Non-Touristy Things to Do in Goa
Thousands of international tourists visit Goa in southern India every year due to the beaches, relaxing atmosphere and the nightlife. There are so many popular tourist attractions and incredible beaches to choose from, from Arambol to Palolem, but most of which are very busy.
However, there are plenty of secret and off the beaten track things to do in and around Goa where you can really get an authentic local experience.
If you would like to escape the tourist crowds check out our suggestions for alternative things to do in Goa.
1. Dudhsagar Waterfall
One hour's drive inland, just short of the border with Karnataka in Eastern Goa, is India's second highest waterfall. The Dudhsagar Falls are an impressive sight, reaching 603m. It is a fairly straightforward journey to get there from most parts of Goa, and is ideal for a short day or morning trip.
The main expense, additional transport aside, is renting a car from the National Park office to take you on the journey through the forest to the waterfall itself. (This can cost around four thousand rupees for one jeep, but as they are able to hold up to six passengers, the price will generally be split between a group).
The route to the waterfall from this point is interesting, and a worthwhile experience in itself. The journey takes around forty-five minutes, and will take you through a landscape of lush green jungle and shallow rivers. However, the end result is worth the walk; the pool beneath the waterfall is also great for swimming. It is recommended that you go early to avoid the intense midday heat.
2. Spice Plantations
Another popular tourist attraction for those wanting a break from Goa's legendary beaches is a tour around a spice farm. It is possible to learn about the process of growing and farming spices and there is an opportunity to buy fresh spices grown on site at the end of the tour.
3. Anjuna Flea Market
Most do not travel to Goa without visiting the town of Anjuna on at least one occasion. Its beach is well known, but it is perhaps most famous for the Anjuna Flea Market; which is open every Wednesday during the day, and every Saturday evening. Originally started by the hippies who first came to Goa in the sixties and seventies, it is a sprawling mass of colourful market stalls.
Nowadays, the majority of stall-holders are Indian, although there is an increasing number of Tibetan refugees selling at the market, and there remains a handful of European ex-patriates selling clothes and jewellery at considerably higher prices. Many Indian states are represented, and everything from Rajasthani textile art and handicrafts to Kashmiri scarves and hand-embroidered quilts can be found in the market's many lanes. Alongside which are the more conventional souvinirs.
The high-energy atmosphere of the market can feel a bit overwhelming, and it is essential to negotiate a good price for an item with the sellers. Bargaining is all part of the experience- and important, if you don't want to be ripped off! However, it is a must for anyone who likes shopping, or who just want to find some interesting and unique gifts to give to friends and family at home.
4. Old Goa
Thanks to Goa's Portuguese connection, and sizable Catholic community, there are many beautifully preserved churches from the colonial era still standing in the state.
The 17th architecture of Old Goa (a short journey away from Panjim, the state capital), in particular, is worth a visit for anyone interested in history, art history, or religion. It's a great alternative sight-seeing idea for anyone wanting to see a different side of this beautiful place and experience the mix of cultures that make Goa unique.
The churches of Old Goa were once so famous, and so highly regarded, that the city became known by the epithet "The Rome of the East". Amongst the churches is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which is the resting place of 16th Century Spanish-born missionary St Francis Xavier, an important figure in Goan history. His remains are on display in a glass coffin, which gets paraded through the city streets once every ten years.
It is not technically in Goa, but the ruined city of Hampi is a popular tourist attraction in South India.
Located in the neighbouring state of Karnataka, it is an ideal place to visit on the way to or from Goa. It is approximately five hours by train from the coast, or seven to nine hours by car. Hampi is the remains of a ruined medieval city; it is the site of what was once the capital of the Vijayanagara Empire.
The heart of this once powerful civilisation was laid seige to and destroyed in 1565. Considering their age, the highly atmospheric ruins are not as well-preserved as might be expected, but they are still a very beautiful reminder of a distant past. They are spread out over a large area, and are surrounded by a strange and unusual landscape of hills and scattered boulders.
One of the most popular sites in Hampi is "sunset point"- a high, rocky expanse between Hematuka Hill and the Virupaksha Temple. There are many ruined temples on this site (which are also the home of a large number of stray monkeys), but the main attraction is the incredible view of the surrounding landscape. Many gather every evening to watch the sun set beneath a spectacular view of forest, mountains, and temples.
Hampi Bazaar has sprung up around the Virupaksha Temple, and offers shops, cafes, market stalls and guesthouses. A fascinating and unique place; Hampi is definitely worth a visit.
Ever thought about going to volunteer in India? If you would like to do something more rewarding than sunbathing or partying, then why not consider volunteering in Goa. There are lots of local and international organisations offering short and long term projects to tourists where you can help good causes.
Popular options include working with animals, conservation, communities and education. You will get to meet local people and other like-minded travellers from all overt the world.
Whether you are planning a short beach break, or a gap year in India, you will love the experience of volunteering. A lot of people choose to teach English in India, a lot of placements are paid and based in Goa.
Goa really is an incredible place to visit, and it doesn't have to be super touristy either. If you would like to see more of the surrounding areas you might like to check out tours in India which are a great way to go off the beaten track. Here are some more recommendations how to make your trip to Goa special.
By Alexandra Walker