Goa for most of its visitors is the destination for partying their woes away. But the revelry doesn’t always satisfy a person; sometimes you need to get away from all the noise, the maddening crowd and the general buzz that is a part of Goa’s usual landscape. More often than not, these days most people are looking to get away from the usual craziness that is part of our everyday lives, we crave some peace and quiet to heal and reflect before we return to the usual hullabaloo. And as astonishing as it may sound, Goa still does have some places left that will make for a perfect, peaceful getaway that will leave you refreshed at the end of your holiday and rearing to get back to work.
For one tiny state, Goa does manage to squeeze in an impossible amount of things and places to explore and each one shows a different face of Goa. With that in mind let’s start with exploring the less explored part of Goa that makes for a really peaceful and serene getaway. It’s time to leave the clamour and glamour of Calangute, Baga, Anjuna, Panjim and Tito’s to find the hidden jewels that Goa keeps concealed among its hip streets and party lanes. And just because it’s peaceful and away from the glamour doesn’t mean it has to be boring, there’s everything here in this itinerary that a typical Goan sojourn includes only it’s minus the entire racket that is part of the regular Goa scene.
Secret beach gems
When someone says beach in Goa we usually conjure up an image of crowded spots, teeming with people, loud music, hawkers selling their wares loudly and rambunctious parties. Well though Goa’s beaches are usually an unending party, there are a few gems that are hidden away from the party crowd and will give you the peace and quiet you crave, the only noise you’d hear here will be the birdsong, wind and surf crashing on to the beach, absolute bliss isn’t it?
When a beach is isolated, it might seem a bit scary; but the Kakolem beach or Tiger beach is a tiny bit of paradise hidden away among picturesque surroundings. This almost deserted beach is wonderfully quiet, since not many people go there because it’s a bit hard to find. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet to soak up some sun you can’t do better than this beach and the effort in reaching the place is definitely worth the trouble. It’s about 7kms away towards the south of Cabo De Rama resort, South Goa; take the NH66 and drive along on the way to Cola Village to reach the place or you could even take a boat.
Home to the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles, Galgibaga beach or Galgibagh beach in Cancona region of Goa is the cleanest of Goa’s beaches. If the beautiful blue waters and shimmering sandy beach with silvery sands isn’t enough, this beach is also the seasonal nesting and hatching site for the aforementioned Olive Ridley Turtles. The beach sits towards the south of Talpona River in South Goa and is at its best in the winter and summer months. The nesting ground for the turtles are on the protected northern side of the beach so if you’re planning to see them, do be careful so as not to step on baby turtles or un-hatched eggs. The sea is quite rough and not safe to swim in, but you can frolic around the edges and go for a lovely walk among the coconut palms and the lack of beach shacks in the area make it a really quiet place; so it’s perfect for the soul searcher or the nature enthusiast.
Hollant Beach in Marmagoa, South Goa is a small beach in a shallow bay that slopes gently towards the sea. With little or no currents in the water, it’s an absolutely safe and delightful place to go for a dip. And it is also known as the only beach in Goa that offers mesmerising views of the sunrise and sunset. Adding to view are the fishermen’s boats that are anchored a bit further into the sea. The shallow draft at the beach and the views it offers ensures that there are a few tourists milling around, but it doesn’t get noisy at all and there are a few beach shacks near the beach but none that are obtrusive and loud. This beach which is to the south of Bogmalo Beach should definitely be part of your Goa itinerary. And if you’re looking for more peace and quiet you can take a walk along a small trail to the left side of the beach to reach Cansaulim beach.
Deep in the South of Goa lies a bit of heaven in the form of a crescent shaped beach, just north of the Agonda Beach. About 33 kilometers from Margao, drive down a dusty, muddy road which winds through tree lined slopes and hills before branching into two roads, the left side descends down to Cola beach while the road to the right takes you to Dharvalem beach. Lined with beach tents, Cola beach is absolutely wonderful and blissfully quiet and adding to the beauty of the beach along with the beach huts and the Rajasthani style tents is a very pretty lagoon situated along the southern end of Cola Beach. The lagoon is connected to the sea by a small bubbling brook which bisects the beach. It’s a magical place where you can spend a few hours without the cacophony of the crowds.
To the south of Mobor beach and just across the Sal River is another one of Goa hidden beach gems called Betul beach and located at a comfortable 24 kms from Margao city it’s the perfect getaway for a day. Even though Betul is a small beach it still is quite beautiful with a lagoon and an accompanying rivulet flowing into the sea. You can take a ferry at Assolna or a boat from Mobor to reach Betul or you could also drive down the road towards Cabo de Rama from Margao. The beach is pretty much deserted and other than you, you can expect to the find the odd, occasional visitor which makes it just perfect for peace lovers. The palm fringed beach also has a 17th century fort and some beach shacks serving really good food.
