Goa Travel Blog - Goa Beyond the Beaches!

Why is it so difficult to think of Goa beyond its beaches? Even when I were to close my eyes a month back and think of Goa I too would think of beaches - pristine blue with golden sand and perhaps a bottle of Goa's favourite chilled beer King's. However, my last trip to the land changed it all. Here is my Travel blog story on Goa beyond the beaches.

Goa beyond beaches street
Goa beyond beaches - streets of Panjim

Imagine walking through a lane in Goa with Portuguese houses all around you, and chatter in local Konkani and Portuguese filtering out of windows. The doors of these homes are open and families are happily wishing each other with cakes and hugs. If you are wondering this would be a typical day in colonial Goa in 1895, think again. The old world charm of Goa is not lost, not yet. It lives on in areas away from the overcrowded beaches, shouts of drunk men check women out and unlimited empty bottles of beer thrown around. If you have seen all of this, and want to explore something new in Goa - discover the Old Goa, discover Goa beyond beaches, alcohol and trance parties.

I was in Goa for Christmas and stayed with an Indo-Polish family in an old Portuguese house. And this was perhaps my best ever trip to Goa. I did visit the beach, but that was just a tiny part of the trip. I did so much more, things that can easily get overlooked if you spend all your time at the beach.

This is a quick guide on how you can spend days in Goa, exploring it's real way of life, it's churches in tiny villages, it's iconic Portuguese houses, street photography and of course, some unusual food.

Goa beyond beaches: Visit a heritage home

Goa is home to some extremely old Heritage Portuguese Houses and many of these have existed for there for the last four centuries. These houses started getting built soon after the conquest of Goa by the Portuguese in the early 16th Century and continued almost till the time they left in 1961. 

Menezes Braganza Pereira Heritage House Chandor Goa
The oldest part of Braganza house - The Living Room 
Over the years many pf these have disappeared while only a few have endured the test of times and live on to tell their tale to the world. One such house is the Braganza Pereira House located in the Chandor area of South Goa.

To reach:

It's easiest to reach by a cab. Here's the address for reference.

Menezes Braganza Pereira House
Culsabhatt, Chandor, Goa 403714

Goa beyond beaches: Divar Island

River Mandovi flows through Goa and drains into the Arabian sea right next to Panjim. The river is beautiful and all along surrounded by a thick foliage of mangrove. Just before the river meets the sea, there is an island which had historically been a very important part of Goa.

The name of this exotic little island is Divar. Divar in native Konkani means small.

goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
A Portuguese Villa in Divar

Before the island became an important symbol of Catholicism, it was an prominent Hindu pilgrimage center. Portuguese targeted the Brahmins on the island first for conversion, and that have rise to the community of Roman Catholic Brahmin.

Much before the present day Panjim became the heart of Goa, Divar was the capital of Olf Goa. It houses three key churches from Portuguese era, the most important of which is the Divar Church.

divar island church goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
A church in Divar island
divar island chapel goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
Chapel at Divar island

I was on the island for an architecture walk, as its famous for its old Portuguese villas, many of which still survive in pristine condition. It was Christmas day and pretty warm in the day, but we had a superb time discovering interesting villas with distinct architectural styles. I had an architect with me for company, and that made the walk even more fun. I still remember discovering the art deco style house of Alberquerue where we should have started the walk, but actually reached only in the end!

To reach

The island is not connected to the mainland by a bridge, so the only way to reach is through ferries. The ferry ride is free and if you intend to take your car you need to pay  fee of Rs 10. I recommend taking a car as there is no other means of transportation within the island. Even the main town is a little far from the jetty.

Goa beyond beaches: Portuguese houses

Once you walk around a little in old Goa, it's easy to get addicted to its houses, especially the ones from Portuguese era. These houses have the most beautiful colors and textures, and are very inviting as photography subjects.

panjim goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green lanes
A beautiful lane in Goa

The best parts for house walks and house watching are:
  • Panjim
  • Old Goa
  • Divar
  • Numerous smaller town across the state

The best way to explore these gems is on foot, but be prepared for a lot of walking. If you are in Panjim, the walk can be interrupted by many coffee and cake breaks :) You can eat as much as you like because the walk will anyway digest it all.

You can also visit the home of the wonderful old lady of Goa, Menezes Braganza Pereira, who actually receives visitors in her centuries old house and gives them a tour as well. She is a gem of a person and if you are nice, she will also give you a great account of the history of Portuguese in Goa as well :)

Read more: Heritage Houses Of Goa - Menezes Braganza Pereira House

goa beyond beaches Portuguese houses of goa museum
Museum - Houses of Goa

If you are an architecture enthusiast, I would also recommend going to the museum - Houses of Goa. The museum beautifully chronicles the history of these houses, their cultural and religious significance, the design elements and materials used and so on. The museum has a fee of Rs 150, out of which you can use Rs 50 for shopping in their curios shop later.

