Also Read - These 10 Churches of Goa Are a Must Visit on Your Next Trip!
Goa is one of the most popular holiday destinations in India. Thanks to its image as the party capital, hippie joint and laidback attitude, a trip to Goa every year is a norm for many travelers. But Goa is so much more than just beaches and parties. From underwater sea walking to spotting crocodiles, the smallest state in India has a plethora of things to offer if you just look around. So, the next time you visit Goa, give the usual suspects a miss and try these offbeat things and places instead. Also Read - Beach Bums - Here Are 21 Stunning Photos of Beaches in South Goa
1. Underwater sea walk
Also Read - Most Haunted: Saligao Village in Goa Has a Spine-chilling Tale to Tell
Walking underwater may be unheard of in India but Goa has this activity to offer and you should definitely give it a try for its unique experience. You dont have to know how to swim to do this and children above 12 years of age can also try this activity.
The underwater sea walk takes place at the Baina Beach in Mormugao and is the first one in the country. It is only a 20-minute activity but definitely an experience that is unforgettable. You will be taken to Piccanye Island in a boat where you will be instructed about the activity and also learn underwater sign language. In order to keep you from swaying underwater, a four-kilo lead belt is attached to your body.
Before you step into the water, you will be given a glass helmet which allows you to breathe normally underwater. You, along with four other participants and an instructor, get off a ladder and then step on the seabed. The depth is not more than three meters. Once underwater, you start walking and see fish and weeds around. You can even feed the fish. The soft sand under your feet and the feeling of weightlessness is something that you will love. The activity lasts for 20 minutes and then you are brought back up. Complete safety is observed during the activity and according to the organizers, it is completely risk-free.
Pregnant women, heart patients and those who have claustrophobia are advised against this activity but for the rest, this is something you should do when in Goa.
Underwater sea walk is organized by H20 Water Sports for 20 minutes. The activity takes place between 8 am to 4 pm at an interval of 30 minutes. You can wear your swimsuit or even shorts and a tee.
2. Crocodile tour
Crocodiles in Goa aren’t too common except for in the village of Cumbarjua. Hidden in the mangroves, they can be spotted when you go boating on the Cumbarjua canal. These crocs are locally called ‘muggers’ and often come out during the day on the muddy bank of the canal to sunbathe. Since they are cold-blooded creatures, they try to get as much sun as possible to keep themselves warm. One rare phenomenon about these crocodiles is that they are essentially freshwater crocs but have adapted themselves to survive in the saline water here.
There are about 40-50 crocodiles in Cumbarjua which makes it easy to spot them. If you already have jitters, worry not, these aren’t really harmful to humans and seldom attack them. There hasn’t been any incident of crocodile attacks on humans in the recent past. Many locals are so used to them by now that they even swim in the water without fear. These crocodiles are used to human presence around them and usually jump into the water if someone gets too close to them.
When in Goa, visit the Cumbarjua canal which is 15 km long and 20 minutes away from Panaji. It connects two of the biggest rivers in Goa, Mandovi and Zuari. One of the most famous crocodile tours is conducted by Neil and Harvey of Southern Birdwing. On this tour, you go on a motorboat on the canal and spot these beasts. If you are in luck, you can also spot birds like the kingfisher and eagle.
3. Guitar-making workshop
You will find guitar learning lessons all across India but seldom do you find one where you can learn how to make a guitar. For all things unique, turn to Goa. On the busy Baga beach, Jungle Guitars conducts workshops that teach enthusiasts the process of guitar-making. Using mostly hand tools, participants learn everything from sanding the sides, clamping, drilling tuning slots, etc.
The workshop is conducted by Chris and usually, not more than four students are taken in one class. The guitar workshop is conducted between November to March and you need to contact the teacher to confirm dates. The course lasts for 15-20 days and most of the time, it is foreigners who take it up as they vacation for a couple of months in Goa. The fee includes all the material needed for making a guitar including a guitar case. While this may not be for everyone as sparing so much money and time isn’t always feasible, but those looking to learn something new can take it up.
4. White water rafting
If you thought water sports in Goa was limited to only jet-ski and banana boat ride, heres news for you, you can even go white water rafting in Goa. The adventure sport was introduced three years ago and has seen many locals, as well as tourists, take part in it. Even so, not many people are aware about this activity that commences in July and goes on until October. This is also something to look forward to during the monsoon when most beach activities are shut.
