Goa Travel Blog - Goa Beyond the Beaches!

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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: 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.


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A church in Divar island
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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.

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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 :)


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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


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M at Urban Cafe
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The balcony at Hotel Vinete in Panjim
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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!
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40 comments:

  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.

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

      Delete
  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.

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    Replies
    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 :)

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

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  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.

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  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

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  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?
    -Raghavi

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    Replies
    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 :)

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  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

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    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...

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  8. thanks! I made some notes :)

    Best
    Payal

    www.payalkalra.com

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

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  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

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

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    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 ...

      Delete
  12. Hi,
    Sid
    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.

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  13. Its very amazing places to visit in Goa. Thanks for sharing this artcle its very helpful to visit all this places.
    Goa Tours packages are on this website http://fredtravels.com/

    ReplyDelete
  14. Planning for Goa?... know some interesting details and places in goa, complete info for this place must read “Journey of 5 senses” https://lifetimemusafir.com/2016/05/15/goa-diaries-colorful-5-pages/

    ReplyDelete
  15. Goa a lovely place, where the all the stresses evaporates and makes you feel relaxed.

    http://www.yesmytrip.com/

    ReplyDelete
  16. Amazing places... Thanks for sharing such kind of places. For serviced apartments in Goa, visit - http://www.turtlevillas.co/

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's a great post which would change the people's thought about Goa, beyond beaches. Love the way some history is shared among with beautiful images.

    Goa is a paradise for nature lovers with more than 30% forest cover which has more than 275 species of birds!
    Backwater kayaking is one of the attractions, when it comes to Goa. Rivers like Madovi, Zuari, Nerul provide ideal avenues for indulging in the sport.

    To get enthralled by the nature of Goa, book your room today with us >> http://www.grandgoa.com/

    ReplyDelete
  18. 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

    ReplyDelete
  19. 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!

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

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

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

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  23. Goa is a very popular destination among the Travelers as this is the place that acquires Small and Beautiful Beaches and also the Best Churches in India. Here you can visit Forts also that are on the Beach side named Aguada Fort. Golden Triangle with Goa Tour Packages are the best tour packages to visit the best Goa.

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  24. 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

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

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

      Delete
  26. 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.

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  27. 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 :)

    ReplyDelete