Goa beyond beaches: Living with a family

Living with a Portuguese family in a Portuguese house would be perfect, however even if you live with an Indo-Polish family in a Portuguese house, the experience is pretty amazing.

Anant and Ania are a beautiful couple who have now made Goa home, and they truly love the place. They hosted us at a gorgeous Portuguese Villa that they have leased out recently and our experience was nothing short of wonderful. Add to that wonderful coffee flowing through the day, and delicious baked desserts all round, and I never wanted to leave Goa :)

goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green villa bungalow
The Portuguese villa of my hosts

We celebrated Christmas with them at a local Church where I stood out as the weird one out in my shorts and tiny pony, while everyone else was dressed in suits and dresses. A few eyebrows were raised, but I pretended to be a photographer and disappeared in the crowd.

We also joined them in the Christmas party at their home and met some really interesting people, including Shaun who runs a popular Vegan restaurant called xxx. More on that later.

Goa beyond beaches: Coffee and Food

Wherever I go, I always seek out the best coffee in town. The best coffee has two elements for me - great tasting coffee and interesting ambience. Goa has many places which offer both.

I can recommend a few here:
A. Bodega
B. Urban cafe
C. Hotel Venite
D. Baba coffee
E. Coffee Haven

panjim cafe goa hostel beyond beaches Portuguese house green
M at Urban Cafe
hotel vinete goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
The balcony at Hotel Vinete in Panjim
cafe bodega goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
Cafe Bodega in Panjim

While in town, we also experimented with many food types. I will talk about just one and it's called Bean me Up and run by Shaun. It's closer to Vagator beach, but the place is really quite. Covered by trees from all sides, it creates quite an ambiance for food. As the name suggests, all food served here is Vegan. The most impressive part of the menu are the desserts which taste exactly like their non-vegan counterparts.

Goa beyond beaches: Saturday Night Markets

The legend around the Saturday night markets is rather interesting. About a decade ago, a German had this idea and leased out land from a Goan man and started this market. When the lease ended the Goan decided to retain the market but threw out the German. Not to give up, he started another market only to be thrown out once more. The Saturday night market at Arpore is his third attempt and it's certainly done very well.

saturday night market goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
M shopping at Saturday Night Market

The market is huge and so is the parking behind it. The market offers something for everyone. You can find the kind of stuff you usually find in flea markers across Goan beaches, especially Anjuna, and can also find more high end designer stuff. Most of the designer type shops are run by foreigners and they sell stuff like clothes, shoes, jewelry etc. It's all quite beautiful but also expensive. We also came across some interesting Indian startups like 'No Nasties', and loved their products.

no nasties saturday night market goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
No Nasties stall at Saturday Night Market

But for me the most interesting part was the food section, which is actually quite big. I spent most of my money drinking coffee, eating Georgian food and some more exotic desserts. A German duo also comes here every year when the market is on (during the winter-spring tourist season) and they claim to make the best chicken in the world! Quite tall claim but our friends did agree that it's one of the best, if not the best!

saturday night market goa beyond beaches Portuguese house green
Shoes at sale at Saturday Night Market

As the name suggests, the market takes place every Saturday. The gates open at 40.30 pm and the market is usually on till 3 am. Apart from food and shopping, you can also party there. In the top right corner of the market there is a pretty cool bar with cool people who come, drink and dance. It's a great place to chill, though only limited conversations can take place.

There is still so much more that can be added to the list and it would still be incomplete. But if you do love water, I can recommend a waterfall in Goa which will simply take your breath away - Dudhsagar falls! Read more: Travel guide to Dudhsagar falls!


  1. Hey, loved your blog. Is it possible for you to share the name of Portuguese home you stayed at. So that we could also try and experience the same.

    1. Hey Arjun we booked the place through airbnb. Look for the name 'Anant' :)

  2. Wow... Yeah I read blogs on Goa and know it is quite a place for any one...there is loadds of greenery and good food and night shopping which is good enough for night exploring. I am not atall a party creature, I don't mind the beaches and would love the walks and exploration here... so the home stay was free is it?... asking... you have written so charmingly and I am going to come back to read it... goodday.

    1. It was not free Maria, I paid for it :) But I loved it...we also became friends with the owners and stayed with them as friends more than just guests!

      But Goa does have loads to offer...great beaches and more :)

  3. This blog is so helpful to me when I visit GOA...,...

  4. With plenty of attractions lying in Goa store, your weekend break will definitely become an enjoyable one. Take a flight to this great city Goa from CompareandFly and let the good times begin making you explore everything worth a visit.

