For many middle-class Indian children, the Goa dream originated in the theatre while grooving to the tunes of Dil Chahta Hai. The movie’s director Farhan Akhtar successfully triggered the yearning for a friends’ trip to the Konkan paradise. In fact, the 2001 movie helped plan the itinerary as well–King’s beer at a beach shack, fishing on a speedboat, parasailing above the pristine waters, and dancing the heart out at techno clubs.
The ’90s kid in me visualised Goa on similar lines. Until of course, I made my first non-work trip to the state in 2021.
The beaches of North Goa do not provide the calmness that you may have anticipated before the trip. The coastline is crowded, the shacks are overrated. And forget pristine waters—the sight of the plastic-dumped sea, if anything, is unsettling. This was not the Goa I had in mind.
Fortunately, Goa does offer a fulfilling experience—if you care to dig a little deeper, beyond the loud shacks and crowded beaches.
Ten years after Dil Chahta Hai, Goa has quietly transformed itself—from King’s beer in beach shacks to smooth gin cocktails in tucked-away restaurants, from fishing on speedboats to fishing in islands, and from dancing at techno clubs to salsa and bachata nights in village pubs.
A quick Google search will lead you to hundreds of articles and videos about the ‘undiscovered’ side of Goa, and you may get lost in the sea of information, not knowing what to choose. So, we are here to help.
We, at YS Life, promise to guide you to only the best that Goa has to offer.
This is Goa, offbeat!
Skip the touristy for the non-touristy
Goa is a beach heaven, true. But not all beaches in Goa are known for their serene experience. To avoid the ever-increasing crowd, loud music of shacks, and most importantly, the ‘male gaze’, head to South Goa.
While Palolem used to be the first choice for peace lovers, word has spread and now the beach has become as commercialised as any North Goa beach is. So drive a little farther to Rajbag Beach and spend hours munching on crispy-fried seafood. Or try Galgibaga Beach to spot Olive Ridley turtles. If you are heading to Galgibaga, make sure to carry a little picnic basket with you. Known as one of the cleanest beaches in Goa, Galgibaga does not entertain shacks or crowds.
If you are the adventurous type, trek to Butterfly Beach. Or let time stop, as you kayak in the backwaters of Cola Beach.
Goa is synonymous with churches as it is with beaches. It is therefore unthinkable to plan a trip to the state and not visit the beautiful Portuguese churches.
Of course, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim makes its way to most Bollywood movies and UNESCO-recognised Basilica of Bom Jesus is a World Heritage Site. But there are more to add to your to-visit church list than just these two.
Avoid the long queue at these popular locations and visit the Three King’s Chapel in Cansaulim village. Believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the three kings who fought and killed each other in the quest to become the ultimate ruler, the chapel is located atop Cuelim Hill.
The trip to this chapel might seem long if you are travelling from North Goa, but the breath-taking view from the hilltop is worth the long drive.
A visit to the secluded Three Kings Chapel is sure to send a chill down your spine. However, be sure to visit before 6 PM, after which the chapel is closed for visitors.
The iconic scene from Dil Chahta Hai might have boosted the footfall at Chapora Fort multi-fold, but we suggest you skip taking the cliched photo out here and instead ride to Reis Magos Fort and Cabo de Rama.
Reis Magos in Bardez, North Goa, sits opposite Panjim, on the banks of River Mandovi in North Goa. Formerly an accommodation for dignitaries arriving at Goa from Lisbon, the fort was later occupied by the British Army, before the bastion was converted to a prison.
Soak in the stunning view from the top of the fort and stare in awe at the age-old cannons. And, on your way back, stop by at Reis Magos Church.
If North Goa has Reis Magos, South Goa has Cabo de Rama in Canacona. We suggest you take a quick walk around the Cabo de Rama Fort and then park your car at the cliff or head to The Cape Goa to enjoy the best sunset that Goa has to offer.
With a wide stretch of sea ahead of you and almost no one at the beach, you are sure to forget, for a while at least, that this is the same India with a population problem.
Experience the island life
If you have watched Dear Zindagi and are well versed with Instagram reels, you may have come across a ‘Dear Zindagi Road’. The Parra Road, as the name suggests, is nothing but another touristy road in Goa.