White water rafting is conducted on the Mhadei River in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary which is near Valpoi in north Goa. The sport can be tried by non-swimmers too and children above 12 years of age. Highly trained instructors guide participants by prepping them up before the ride and safety equipment like a lifejacket and paddle are also provided to them. A group of six to eight people can sit in one raft and the 90-minute expedition covers a distance of 10 km.
The activity is conducted by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) and every day two trips are conducted at 9.30 am and 2.30 pm. The meeting point for rafters is next to Earthen Pot Restaurant in Valpoi from where they are taken into the jungle. After getting off, a 10-minute walk away is the river where the white water rafting activity takes place.
5. Monsoon treks
If you thought there is nothing much to do in Goa in the monsoon, here’s some news for you, GTDC conducts monsoon trekking expeditions in the state that take place every Sunday from June to September. The location of the trek changes every week and you need to find out more about which trek they are planning on the Goa Tourism website. The treks showcase the hidden beauty of Goa as you walk through the middle of the forest, see waterfalls, streams and lush greenery around you. These treks are guided by a local and last over a few hours. Pick-ups are arranged for trekkers from a few popular points like Panaji, Mapusa, Margao. Lunch is also provided by the organizers. However, trekkers should carry dry clothes, comfortable footwear, rainwear, a towel and bag along for the trip.
6. Tropical Spice Plantation tour
If you love the soothing aroma of spices, a trip to the Tropical Spice Plantation should definitely be on your Goa itinerary. A visit here promises to be a relaxing one for the mind and body. The plantation houses spices like cardamom, black pepper, vanilla, nutmeg among others. Not just spices, you will also find various species of birds and animals here. A guide is provided who takes you around the plantation and shows you the different spices explaining their medicinal properties as well. The tour also includes lunch which is in an open-air restaurant in the plantation itself. Expect yummy Goan delicacies like Xacuti, fish curry, Kaju Feni and more served on a banana leaf. 75 different species of birds are also housed in the plantation premises. You can get a closer look at them by taking a boat ride in the lake here. Not just this, they also have a butterfly garden where you can play with these beautiful creatures as they sit on your shoulder.
Tropical Spice Plantation is located in a quaint village in north Goa called Keri which is six km off Ponda. It is open between 9 am to 4 pm and the tour fee includes lunch. They also offer elephant rides and bathing for an extra cost.
7. Divar Island
If you want a taste of rural Goan life where time moves at its own pace, you can visit Divar Island. It is only 12 km away from Panaji, the capital of Goa, yet it is nothing like the busy, bustling city. Just a ferry ride away, you will be transported to a different Goa which is nothing like you’ve seen before. The quaint island, which was once known for its rival gangs, lives in harmony today and offers peaceful homestays, Portuguese villas, bars that serve some of the best Urak (a lighter version of Feni) and temples and churches.
Divar Island is also popular for the celebration of Bonderam which takes place on the fourth Saturday of August every year. During this festival, the people of the village have a mock fight where they use berries as missiles to knock down flags of the rival group. The entire village gathers together and there is a carnival-like atmosphere on the island. There is also a float, some melodious music and a feast on Bonderam. The island comes alive on this day as the festivities go on from morning to evening.
You can reach Divar Island by taking a ferry either from Old Goa or Narwe. The ferry service is pretty regular and takes place from 7 am to 8 pm so you can even come back on the same day. Once you get off you are greeted by rice paddy fields, hills and lush greenery of Divar Island. If you wish to stay the night, go to Divar Island Retreat which is a family-run homestay offering 12 beautiful rooms. With amenities like attached bathroom, flat-screen TV, a garden and pool, it promises a comfortable stay.
8. Forgotten forts
Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Fort Aguada and Chapora are perhaps the most visited forts in Goa by tourists but the state is home to a number of other forts too that deserve your attention. While Chapora gots its fame due to Dil Chahta Hai, Fort Aguada became a popular attraction due to its easy accessibility, amazing views and the fact that is well-preserved. But if you’ve been here before, visit these forts in Goa instead.
