By Nirupama Rajan
Two years ago, I got together with a few of my friends and we went on that mandatory college trip to Goa. We did all the things that you would expect out of a typical Goa trip. We got an Airbnb house right in the middle of the party zone at Baga, walked along the popular beaches at night, sampled the food at all the famous shacks such as Britto’s and Curlies, checked out the clubs and the parties and drank our fair share of the free-flowing liquor. It was all fun and frolic, and certainly a trip to remember.
But when you take a moment and look out the window of your cab as you make your way from one club to another, it strikes you that Goa is a world of its own, and day-to-day life is as much a part of the tourist culture as it is indifferent to it. Goa is more than its parties. Goa is a rich medley of culture, history and natural heritage, and it was this that I wanted to explore on my second trip there this year. While my second stay was mainly in and around South Goa, there’s certainly a lot more to do than just party even in the north.
Here is a brief account of my favourite things to do in Goa, based on my two visits there.
This has definitely got to be right at the top. If I could, I would happily spend the rest of my life on a bike just riding around Goa. Visually, it is stunning of course, but there is something in the air here that you can only really feel when you’re on two wheels with the wind in your hair. One moment, you’re riding through what seems to be a dense forest with plants of every shape and size, and then as soon as you turn a corner, there’s suddenly a huge river flowing on both sides of the road. From rice fields to mossy hills, harbours to old abandoned Portuguese buildings, there’s really no expecting what you might stumble upon as you’re riding around here. South Goa, especially, is a treat for the senses. I also like to stop and talk to the locals as and when I can, because there’s a lot that they can tell you. This time, for example, I learnt that all the houses that are brightly painted in yellow or purple are actually Portuguese houses and are repainted for Christmas every year!
I’m fully aware that that there are hundreds of beaches in Goa, many of which are clean and beautiful. For some reason however, I’m very partial to Cavelossim. The luxurious white sand at Cavelossim is a sharp contrast to the black rocks in the area, making it an absolute visual delight. It is also right by the Sal river and is surrounded by dense vegetation. The drive to Cavelossim is equally beautiful and takes you far away from the crowded roads. Cavelossim is one of the least crowded beaches in Goa, so you can truly let yourself go and revel in the salty sea breeze here. There are also several highly acclaimed (but slightly pricey) hotels and restaurants that you can check out around Cavelossim.
Cabo de Rama
The forts in Goa are as renowned as the beaches. While the famous ones like Aguada and Chapora are definitely worth visiting, Cabo de Rama would be my pick of the lot. Located in South Goa, it is actually a pretty small fort compared to the others, and you might even find yourself alone when you visit. What is most interesting about Cabo de Rama is that it was actually built by Hindu rulers before it passed into the hands of the Portuguese and later, the English. Most of the existing structure was put in place by the Portuguese, though. The drive to Cabo de Rama is beautiful like most in Goa and the crowning jewel would probably be the view of the ocean from the top.
Three Kings Chapel
The Three Kings Chapel, located in Cansaulim, is another gem from South Goa. There are many local myths claiming that it is haunted by the spirits of three ancient Portuguese kings who killed each other in that very spot, and if you happen to b there on a cloudy evening in the off season, you would be quite inclined to believe the stories. Haunted or not, there are some stunning views on offer from all sides of the chapel that’s located on a hilltop, and if you choose to hike up the hill to get to the church, that would definitely be worth it.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
This is probably as touristy as it gets, but I don’t think a trip to Goa would be complete without a visit to this ancient, globally-renowned Portuguese church. Whether you are religious or not, standing inside this 400-year-old World Heritage Site with its high ceilings, intricately detailed artwork and layers of history is sure to take your breath away. The church also houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier, and an exhibition dedicated to artefacts from Indian Christian history. For those interested, there is also a light and sound show on similar subjects at regular intervals.
The museums in Goa are probably as popular as the beaches. The Archaeological Museum of Goa, located right opposite the Basilica of Bom Jesus is a must visit. It contains hundreds of artefacts and relics not just from the Portuguese rule in India, but also from the Hindu history of Goa that predates the Portuguese rule. There is also a section that houses the portraits of several viceroys and governors-general of India. Two other museums that I believe you shouldn’t miss, and which are pretty offbeat as far as museums go, are Bigfoot Goa and Museum of Goa. Bigfoot Goa is an exhibition that is dedicated solely to the evolution of Goan culture. It is interactive, colourful and uses multimedia to give you a real insight into the Goan way of life and how it has evolved. The myth behind the name is also quite fascinating- go there and find out for yourself! You will also find several souvenir shops here. Finally, Museum of Goa is probably my favourite exhibition in Goa. More than a museum, it is a contemporary art gallery created and curated by the artist Subodh Kerkar. It is experimental and transitional in nature and brings Goan history and culture alive using materials found in the area. If you’re lucky, you might run into the artist himself while you’re there!
Are there other things that you found interesting in Goa? Let us know in the comments below!