Offbeat Goa: 12 Mind-Blowing Experiences.

Goa monsoon, Goa rains

I’ve spent months seeking out Goa experiences you won’t find in any travel guide. If you’re looking for offbeat places to stay in Goa or places to visit in Goa other than beaches, go after my finds!

On a rainy afternoon, wrapped up in my blue poncho, I drive my bike past verdant rice paddies, abandoned railway tracks and sleepy hamlets. The search for unique things to do in Goa leads me to little-known islands in the interiors of Goa.

On the empty ferry, the surprised driver asks me why I’m going there.

Why? Because these islands are covered in mangroves and home to mist-laden meadows. Adorned with old Portuguese homes. Large populations of birds and tiny populations of people who, far from the beaches and revellers of Goa, exemplify the susagade (content) way of life.

Also read: The Perfect 3-Day Goa Itinerary for Slow Travel

The hunt for unique places to visit in Goa begins in its interiors.

Goa experiences off the beaten path

I’ve spent two blissful monsoon seasons discovering Goa experiences beyond the beaches. Take my list and go, and soak in moments you never could have imagined:

1. Discover the sleepy Chorao Island – my favorite among offbeat places in Goa

In the heart of North Goa, this quaint little island is serenaded by gentle backwaters, loved by migratory birds and home to the friendliest locals.

On a weekday afternoon, when a friend and I ferried our bike to its shores, the locals were all tucked in for their afternoon siesta in their old Portuguese homes. We chanced upon La Fayette, a little neighborhood eatery, and knocked on its doors, fully expecting to be turned away. The lady of the house, awoken from her siesta, welcomed us in, fed us heartily and fascinated us with stories of island-living. 

Legend has it that a stolen statue of Christ the King mysteriously appeared overnight on a hilltop in Chorao. A worthwhile hike for aerial views of Goa’s skyline.

Take a ferry from Pomburpa’s ferry point to reach Chorao, one of the best places to visit in Goa.

Also read: My Alternative Travel Guide to Goa

Chorao island, Chorao Goa, Shivya Nath
Activities in Goa beyond the beaten path – Chorao island.

2. Kayak in the rains – adventure in Goa begins here!

On a dreamy July afternoon, I found myself rowing into the untouched backwaters of northern Goa, maneuvering my way through mangroves, fighting the current of the river, hearing peacock cries and spotting eagles on barren trees – all while getting drenched in the rain. It’s an experience I’m always going to remember.

Also read: What India (and the World) Can Learn from Sustainable Tourism in Kerala

Goa kayaking, Goa backwaters
Hidden places in Goa: Kayaking on its rivers and backwaters.

 3. Try poi at a traditional Goan bakery

Waiting for the bread-man to deliver the local Goan bread poi to your home is one thing. But visiting a traditional village bakery, letting the aromas of freshly baked breads rumble your tummy, and watching the baker take out hot breads – poi (wheat bread), pao (white bread), kakon (bangle bread), katro (butterfly bread) – from the life size earthen oven, is quite another.

Of his 78 years, Jose Carlos D’Silva has been a baker for 50, and his is the only traditional bakery that remains in the region.

Language is a barrier, so visit the bakery with a local. It might never make it to the “top 10 places to visit in Goa” but I can promise you it’s special. I visited it with my homestay family in Aldona.

Also read: Why I Turned Vegan – and What it Means for My Nomadic Lifestyle

Goan breads, Goan bakery, Poi
Best things to do in Goa – visit a traditional bakery for fresh breads from the earthen oven.

4. Drive the river route from Pomburpa to Panjim – with many hidden places in Goa along the way

Goa is full of beautiful drives, but this one is my all-time favorite. Every time I drove the route from Panjim to Pomburpa, along rolling green meadows, rice paddies, cattle grazing in the pastures, eagles flying low, men fishing by the side of the road in the backwaters, the cool breeze in my face, I hopelessly fell in love with Goa.

Ditch the highway, and ask anyone about the inner route towards Mapusa, which leads on to Pomburpa. 

Also read: If I Were a Season, I’d be Monsoon

Goa drives, Goa bikes
What to do in Goa? Drive along the lush meadows.