It is lined with palm trees and overlooks fields, on both sides, and it is where Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt went cycling during one of their therapy sessions in the above-mentioned movie. Beautiful, yes, but the road is also lined with tourist cars and bikes.
Tourists from across the country flock to Parra Road for that one picture. It is extremely challenging to drive through the road without the fear of crashing into another vehicle. It is only at the dead of the night that one can find this road empty, as seen in the movie, and that is not the idle time to enjoy the scenery.
Far from the madding crowd, take a quick ferry ride across the Mandovi river to reach Divar Island. Yet to attract tourist attention and be commercialised, Divar Island lies in Old Goa, about 10 km from the state’s capital, Panjim.
Empty roads dotted with Portuguese houses in green, red, yellow and blue, vast green fields, and old churches—Divar Island stands disconnected from the rest of Goa, and thankfully so. It is every peace lover's dream come true. If you wish to experience South Goa’s tranquillity in commercialised North Goa, Divar Island is the place to be.
YS Life suggests you add Our Lady of Piety Church and Sao Matias Church to your list when visiting the island. Additionally, do a quick stop at Koti Tirtha Tali, once a sight of 108 carved hollows.
Grab a few beers from one of the local stores and enjoy a brilliant sundowner amidst nature over the Mandovi river, while fishing with the locals.
One evening at Divar Island is more than enough for exploration, but if you wish to drown in the calmness for a little longer, you may stay over in one of the heritage-villas-turned-homestays in the island. Goa-based BLive runs e-bike tours across the island at Rs 2,500.
If you have more time on hand, visit Chorao Island, 10 kilometres from Divar Island. You could either cycle across the island, which is yet to be invaded by tourists, or take a walk across the rustic estuarine mangrove habitat–Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
Poi and curry for the soul
Of late, Goa has been attracting some of the country’s top restaurants and bars. Popular restaurants such as Bo Tai, Sly Granny and Olive and pubs Romeo Lane and Lord of the Drinks may have made their way to Goa, but YS Life suggests you give these a miss and give Portuguese-inspired and local Goan cuisine a chance, and in local eateries.
Grab Poi (Goan bread) with Xacuti (a curry made using Goan spices and coconut) instead of your regular bread and curry. Or indulge in a hearty Goan thali at a local restaurant. Depending on where you are, a typical Goan thali will cost you between Rs 150 and Rs 500 and it comes with a large serving of local steamed rice and a rawa or semolina-coated fish (fresh catch of the day, usually King fish, prawns, or Chonak), along with small bowls of fish curry, mussels curry, tossed vegetables, and solkadi or kokum curry.
While the list of places serving Goan thali is endless, YS Life recommends Kokni Kanteen (in Panaji), Mother Recipes (Benaulim), Vinayak Family Restaurant (Assagao), Anand Sea Food Bar and Restaurant (Anjuna), Cafe Ritz Bar and Restaurant (Panaji) and Salil Family Restaurant and Bar (Porvorim).
Once you are done with the thali, you might want to skip the large spread for dinner. Instead, give Goa’s much-loved street food, Ros Omelette, a shot.
The Ros Omelette is nothing but an omelette (usually made with two eggs) covered in a yellow coconut gravy, topped with onions and chillies, and served with pao on the side. If you are in South Goa, head to Santosh’s stall near Margao. Try Sandeep’s Ros Omelette stall in Panjim, if you are in North Goa.
If you wish to sip a few drinks during your stay in Goa–and you must–visit Antonio at 31. Located in the colourful town of Fontainhas in Panjim, Antonio at 31 is a neighbourhood bar serving Tapas and Copos. We highly recommend the Bimbli Urrak, Kokum Feni, Guava Chilli, and Bimbli Gin Sour for a cocktail experience like never before. A few steps away from Antonio at 31, exchange a few King’s beers and conversations with the locals at Goa’s legendary bar, Joseph’s. And if Salsa, Kizomba and Bachata are your calling, head to Soro, the village pub in Assagao for a night to remember. Interestingly, you do not need to know any of the dance forms to have fun!
We’ve tried to cover the basics, but there’s so much more to Goa. In fact, it seems to offer something new every time you visit the place. Though the state continues to be a party heaven for many, there is also a quaint and serene side to it. Give the old-world Goa a shot and you will keep coming back for more.
(The story was updated to correct a typo.)
Edited by Swetha Kannan