Almost too much has been written about Goa, but then again not without good reason. Ranked as the 6th best holiday destination in the world by National Geographic, this ‘bite-sized’ state in India has been raved and written about extensively. Located on the Konkan coast (western) of India, this Portugal town attracts tourist be it summer, winter or even monsoon! So apart along with all the sun & sand out there, here are the best places to visit in goa that you wouldn’t want to miss.
Calangute is one of the top beach destinations in the world and known as the queen of beaches and a tourist magnet. It is general filled throughout the year, and allows for a mix of activities. For an adventure lover, Calangute allows multiple water sports like parasailing, jet skiing, scuba diving and even the ever popular banana boat riding. Shopping at the beach was never easier with stalls selling souvenirs, beachwear, silk ware and what not. The beach is lined with beach huts to relax that serve fresh coconut water and the popular Goan fenny.
Falling from a height of 1017 ft and 100 feet wide, the Dudhsagar falls is a mesmerising sight, especially during the monsoon. The falls originate from the river Mandovi in Karnataka, to fall from the highest peak of the Goa and Karnataka border – 56 kms away from Panjim. Legend has it that a princess while bathing, caught the sight of a prince who was passing by. Since she wasn’t appropriately dressed, her handmaidens poured milk in front of her, thereby creating a curtain behind which she could dress; hence the name ‘Dudhsagar’ or the falls of cascading milk. Gushing down, the waterfall divides itself into 3 streams, falling down an almost vertical cliff face. The falls are surrounded by a lush forest and can be reached by road or railways. ‘Tambdi Surla’ (as the locals call it), is cut off from all sources of food, drinking water and even cellular network! It is truly gives us a chance to connect with nature.
The last place one would expect to find a Hindu temple is in Goa. But 21 kms from Panjim, lies a temple that has stood since 1560. The temple is devoted to Lord Manguesh, an incarnation of Lord Shiva (the destroyer). The temple is adorned with elegant architecture, and has several large domes and balustrades. Make sure to attend the grand prayers that happen early morning, noon and at night, especially on Monday. And yes, beware, to follow the dress code laid by the temple authorities.
Pandava Caves and Harvalem Waterfalls
The Pandavas (5 sons of King Pandu, as per the Mahabharat) once are believed to have spent 12 years of their exile in these caves. While these caves are small and do not house art in any form, they allow you to live a moment in history. The caves are known to be very peaceful, not surprising since they are rooted to Buddhist origins. A mere 10 minute drive will take you to the famed Harvalem waterfalls, especially worth visiting after the monsoon season.
Few know that Aguada is actually a fresh water spring within the fort, after which the fort is named. Two hundred cannons were positioned such that they created a ring of protection, along with a deep moat required to access the fort. 5 meter high walls that were 1.5 meters wide have kept it invader in over 450 years of Portuguese occupancy. The fact that it was built in the early 16th century is a testimony of the pained efforts to preserve it. You must visit it for especially 3 things, the vaulted cistern that can store 10 million litres of fresh water, the lighthouse (built in 1864) and the gigantic bell it housed and the prison (the largest in the state).
Naval Aviation Museum
6 kms from Vasco Da Gama, the Naval Aviation Museum is one of its kinds in Asia and is a priceless source of knowledge and pride for its visitors. Surprisingly unknown, the museum built in 1998 has both an indoor and outdoor section. The entrance gives a clear taste of what’s in store, with the grand (now decommissioned) Lockheed Constellation extending a warm welcome. There are over 6 major types of aircrafts on display, both single and double engine ones, which are either jet fighters, reconnaissance aircrafts or transport aircrafts. The armament room, the Viraat (grand) room, the Sonobouy rooms allow for a once in a lifetime experience. On your way out, don’t forget to buy souvenirs and also have a day picnic at the picturesque Hollant Beach.