5. Forget the “where to stay in Goa” lists and live with a Goan family in an ancestral Goan-Portuguese house

I have to confess that if there’s one place where my itchy feet feel grounded, it is Cancio’s House in Aldona.

This ancestral home, one of few offbeat stays in Goa, dates back atleast 500 years. It has been lovingly restored by the Amaral family, and opened up as a homestay to travellers who want more from Goa. The fascinating stories of the house, the aroma of Raquel’s cooking, the silence of the window sill and the timeless beauty of Aldona – sometimes that is just what my soul needs.

And Roberto and Raquel – the world doesn’t make people like them anymore.

Also read: Awe-Inspiring Uttarakhand Homestays to Tune Out of Life and Tune Into the Mountains

Goan Portuguese homestay, Cancio's house, Amarals homestay Goa
Offbeat places to stay in Goa – Cancio’s House.

6. Celebrate the traditional Sao Joao festival by jumping in a well!

In the villages of Goa, the Sao Joao festival is celebrated with much gusto.

According to an old tradition, all newly married men in the village must jump into a not-so-deep irrigation well and try to recover gifts thrown in by the village folk. I happened to visit post the festival (it happens in late June), but my host family in Aldona invited their friends and celebrated another time.

Running through the fields and plunging yourself into the well is just something you have to do once – truly offbeat Goa, and probably one of the most unique things to do in North Goa!

Also read: Offbeat Rajasthan: 10 Awe-Inspiring Experiences

Sao Joao festival, Sao Joao goa
Club an adventure trip in Goa with Sao Joao! That’s me jumping in the well!

7. Pay homage to the indomitable spirit of an intrepid female traveller – among stunning places to visit in Goa in monsoon

Legend has it that at a time when women weren’t even allowed to leave the house, Ursula e Lancastre, a Portuguese lady, wore men’s clothes and travelled the globe solo! Unfortunately, at Corjuem Fort in Goa, she was recognized and captured. The ancient, overgrown stone walls of the fort offer views over the Western Ghats, and solitude – you won’t find a signboard or another person here. And maybe if you listen close enough, you might just hear the walls echo with stories of Ursula’s brave journey.

Corjuem Fort is located in the village of Corjuem in North Goa. You’ll see its walls from the street. In my books, this is one of the many places of interest in Goa – but left totally to the elements.

Also read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears

Corjuem fort, Aldona fort
Offbeat things to do in Goa – Corjuem Fort in the rains.

8. Speedboat along the backwaters

Like most people, I had no idea that Goa had backwaters. When my host family at Cancio’s House invited me on a speedboat ride along North Goa’s riverine backwaters, I had no idea I was going to whizz along such breathtaking scenery – untouched, devoid of houseboats, home to mangroves, and a hangout for kingfishers, eagles and peacocks. We even spotted an Indian mugger crocodile! Easily one of the most unusual things to do in India.

Get in touch with Lady M charters to go on a speedboat ride along the untouched backwaters of Goa.

Also read: Offbeat, Incredible and Sustainable: Travel Companies Changing the Way We Experience India

Goa wildlife, Goa backwaters
Best places to visit in Goa – the backwaters!

9. Go island hopping

Far from the cries of civilization, some islands in Goa with tiny populations can only be reached via multiple ferry rides. When my bike and I braved the rains to get to them, I was rewarded with colorful misty meadows, delicious bakery food and endless chats with locals on one island. On another, I was surprised to be driving on narrow strips, with shallow waters sprouting mangroves on either side, and old Portuguese-style houses dotting the landscape.

I think it’s best not to geotag these hidden places to visit in North Goa, but I promise you, seek and thou shalt find. 

Also read: Things to do in Kasaragod to Refresh Your Connection With Nature

Goa islands, island hopping Goa
Where to go in Goa? To an island of mangroves.

10. Have an inspiring Sunday morning at Museum of Goa – go beyond Goa travel and feel like a local

Though not exactly one of the hidden gems in Goa, the Museum of Goa (MOG) in Bardez is probably Goa’s most creative event and art space. On regular days, it is full of Goa-inspired exhibits, many of them the work of founder Subodh Kerkar. But every Sunday, MOG transforms into a gathering of locals from across the state, for talks and workshops by Goan entrepreneurs, theatre artists, environmentalists, artists and more. MOG Sundays has become a highlight for every time I return to Goa. I even held my Goa book launch in MOG’s creative garden space!

