A heritage road trip Joyce Dias / The Goan
Tired of visiting the same old beaches on a weekend? Venture inland into the villages and explore Goa’s heritage that will awe you with historical splendour
Goa, which Hindu scriptures state was created by Lord Parashurama has so much to offer, other than its much-alluded beaches and bars. Those with an interest in colonial history should venture inland into Goa’s villages. Over the centuries, Goa was the kingdom of several kings and rulers – the last of whom were the Portuguese – and each of these have left behind their religious and architectural influences. It doesn’t matter if you are a tourist or a local; you only have to have a nose for the past which still lives through the stories and structures of Goa. While most have but a weekend to spare for this ‘extra-curricular’ activity, a weekend is just what you need to satiate your penchant – for now.
The following are two itineraries each spread over a day; at the end of this fulfilling sojourn, you will feel like you have stepped out of a very enriching historical movie.
St.Anthony’s church, Cabo de Rama,
|Way to Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
|Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
|View from Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
|View from Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
|Road to Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
|Rice field near Cabo De Rama fort, south Goa
Cabo de Rama: Start from Margao to Canacona to the first site on the list – Cabo de Rama or Cape of Rama which is 32 kilometres south of Margao. The name derives itself from the myth of Lord Ram and his wife, who were supposed to have come and stayed here during their exile. The fort was built in 1598, by the King of Soonda to keep a check on the Portuguese. The descendant of this King is one of the last living Kings in Goa. The fort was handed over to the Portuguese by the King because he was under attack and wanted help from the Portuguese. A few rusty old cannons can still be found in the fort. Till 1955, the fort served as a prison for the Portuguese. Inside the fort is the church of St Anthony that served as a place of worship for the residents of the fort. The fort is under threat of crumbling into the sea as the rocks on which it stands are slowly but steadily developing cracks. From the Fort, one gets a magnificent view of the Arabian Sea.
Lunch at Agonda or Palolem: These pristine beaches that are south of Cabo de Rama lay undisturbed, but over the last 2-3 years have become a craze with the tourists because of the afore-mentioned reasons. Recommended fare: Seafood.
Partagal Math: This structure is over 500 years old. It is the seat of the Vaishnava Hindus. The religious head of the Hindus resides here in this place. Near the Math is a huge is a banyan tree that is said to be a 1000 years old.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary: Home to wildlife and flora, most of which has been untouched by civilisation. Though there are hamlets of the indigenous tribes within the sanctuary, they share a harmonious relationship with the forest.
The Figueiredo House: With your base as Margao, start for Loutolim which is 10 kilometres away. An upper-crust Goan Catholic house belonging to Maria de Lourdes Figueiredo de Albuquerque who is in her 80s, this house has an impressive collection of porcelain and furniture among other things.
Popularly known as Big Foot, Mahendra Alvares to whom this belongs, has recreated the Goa of the days of yore with life-size statues and quaint houses spread over a large area, interspersed with trees. The information about these various aspects of Goan culture and tradition is recounted by guides. Worthy of mention is the rock sculpture of Mirabai, cut by Mahendra Alvares from a single piece of rock in 30 days. This has found place in the Limca Book of Records.
Casa means house in Portuguese. A tour inside the house enlightens one on how a typical family during the Portuguese times lived.
Five kilometres from Loutolim, this enormous structure is like a castle – with regard to its appearance and its interiors. It lies within the Rachol Fort. “It is famed not only as a heritage site, but also because of the visit of Swami Vivekananda from October 15-17, 1892. Swami Vivekananda pursued important theological works he found in the library and held discussions with the priests there,” says Fr Victor Ferrao from the seminary.
Lunch at Nostalgia, in Raia: The restaurant, Nostalgia popular for its Goan ambience and Goan food is 3.5 kilometres from Loutolim.
Menezes Braganza House, Chandor:
Proceed to Chandor which is 11 kilometres away. Chandor, also known as Chandrapur was the first capital of the Kadamba Kings. In Chandor, proceed to Menezes Braganza house, a 16th century mansion furnished with antiques dating back four centuries. Built for the two sons of the Menezes family, the Menezes Braganza house is one wing that is restored. For Rs 500 per person, one gets to see the delights of marble floors, huge chandeliers and sprawling halls.
-With inputs from Sanjeev Sardesai, Hands on Historians
Keep in mind civic sense, the decorum of the place you visit and carry your litter back with you
This itinerary can be used any day of the week. Travel to Margao from anywhere in Goa by bus.
