14 Must-Do Things At Goa

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So, I am off to Goa next week and rest assured, I will bring back at least two post-worth of new information. What used to be funny to me, is no more so, since I have discovered that there really are many people who have never been to Goa. Blame it on me having spent most of my life in Maharashtra, and almost all my friends being the kind who make at least one yearly-pilgrimage to the coastal state, this did surprise me initially. Now that the fact has settled in my mind, I want to do a few posts on the how and the what to do in Goa.
Firstly, let’s divide Goa in two parts. South and North. North is where the action mostly is and South is where the beauty and unexplored beaches are. Panjim lies somewhere in between. When you land in Goa, be it by train or flight, if you are going to north Goa (like we always do), you will need to hire a cab and drive up. Wherever you stay, it is not difficult to travel to the other part. You have the convenience of hiring a two-wheeler or a car and exploring the state at your own convenience.
There obviously are tons of places to go to and things to do. Let me begin with a few in this post and I will probably do a series on Goa. So here we go with the first list of must-do things and must-visit places:

Mapusa Friday Market

This is a weekly market which is set up right outside the Mapusa Municipal Market, on Fridays. You will find a fine spattering of local produce by farmers and arts & handicrafts by local entrepreneurs. This is a day time market and it winds up by sunset. Carpets, spices, pottery, jewellery and fresh fruits & vegetables – take your pick! And if you eat pork, don’t miss the pork sausages here.

Carnival At Arambol

Unleash the freak in you ‘coz attending the Arambol Carnival could possibly be one of the coolest things you’ve done. No points in guessing that the carnival takes place at the Arambol beach. The video below will give you a fair idea of exactly how eccentric it is! The carnival has now become a tradition of an annual freak carnival. You will find people dressed as angels, insects, aliens, and even things which I cannot mention here. So if you are going, go prepared. Be dressed for the occasion, and ready to have fun!

Mum’s Kitchen

The one thing you need to do when you are visiting a new place, is to taste it’s local cuisine. And Goan cuisine has a lot of lip smacking delicacies for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. And to get the best experience, head over to Mum’s Kitchen at Panjim. The USP here is that you will get to eat family recipes contributed by mother’s from across Goa. A must to drop in, believe me you will not be disappointed.

Fort Aguarda

If you are putting up at the Taj, then you are already at Fort Aquada. For the others, the Aguarda fort was built in the seventeenth century by the Portuguese to guard against the Marathas and the Dutch. It stands on the Sinquerim beach, by the Arabian Sea. The white lighthouse and the fort are excellent spots for photography with the most fascinating view of the sea and the areas around. Once you are done sightseeing, you can head over to the the Taj Vivanta for some drinks and relaxation.

Arpora Market

This is another weekly market which sets up on Saturday nights. Yes, you read it right. When in Goa, you have the choice to experiment and do different things. Saturday nights don’t only mean getting drunk till you puke.  The Arpora market is a sprawling market and is flooded with tourists till late in the night. It begins at 6 in the evening, every Saturday. The vast expanse of the market doesn’t only have people selling their wares, but also live concerts ranging from Indian classical to rock!

Churches

Of course, you cannot be in Goa and not visit the famous churches. One of the most famous and must-visit churches is UNESCO-listed Basilica of Bom Jesus which has the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier. It is a Baroque Catholic church which stands on Old Goa road since 1605. Other churches which you can add to your must visit list are Our Lady of the Imammculate Conception, Se Cathedral and Church of St Francis of Assisi.

Basilica of Bom Jesus / (C) WikiCommons

Bat Island

Bat Island is a small island to the the west of Goa with all its beaches around it. Ideal for honeymooning couples and those who want some private time away from the maddening crowd. A good place to visit if you want to take a short break and of course, the visual delight you will derive is a big bonus.

Anjuna Flea Market

Head over to Anjuna beach on Wednesdays to shop at the flea market. The market has been around since about three decades or more and first came into being thanks to the hippies who had started it as a smoking joint. Slowly things started adding up and now there are rows and rows of sellers selling handicrafts, clothes, jewellery, teas, bags, sculptures and practically everything you might want to shop there. The prices are high here, so brush up your bargaining skills!

Chapora Fort

This was where bits of Dil Chahta Hai was shot. The fort is located at Bardez, Goa. Long ago, the fort was Akbar’s base camp in his attempt to oust the Portuguese with the help of the Marathas. There used to be a church inside the fort but it is not there any more. There isn’t a lot to do but the view is spectacular and of course, it is of the Dil Chahta Hai fame!

Dona Paula

What used to be a village and a tourist destination, now has the National Institute of Oceanography. Dona Paula is named after an important member of Portuguese India, Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior. She indulged in many charities and is known to have helped many people. The beach is a major attraction amongst tourists. A huge part of the famous Bollywood movie Ek Duje Ke Liye was shot here as was parts of Singham. This beach should not be given a miss!

Mollem National park

In a protected area of 240kms, there is Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park at  Sanguem taluk, Goa. The national park is about 60 kms from Panaji. An interesting thing to know is that a national highway and a railway line, both pass through the national park. Inside the premises are Tambdi Surla temple, Dudhsagar Falls, Tambdi Falls and sunset points. Also to be seen here are a wide variety of flora and fauna.

Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

An estuarine mangrove habitat, Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is on the western end of Chorao island on Mandovi rive in Goa. Named after the eminent ornithologist, it can be reached via ferry from Ribander to Chorao. Inside the sanctuary you can spot multiple varieties of birds along with many rare varieties.

Dudhsagar Falls

Literally known as the Sea of Milk, the Dudhsagar Falls is situated in the western ghats inside the Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park. The best time to visit the falls is during the monsoons as during dry season, it doesn’t hold its spectacular stature. Don’t give it a miss if you are travelling along the western ghats.

Party Scene

If you are looking at the party scene, you will not fall short of choices. From karaoke bars to nightclubs to casinos, take your pick. My top three night clubs are Tito’s Street, Curlies and Club Cubana. Try them all, is what I’ll say and then try some more places. For when in Goa, the night is always young and the parties non-stop!

*All photographs without copyright mentioned are from WikiCommons.

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