Much as I love lying in the sun and topping up my tan in gorgeous surroundings, I have to admit that even I need a day or two away from the beach during my getaways. Goa is renowned for its vast, and beautiful, stretches of sand, which make it ideal for sun worshippers, but there’s a lot more to this corner of southern India than first meets the eye.
My advice is to plan at least two days of sightseeing into your holidays to Goa while in India, as there are lots of exciting places to explore away from its shoreline. Here are just a few that I think are particularly worth dragging yourself away from the beach for:
This waterfall is one of the most stunning natural sights in Goa, with the water cascading down 600 m to join the Mandovi River. Interestingly, its name translates as the sea of milk, thanks to the white appearance of the foam as it gushes down the slopes of the Western Ghats Mountains and into the deep pools below.
If you want to stay dry, hop on the train that runs between Collem and Mollem, as the line passes alongside the waterfall and will give you an excellent view of the torrent. Alternatively, you can explore the area on foot – which is ideal if you feel you need to cool off as you can bathe in a couple of the pools near the base of the falls.
For a leisurely day out, head to Mayem Lake in north Goa. It’s the largest body of water in the state and is the perfect place to hop on a small pedal boat and explore the pristine woodland and quiet villages that line its shores. There’s also a cafe and a few other stalls where you can pick up some refreshments.
You can also stop by the village of the same name, which is renowned across Goa for the terracotta Ganesh idols the locals make for the annual festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. These colourful statues are well worth a look and the art of creating them has been passed down through the generations for centuries.
If your trip to Mayem piques your interest in the Hindu religion, it’s worth exploring one or two of the temples dedicated to the faith. Mahadeva is a particularly good choice, as it’s the oldest in the state, while its remote location in a forest clearing will make your outing a peaceful one.
It’s dedicated to Lord Shiva, but the intricate carvings that adorn its walls feature other deities such as Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as well. See if you can visit at the crack of dawn if at all possible, as the temple’s position facing east means the early morning sunlight falls directly on an image of Lord Shiva.
You can easily spend an entire day wandering around the deserted city of Old Goa, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its vast array of well-preserved Christian monuments. The churches, chapels and other buildings are a legacy from the Portuguese period of rule, which lasted for more than 400 years.
Don’t miss the Se Cathedral, which is the biggest church in Asia, or the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of St Francis Xavier are interred. You will no doubt spot the 46 m high Saint Augustine Tower, too, which is all that now remains of what must have been a truly impressive church.
These are just a few suggestions to lure you away from Goa’s stunning coast – but do you have any more?