A myriad different memories take over every times someone utters the word – Goa. Happy memories of golden sunsets, lush paddy fields, warm people and friends. Whoever coined the phrase ‘Goa is not a place, but a state of mind’ knew what he/she was talking about. And thankfully gone are the days when Goa was all about the beaches and churches. Today’s traveller has evolved going beyond the obvious and into the uncharted territory. Goa, because of its unique combination of heritage and geography has something new to offer, every time you return to this lovely state. If you are wondering what to do in Goa , have a look at our list of top ten favourites:
1) Sunset point in Netravalli
Best time to visit: Clear sky evenings
Why it is special: This sweet spot gives you the bird’s view of the entire Netravalli forest reserve. The green forest cover extends as far out as you can see almost reaching out to touch the horizon.
Preferably reach Netravalli in the morning and trek to the very famous Netravalli waterfalls. Carry your lunch baskets because there ain’t no restaurants in the jungle. Post lunch you come back to the village to share a cuppa evening chai with the charming villagers. Then you head to the Sunset point. And here’s a little secret we going to let you in on – most of the visiting tourists do not wait for the sunset because the forest gets dark pretty quickly and Netravalli is miles away from the nearest city. This means you have this gorgeous view all to yourself, if you decide to spend the night in the Netravalli homestay that is run by villagers themselves. So not only you get to experience this surreal sunset point but also experience the other side of Goa.
PS: While you are on your way to/from Netravalli don’t forget to visit the famed Budbudtem Thalem or Bubbling water tank near buy.
2) Kurdi, village (Atlantis of Goa)
Best time to visit: May upto mid-June, before the rains begin.
Why it is special: This quaint village is special because it is submerged for the entire year, barring 1-2 months. Sounds confusing? Well here’s something you should know about this village.
In the 1960’s then CM of Goa, Mr.Bandodkar wanted to construct a dam over the river Selaulim, which is a tributary of the river Zuari. This was planned to increase irrigation and sugar plantation in Salcete, Quepem and Sanguem districts of Goa. Around 3000 people were rehabilitated from the catchment area. Many of these were from the bustling village of Kurdi.
So, once year during May when the water level drops down, the natives of Kurdi return to their beloved village to organise an Utsav at the Someshwar temple, the presiding deity of Kurdi. It was during such visit last year that they found an idol of Lord Ganesha. Further excavations, led them to find the ruins of the entire temple. What’s surprising is, none of the village elders could recall the existence of this temple which means it was destroyed centuries ago. How cool is that?
P.S : During your visit to Kurdi you must plan a small picnic to the charming waterfall nearby.
3) Harvalem caves & waterfall near Valpoi homestay
Best time to visit: September/October
Why it is special: The Harvalem caves might seem to be simple and rustic, however they have great historical value. While the local legend says that these caves housed the five Pandva brothers- Yuddhistir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul and Sahadev during their exile, historical evidence proves they were built by Buddhist monks in the early 6th century. There are a total of 5 caves that are carved out of a single, giant laterite rock. Later around 600/700 A.D. shivlings were placed in these caves.
A short distance away lies the famous Rudreshwar temple, facing the impressive Harvalem waterfalls. This place is usually quiet and peaceful though early mornings are a bit crowded with devotees from all the corners of Goa. A small pathway and park has been developed around the waterfall. You could have a lovely quick picnic under the gigantic roots of the old banyan tree.
Harvalem Caves in Valpoi Goa/Pic Credit
4) Salim Ali bird sanctuary, Chorao near Divar homestay
Best time to visit: Early mornings before 10 am and during the months of Oct-Feb
Why it is special: This is an estuarine mangrove habitat that truly is a nature lover’s paradise. Several species of both marsh and migratory birds frequent this sanctuary. This place is also home to crustaceans, crocodiles, flying foxes and jackals. A three-storeyed watch tower located right inside the sanctuary provides a panoramic view of the sanctuary – below canopy level, at canopy level and above canopy level of the dense vegetation. The guides here are both courteous and knowledgeable and by the end of your visit you will be able to distinguish between the wide varieties of fauna found here.
5) Chorla Ghats
Best time to visit: Monsoons!
Why it is special: There is a high chance you will find yourselves riding or driving amidst the clouds! Could it be any better?