From Margao, it is preferable to have your own/hired vehicle as the next site on the list – Cabo de Rama – does not have buses plying to it
Should you decide to take a bus from Margao, you would have to get into the bus heading for Canacona. Buses going to Canacona begin their journey from the KTC bus stand in Margao
Do not doze off, though with the breeze kissing your face you will be tempted to do so. Instead, enjoy the scenery and ask the bus conductor to stop when you need to alight
The bus ride to Canacona and the other places mentioned takes between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours. Bus fares to Canacona, Agonda, Palolem begin at Rs 20 and may go up to Rs 25
A hired car with a driver (WagonR, non-AC) would cost you Rs 1800 for itinerary 1
It is advisable to use this itinerary on a weekday. Travel to Margao from anywhere in Goa by bus.
From here, it is preferable to have our own transport/hired vehicle as buses along the routes of itinerary 2 are infrequent; the bus journey would consume most of your time without leaving you with any time for the places you need to see
A bus ride to Loutolim and Raia from Margao will cost Rs 10. These buses do not ply from the main KTC bus stand. Instead, they begin their journey from the bus stand in front of the police station in Margao.
A bus ride to Chandor costs Rs 12. These buses ply from the KTC bus stand, Margao
Should you take the bus to go to the Figueiredo House in Loutolim, which is the first on the list, you will need to bear in mind that the bus goes to Cortalim or Panjim, via Loutolim.
A hired car (WagonR, with driver, non-AC) along the routes of itinerary 2 (minus Verna) will cost Rs 1300. Should you decide to visit Verna, the cost is Rs 1500 approx
Of shrines and scenes
Ponda, also known as the cultural capital of Goa, has a lot to offer besides just religious sites. Pick one of the itineries below and take a journey out to this lesser-explored part of Goa
Kishore Amati/The Goan 23 March 2013
Antruz Mahal, or Ponda as it is popularly known, is a land of temples. Although, the former statement stands true, it is a little-known fact among the tourists and the locals, that there are various other places to visit as well like the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and the spice farm. The best part of this side of Goa is that it is quite less populated, thanks to the busier Northern part of the state and hence, less noisy and clean. Following are two itineraries that will give you a glimpse of the rich culture that is rooted here and leave you with an experience that you will be sure to cherish for a long time.
Shree Shantadurga Temple, Kavlem:
The Shree Shantadurga temple at Kavlem is approximately 33 kms away from Panjim. History suggests that the original site of the temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1564. However the deity was taken away safely to the present site. The Nayanmanohar Deepa stambha (the tall structures that is built in for placing oil lamps) is a crowd-puller. The lake in front of the temple provides an added attraction as well. The dome or the kalas of the temple is very unique and considered as one of the best in Goa, and the pillars and flooring are made of Kashmir stone. Despite being one of the oldest temples in Goa, the temple has many halls that have all the modern amenities.
Breakfast at Kurpas, Nageshi: Ask for Tato bab in Nageshi and you will be directed towards this tiny hotel usually occupied by old-timers busy in their daily banter. The piping hot mirchi and bhaji pao, prepared by the owner Jaya Surya Naik is a must-try out of the very few options available on the menu.
Sahakari Spice Farm, Curti:
Situated at Curti in Ponda, the Sahakari Spice Farm enlightens you on where exactly the spices that lend deliciousness to your daily cooking come from. The tour guides also educate you on how these may be used as home remedies for various ailments. Apart from this, traditional dances such as fugdi, zagor and dhalo are performed by women and children, which are a hit with the visiting tourist. The lunch at the farm is one of the high points of this green tour. The restaurant has been designed in a very rustic manner, where the guests are able to relax in natural surroundings. The roof is made out of coconut leaves, wooden planks serve as benches and serving bowls made out of coconut shells make the environment calm and relaxing.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary:
Small and hard-to-get-to, the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is undeniably beautiful. However, its remote location means that you must have your own/hired transportation to get there. Absence of road signs/directions makes getting here even more difficult. Don’t miss the Black Cobra and the newly-landscaped botanical gardens.
Shree Nagesh temple:
Shri Nagesh Temple is a “swayambhu” shrine of Lord Shankar known for its miraculous myths. According to legend, a boy noticed a cow from his deviating from his path and showering the site with milk. On further exploration, a shivlinga was found at the site. A distinctive feature of the devasthan is that it was unaffected by the religious persecution of Portuguese rulers in the 16th century. This was because at that time, Ponda was not under the domain of the Portuguese and this facilitated the transit of Saraswat deitie Shri Nagesh, Shantadurga, Ganapati, etc. The temple also has a beautiful and well-maintained lake where devotees can take a dip.