Follow Museum of Goa on Instagram to keep tab of upcoming events.

Also read: How I Connect Meaningfully With Locals as I Travel the World

11. Eat at neighbourhood Goan restaurants

It took me a while to realize that “Goan cuisine” served at popular beach shacks is a farce. Last monsoon, I sampled Goan curries, local breads and hearty conversations at neighborhood restos, quietly tucked away in the interiors of Goa – the best places to visit in Goa at night. Read about my 7 most delightful authentic Goan food finds.

This year, the list has grown to include Nostalgia by Chef Fernando in Raia, started by a Goan chef who travelled the world and came back to Goa with a dream of keeping authentic Goan cuisine alive. The food is worth the long drive from North Goa that I made twice. 

On our way to Dudhsagar, for lack of an alternative, we stopped at a run-down family-run eatery called Royal Fantacy (!), and cooked by the father was the best mushroom xacuti I’ve had in Goa.

Also read: Insider’s guide: Best Vegan restaurants in Goa

Goan restaurants, Goan cuisine, Venite panjim
Things not to do in Goa – miss out on local Goan (vegan) food.

12. Paddle-boat on Mayem Lake – among places to see in Goa other than beaches

I’m not one for boating in tourist-infested lakes, but Mayem Lake is quite exceptional. In the village of Mayem in North Goa, this is a pristine expanse of freshwater surrounded by dense forests, and as you paddle your way towards the far shore of the lake, you can feel the silence engulf you.

Last I heard, they’ve made a fancy boardwalk leading up to the lake in the hope of attracting more people. Go before it’s too late, and if you’ve been recently, let me know if it still belongs on my offbeat things to see in Goa list.

Also read: How I’m Financially Sustaining My Digital Nomad Lifestyle

Mayem Lake Goa, offbeat Goa
The tranquility of Mayem Lake.

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  1. prachifun says:

    Looks like a Wonderful Wonderful way to discover Goa!!!

  2. Great post! Definitely going to keep this as a guide when I visit Goa next.

  3. Hi Shivya ! I was so thrilled to see a mention of Venite here. We were on a trip to Goa in May and Venite was one of our favourites. That was a trip when we too eschewed the beaches for a glimpse of the other Goa. We went right upto the Terekhol Fort which was the most wonderful drive.Next time do visit the Rhys Margo fort and the Braganza home both of which are fascinating. We are going with our children again this month when we hope to introduce them to the true soul of Goa.

  4. This makes me wanna visit Goa even more now. Thank you for sharing.

  5. This is awesome, Shivya!! I’m (very ashamed to say that) I’m one of the only people in the WORLD who’s never been to Goa so you can imagine how long it’s been on my bucket list. I’m waiting for your Goan eateries list to come up, and then off I go!! 😉

  6. Offbeat Goa sounds incredible! I couldn’t have rowed a boat in the rain, but yes, gorging on the freshly baked bread would be my kind of thing!

  7. Pingback: Offbeat Goa: 12 Mind-Blowing Experiences. | The Talking Sloth - Asia
  8. What an amazing list Shivya! Although I’ve been to Goa many times haven’t done most of these yet!

  9. I love this aspect of Goa……quiet & far away from the crowd. Will try to explore this side of Goa, the next time……thanks for sharing Shivya! 🙂

  10. Beautifully written Shivya, short & crisp with a wealth of information. Thanks for sharing.

  11. beautiful…Inspite that i live in Eastern India, Goa is like my annual pilgrimage…however, with this post…the next trip shall definitely be different…

  12. I do envy your life right now. Until I do these for myself, I’m happy just reading about your experiences. Waiting for your next 🙂

  13. muchtothankfor says:

    Wonderful. Thanks for pointing these out.

  14. Superb write up..can I know if dec is a good time to go to Goa? And what are the beaches which would not be so crowded?

