Enchanting Goa - Part 1

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St Xaviers Church

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Immaculate Conception Church, Panaji

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Reis Magos Church

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Reis Magos Fort

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Nilaya Hermitage

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Olaulim Backyards

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Ozran Heights Beach Resort

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Inside Reis Magos Fort

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Exploring the Northern Part of Goa

Goa, the tinniest state in India, with approximately 1150sq. miles of area backed with amazing history and blessed with abundant natural wealth and is also marked as one of the most relaxing destinations in the world. Goa, actually need no explanation or details as the place is self explanatory. But it’s more than just the typical beaches and beer. Goa has it all and that’s why the Portuguese bowed over the genteel charms of Goa and settled their living for approximately 450 years as the numbers say.

While roaming on the beautiful narrow streets of Goa, on my expedition to explore the colours of it, I could see the unique amalgamation of Konkan & Lusophonian culture. Goa is a blend of the bizarre culture from the East to the West, which on the other hand makes the travellers experience the juxtaposition acculturation in one go. While on the streets in Panaji, the famous landmark is something one cannot miss; the originally built chapel in 1541 and turned into church in 1609, “Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church”. This piece of Baroque architecture can be spotted in many bollywood movies. Just opposite to the church is one of the busiest streets of Panaji and also a shopping destination for tourists, the 18th June Road which is named after the event of 1946, where the leader then had called a rendezvous to end the Portuguese rule. The historically named street along with some shopping commercials holds some famous eating joints, one of which I visited was “Ritz Classic” on a subsidiary road of 18th June Road. The restaurant is well-known for serving delicious sea food, and yes it seriously does.

Apart from the regular and crowdy spots of Goa, like Dona Paula, Miramar Beach, Calangute & Baga Beach and so on, I preferred to go off grid as I was well-versed with the regular one’s. I routed my bike through the banks of Mandovi river along Betim and reached the fort with sturdy walls with a turret over it, built in 1551 just next to river Mandovi, the less famous ‘Regis Magos Fort’. As the history puts up, this fort was an armed outpost during 1497 of Adil Shah and when Bardez was conquered by the Portuguese in 1543 the fort was built along with a beautiful church which still stands tall and is a protected site. The fort was of use to attack the intruders along with Gasper Dias Fort after 1595, until fort Aguada was built in 16th century. Rolling up towards north passing by the eminent Candolim, Calangute & Baga beach I reached Ozran Beach. And yes, en-route to Ozran Beach near Candolim, is a awesome place to drop over for some food & beer, “The Stone House”. Coming back to Ozran Beach, this one is a small beach located between Anjuna & Vagator beach, also known as Small Vagator. The place holds some nice resorts to stay, one of my favourite was Ozran Heights Beach Resort, and it is actually a beach resort. It offers attractive Premium & Sea View Cottages with in-house restaurant and a pool. The hotel is situated on a cliff, which is the captivating point, as the view of the Arabian are lovely. The beach down the cliff is small, with some shacks offering variety of cuisines. While making my way back I also spotted a Powered Para-glider (i.e. a glider with powered propeller at the back) happily gliding over the sea.

Day was long and so I decided to head to my first accommodation point, to one of the most peaceful & relaxing boutique hotel in Arpora area, Nilaya Hermitage. A charming property with 11 unique Arabian style cottages flashing the Moorish architecture. Nilaya offers quiet ambience away from the hustle-bustle to give a firsthand experience to its guests. The cottages are spacious with an approximate area of 600sq.ft. All the 11 cottages are unique and are based on themes like Fire, Water, Soul, Star and so on. From the sun deck next to the pool, one can spot the golden coat of Baga Beach. This boutique hotel common areas like fresh water swimming pool, yoga, massage, and a really beautiful Blue Dome Room(You definitely have to visit the place to experience this one). As place is really a heaven as the name, Nilaya(Sanskrit word for Heaven)

After the breakfast in the morning and twisting my tired body on some yoga asanas, I drove to the North side of Goa and reached Morjim Beach. White/Silver sand, vast stretch with few shacks, views of the Dil Chahta Hai fame Chapora fort and the meeting point of Chapora river with the Arabian Sea. The beach does not hold much activities like water sports, clubs or shacks, but is a good option to be off grid. Just a few kilometres ahead is the Russian beach – Arambol Beach. This beach is so called because of the number of Russian immigrants finding peace here. The beach is clean and has some good restaurants serving you a variety. Another beach neighbouring Arambol beach is Querim Beach. This is the last beach towards the north side. The beach does lack commercial outlets but on the contrary is tranquil with the Tiracol river flowing into the Arabian Sea. There is a fort across the river named Tiracol Fort, standing tall and facing the sea. The beach has dense population of tall pine and palm trees, which makes it exclusive.

It was a beachy day and lot of sand had slipped in my clothes reaching places which made it really uncomfortable at time. So it was the time to head to my next accommodation den. I made my way to Olaulim near Aldona at Olaulim Backyards. Another boutique hotel, near Aldona. One of the top ranked properties as per TripAdvisor. “One will find life at Olaulim is sheer poetry” as they say, and that is true. Quiet waters, sprawling lawns, rustic cottages and occasional spotting of hornbills, yes you read it right ‘Hornbills’. It is a complete eco friendly boutique home-stay with luxury at its core. Good food & hospitality was an addition. They also have wide options of activities like kayaking in the backyard, cycling, bird watching, nature walks, for their guests.

Next morning, I explored the sleepy village of Aldona, the one which has retained the atmosphere of its past, resisting the onslaught development. They have kept alive the culture, the cuisines, the essence of Goa. Early morning, one can visit the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary for dotting the beautiful birds nested there. Although I didn’t and instead drove to Old Goa. Se Cathedral, the largest church in Asia and the St. Xaviers Church was on my list. And yes not to forget the Wax Museum just behind the St. Xaviers church.

To sum up, apart from the habitual touristy locations in Goa, there is lot more to see. There are a lot of serene places worth a visit, and to experience Goa other than clubs & booze. Next time you plan a visit to this Party destination, include the places mentioned in this article in your itinerary.

The tour is to explore Goa in offbeat way, so it’s time for me to head to the East; a region with lot of flora & fauna. Stay tuned for exploring the Eastern Goa.

HIGHLIGHTS:

# Places for Food

- Ritz Classic, Panaji(Sea Food)

- The Stone House, Candolim

- House of Lloyds, Candolim

- Souza Lobo, Calangute

- Brittos, Baga

- St. Anthony Shack, Baga

- Salt N Pepper, Small Vagator

# Places for Accommodation

- Nilaya Hermitage, Arpora

- Ozran Heights Beach Resort, Ozran Beach

- Olaulim Backyards, Aldona

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