Goa Holiday is usually about the Goa Beaches. But there are 7 secrets of Goa, which are not known to most of the tourist traffic. These 7 secrets are about Goa, the land full of medicinal springs and ancient tanks. The dense forests and favourable climate make Goa an ideal place to grow spices. Some of the country’s best spice plantations can be found in the Ponda region. Today Goa Holiday can also be about Rock Art, led by a discovery of rare Stone Age rock carvings in Kevan-Dhadole, Usgalimal of Pirla village in Sanguem Taluka.
October- March is th best time to Visit Goa. During this period the Sea is calm and overal weather is pleasant. Heavy Monsoons are to be expected from June- September when Beaches are to be avoided. However, being the offseason, you do end up getting great deals with Hotels! February is when the Carnival is organised and hence a good time to be in Goa.
The Sahkari Spice farm located in Curti in the Ponda region of Goa. It’s a private farm and not a cooperative as the name might suggest. Start with a tour of the premises. You are welcomed with lemon grass tea and some cashews. Well informed guides take you around the 130-acre spice farm. You will get to see cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, herbs, fruits, arecanut, betel and other medicinal plant. The tour ends with a typical Goan Saraswat buffet lunch. Post lunch, take an elephant ride in the farm before departing.
Usgalimal is located in Sanguem region of Goa and offers a look at ancient rock carvings. Its 15 kms south of Rivona in South Goa. While Rock art first came into existence in the world almost about 50000 years ago, it was discovered in this site as late as 1993. You can find animal engravings like bull, deer, gaur, religious symbols, cosmology items and fertility icons among others. The site has a surreal look beside the river Kushavati.
Dolphin spotting is the other secret of Goa. It is a good way to begin a day in Goa. There are a few cruises that take you into the sea to spot these wonderful creatures. Alternatively, you can hire a boat and its preferable to go early in the morning, when they surface from under the sea to eat.
If you have planned your Goa Holiday during the rains, you can make a trip to Sakla-Vazra water fall. Its on Chorlem Ghat road that links Goa to Belgaum via Sanquelim. The falls which rise upto 200 meters, are a magnificent sight to behold.
Choram Baim or “Well of thieves” in Baga is another noteworthy destination in your Goa Holiday beyond Beaches itenarary. It’s a layered rock formation projecting into the sea. Its fully surrounded by rock walls except for a small opening. As sea water enters this opening, a haunting metallic sound is made! According to one tradition, thieves used to hide valuable items in the hollows of the rocks near the well, and thus its name.
Another recommendation for your Goa Holiday beyond Beaches would be a Church Circuit focusing on the Romanesque or Gothic architecture. St Cajetan Church is worth visiting as its dome is modeled after St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. The St Anne Church, situated 8 kms from Santana-Telaulim is another marvel with sea shell shaped vaults. Basilica of Bom Jesus is known for its beautiful baroque architecture. Se Cathedral, the Church Of Francis of Assisi and Church of Our Lady of the Rosary are other suggestions you can cover in this Goa Holiday beyond Beaches. For a travelogue on Churches, visit Churches of Goa.
A Goa Holiday beyond Beaches is incomplete without covering Pre-Portuguese religious architecture. Head to Tamdi Surla which features Kadamba temple architecture of the 12th century. If you go in the monsoons, the temple resembles an amethyst sculpture due to its unique purplish hue. The temple stands on ten finely ornamented monolithic pillars and the design uses male-female stone joints to fit the slabs and corners. After the temple you can visit Molem national park and the Zoo at Bondla nearby.
Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is another must visit especially for those who love birds of the feathered kind. Although not very large, its dense mangrove vegetation is home to 400 species of birds. Crocodiles, foxes, and jackals are its other inhabitants.
Did you know that Goa is home to the oldest rocks of the Indian subcontinent. In ancient times, when “Pangea” the supercontinent broke away, the rocks remained in Goa. Rubidium isotope dating methods have determined the age of these rocks to be 3600 million years old!
Sahakari farm is at Curti in Ponda, right on the highway to Belgaum.
Usgalimal can be reached in 2 hours from Calangute via cab. The site is hidden behind an iron mine, so watch out for an sign board put up by Archaeological Society of India.
Well of Thieves is opposite the Jesuit Retreat home in Baga.
For the Church circuit, go to Old Goa in the district of North Goa.
Tamdi Surla is 70 kilometres from Panaji
For Salim Ali bird sanctuary, take a bus or taxi from Panaji to the Ribandar ferry dock and then take a ferry across the Mandovi River to the island of Chorao
At Usgalimal, remember to wear proper footwear as the exposed rocks get very hot and can scorch your feet. During the Dolphin cruise, take the early morning round as by late morning with rising temperature and crowds, chances of spotting them diminish. Avoid the bird sanctuary during the monsoons and summers when it can get really hot and humid.
Devbagh is a lovely island just 22 Kms from Goa and away from the crowds. For a holiday comprising golden sand, pristine beaches, blue skies and casuarina plantations check my travelogue on Devbagh Beach.