This article was first written/published in October 2017. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.
1. Explore Old Goa
Here you’ll find the architecture and atmosphere of how grand Old Goa was once. Back in the 16th century the city was considered the ‘Rome of the East’ and was the richest city in Asia. Its fate was sealed, however, with the arrival of cholera and malaria, which forced people to flee the city. Now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular with people wanting to see the India of yesteryear. There are still some wonderfully grand buildings and a lot of churches. The pièce de résistance is the Basilica of Bom Jesus which holds the remains of St Francis Xavier, and attracts thousands of Roman Catholics from around the world each year. Other popular Old Goan sites include the Church and Convent of St Cajetan and the Church of St Francis of Assisi.
2. Snorkeling in Goa
There are lots of companies offering snorkeling trips to Grande Island off the cost of Goa. The snorkeling itself gets mixed reviews and is unlikely to compete with The Maldives or Galapagos Islands, but it’s a good idea if you want to book a day trip. Most tour operators, including this one, also promise sightings of dolphins that swim around the island as part of the experience. As always, do your research before booking any excursion or tour. Enjoy being in the water? Check out our guide to the 10 best places in the world to snorkel.
3. Dudhsagar Falls
This four-tiered waterfall is located in the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and is India’s second highest waterfall. The name, Dudhsagar, means “Sea of Milk” in the Konkani language, and is best demonstrated when the water levels are at their highest after the monsoon. You reach the falls by jeep from Colem, a small village south of Molem, on a journey through the pretty wildlife sanctuary. You could also hike from Colem but we recommend you take a local guide and all the usual precautions. Book a room at the nearby Dudhsagar Spa Resort, which has 49 air-conditioned rooms, private bathrooms, two restaurants and bars.
Read more: How to find cheap flights to India
4. Fort Aguada
Another example of Portuguese rule in India is the 17th century Fort Aguada. It was built in 1612 on Sinquerim Beach to protect ships and the nearby Bardez district. It was an important stop-off place for ships that needed fresh water; the Portuguese lighthouse on the fort could store a massive 2,376,000 gallons of water and was once of the Asia’s biggest water storage sites. The water came from the natural springs on the hillside (Agua is actually Portuguese for water), a great spot to watch the sunset.
Address: Fort Aguada Road, Candolim, Goa 403515
5. Visit a spice farm
The Tanshikar Spice Farm prides itself on its organic status and has crops including peppers, nutmeg, vanilla and cashews. You can book a room at one of the Tanshikar Spice Farm cottages and enjoy the plantation owner’s hospitality which extends to personal tours of the farm, as well as cooking classes and treks to the jungle nearby and the Nevrali Bubble Lake. There’s also the Sahakari Goa Spice Farm in Curti which grows spices and traditional medicinal herbs such as cloves, turmeric, ginger and cardamon. It’s one of the region’s largest spice farms, and therefore more commercial, occupying around 130 acres. There are a bunch of guides offering walking tours of the farm as well as a restaurant and gift shop.
Address: Tanshikar Spice Farm, Netravali, Sanguem, Goa 403704. Sahakari Goa Spice Farm, Ponda Highway, Curti, Ponda, Goa 403001
6. Party on Palolem Beach
This is easily one of Goa’s prettiest beaches (and there’s a lot of contenders), and as such, is popular with visitors. The sea is calm so if you’re looking to paddleboard or kayak in India, do it here. There are long stretches of beach and lots of little Goa hotels tucked away behind the sand. There’s also yoga classes, run by schools such as this one, and lots of places that lease bicycles so you can explore the nearby landscape on two wheels. The area is a popular place to visit in Goa for people looking to party, but you won’t be kept up at night thanks to the emergence of the Silent Noise Discos. Loud music is banned on the beach after 10pm but if you’re not ready to retire to bed, stick on some wireless headphones and keep the party going…
This is Asia’s only museum dedicated to Christian Art. It has some excellent pieces of furniture, sculpture, textiles and more. Highlights of the collection include an early 17th century Holy Trinity marble plaque and a late 19th century wooden portable altar. The museum is located in the Convent of Santa Monica in Old Goa, see the map here. It has a shop selling some quirky memorabilia including handmade stationary and rosary beads.
Address: Annexe, Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa, 403402 Opening hours: 9.30am – 5pm, closed Sundays
8. Braganza House
This 17th century mansion in Chandor is a sort of house-museum hybrid. Descendants of the Menezes-Bragancas and Pereira-Braganza families still own the East and West Wings of the grand building, and are usually there to offer tours for a donation (which goes towards the upkeep of the house). Highlights include the West Wing library of Dr Luis de Menezes Braganca, a prominent Goan writer and journalist, and an important anti-colonial activist. No expense was spared when the building was built; there are Italian marble floors, huge glass chandeliers and antique furniture pieces from around the world. Both wings are usually open to the public from between around 10am through 5pm.
Address: Culsabhatt, Chandor, Goa 403714
9. Seek out the best Goa street food
The Portuguese and other foreign invaders left their mark on the food as well as the architecture in Goa. One of its most famous dishes is the fish thali (fish curry with rice) which is usually eaten as a lunch dish with pickle on the side. You’ll find that different restaurants use different spices so you won’t taste two curries the same. Check out Sabina restaurant near to south end of Palolem Beach for one of the best. As well as the fish curry, there’s also a ton of Goan snacks you should try; clam xacuti (clam curry) is a perfect late-night snack, and the Ros (gravy) omelette made of chicken or chickpeas. Ask for the chopped onions and lime juice, and enjoy!
If you have any interest in India’s naval history, a lot of which was influenced by its European colonists, visit the Naval Aviation Museum in Goa. It’s not the most well-stocked museum but it has a cool Cockpit Cafe and lots of old images of the country’s ship and plane fleets.
Address: Bogmalo Road, Mormugao, Goa 403806 Opening hours: 10am – 5pm, closed Mondays. Rs20 (Dh1) entry.
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