Widely known for its white-sand beaches, there is more to this small western state, with its own distinct culture and history that is surprisingly different to the rest of India and is criminally neglected by travellers. There are many experiences to be had around inland Goa that cannot be missed.
Old Goa is just a few kilometres east of Panjim and today it contains a small but remarkable collection of beautifully preserved convents and churches. From 1510 to 1835, the area was part of the Portuguese eastern empire, bustling with trade and activity, but due to a series of unfortunate epidemics, the city was abandoned in 1835. Known as the ‘Rome of the East’, the former capital of the Catholic faith is home to beautiful sunsets and spectacular churches sitting elegantly amongst swaying palm trees.
Out west, you’ll find Panjim, the atmospheric state capital and busting city on the banks of the Mandovi river and home to cobblestone streets and Portuguese colonial buildings. Explore the crumbling colonial villas further south in the charming villages of Chandor and Quepem. Take a trip down the Chapora or Mandovi rivers and backwaters, venturing out to do some kayaking, walking or cycling on the Divar and Chorao islands. From April until October, you can also visit the intriguing caves (sanguem) and go white water rafting.
For the bird watchers and nature lovers, head to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. One of the most biodiverse places on earth, National Geographic has compared it to the Amazon basin for its tropical biodiversity. River trips in the area will allow you to also spot crocodiles, dolphins and local village life.
Foodies will love the delicious and unique Goan cuisine, which is a perfect blend of East and West, combining Portuguese, Arab, Brazilian, African, French, Konkan, Malabar, Malaysian and Chinese. The diverse influences combine to create a distinctive cuisine with rich, aromatic flavours.
There are great accommodation options throughout inland Goa, while some are still fairly close to the beach. If you’re prefer to stay further into the interior, we’d recommend Champakali for its quiet, colonial villas, or Wildernest, which is great for relaxed adventures in the hills around Chorla. For a really off-the-beaten track beach experience with ultimate luxury, Coco Shambhala Sindhudurg is a hidden paradise with gorgeous tropical surroundings.