A page from the history texts will tell you that this fort was built in 1510 and has changed hands several times between King Akbar, the Marathas and the Portuguese, before the present fort was built in 1717 by the Maharaja of Sawantwadi. Ironically while the wars to conquer the fort continued till long after, a visit to the place offers tranquillity like no other. The view to the south of the fort is a vast and endless one of the Arabian Sea. It is said that the sunsets here make for very beautiful memories.
If you thought Goa had lost its cultural roots, go to Fountainhas! It is as a matter of fact a UNSECO world heritage walk. Pretty like a holiday postcard, it looks like the alley of a European city; colourful homes in greens, blues and red, with the architecture a mix of colonial and rarely contemporary. The best of art galleries, the best of cafes and the best of traditional Goan cuisine and bakeries are all here.
Arpora Night Market
Also known as the Saturday night market, this is a must go to destination for street shoppers in south Goa. The markets generally operate post 5pm to late into the night, and the prices are mostly on the higher side, testing the shopper’s negotiation skills. The markets sell a lot of contemporary jewellery, beachwear, hand bags and the likes. There are also stalls selling yummy food, with momos and pretzels being popular choices with trance music playing in the background. The market is so popular that on weekends nearby restaurants stay empty till late.
If there ever was a club to hit in Goa, it has to be Titos. Visitors often catch celebrities who frequent the club regularly. The cheerful bartenders serve with a smile, and the DJs know the crowds’ favourites. The club is known to play a lot of Bollywood songs to get the locals in the right mood. The club has both open-air seating and indoor seating and dance floors and the food served is highly rated on review sites. A must go to for club lovers. Oh yes, the ladies enter for free!
Basilica of Bom Jesus
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is by far the most popular churches in the state and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in 1605, it houses the body of St. Francis Xavier’s who founded the Society of Jesus along with St. Ignatius Loyola. The church is beautiful reminder of Baroque architecture in Goa, and is built in the Mosaico- Corinthian style. It is a must visit for those who appreciate beautiful designs in architecture and the modern art gallery attached to the church mustn’t’ missed.
Mollem National Park
The Mollem Park was announced as a sanctuary in 1969 and is spread over 240 sq.kms in Sanguem District that borders Karnataka. It is an hour’s drive from Panjim. The park is known to house exotic species of snakes and birds drawing scores of visitors for jungle safaris. Mollem park is popular for trekking lovers. Locals say the sunset point and the Tambdi waterfalls are a must visit for all and it is advisable to carry binoculars.
Reis Magos Fort
In 1493, the fort was actually a military outpost built by the then sultanate of Bijapur. After facing defeat at the hands of the Portuguese, a fort was constructed to not only commemorate the victory but to also provide the then capital, Velha Goa protection. The fort was built in 1551, and was considered almost impossible to penetrate. Constructed using laterite rock, the walls stand tall and have steep slopes. There are multiple watch towers along the wall and turrets too, with 33 cannons to its defence. Sadly the Dutch overpowered the fort which is why Fort Aguada became the main bastion of the Portuguese. The fort is known for its underground passages, the Reis Magos church and the beautiful scenery.
Ashwen and Arossim Beach
While at this beach, visitors might start to feel that they are in Russia for the sheer number of Russians that visit the beach! It is known to be a rather quiet beach and is far less crowded that other Goan beaches. The beach is far cleaner as are the food joints. Most visitors just unwind with a book and a drink or meditate away with the waves in the background. The sunset here is said to be amazing and makes for a memorable photographs. If you love turtles, you will find plenty of them here.
Deltin Royal Casino
After all the sun, sand and history of Goa, you need to unwind. And one of the largest properties in Goa, the Deltin offers great options to stay and relax. This ultra-modern facility offers all international casino games, along with a spa to help you relax. It is popular for the poker competition that it holds, attracting professionals from across the world.
Clearly Goa offers a lot more than one can imagine, whether you are travelling alone or with friends and family. It is a rare holiday destination, that retains its old school charm while yet remaining one of the most thronged places on earth.