About 26kms from Panaji and 14kms from Margao is the palm fringed shoreline of the beautiful Velsao beach with soft silver sand, lakes teeming with lilies and a cool sea breeze wafting over the shallow waters making it an ideal spot for those looking for a romantic day at the beach. The only noise thing to disturb you might be the crunch of soft white shells under your feet or the occasional curious starfish scuttling out to inspect something. They do have a lot of shacks and restaurants around that serve wonderful food to keep your tummy happy while your eyes feast on the surroundings.
One of the best kept secrets of North Goa is the beautiful Ashwem beach that offers stunning vistas of the open ocean while a blowing a cool breeze from the coconut palms that pepper the shoreline. It extends from the northern banks of the Chapora River almost till the Querim beach near the Terekol River is about 30km away from Panaji and about 19km away from Calangute. Even the proximity to Calangute, Goa’s most popular destination for tourists doesn’t disturb the tranquillity of the place making it a quiet vacation spot to soak up some sun, sand and surf. The beach shacks around Ashwem offer a variety of foods ranging from Goan to continental cuisine to tickle our taste buds. There are also a few trendy and chic boutiques studded on Ashwem beach that offer a good range of Bohemian apparel and accessories to please the shopaholic in you. The beach is another nesting and hatching ground for the endangered Olive Ridley Turtles.
Situated near a fascinating village which is about 4kms from Dabolim airport, Bogmalo beach is in a curving bay with a mile of curving, sandy beach surrounded by beautiful green hills on three sides. Though it is a really small beach, it’s quite famous and has beach facing accommodation, restaurants and shacks around the place. And even with all that the place has few visitors and most of them the peaceful variety which ensures that everyone can enjoy its azure, crystal clear waters. Those of you who are a lot more adventurous can indulge in the water sports that are on offer or just swim and laze around in the shallow waters. The Goa Institute of Diving here will take you on scuba diving tours to check out the life underwater.
One of the best kept secrets of Goa is the Butterfly beach and set in an isolated cove with millions of butterflies hovering overhead makes it an ideal spot for the peace loving adventurer. What’s more is that you can spot dolphins too at this beach along with crabs scuttling along the powdery white sand beach. It’s an isolated space and you can rent a boat from Palolem or Agonda beach, or trek through the lush jungles around the beach to reach this beautiful spot. During low tide, the beach takes on a different avatar with crabs, goldfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and even redfish littering the landscape. Spread your beach towel and settle down to watch some beautiful views of the sunset.
Querim (Keri) beach
Locally known as Keri, Querim beach dotted with pine trees lies in the northernmost side of Goa at the mouth of the Terekhol River on the southern bank. The Terekhol Fort is situated on a hillock across the river overlooking the estuary and can be reached by a ferry from the beach. The beach doesn’t have a lot of shacks or houses around and is a beautiful, serene place where you can spot fishermen and tourists fishing in the calm waters of the sea. It makes for a picture perfect picnic spot.
Magical Waterfalls in Goa
Close to the famous rock cut Arvalem caves lie the hidden from prying eyes and majestic waterfalls of Harvalem amidst charming, verdant green settings. The waterfall plummets from a height of 70 meters and cascades down rocky boulders to form a large lake at the bottom amid lush jungles and is a breathtaking sight. The Rudreshwar Temple and Arvalem caves are quite close and makes for a beautiful trip.
A beautiful waterfall in Gaodongrem, Cancona that is much more easily accessible than the Harvalem falls is Bamanbudo Waterfall where the water slides of rocks, you can take a dip in its clear waters in the shallow pool formed by the waterfall or play under the cascading water and have a fun peaceful day with few or no people around.
Dudhsagar which translates to “Sea of Milk” is a four-tiered waterfall located on the Mandovi River at border of Karnataka and Goa. The milky white water cascades down over a steep, almost vertical face of the mountain from a height of 1017ft making it one of India’s tallest waterfalls. Dushsagar falls forms a beautiful pool at the base and tourists who trek to the falls usually enjoy a cold swim in the waters. The falls itself is a beautiful sight, but the surrounding forests and a railway track through the falls make for a spectacular sight as well.
Forgotten Forts, Caves and relics of the past
Cabo De Rama
Cabo de Rama is an isolated fort located just off the Mumbai Cochin highway in South Goa and offers stunning views of the beach below and the far off horizon in the distance. The old fort which has ruins, ramparts, a dry moat, ancient cannons and an old church which is still in use left behind by the Portuguese who ruled the state for 400 years is a perfect picnic spot with the beautiful sea as a backdrop. Cabo de Rama or Cape Rama also finds its place in Indian mythology as it is believed Lord Rama along with his brother Lakshmana and wife Sita were here during their exile and it was named after Lord Rama.