Breakfast at Nageshi: The experience of having the good ol’ bhaji-pav in the morning can either make or break the day of any Goan. And Sadu’s gadda (although it’s a tiny hotel and not a cart) may be credited with making the day of many locals, thanks to the simple, yet delicious patal bhaji pav which is the signature dish of this place.
Tropical Spice Plantation, Keri: The Tropical Spice Plantation is spread over a large area of fertile land, which offers the perfect setting to feel one with nature. All the elements of a refreshing ambience like the green cover, the vegetation, the chirping of birds and the serene stream make it a perfect getaway especially from the busy and noisy Northern part of the state. The venue has a lot to offer and is much more than just a spice farm. One can enjoy an elephant ride as well as a bath from these friendly giant creatures. The traditional Goan lunch served on a banana leaf in the open air space is one of the highlights and a must try.
Devki Krishna Temple, Marcela: The Devki Krishna temple at Marcela is located about 17 km from Panjim. This temple is the only one in the world where the presiding deity is Krishna and his mother, Devki. Like many other temples in Goa, the Devki Krishna temple was subjected to displacement due to Portuguese rule. Eventually, it was established at the present location in Marcela. The Devki Krishna deity is the main feature of the garbha griha, or inner sanctum of the temple. Devki is depicted in a standing posture with the child, Krishna in her lap. Beautifully-carved in black stone, the bearing of the deities is unique in its own way.
On a different Goan trail
If you’re looking for something different to do on your day off, we’ve got something for everyone – the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary for the nature lover, Cabo de Rama fort for the heritage afficionado, Mayem Lake for a relaxing day or the Splashdown Water Park for some adventurous fun. Ponda in South Goa even has a Butterfly Conservatory if you’re looking for something unique
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Located in Canacona and bordering Karnataka, the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is the green heritage of Goa. Such forests are called Devachi Rai (sacred spot) by the indigenous people living there. The forest spanning 86 sq km is home to wildlife such as gazelles, sloth bears, porcupines, panthers and hyenas; however, sightings of these are very rare. One can, however, spot a few species of monkeys, wild boar and the Gaur. Frogs, snakes, monkeys, insects and exorbitantly-plumed birds are in ample supply. Marked trails are hike-able.
The forest is also home to indigenous tribes and shepherds who live in hamlets inside the sanctuary. The wardens at the reserve’s small interpretative centre will show one how to get to a 25 metre high treetop watchtower, overlooking a waterhole that attracts a handful of animals around dawn and dusk.
The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is 60 km from Panjim and is open from 9 am to 5 pm. A basic entry fee is charged at the gates
Take a bus from Margao to Canacona bus stand. From the Canacona bus stand, board a bus to Cotigao village. The bus will drop you within 2 km of the gates
However, to explore the inner reaches of the sanctuary, one really needs one’s own transport
The distance from Margao to Canacona is 40 km and the bus fare is approximately Rs 26. From Canacona, it is 14 km to Cotigao village and the bus fare is Rs 10
A hired taxi with driver will cost you approximately Rs 3500
Fort of Cabo de Rama
Cabo de Rama is one of many historic forts in Goa, but by no means one of the most interesting. The fort itself is not much more than a ramshackle ruin, and presents no real interest to most tourists. However the view from the tower and landscape that surrounds it makes it a worthwhile daytrip from any of the Canacona beaches or the Colva bay beaches.
Named after Lord Rama (it is said that Lord Rama accompanied by his wife Sita took refuge here during his exile from Ayodhya for 14 years), this ancient fortress is located in the Canacona district of Goa, just 25 km south of Margao. It is one of the oldest forts in Goa, build before the arrival of the Portuguese.
Inside the fort, there is the church of Santo Antonio which is in excellent condition and still used by devotees. The white church and the black fort provide a photographic picture of stark contrast. People come here to pray and just enjoy the mystical atmosphere of the fort. Cliffs drop steeply to the sea provide a panoramic outlook of the surrounding areas, at the western side of the fortress.
Cabo de Rama is located 25 km south of Margao
It is 10kms from Palolem beach and 16 km north of Agonda beach
Cabo De Rama fort can be easily reached by hiring a taxi or a cab from any nearby place in south Goa
Taxi charges from Margao to Cabo de Rama are approximately Rs 2500
There is also a regular bus service from Margao to Cabo De Rama fort daily
Close to the fort is a small paradise beach that gives you a welcome opportunity for a refreshing dip in the sea after visiting the fort
There’s also a shack on the beach offering cold drinks and basic some basic lunch
Mayem Lake is located in Mayem in Bicholim Taluka, which is 30 km from Panjim. The route is very picturesque and dotted with cashew trees, betel nut trees and pineapple plantations. It is a desirable destination for boating. The tourism department has introduced paddle boats, which can be hired on an hourly basis. It has a well-maintained garden, an ideal place to sit, munch and observe.