Corjuem Fort in Corjuem Island, which is four km away from the village of Aldona, is a fortress that offers a view of the river and land. While the initial occupiers of the fort were the Desais of Sankhali, it was later in the control of the Portuguese who rebuilt it. Another very interesting story of this fort is about Ursula e Lancastre, a Portuguese woman who loved to travel. However, in those times, women were not allowed to even go out of the house. So, Ursula dressed up as a man and traveled but she was recognized and captured at Corjuem Fort.
Corjuem Fort is 12 km away from Panaji in Bardez and you will barely see any tourists here. However, if you love solitude, visit this place on your next trip. There is a bridge that connects the island with Corjuem.
If you love history and the idea of living in a fort, you can visit Terekhol Fort which is now converted into a heritage hotel by the name Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel. The fort-cum-hotel is on the northern tip of Goa, offering splendid views of the Arabian Sea and is the mouth of the Terekhol River. It was built in the seventeenth century by Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsle of Sawantwadi and later rebuilt by the Portuguese. In the fort’s courtyard, there is a church of St Anthony but it is open to the public only on a few occasions like the annual feast in May.
Get a taste of its historical past by staying at this hotel which boasts of seven comfortable rooms, restaurants, a lounge and breathtaking views. You can reach here by taking a ferry from Kerim Beach. Your car can also be ferried across to the fort.
Goa is well-known for its water sports that offer tourists an adrenalin rush. We told you about white water rafting in Goa and now we tell you where to go kayaking in Goa. Though not so common among tourists, Goa has kayaking and canoeing excursions that take place in its backwaters and rivers. Even if it is your first time, you can be assured of a fun time thanks to the safety measures and tips offered by the organizers. As you kayak on the backwaters, you can see mangroves, coves and different species of birds along the way.
Goa Kayaking conducts kayaking tours all year round, even during the monsoon. You are provided with single or tandem kayaks, paddles, life jacket and some fruits and coolers. There is a guide who teaches you the basics of the sport. Moonlight kayaking experience is also offered to guests. A kayaking trip usually lasts up to three hours or more in which five to six kilometres are covered.
There are different routes offered and you can contact the agency to pick one best suited for you. Don’t forget to carry your camera, sunscreen, a change of clothes, water, cap and sunglasses. Participants can wear shorts and a t-shirt and waterproof footwear. They also conduct longer kayaking trips that last for more than a couple of days. If interested, you can enquire about the same when you get in touch with them.
10. Fishing trips
Goa is a haven for fishing not just for fishermen but for tourists as well who want to try their hand at this activity that is the livelihood of many Goans. There are different kinds of fishing you can do in Goa including spearfishing, inshore and offshore fishing, along with the usual one. What’s more, you can even have your catch of the day prepared for you in Goan style from a chef on the beach and savor it to the fullest.
There are several operators who organize fishing trips in Goa. Sport-fishing gives tourists a chance to try the various techniques of angling such as popping, trolling, casting, etc., and catch Mangrove Jack or Barramundi. Candolim Beach is perfect to go fishing as it not just has a variety of fish but also offers the much-needed quiet you associate with this sport. You can choose to go alone or with a guide. However, if you are feeling more adventurous, you can opt for spear-fishing that requires you to be in a wet suit and go underwater. Places like Grand Island, Bat Island and Sail Rock offer this type of fishing. The best time to go spear-fishing is between October to January.
If you want to try this sport, contact Goa Fishing, which offers different types of fishing. John’s Boat Tours also organizes fishing trips.
11. Live in a Portuguese house
Goa’s Portuguese history is evident in its architecture and to experience it firsthand, you can live in one of these ancestral homes that offer travellers a glimpse of the past. The family you stay with will have stories to share that you won’t find in any hotel per se. Right from authentic meals to the homely atmosphere, you will feel more like a local and less of a tourist. Your stay will probably be in a quaint Goan village where time goes at its own pace and you will see a completely different side of Goa, nothing like what you’ve ever seen before.
Tucked away in the sleepy village of Aldona is a 500-year-old Portuguese-Goan home that offers travellers rooms with home-cooked meals. The cost can vary depending on the season. Away from the beaches, this village is in north Goa in the hinterlands. The Amaral family are the hosts of this home.
Beach Belt Quaint Heritage Home is another property you could consider staying at when in Goa. A Portuguese villa in Saligao, it is right in the middle of the village and promises a peaceful stay for four people with freshly made food for every meal. Evening strolls in the village, visiting the local tavern, getting a massage and interacting with the locals are a few things you can look forward to when here. And if you miss the beach, Vagator and Anjuna are a 15-minute ride away from here. You can book the property on Airbnb website.