Fort Tiracol or Terekhol Fort on the northern tip of Goa at the mouth of the Tiracol River is rich is heritage and historical stories and can be reached by ferry from Querim. This 17th century fort boasts beautiful design and architecture on a cliff located a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean and has seven rooms, and each of these rooms is named after the days of the week. And the fascinating bit is that the room bearing the name of the week boasts the best views on that particular day. Today the fort has been converted into a marvellous hotel but is still one of most beautiful places to visit in Goa. The fort houses the century old Church of St. Anthony which isn’t open to the general public except on certain occasions, like the annual feast that is held in May.
At about 18 kms from Panaji and overlooking the Sinquerim Beach lies the Sinquerim Fort which protrudes into the sea and bisects the shoreline into two. An extension of the larger upper Aguada fort, the Sinquerim Fort has a bastion and a section of fortified wall on both sides and ships in the 16th and 17th century used to anchor next to the fort. This place is a photographer’s delight and with the stunning views that the fort boasts. The beach has soft white sand and cool breeze blowing through and beautiful blue waters crashing onto the beach in waves. Visitors can sit back and relax or indulge in the various recreational activities on offer like swimming, wind surfing, beach volleyball, water skiing, fishing and scuba diving. You could even stay here at the several accommodations that dot the area.
The Arvalem caves also known as the Pandava Caves date back to the 6th century and have rock cut foundations with Shivalingas inside the compartments. Surrounded by lush green forests and covered in moss it has a mysterious aura surrounding it and it is believed that the Pandavas used the cave during their exile from Hastinapura. The cave is situated quite close to the Harvalem Falls and Rudreshwar temple and also has a large statue of Buddha close by.
The Rivona caves in South Goa with a unique layout and overlooking the seas have a very rich Buddhist history and the laterite rock inside the cave is believed to have been the seat of a Buddhist monk who meditated here. There are beautiful laterite formations, Buddhist sculptures and paintings inside the cave.
Convent of Santa Monica and the Chapel of the Weeping Cross
This church in Velha, North Goa is considered to be Asia’s first and largest convent and is a feast of the eyes with its exquisite artwork, statues, paintings, and other antiques. This 450 year old church has finally been re-opened for the public after several years spent in restoring it to its original glory.
Church of Our Lady of the Mount
Set on a small hill in Ella, South Goa is the Church of Our Lady of the Mount an architectural masterpiece steeped in history. Often overshadowed by the popular Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral, it tends to be deserted so it makes up for a great escape from the hustle and bustle of Goa’s mainstream tourist destinations and thanks to its location it provides stunning views of the city . And moreover on moonlit nights it turns into one of the most beautiful and magical places of Goa and provides breathtaking, panoramic vistas of the shimmering coastal town below.
Nature Lover’s Paradise
Nestled snugly on the Western Ghats in the Goa-Karnataka-Maharashtra border is this surreal hill station gem with lush valleys and tropical jungles surrounding it. You can go bird watching, butterfly spotting, trekking, hiking, or just revel in the rich natural splendour of the Sahyadri mountain ranges.
Butterfly Conservatory of Goa
The Butterfly Conservatory of Goa is a park that was established in an effort to conserve butterfly species that are native to Goa and currently is home to over 133 species of butterflies. When you walk through the place, you can spot around 25 species of colourful butterflies fluttering around on any given day. For nature lovers and photography enthusiasts it can’t get better than this.
Netravali – Bubbling Lake
The bubbling lake of Netravali is an extraordinary experience for everyone in the Sanguem district of South Goa. The armies of tourists that flock to Goa still remain in ignorance of this small muddy pond which has an interesting phenomenon behind it. The lake bottom has natural gases like Methane which bubble up continuously onto the surface of the lake which makes for a fun experience. You can also dip your feet in the clean water if you wish and get a Fish Spa for free with the wonderful noise of bubbles popping in the background!
Cumbarjua Backwater Canal
A Backwater Cruise ride through the thick mangrove trees and marshes of the Cumbarjua canal on the banks of Mandovi River is a must for adventure seekers and nature lovers in Goa. Watch keenly as you paddle along the marshes to glimpse the lazy crocodiles that are sunbathing on the banks. The lively village of Cumbarjua and this narrow creek are beautiful and make for a wonderful trip.
Now that you’ve got a ready list all you have to do is decide where you want to go and when you want to go! Have a happy and safe trip!