The energy of the place is unbelievable, especially on the weekends. There are small eateries around along with a few Goan handicraft shops as well. The famous Saptakoteshwar temple is just 7 km away from the lake.
For overnight stays, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation offers inexpensive accommodation at the Mayem Lake Resort located at the edge of the lake. For nature lovers, it is an idyllic deal, as the lake view can be hypnotic during early mornings and late evenings.
Mayem Lake is 30 km from Panjim and it takes about an hour to get there
There are few buses along the route, so it is advisable to hire a car for travelling to the lake. It costs about Rs 350 to rent a car
Boating charges on the lake: Rs 100 for 30 minutes, Rs 140 for an hour
For accommodation at the Mayem Lake Resort, advance booking is advised
Splashdown Waterpark, Anjuna
Splashdown Waterpark in Anjuna boasts of five pools, a variety of slides, flumes and other interesting features. There is something to do for all ages, and for the mild and strong at heart. The slides have been built with utmost precision taking into consideration the safety of visitors. Splashdown is a great place to spend quality time with your family and friends. There are a number of different slides to keep you busy and the excitement levels high.
The ‘Caterpillar’ is a medium-speed body slide but provides a real splash at the end, mostly meant for kids. The gentle curves and bends before reaching the bottom are fun to experience. The Twister is one of the most popular rides at Splashdown. It takes you through a series of crazy twists and turns. You lie on your back directly on the slide and experience thrills and chills of the ‘Twister’ as you gain speed before safely landing in the slide pool.
The Awesome 3some is another ride that begins with a steep descent from a height of 30 feet. After the first bump, you experience the thrill once again before ending up in the landing pool. This slide provides extreme thrill and has three lanes so you and two friends can race each other to the bottom.
Splashdown Goa is a 20 minute drive from Panjim and a 10 minute drive from Mapusa
It is open from 10.30 am to 6 pm everyday
From Mapusa, a regular bus service from Mapusa bus stand to Anjuna via Arpora drops you at the doorstep of the Splashdown Goa Waterpark
From Panaji, you have to take a bus to Calangute, alight at Calangute and board the bus for Anjuna. Alight at the waterpark
If you are travelling by car/bike, go past the Mapusa bus stand and at the junction of Carvalho Petrol Pump take the right towards Calangute. Drive 1.4 km ahead and take the second turn to the right. Around three km later, you will come to a fork. Keep left. Continue half a kilometre turning left at the junction past the Anjuna Church and again turn left at the roundabout. Drive about 1.2 kms ahead and Splashdown Goa is to your right
From Panjim, cross over the Mandovi river and follow the NH 17 until you reach the O’Coquerio roundabout. Turn left and take the Chogm road towards Calangute following it for 6.5 kms till you reach the St Alex Church, Calangute. Turn left and then immediately right to head for the Calangute Market. Turn right approximately after one km at the Hotel Neelam Grand to get on to the Calangute-Anjuna road. Follow this road 4 kms past the Hotel Hilton Double Tree. Splashdown Goa will be to your left.
Mystic Meadows: The Butterfly Conservatory of Goa
Located at Priol in Ponda, Mystic Meadows, The Butterfly Conservatory of Goa is the labour of love of husband-wife duo Yashodan and Jyoti Heblekar and proves how it takes small things to make a difference. The duo created their own butterfly island out of a single hill slope in a sleepy Goan village.
The park is spread over 4000 square metres, and is recreated to be like a walk through a typical tropical forest, replete with streams and endemic plants.
A place that was once barren and without any natural source of water is now a safe haven for butterflies. More than 133 species of butterflies have been photo documented at this place over the year and it is possible to spot around 25 species on any given day. You can watch the butterfly evolve from its egg to caterpillar to a chrysalis and a butterfly. An artificial stream, a bamboo bridge, a Koi (fish) and a turtle pond have also been added.
Ponda lies about 28 km south-east of Panjim and 17 km north-east of Margao
One can reach there by car or even the bus
The nearest railway station to Ponda is at Margao
The Butterfly Conservatory is around 4 km from the Sahakari spice farm, 3 km from the Tropical Spice Plantation and 6 km from Savoi Plantation
November to January are the busiest times at the Conservatory. Not only is it full of butterflies but the climate is also perfect