  15. UttamImphal says:

    Loved reading about your cool experiences in off-the-track Goa and thank you for sharing them. For a few moments I was really trasported there by your crisp description and pics. Now I know I’ll think twice before dipping my hand into those waters with smug crocodiles waiting for a snack.

  16. I contacted Roberto for kayaking unaware that he was the same person owning the ancestral house you mentioned. While my friends were rowing I shared my trip plans which included a visit to an ancestral house nearby, I almost made a fool out of me to discover that I was talking about his own home.

    Thanks for sharing this, it was pleasant trip indeed.

  17. It’s also a great time to go white-water rafting. Try Off The Grid, on the Mahadayi headwaters near Castle Rock. It’s run by a charming couple, John and Sylvia Pollard. Very professionally run, with all safety measures in place.

  18. Janvi Gandhi says:

    How about watch a football match? I’m curious how that would turn out. Have had a Goan friend in the past who has spoken about football and life in Goa endlessly. Also it occurred to me that your experience of culture would be limited if you do not focus on sports and how the locals relate to it in their everyday life. Just my two cents.

  19. Albert Regan says:

    Incredible indeed, I have been to Goa almost 10 times in the past 4 years spend atleast 30Nights in Goa but never thought that Goa could be sooo tasty, My next visit to Goa is with a purpose and I would all of it.

  20. Loved your post. And have been an active follower of your blog for some time now. Luckily, the solo travel bug has also bit me. And I am planning to begin my solo escapes here at Aldona only with the Amarals’ if all goes as planned. Thanks a lot for inspiring 🙂

  21. It is really interesting to hear you through all events , described fantastically !!

    especially I love your introspection snap ! That snap gives me inspiration and energy !! would you please send me copy to facebook !
    i would like to keep it on my time line !!

  22. Brilliantly written article. As someone who has lived in Goa for a year and shunned the commercialised goa, you got the list spot on. Especially the Poi. I’m going back this weekend for a break. I’m looking forward to Lady M charter.

  23. how much money one should carry

  24. Last time I was in Goa was about 7 years ago…I am looking forward to my trip next month. Great tips here, thanks for sharing!

  25. Wahoo great article shivya it reminded of my Goa Visit Keep Rocking!

  26. When you think Goa, you think beaches, parties, hippy-culture…and churches. Tourists flock to Goa like it’s the one place in India that everyone must make sure to have visited. And it draws all kinds of crowds without exception – college kids looking for a few days of mad partying, families posing for the perfect beach holiday.

  27. nice article.I am a goan and i totally agree with it.

  28. Maureen Britto says:

    Nice to know that you visited my villages Aldona (my husband is from there), Corjuem (my Dad’s place) and Chorao (my mums maika) and saw the real Goa – The next time you go you must visit the Chapel on the Hill in Assonora (my husband’s ancestral village) – It is simply heavenly – There is a road from Corjuem after the fort where you cross a bridge that can open up for the barges (albeit unused and unserviced) If you want to sample what a cashew orchard looks like in full bloom you must go to the hills of Corjuem which is opposite to the road you took to go to the Fort or for that matter anywhere in Goa in the months of March, April and May – you may get Jackfruits and Mangoes and Karvandas too specially in Chorao on the way to Christ the King.
    You can also go to Chorao from Aldona via the Calvim Bridge which is not too far from the Cancio’s place…Keep Enjoying all your travels – How I wish I could be in your shoes……

  29. vinay Inamdar says:

    Will you please share ‘ poi ‘ bakery address
    Best Regards

  30. Pingback: How to leave the tourist in you behind and become a traveller instead  | Coffee Mustachee
  31. Hi Shivya,
    Monsoon, offbeat, green meadows, quaint villages..all these are my fav! Ur write-up gave me goose bumps! I have frequented Goa many times but was willing to go offbeat this time so came across your post. Sadly its concentrated mostly around North Goa and this time I’m travelling South. Do you have any such experiences to share about South Goa?

  32. Ameya Tarde says:

    Shivya have you visited South Goa ? If yes then do write about it, if not then please visit South Goa. To me South Goa is the real soul of Goa.

  33. Hii Shivya,

    A very inspiring read on Goa. You style of offbeat and real travel has been an inspiration since years now. thanks for being there.

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