From historic forts and ancient caves to hidden waterfalls and bubbling lakes, here are 10 offbeat places that will show you a different yet equally refreshing side of Goa.
It’s futile to find any reason or season to travel to Goa. The sunburn capital of India is a hit with every kind of traveler – from foodies, couples and families to singletons and wild party-lovers, who like to get tanned in the sun, surf and be free.
But there’s more to this beautiful coastal land than just sun-kissed beaches, great seafood, and cheap alcohol. From ancient caves to under-the-radar heritage sites and hidden waterfalls, Goa can quench your thirst for wilderness and adventure.
Here are 10 offbeat destinations that will show you a different yet equally refreshing side of the most loved part of India, Goa!
10 Offbeat Places In Goa
#1 Big Foot
‘Big Foot’ is the more popular name of Ancestral Goa, a unique museum that showcases the intangible heritage of Goa. The brainchild of local artist Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares, the handmade artifacts, and clay mannequins display the state’s traditional occupations like sea salt making, feni distillation etc, and culture (folk dances, crafts etc.)
However, the 14-feet-long rock carving of Sant Mirabai is a spectacle as the curator himself created in just one month, that too single-handedly. It is praised by national and international institutions, including the record for being the longest laterite sculpture in India by the Limca Book of Records.
#2 Arvalem Caves
Referred to as Sunaparant (or the Golden Land) in ancient literature, Goa is home to several caves and ruins that have slipped into oblivion with the passage of time and vagaries of nature. The pinnacle of these is the Arvalem Caves.
Protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, the rock-cut chambers (carved into a laterite hill) are also known as the Pandava Caves – legend has it that these caves once sheltered the Pandavas during their twelve-year exile. You can also find the pristine Arvalem Waterfall which cascades over slippery rocks into a lake.
#3 Bamanbudo Waterfall
Situated within the boundaries of the Cotigao wildlife Sanctuary in Canacona, this beautiful waterfall is less ventured with the exception of some regular trekkers and hikers. A gem of a waterfall, with the backdrop of the lush green forests, make it an ideal place to retire at the end of your day or just to embrace the rich nature of Goa.
Even better, just 500 meters away from the falls, lies a sacred grove with a small shrine known as Paika Pann where the local forest-dwelling communities pay obeisance.
#4 Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
Just upriver from Panjim, this wildly overgrown mangrove forest is home to a small number of crocodiles and over 100 species of birds. From the ubiquitous egrets and herons to drongos and colorful kingfishers, you get to see them all.
Remember to visit the headquarters of Wild Otters, the only NGO devoted to the well-being of otters.
To get into the vibes of the natural habitat of birds, its best to take the ferry to cross the Mandovi river, its free for pedestrians and probably one of the most charming of all the commuter rides in the state.
#5 Netravali Bubble Lake
You’d need to drive through the verdant rainforests of Western Ghats to get to the charming village of Netravali in Sanguem taluka. The drive itself can make your day, as it is very rewarding. However, once you reach this village, you’ll be able to get close to the unique Bubble Lake of Goa.
The name is derived from the bubbles that rise continuously to the surface in various places in the lake. Strangely enough, they also seem to respond to certain sounds and rise faster if you clap!
#6 Chorla Ghat
Located on the north-eastern side of the Goa-Karnataka-Maharashtra border, Chorla is a fascinating display of the Western Ghats carpeted with lush greenery and numerous waterfalls. This area is also declared as an important bio-diverse bird area by Birdlife International for its rich flora and fauna.
If you’ve time and will to explore, go for a trek through the wilderness of Chorla Ghat’s Swapnagandha Valley to see the crystal waters of the magnificent Vazra Sakla Falls. If it happens that you’re in this area around the monsoon season (June-September), you can to see glowing Mycena (bioluminescent mushrooms) on rotting twigs, logs, and stumps.
#7 Fort Tiracol
Located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, Fort Tiracol was constructed in the 17th century by Raja Bahadur Khem Sawant Bhonsle. Later, it served the Portuguese rulers being an armed fortress. Today, the restored fort is home to a heritage hotel, a Baroque-style church, and centuries-old history.
This historic fort is a must visit to get the perfect blend of scenic views, with lush greenery and an age-old history.
#8 Tambdi Surla
A 12th century Shiva temple tucked away in the forested folds of the Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary, Tambdi Surla is an architectural wonder. It has been built without any binding between the stones, that have been cut to a specific shape, and in a unique matter that maintains cool interiors even when the temperatures soar high outside.
It is notably the oldest shrine in the state of Goa, believed to be the sole surviving specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture in Goa.
#9 Mayem Lake
This lake is the ideal place to be when you get tired of sunny beach days and you would want a different kind of watery wonder. Cuddled in the lap of Bicholim’s hilly countryside, this emerald-hued lake will offer you a relaxed encounter with nature.
Pedal across the placid waters in Bumper Boats or play Kayak Polo, it has an array of water sports activity in The Champions Yacht Club. You can even dine onboard with a barbeque leisure boat called BBQ Donut.
#10 Cumbarjua Canal
If you wish to explore the backwaters of Goa, there’s nothing like a boat ride through the Cumbarjua Canal – a 15 km crocodile-inhabited canal that connects the two main rivers of Goa, the Mandovi and the Zuari. It’s lush, peaceful and what’s more, less crowd!
Interestingly, its safe for your juniors as well, as the crocs were seen here, are a species known as Marsh Muggars, who is used to both the saltwater and the people of Goa. If any of you gets too close, they just jump into the water and move away!
Fearer Tip: In addition to the 10 offbeat gems in Goa, you can further enrich your experience in Goa with these three exciting things:
- A Hot Air Balloon ride at Assolda: Let the winds literally sweep you off your feet in South Goa as you embark on this 1-hour hot air balloon ride!
- Cashew Apple Harvesting at Valpoi: March to May is the cashew-apple harvesting season in Goa. This is also the time when people can visit cashew farms (such as Madame Rosa Distillery farm in Valpoi) to pick cashew apples. You can also stomp the fruit, watch fresh feni (Goa’s heritage drink) be brewed in copper pots sealed with anthill clay.
- Whitewater Rafting in Sattari: The months between June and October (the tourist off-season in Goa) are the perfect time to soak in the rain-drenched beauty of the wilderness and ride the waves of the gorgeously moody Mhadei river in Sattari district.
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