Time and again I keep stressing on the fact that Goa is not just about the beaches, cheap booze and parties. There's more to Goa than the typical overcrowded touristy things. Not only does Goa have a rich culture and heritage, but also immense natural beauty. From islands to churches, temples, lakes and off-route scenic drives, there's so much you can do other than just visiting the beaches. However, I'm not suggesting that you skip the beach. All I'm suggest is that you can make your Goa trip much more fulfilling my taking the offbeat road from time-to-time. With this in mind, I have compiled a list of my favourite offbeat things to do in Goa.
Take a ferry from Old Goa or from Ribandar to reach the charming little Divar island. The island is located approximately 10 km upriver from Panaji. While there isn't much to see at the inland except for a few Churches, there's a tranquility in the air that you experience while driving across the empty roads surrounded by marshy open fields. As you arrive at the little villages surrounded by forested hills, step out of your car or bike and lake a leisurely walk along the single-lane roads and soak in the serenity of rural Goa.
Located in the Sanguem Taluka of South Goa, about 26 km from Margao, the Salaulim Dam is Goa's largest man-made water storage reservoir. Coupled with lush greenery and a large, picturesque garden, the dam makes for an ideal day-trip during and soon after the monsoon season in Goa. A sprawling lawn, canopy of trees, manicured hedges and ample open space make the botanical garden a favorite picnic spot among locals. Moreover, the garden was built to resemble the iconic Mysore's Brindavan gardens. From the top of the dam, you can see the pellucid waters reflecting the forest on one side and the garden on the other side. The duckbill spillway of the dam falls with such force that it causes some of the water to rise up and create a misty appearance. If you can't get yourself to leave this place, there is a guesthouse located close-by where you can book your stay.
Three Kings Church
Three Kings Church or Our Lady of Remedios Chapel, is situated on a hillock 12 km from Dabolim Airport, on the way to Margao. A tiny Chapel atop a hill, it is a favorite hang out place among the locals. Since the Chapel is at a height, you get to see spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, open fields, lanes covered by coconut trees and the sea at a distance. In addition to the views, there is a gentle breeze in the evening and a small road where you can take a leisurely stroll or sit on a grassy patch and take in the views. You can visit this Chapel while going from the Dabolim airport towards Margao or vice-versa.
Explore the South Goa Beaches
Did you really think I would leave out beaches from this list? In contrast to the beaches of North Goa which are generally overcrowded, South Goa beaches are usually desolate and have more room to walk around and enjoy the empty beach. Not only are there vacant beaches, but also some full-fledged tourist beaches with beach shacks and a vibrant atmosphere. My favorite empty beach in South Goa is Cabo de Rama beach. You can also read about a relatively undiscovered by the Indian crowd, Patnem beach. On your next Goa vacation, give the South Goa beaches a try. They will not let you down.
Walk Around Fontainhas
The old Latin Quarter of Panaji, Fontainhas is an area bursting with colorful houses in bright maroon, green, blue and yellow. Equally lively are the restaurants and other structures around here. Some of my favorite restaurants and cafes in Panjim are located in Fontainhas. A region with a rich cultural history, I have written about Fontainhas in-depth in my post, A Day in Fontainhas. Read this article to find out the hidden secrets, the best eats and the right spots to take Instagram-worthy pictures.
Explore Portuguese Mansions in Chandor
Chandor used to be a magnificent city between the 6th and 11th century. What's more, there are 2 elaborate mansions located in this village which is 15 km south east of Margao city. Braganza house dates back to the 16th century. The owners give the visitor a tour of the house, showing all the relics and where they came from. Most of the items in the house were imported from Europe. The highlight of the house is the grand ballroom, shown in the picture above. Expect to pay around Rs 300 per person, which goes into the maintenance of the house. While you're in Chandor, you can also visit the Fernandes house. This house is less extravagant but it has a secret passage build with gunshot holes. Besides, the man running the houses is the sweetest person. He's was kind enough to open his house for me and his friend in the middle of his lunchtime and gave us a full tour. A visit to Fernandes house will cost Rs 100 per person.