  5. Goa is such a places where you can go anytime in the whole year. Fabulous must visit places in Goa are Dudh Sagar Waterfalls, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, and Devil's Canyon. For a break from nature, check out man-made attractions such as Basilica of Bom Jesus, Fort Aguada, and National Aviation Museum

  6. Hi Siddharta,
    I'm going to Goa for a week towards the end of the year. It's my first time and I would like to live with a local (female). I'm a trained classical dancer and would love to teach it as well. Is there any place where I can find such a local?

    1. Hi Raghavi, I am really sorry that I am replying after so much time. Unfortunately I don't know about any specific local, but use airbnb and I am sure you will surely find someone :)

      All the best :)

  7. wonderful blog sid... well Iam planning my first time in Goa during Christmas 2015 :) ...just wanted to check, is Divar Island small enough to explore alone walking or do we need commutation for covering the stretches you have mentioned

    1. I think it would be good to have a bike. The walking part is all fine, but it's a bit far from the jetty where the boat drops you...

  8. thanks! I made some notes :)



  9. Thanks Man...would definitely love to see Goa beyond beaches and booze parties

  10. Hey, nice experience!! me and my friends are planning to go soo and we have booked are packages from Southern travels.we were wondering if you could help us know how to go about the water sports booking in advance and whom to contact locally etc etc .it would be a great help..thanks

  11. Indeed! There is so much more to Goa than just the beaches. This is an amazing post highlighting the other aspects of Goa.

    1. Also dont forget to enjoy different forms of Goa music such as Dekhani, mando, jagor, etc.

      Enjoy songs like
      . Golyan Sankhali sonyachi, hi pori konachi
      . Haav saiba paltadi vaita,
      . Umdra majhya mama, aaik sangta tuka
      . Chanyache rati madache savle

      Enjoy these songs without which your trip will be incomplete.

      Have a pleasant stay in Goa... we will love if you go beyond beaches ...

  12. Hi,
    Awesome Post and Amazing Pictures. I am huge fan of Goa and love to visit it again and again. But i never travelled like you in this post. Mostly i used to go to North or South Goa Nearby beaches. But old Goa seems to be a fantastic place for living too. Seeing your pictures and reading your story , a craving has started in me to explore Goa once again but beyond Beaches :). thanks for this amaizing post. Keep traveling.

  13. Hey Sid, Thats a nice account of Old Goa. I am visiting Goa after ages (visited as a 10 y o and now I am 41). I am sure shot victim of plush architecture and your blog captures all that so well. Btw I will be in Pune from 29th July to 12th Aug and in between will skip to Goa for 3-4 days. How is Goa to visit in 1st week of August? Would you recommend/not recommend? Any ideas would just be fine. Take care Tarun

  14. Nice article . But some of the things mentioned here are myths about goa. Dong agree? then check this http://cheerfad.com/208-myths-about-goa-and-goans

  15. Hii,
    Nice experience! me and my friends are planning to go and we have booked are Goa Packages from Ahmedabad. We were wondering if you could help us know how to go about the water sports booking in advance and whom to contact etc.
    Thanks in Advance!

  16. Me n my frnds r visiting soon.can u please suggest places 4 youngsters to have fun.

  17. Me n my frnds r visiting soon.can u please suggest places 4 youngsters to have fun.

  18. This is really helpful stuff for anyone planning for Goa.

  19. Hi,

    I visited Goa last month and explore few of your mentioned places more over i also went on yacht trip offered by Boat Goa. It was adventurous trip by BOAT GOA

  20. Hello Sid, we have a travel startup from Goa, would love to connect. How to reach you?

    1. You can reach me at connect [at] siddharthajoshi [dot] com

  21. Thanks for sharing Goa beaches related information.Real beauty of Goa lies in its beaches that are surrounded by palm and coconut trees, jagged boulders, red cliffs, some of the top resorts and restaurants and party points.

  22. Hey! Loved reading your blog, may I please request you to help me with the exact location of those streets where these pretty Portuguese old Goan type houses are located? What should I put on google maps so that I reach there? Thanks :)

  23. I absolutely had no idea Goa was a Portuguese colony, in the past. I thought the Brits only went massively there, but I guess I was horribly wrong! Considering I usually don't travel to go to beaches, I like that there's something interesting to see also in a location so renown for pristine sand and blue water. The inside of the church is really beautiful and the Houses of Goa is super weird! :D

  24. I don't know anything about Goa but it looks interesting from your photos. I love the cattywampus tree swing and the photo of Senhora Pereira's house. Wow!

    The Saturday market looks fun too. You said you liked the products by "No Nasties". What were they selling?

  25. Wow I could never imagine Goa looking anything like this! I love how you went beyond the beaches because sometimes that's all people think of when they hear Goa. That House Museum looked pretty awesome, I am not an architecture enthusiast but this is cool!

  26. I didn't have a clue that there was so much of a Portuguese influence in Goa... And there is NOTHING better than spending the holidays with a local family - that's always such a great way to dive into a culture.
    Also loved the fact about the market legend - thanks for sharing!

