I called my friend and told him I was heading to Goa for a week and if he wanted me to pick-up fenny. You see I am a good friend 🙂 He asked me what would I be doing there. I am taking a couple of friends to see butterfly conservatory and then we will be going to the spice plantation and play with the elephants, I told him. He was surprised to know that such activities happen in Goa. That’s when it hit me that most of us go to goa as a tourist and not as a traveller.
Most of us just laze around on the beach, drink beer, listen to some good music, have butter garlic prawns (yummy) and on our way back try to smuggle some bottles of alcohols. But as a traveller, you must know there is more to Goa. Here, I will cover some of the places, which I am sure most of you wouldn’t have visited, or even heard about.
1. Mystic Woods
This place Mystic Woods is famous for the butterflies. During the season you will be mesmerised by the butterflies, which look like flowers in the air with stunning colours all around you. You can see butterfly enthusiasts spend hours waiting patiently to photograph the beautiful butterfly. This place is very peaceful, and usually, only nature lovers go there. This is a place started by a couple that loves nature so much so that they have a unique rooftop garden and rainwater harvesting projects. If you really want to understand how they are working then book an appointment and spend time with them. It will be productive. Mystic woods is located in Ponda
2. Spice Plantation
Imagine 80 acres of land filled with spices of various kinds, and you are soaking in all the goodness. Spice plantation in Goa is a place where you can learn about various spices from India and their importance. I am not sure how many have seen Vanilla pod, here you can see that. As soon as you reach spice plantation you are welcomed with a freshly prepared lemongrass tea, I liked it so much that I had 4 glasses. Post that you will have a guided tour around the plantation, where I got to know some secrets of spices, and for the first time, I saw jackfruit leaf beedi. Here there is a small place demarcated where they show how Urak and Fenny (local drink of Goa) is made. Later once the trip is over you can have the lunch prepared there using the spices of the plantation. A good time is to reach there around lunch so that you can enjoy the food too. It is located near the village of Savoi Verem, 10 kilometres north of Ponda.
3. Safa Masjid
It is easily one of the oldest mosques in Goa, built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in 1560. Adjacent to the mosque is a well-constructed masonry tank with small chambers with ‘meharab’ designs. The Safa Masjid is a fusion of Indo-Islamic style. The roof is tiled, and you also find some ruined standing laterite pillars. The mosque and the tank were formally surrounded by an extensive garden with many fountains. The sight of the mosque from the main Ponda-Panaji road is delightful to the eyes. Locals go there for walks and relaxations in the evening. While talking to one of the locals, I got to know that there are speculations that before the mosque there might have been a temple. Also, the locals feel that there are hidden tunnels in the walls of the tanks, which connect to the nearby water sources. I suggest you go there in the evening and sit by the stairs that lead you down to the water body, you will feel a sense of calmness.
4. Divar Island
There are some beautiful Islands in Goa, one of them is Divar Island. To reach there, you need to take a ferry from Panjim side. The ferry service is free and runs throughout the day. The island has three villages with a lot of old houses. I got to know that the average age of the house there is 250 years old and each house is enormous and has its own charm. The entire island is covered with pants and wherever you go all the roads have trees which form an arch providing shade to all the travellers. Fishing, catching crabs and taking a small boat and venturing into the river is an excellent way to spend time on this Island.
5. Chorao Island
Chora is another island in Goa surrounded by mangroves and deadly crocodiles. The best way to reach there is the free ferry and to experience the island, you can take a canoe and ride it amidst the dense mangroves. Crocodiles usually don’t bother you. Salim Ali bird sanctuary is the major attraction on this island. There are more than 400 migratory as well as local birds. To get a good view of them, you need to be there by 7 am because as the saying goes early birds catches the worms, so birds tend to wake up early and visit the sanctuary. By 11 am it will be difficult to spot the birds the next best time would be around 4 pm. Besides this, there are some old Portuguese house and a small church in the village. You will be astounded at the age-old culture and custom which people still follow in the remote island.
6. Portuguese Colony
To go back in time take a walk of the Portuguese colony in Fontainhas. Here you will see old villas and buildings with balconies in the narrow lanes which reflect the old architecture from the west. Your eyes cannot miss the vibrancy created due to the green, yellow and blue house in the colony. I learnt that one simple way to identify a Portuguese house is to spot a rooster on the top of the house. Rooster happens to be a national symbol of Portugal which represent honesty, integrity, trust and honour. And all of them have this rooster on top to bring them luck. One of the heritage houses in Fontainhas has a bright red coloured wishing well with roosters mounted on it. It’s a peaceful place to chill and catch up with some reading.
7. Arvalem Caves
Located in the Bicholim town of North Goa, we have the Arvalem caves popularly known as the Pandava Caves. Folklore has it that these caves once sheltered the Pandavas during their twelve-year exile. The strange look of the caves has been attracting the tourists over long years. The presence of the famous Rudreshwar temple and a waterfall in its vicinity makes this place a must visit in Goa. The usual timing is from 9 am to 5 pm.
8. Netravali Bubble Lake
You will be surprised to see bubbles rise continuously to the surface in various places and they also respond to certain sounds. If you start clapping faster, you will see the bubbles rising more quickly. This is the Netravali lake also know as Budbud, Budbudyachi Tali, and Bubble Lake. Situated in the peaceful and serene village of Netravali the lake is famous for its bubbles. Bubbles are just one attraction, but people go there for the Gopinath temple. It is about 80km from Panaji and 50km from Margao.
9. Tambdi Surla
Tambdi Surla temple is around 65 km from Panjim. During the drive to this place you might witness peacocks, and if you are lucky, you might see a peacock dancing during the rainy season. Tambdi Surla is an architectural marvel — it has been built without any binding between the stones that have been cut to a specific shape, and in a unique manner that maintains cool interiors even when temperatures outside are scorching. It is also the shrine in Goa, believed to be the sole surviving specimen of Kadamba-Yadava architecture in Goa.
These are some of the offbeat locations in Goa that you can explore as a traveller.