12. Extreme water sports
Goa’s vast coastline makes it one of the best places for water sports. From the tourist-friendly banana boat rides and jet ski to the extreme ones like windsurfing, paddleboard, wakeboarding. Goa is one place you should head to if you are a water baby. As for most extreme sports, you will need a longer duration to master them and the course is likely to make your wallet lighter by a few thousands. So if you are into extreme water sports, here’s what Goa has to offer to you.
Wakeboarding is a sport combining the techniques of water skiing, snowboarding and surfing and involves riding a wakeboard that is attached to a boat. Kitesurfing courses are also conducted in Goa. Stand up paddleboarding that involves balancing on a board and using a paddle to go further. Surfing is another activity you can learn on Goa beaches.
These extreme water sports are offered by Atlantis Water Sports and Vaayu Ocean Adventures. The latter also offers accommodation at Vaayu Waterman’s Village in Ashwem.
13. Nude beach
Nudity in public is illegal in India but you will be amazed to know that there is a secret nude beach in Goa where you can bare it all and sunbathe without any inhibition. Mostly thronged by foreigners, visit here only if you are comfortable with nudity and do not mind being in the buff in public.
The beach we are referring to is Orzan Beach which is not too far from Anjuna and Vagator. Even so, it is not easily accessible and you need to climb a hillock to reach here. You are likely to find many Israeli tourists here. The beach is a small one with some shacks and beds where you can lay. There is also a carving of a human face on this beach. Once you spot this, you’ll know you are on the right beach. Orzan Beach is not a very touristy spot so you will have to ask your way around to get here. Remember, it is ahead of Anjuna and a little away from Vagator.
14. Hidden beaches
Goa has no dearth of beaches and while some are popular with all tourists, there are some that need a bit of exploration. If the nude beach we mentioned above isn’t your cup of tea, worry not, Goa is home to many others that offer the peace and quiet you are looking for. Here are a few of them.
Palolem Beach in south Goa is a popular tourist attraction but only a few know that you can visit the beautiful Butterfly Beach by taking a ferry from Palolem Beach. A tiny beach cove, it is only accessible by ferry, and no vehicles are allowed here. The clear waters and soft sand make for a wonderful trip to this secluded beach. Lovers Beach is another deserted beach where you will mostly spot couples talking long, romantic walks on its sands. The beach is an extension of Betalbatim Beach but barely sees any tourist activity. One of the reasons is that you need your own vehicle to reach here as no buses ply to this beach. But it is totally worth the drive. Another isolated beach is the Cola Beach in south Goa and is lined with coconut groves. Unlike the other two beaches, this one also has a resort that offers tent accommodation. However, only 12 of them are available so you will not find many people here. They also arrange for pick-up services from the airport or station as it is difficult to get here via public transport.
15. Learn yoga
The ancient practice of yoga that put India on the world map draws several foreign tourists to the country. While yoga studios have cropped up abroad too, many come here to find their spiritual self. Goa is home to many yoga ashrams and retreats that offer workshops as well as long-term courses in yoga. Mostly foreigners who are here on a long vacation prefer taking these courses but you too can try these out and enjoy a yoga session on the beach session.
SWAN Yoga Retreat in Assagao in north Goa offers yoga classes from practitioners trained at the Bihar School of Yoga. It has an ashram-like setting and you learn different aspects of yoga and stay there to experience the traditional way of living. The retreat is in the midst of nature and promises to enlighten your senses. From a single session yoga class to week-long courses, SWAN has many options that suit different learners. They also conduct beach yoga but they are shut on Fridays.
Sarvaguna Yoga at Agonda Beach is another retreat that not just offers week-long retreats, but teacher’s training courses as well in yoga, meditation and Reiki healing. From November to March, they conduct classes in Goa and the rest of the months their retreats are run in their Dharamsala branch. You need at least a week to sign up for their retreats and they do not take more than 10 participants in one retreat. Accommodation is provided by them.
So the next time you plan a trip to Goa, don’t go for the usual and try these experiences instead that are sure to paint a different picture of Goa showcasing its calm and tranquil side.