North Goa

The scene-stealers in Goa are easily her sunny beaches. And while some of the more low-profile, golden stretches of sand still hold out the promise of solitude, Goa’s beaches have turned into crowded tourist havens, which quickly takes the sheen off this sunny fantasy. Still, the prospect of roaring waves rushing to shore, frothy ripples creeping up to the water’s edge, and silky sand tickling your toes is too tantalising to skip. Besides, if you can find a cosy sandy strip least frequented by tourists for want of eateries and other amenities – and there are many – perhaps these are the beaches you are looking for. Carry a picnic basket, drinking water and a couple of towels and there’s no reason you can’t revel in some golden moments.

So what gets top billing on our Goa menu?

Well, you could journey back in time by ambling through ancient Goan mansions, stroll through a ‘Mediterranean’ town, rediscover the old Goan capital, get a bird’s eye view of some of Goa’s most famous beaches from an ancient bastion, and take in an eye-popping sight as the Mandovi River crashes down more than a thousand feet. The upshot is, travelling across Goa’s unspoilt countryside to visit these gems is more refreshing than even the most luxurious spa at your resort. There’s nothing better than driving through palm-fringed roads, looking down on sweeping, white sand, and coasting along the sapphire expanse of the Arabian Sea, with nary a vehicle in sight or tourists competing for a better vantage point.

Walking Tours : Discover Panjim’s best-kept secret – Fontainhas, a heritage precinct dotted with impeccably maintained old Goan houses and a warren of bylanes that is a treasure to explore. It’s an authentic slice of Goa, also called the ‘Mediterranean of Goa’. Other unusual heritage sites include Calizz at Candolim, which has preserved a variety of traditional mansions; and a smattering of intriguing exhibits at the Goa State Museum in Panjim.

Forts & Bastions : You don’t need to be a history to enjoy these venues of military skirmishes and witnesses to royal handshakes between local fiefdoms and invading colonial powers. We’ve picked three of the most intriguing forts in North Goa as they represent a charming chapter in Goa’s past. Also, enjoy spectacular scenic views en route and unparalleled panoramas from their ramparts.

Old Goa : As awe-inspiring as they are, if you can look past Old Goa’s magnificent churches and cathedrals, you will discover a city that the teeming crowds don’t see. This was the capital of the Sultanate of Bijapur and, later, a thriving city the Portuguese nicknamed ‘Velha Goa’.

Who said Goa is all about fun in the sun?