Goa is one of my favorite travel destinations in India, right up there with the awesome national parks and well, the mountains. However, I have never really explored much of Goa beyond the spectacular beaches.
Once I took a tour to Old Goa and really enjoyed it but got quickly swayed by the Goan beach vibe which is what draws me to this city every year, like clockwork. I often joke around with my friends that I am off to my annual Goan pilgrimage (which simply converts to chilling on the beaches sipping King’s beer).
This time.. however, it all changed.
As a guest of Goa tourism board, earlier this month, I explored a different side of Goa altogether. From museums to beautiful Goan houses, churches and spice gardens, scrumptious sea food and bird parks – we conquered the lesser known parts of Goa…even though I spent some time simply chilling at Miramar beach with Sonal of DrifterPlanet.
Table of Content
Exploring Goa, Minus the beaches
Museums of Goa
Goa has plenty of museums to boast of but have you seen any of them? Well, I hadn’t until now. Some of the most popular ones are Museum of Christian Art, Naval Aviation museum, Archaeological museum, Goa Chitra museum and my favorite BigFoot Cross Museum (Ancestral Goa).
Bigfoot museum in Loutolim is a miniature village depicting rural Goa in the golden days. From life size statues of villagers showcasing their way of living, livelihood, dressing and architecture, this museum is a fun filled open air attraction. It makes for a perfect day out for families and students.
The museum also boosts of an art gallery, handicraft center, bird habitat and a small in-house spice plantation, among other things.
Goan Cuisine and Sea Food
The typical Goan coconut curries (fish and prawn usually) are something you just need to taste when in Goa. You cannot leave the city without trying out some of these local curries in Goan spices, veggies and sea food.
Apart from that, you also get different grilled/ fried variations of seafood like lobster, king fish, king prawns or just opt for the “Catch of the day”.
Architectural delights of Goa
From forts to churches and pretty Portuguese houses everywhere, riding around Goa is a delightful experience. One of the most popular fort is Chapora which rose to popularity and made it to everyone’s bucket list because of the well received Bollywood flick Dil Chahta Hai. Apart from that, other forts worth a mention are – Aguada, Terekhol and Corjuem, among many more.
Since over 25% of the Goan population comprises of Christians, there are several awe aspiring churches in Goa. Basilica of Born Jesus, Se Cathedral and St Francis of Assisi are some of the more renowned ones, though, there is a pretty churn on almost every street/corner in Goa.
Goa has several spice gardens but Sahakari spice farm in Ponda is quite popular among tourists. Spread over a whooping 130 acres of lush greenery, this place is a complete educational experience.
You get an hour long guided tour where you learn about medicinal properties of various plants and herbs.
With an in house restaurant serving amazing local food, folk dances and even elephant rides, this plantation is a must visit to indulge in local culture and history.
Admission fee is Rs 400 ($6 approx) which includes a complete tour and a yummy buffet lunch.
Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
As an avid birder, I simply love exploring bird parks around the globe. That’s how my visit to Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary materialized. A fellow blogger Medhavi from Ravenouslegs and I decided to be adventurous and woke up at 5 am with no mode of transport to get to the park. Buses in Goa start at 0615 hrs so it was quite exciting to make our way in wee hours of the morning in order to be the first ones at the park. Haven’t you heard of the saying ‘Early bird catches the worm’? So, we hitchhiked, walked, took a bus and a ferry and finally reached our destination (Which was barely 20 mins from our hotel in Miramar by the way!).
After the initial challenge, we had to wait a bit for the boat ride (to get enough passengers to fill the boat). At just Rs 150 ($1.2) per person, taking an hour long boat tour is the best way to experience the park. With many water birds ,birds of prey and local as well as migratory birds, among thick mangroves as backdrops, it was a nice morning out.
A short walk inside the park is also highly recommended post the boat tour. Here’s why –
You can sight common birds like – White throated kingfisher, Brahminy kite, Pied Heron, Sandpiper, Osprey and visitors like Black headed Ibis.
Tip – Visit during low tide, as birds come out and spread around,catching fish which makes for easy sighting. During high tide, you can only spot them on tree tops, from your boat.
With so much to see do and explore in Goa, its best to rent a bike and tour South, North and Old Goa keeping atleast 2 weeks on hand. Your first stop will undoubtedly be the beaches but now you know what else to see while you are there.
Disclaimer – I was a guest of Goa tourism board to cover the #GoaTribalFest and these are just a few other things I experienced on this visit.