Chorla ghats are a part of the Sahyadri mountain range and are located at the intersection of the Goa-Karnataka & Maharashtra border. They are abundant in biodiversity making it ideal for nature lovers and bike enthusiasts. The thick canopy of trees and wisps of mist during your journey to Chorla Ghat make it seem like a scene from the movies. The rains give birth to many mini-waterfalls on this route that serve as ideal picnic spots especially if you have picked up some warm nibbles along the way.
6) Cola Beach
Best time to visit: Evenings, Oct-May
Why it is special: This crescent shaped beach is located north of Palolem. What makes this beach special is the fact that it remains one of Goa’s lesser explored, pristine beaches. This is simply due to the fact that it is not covered by the usual public transport and the road is almost always in a bad condition. But that’s good news to those of us seeking a piece of heaven. Well, that and the fact that it has a lovely lagoon! Clear green, calm waters that invite you for a relaxing swim… divine indeed!
7) Our Lady of the Mount, Old Goa near Ribandar homestay
Best time to visit: Evenings
Why it is special: Though this church close is situated near to the very famous Church of Saint Francis Xavier, it is not much visited because of its isolated location. It was here that Adil Shah had positioned his artillery in a failed attempt to reclaim Goa from the Portuguese in 1510. When Alfonso de Albuquerque defeated the Sultan’s forces, he realised the strategic importance of the location and to commemorate his victory, he built this church dedicated to Our Lady.
The view of the river Mandovi and the Divar island from the church are at best described as exquisite!
8) Church of Our Lady of Compassion, Divar
Best time to visit: Monsoons or in the evenings
Why it is special: The view from the church courtyard overlooks the scenic village of Divar, paddy fields and the Konkan railway that looks like a toy train from far. And if that weren’t enough to convince you the interiors and exteriors of the church are carved with intricate floral patterns and overlayed with gold leaves, a reminder of Goa’s glorious golden era. This place is serenity personified.
There is a legend surrounding the church of Our Lady of Compassion and its golden bell. A ship and its crew once faced a terrible storm at sea. The ship’s devout captain prayed to Mother Mary and made a vow that he would gift the ship’s bell to the first village they safely landed in. When they landed in Divar, he fulfilled his promise by gifting the bell to the Church of our Lady of Compassion. A day was fixed to celebrate the installation of the bell and there was much rejoicing among the villagers. However when the bell was struck, the sound was so loud that the windows and mirrors in the church came crashing down. To set things right, a deal was struck and the bell was exchanged with a smaller one from the Se Cathedral located near by.
9) Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanguem
Best time to visit: Dawn & Dusk, during Oct-May
Why it is special: This is Goa’s largest and most spectacular wildlife sanctuary. Once you enter its boundaries it is like you are in a different world. Within the perimeters of this sanctuary lies the Mollem National Park, Dudhsagar falls, Devil’s Canyon viewpoint and the very famous Tambi Surla temple. You can easily spend two days in this magnificent jungle.
The Mollem National park is known for its rich wildlife that includes wild cats, elephants, deers, Indian bisons, all sorts of reptiles and wide variety of birds like fairy bluebird, wagtails, three-toed kingfisher, drongo, golden oriole, and great Indian hornbill. Jungle safari and trekking are major attractions of the park. Dudhsagar is India’s 4th tallest waterfall and in my opinion it is also India’s most enchanting. Monsoons make it slippery and difficult to visit. Devil’s canyon is a fascinating gorge that is carved by a river in Mollem. It is famous for its sharp currents, jagged rocks and picturesque setting. In addition to all these wonder, you have one of Goa’s most famous temple at Tambdi Surla that is dedicated to Lord Mahadev. This unique 12th century Jain temple is carved out of beautiful black basalt and has survived Muslim & Portuguese invasions over the centuries because of its comparatively inaccessible location.
10) Reis Magos Fort
Best time to visit: Anytime is perfect, evenings more so
Why it is special: It is the oldest fort in Goa built in the year 1551. It originally served as an outpost for Adil Shah of Bijapur. It was conquered by the Portuguese who built it along with the adjoining church. Reis Magos is the Portuguese name for the ‘Three Wise Men from the Bible’. This fort is built on a steep slope and offer stunning views of the river Mandovi and the Panjim city especially at sunset. What’s more is the fact that Reis Magos also serves as an art gallery for the genius Mario Miranda’s creations. These are typical Mario Mirada caricatures that will evoke nostalgic feelings no matter to what age group you belong to.