  27. I have never read anything about Goa, but you definitely sold me on it. I would want to go and do the "off the beaten path" like you mentioned. It seems like you got to enjoy a lot more rather than the party scene. I bet that market is amazing! I love anything that has a good story to go with it. Great writing! You really drew me in.

  28. I feel like I've been hearing more about Goa, but maybe I'm just spending too much time on travel blogs? The market seems really cool, and I'm just a little obsessed with architecture, so loved all of the photos of the houses. Nice "off the beaten path" guide.

  29. I honestly think this is the first post I've ever seen about goa that is not to do with the beach which I can't understand after seeing your photos. Some of the architecture is so beautiful!

  30. Goa has been coming up as an alternative when we have been looking for trip possibilities the last years. Sadly we have not yet taken the opportunity as something else have been better each time. Mostly due to price of flights. Hopefully we will go one day, but then I would also like to see more of India. :)

  31. The town is so beautiful and so colorful! The markets are also interesting, because seem like a perfect combination between old and new, traditional and modern. Lately, I started to hear more and more about Goa and that makes me want to visit it ASAP!

  32. I have been to Goa so many times but I have never seen this side of Goa. My friends would get a heart attack if I suggested something like this. I have been to Saturday market and I loved it. Also the first time I am hearing about Divar island.

  33. unfortunately we haven't covered much of Goa yet. Goa is really fascinating and its great to read a post on something more than we know about Goa as beaches and party location. Portuguese houses looks interesting to explore and the church at Divar Island is stunningly beautiful.

  34. I've been there last year in January :-) I love Goa so much! Amazing beaches and truly magnificent architecture :-) I would recommend that trip to everyone!

  35. I can only handle the beach for a limited time before wanting to do something else. I was really excited to see the Vegan restaurant Bean me Up in the post since I am always on the look out for vegan places. The Portuguese architecture is pretty neat and seeing as it has survived all these years it is worth taking a look around.

  36. I had no idea that Goa looks so European! The Portuguese villas are so pretty and I love that they keep the original mosaic designs and the bright colors. I have only traveled in the North of India but I know a lot of British go to Goa for their winter holidays to escape the cold. Maybe I should give it a go myself.

  37. The offbeat locations of Goa are mind blowing. I wish they got more popular.

  38. Goa surely has much to offer in terms of heritage and nature. Not many know of the hidden treasures that thiis tiny state has to offer. But in a way it is good if the party crowd gets confined to Baga and Calangute. LOL....

  39. This experience sounds right up my street. I love the charming villas and the fact that you can actually stay in one. Where did you find the place? Would love to know how to go about booking something like that.

  40. Goa is the best best place for relax. if you want to travel Goa December and January is the best time to travel in goa. if you get a car on rent for travel in Goa then its a good thing.

  41. Thanks a lot for such a beautiful write up...my family loves Goa and this time I hope to go at least few places out of the whole lot u have written about...

  42. Thanks for sharing in-depth about our beautiful place Goa and i like your photos as well. Dudhsagar falls is it open for visitors now ?

  43. This is interesting actually. When we have a certain picture of a holiday destination but it actually have more than that. That actually a great thing to experience, to discover more. Staying with a family too is interesting, to be able to experience the local life, adds up more to your travel experience. Briliant! But at one point, we need to just go on a vacation to just relax. Then you should totally check us out. Visit Phuket and stay with us. Stunning ocean view and exclusive infinity pool, relaxing, woohoo. Please do check our website, thank you.

  44. Goa is fondly believed to be one of the most preferred destinations of India as it attracts many visitors from various parts of India and abroad.

  45. i had my holidays in goa Every one writes about beaches in Goa but you are different and given a lot of information beyond the beaches A good post on Goa thanks for this information keep writing

  46. Goa is the best holiday places if you want to make your trip fully memorable. I spent my almost all vacations over- there. beach, sunset, sunrise each n everything is so beautiful... Loved this places!

  47. Beautifully written blog. Talking about exploring the other side of Goa, I discovered this site through a friend and I think you should check it out as well. It's called www.nativefolks.com. Here you can find homestays in Goa, the rustic, authentic Goan kind.

  48. Thanks . Your blog is not only interesting but also quite informative giving lots of insights to explore Goa beyond beaches. Your blog on HERITAGE HOUSES OF GOA - MENEZES BRAGANZA PEREIRA HOUSE is something which gives detailed insight about exploring Goa 's indeginous art and architecture and how people are preserving the heritage to their best showcasing to the visitors. I am planning to visit Goa in June and surely your blog will help me in preparing the itinerary.

    1. Thank you so much Shaheen! I am really happy that you found the blog both interesting and useful.

      The visit to Menezes Braganza house was a memorable experience to me as well...

    2. Even your photographs are mesmerizing.
      Just to add one more line to your passion .


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