Goa is not the place you visit once and cross off from your list. After the first visit it becomes an urge and after the second, a tradition! This Portuguese Shangri-la on Indian soil has so many charming worlds that even the most seasoned travellers can’t make the best of their Goan holiday.
1. Beauty and the Beach :
It has to start with beaches! While beaches in North Goa steal the limelight, South Goa beaches are less crowded. We nominate Arossim Beach and Utorda Beach near the town of Majorda for the best South Goa beach award. For North, Baga, Calangute and Anjuna bag the ‘people’s choice award’! Water sports on these beaches include jet skiing (water scooter as we know it), parasailing (the view from the top is worth it), scuba diving (the scintillating undersea life compensates for the missing corals) and falling from a banana boat (most adventurous of the lot). To make the best of your beach experience, book yourself a room in one of the best resorts in North Goa.
2. Spicy Sights :
No, it’s not what you thought really! We are talking about visiting the Spice Plantation in the Ponda area called Sahakari spice plantation and your nostrils will remind you why Europeans came to India! This largest spice farm of the region lets you pluck and taste pepper, bite a Peri Peri (hottest chillies of the world), bathe through an ‘elephant shower’ and feast on a traditional Goan lunch cooked with farm spices. While not many visit spice gardens plantations in Goa, those who do, praise them no less than the beaches.
3. Old is Gold! :
In Panjim, history comes alive. This is Old Goa, the state capital for the better part of three centuries and known as the ‘Rome of the East’. The cavalcades of churches, convents, museums, art galleries, government buildings, bungalows and bakeries together make it tough to suggest what to not see in South Goa. Yet, Basilica of Bom Jesus (for its architectural magnificence) and Sé de Santa Catarina (largest church in Old Goa) are the most visited ones. Not to forget, Old Goa is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4. Enter the Jungle! :
Yes, Goa has wildlife much more exciting than its nightlife! The Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park have animals like the panther, sloth bear, mouse deer and even barking deer. Then there are 200 species of birds including the Indian great black woodpecker, Malabar pied hornbill, paradise flycatcher, fairy bluebird, emerald dove and kingfisher. This peaceful sanctuary in the foothills of the Western Ghats (known as Sahyadri in Konkani) can be visited from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on all days.
5. The Uncommon Market of Ingo :
Once upon a not so long time ago, a German named Ingo set up this new market on a leased property. Fondly known as Ingo’s Saturday Night Bazaar, this market in Arpora is on for about six months of winter and presents a potpourri of junk jewellery, imported T-shirts, hippie merchandise, Indian and global cuisine from Rajasthan and Kashmir to Turkey, Spain and the rest of Europe! For non-shoppers, Daniel’s Bar often sees a DJ playing there, for the market. Even without this, music plays throughout the day and gets groovier by the night, say around 11 pm.
6. Dolphin Drive :
The dolphins are a way better sight in reality than on Animal Planet! A dolphin cruise in Goa is therefore exciting for the old and the young alike. Dolphins pepping out of the sea around your boat in a graceful motion is best savoured by eye and saved on camera. The dolphin cruise trip is flanked with a day-long tour of Grand Island, ideal for a peaceful picnic.
7. A Tryst with History :
While ‘museum’ is a monotonous word for some, it has a new meaning in Goa. A congregation of Hindu artefacts in a Portuguese-cum-colonial setup with stories of two worlds make these museums quite different than our usual perception. For instance, The Archaeological Museum of Old Goa has some Hindu relics and bronze statues of two famous Portuguese men set amidst the robust Portuguese architecture. There are many more museums worth visiting in Old Goa like The Naval Aviation Museum and Institute Menezes Braganza.
8. Now, some ‘Food for Thought’! :
Everyone loves the food at Mum’s Kitchen! This restaurant in Panjim, the capital of Goa, offers Portuguese and Goan cuisine in a finger-licking blend. The rawa mussel fry is spicy and delicious. One good thing about Mum’s Kitchen is the variety of healthy vegetarian dishes on the menu. After a scrumptious meal, head to downtown area to pick up souvenirs like cashews and footwear, and enjoy a good night’s sleep at one of these hotels in Panjim.
9. Martin’s Corner :
Near Majorda in South Goa is Betalbatim, a small village with a famed restaurant, called Martin’s Corner, Sachin Tendulkar’s favourite restaurant. The food here is legendary. King crabs, prawn vindaloo, garlic chicken and sea food that is mixed with sauces and spices. These are just some of the reasons why celebrities, locals and tourists flock to Martin’s Corner. Here’s the best part – a meal for two costs around Rs. 600.
10. St. Anthony’s Beach Shack :
At the beginning of Baga Beach is St. Anthony’s bar, restaurant and shack. Once the sun sets behind the sea, this place gets livelier by the minute. Picture this, tables with candle-lamps and beach chairs by the water with live music or karaoke performances in the background. The delicious seafood or vegetarian dishes wash down well with anything from local beer to wine. Another indulgence at St. Anthony’s is the flavoured hookah, which can get stronger and naughtier with vodka inside it! Adjacent to St. Anthony is Britto’s, another restaurant and shack famed for its food and service. I however have brighter memories of the former
11. Deltin Royale :
Goa’s newest and largest luxury floating casino, the Deltin Royale, is not surprisingly the state’s most happening casino. There are four floors, spread over 40,000 square feet, with 123 gaming tables and a gourmet restaurant. The casino has India’s only dedicated poker room, as well as an exclusive room for Indian Flush (Teen Patti). It also has an exclusive whiskey lounge, with a magnificent selection of single malts and hand-rolled cigars. There are VIP gaming suites that guests can stay and play in as well.