Goa Beyond its Beaches

Candolim beach on the onset of monsoons

“Goa”! Just one word gives such a rush of happy feelings. It doesn’t matter what kind of visitor you are; party animal, beach lover, occasional traveler, religious, history enthusiast, foodie, expat or a tourist from up north of the globe (who come looking for some warm sun), Goa has something for everyone and more. For me, who prefers solo travels, the most popular beaches of Goa are nothing more than a quick routine visit. Honestly, beaches, especially in the north Goa are overcrowded in summers. So every time I have visited this tiny Indian state, I’ve always been on a lookout for something that’s offbeat yet interesting. So this is the Goa I like beyond its overly popular beaches.

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] have had an obvious advantage for being in Ratnagiri: Goa becomes a quick weekend trip! And that’s only one of the reasons why I’ve been there so many times. It is exceptionally beautiful even in seasons other than Summer. Moreover, there are many features unique to the state and its culture that makes it absolutely worthwhile to visit it even in off-season. If you couldn’t make it to Goa this summer, worry not. Here are some ideas to explore Goa beyond beaches and summer.

8 off beat locations and experiences

The Goa carnival

Goa Carnival
Pirates in the Goa Carnival

If you didn’t know this, Goa hosts an annual carnival every year in February/March. The event begins in the evening and the processions are carried out in the capital city of Panjim and elsewhere at various times. The local groups participate enthusiastically and decorate their floats (elaborate displays mounted on a platform carried by a small truck). The dancers in traditional wear dance to the tunes of catchy Konkani songs. The whole atmosphere is filled with lively music and colourful crowds. The Goa carnival is a showcase of the Konkani lifestyle. It may not be as grandiose as the famous latin american ones but indeed is a great event with a rich Konkani flavour.

Local folk festivals

Madkyanche Fest - a celebration of traditional instruments made from earthen pots
Madkyanche Fest – a celebration of traditional instruments made from earthen pots

[highlight]Songs and music at Madkyanche Fest[/highlight]

Traditionally, we (my family) have had the Kalnirnay alamanc in our home. The calander lists so many “unheard of” local festivals in Goa that it always baffled me. Goan folk festivals is an year round attraction and remains highly underrated. If you are visiting and just look up which all local festivals are ON, you’d find at least a bunch of them in any given month. I once attended something called as “Ghümatānche Fest” (or festival of instruments of earthen pots). It was a lovely little festival where locals and visitors took part in singing and dancing to the music. The festival highlights the traditional purcussion instruments made from earthen pots covered with goat leather. Such experiences are very unique to Goa.

Grand island

Scuba diving!
Scuba diving!
(not from Grand island)

This is an island off the coast into the deep sea and is a fantastic location for some dolphin spotting, scuba diving or snorkelling. Some agencies in Panjim offer many reliable PADI courses with dives at Grand island. Some of them take you to the remains of a sunken British ship. While, there’s always some luck involved when it comes to scuba diving, it is said that this location rarely diappoints. A plethora of fishes and underwater life lies just beneath the calm surface. It is not easy to go to this island and it is always best to plan the scuba trip in advance.

Portuguese heritage homes

A beautiful Portuguese villa on Diwar island
A beautiful Portuguese villa on Diwar island

With historically rich Portuguese heritage, the old villas in the nooks and corners all over the state stand out. The vivid colour choices, windows and doors, blue-white decorative tiles and the typical entrance porches make you want to have your own place like that. The best part is some of these heritage homes offer stay for visitors. I am yet to experience this myself but I have read reviews of my favourite bloggers who have. I rarely spend money on accomodations when traveling because my interests are out there, to be explored during daytime. However, this is an experience in itself and would be an exception for me.

Chorao and Diwar islands

Little Cormorant gliding over water in a pond
Little Cormorant gliding over water in a pond

Away from the usual crowd pulling beaches, the slow and quiet life on these two islands is something that any traveller will love. This nook of Goa has rural picturesuqe scenes, practically empty roads and beautiful Portuguese styled homes aplenty. I even stopped in front of one such villa and asked the owners if I can take photograph. They gladly agreed 🙂

Goan temples

Nageshi Temple
Nageshi Temple

In spite of the brutal Portuguese rule, in the nooks and corners of Goa many Hindu communities upheld the traditions and culture. A major source of their strength was the temples in the nooks and corners. The temples here are incredibly beautiful. I’ve mentioned about one such temple in a previous post. One such masterpiece of a temple is Tambdi Surla. This 12th century Shaiv temple is absolutely beautiful and the travel can be even more interesting of you decide to trek to its remote location. This is probably the oldest temple in the state.

Three Kings’ Church

The Three Kings' Church is believed to be haunted
The Three Kings’ Church is believed to be haunted

This relatively unknown church is off the highway towards Madgaon. Apparently, there were three Portuguese kings who in the game of thrones, poisoned each other at a feast held at this church. They were buried here. The place is supposedly haunted (so obviously I had to go there, right? :D). The church as such may not be grand even from inside and when I visted it was actually locked up. But the church authorities hold Sunday mass every week. The stories and theories apart, the view from the church is spectacular. You could even see the Grand island out in the sea, if the weather is nice.

Cabo de Rama

Cabo de Rama is an old Portuguese era fort and deserves your visit
Cabo de Rama is an old Portuguese era fort and deserves your visit

The beaches of south Goa are much relaxed and secluded as against the more popular northern ones. Accessible from Madgaon, these are ideal locations for beach lovers who want to avoid overcrowded places. However, the ruins of old Portuguese fort of Cabo de Rama has a different apeal altogether. Most of the fort is covered in jungle and bushes. There’s a smaller beach nearby which also serves as an excellent alternative. It’s a bit far from Panjim but perfect if you stay somewhere in the south.


Reis Magos

Entrance to the fort Reis Magos
Entrance to the fort Reis Magos

Talking of forts, I literally discovered a beautiful tiny little fort on a hillock right off of Panjim. So there’s this fort called Reis Magos in Verem that very little number of tourists visit. Everyone knows fort Aguada but this is relatively unknown. I noticed its stairs from the other bank of Mandovi river where I was staying on one of my ritual trips. I decided to explore and discovered this beautifully maintained fort hidden in plain sight. One of the levels even hosts a gallary of drawings of the legendery Goan artist Mario Miranda. I don’t understand much of art but Mario Miranda’s work is my favourite. One of his sketches of Konkani life now adorns my wall.


Have you been to any of these places or experienced such festivals?


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