little adorable eateries everywhere.
Baga River – While going back from Baga beach we took the road that runs by the Baga river and loved it more than the beach. The narrow strip of river by the road offers a picturesque view where you can dine at one of the many restaurants for a Venetian flavor in the atmosphere.
The Fisherman’s Wharf – I tried Masala Crab for the first time in my life here and was hooked! The burst of spices & flavors enticed me so much that I forgot all etiquette of eating at a public place. Looking at my embarrassed face and hands full of masala, the servers lifted my spirits by saying that there’s no civilized way of eating a mean crab. Such a relief!
Although its expensive by Goa standards, yet you must visit this place not only for the food but also for their amazing service and ambiance. And, did I mention that they made one lethal Long Island Ice Tea?!
Fontainhas – An old quarter in Panaji which retains its Portuguese influence to this day, and that piece of information drew me to Fontainhas. Its all about the pleasing, vibrant houses which adorn the streets and help you understand the architectural inclination of the erstwhile rulers.
Mario Miranda’ depiction of Fontainhas
Reis Magos Fort – This Fort’ restoration work has been quite well-taken care of as compared to the other historical structures in India. Also, the lady at the ticket counter was extremely knowledgeable and briefed tourists about the maneuverability inside, exit points, safety measures, and other specific details if you ask. One of the chambers in the Fort houses the work of Goa’s famous cartoonist and illustrator, Mario De Miranda while another stores the before and after pictures of the restoration work along with historical facts.
Hire a Scooter – This is a must if you wish to discover the tiny villages of Goa through narrow alleys or take a detour to just explore some quaint neighborhood while going somewhere. Some of the roads are single lane and not wide enough for cars so it makes sense to hire a scooter. Also its best to explore Goa at a slow pace while embracing the cheerful atmosphere around.
At every street you would find multiple shops renting out scooters for INR 200-500/per day (Less than $10/day) and you even don’t need to find a Gas station for fuel, every other grocery store sells petrol in a bottle.
Word of Caution: Stay away from the boat ride offered by Paradise Cruise at Mandovi river. They play loud obnoxious music in the lower deck and take one small round of the river at an irritating-to-the-soul dull speed.
Do leave a line if you need any information about Goa and I would try my best to help.