I was 28 when I made my first trip to Goa. A little too late, some might argue. But I couldn’t have picked a better time of the year to travel to India’s sunshine state. It was August, and the weather was glorious. I zipped past narrow winding roads – flanked by swaying palms – on a scooter, took in the clean, crisp air, even as dark clouds hovered in the sky holding the promise of a heavy downpour. And then it happened. The skies opened and I was soaked to the skin. In the distance, people were seeking refuge in a small tea-shop on the roadside, its thatched roof and freshly brewed tea offering them momentary shelter from the pouring rain. Everything around me changed – the fields were greener, the sea was murkier, and the vindaloo, tastier. It was at that exact moment that I fell irrevocably in love with Goa. Ever since then, I’ve been making my own annual pilgrimage of sorts to Goa – with friends or family – almost always during the monsoon. Here’s why you should too.
Visit waterfalls and national parks
The mighty Dudhsagar waterfall is at its thunderous best during the monsoons, and is a sight to behold. The falls, located in the Goa-Karnataka border, cascades down the slopes of the Western Ghats, and is something straight out of a picture postcard. Dudhsagar is in the midst of Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, both of which attract wildlife enthusiasts all year round. If you’re lucky, you could spot a Bengal tiger in North Goa’s Valpoi, home to Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary, or you could gape in awe at the many waterfalls in the region, such as Vazra Sakla and Vidri. Monsoons unfurl the true character of Goa’s national parks, and this is when you get to see the region’s rich biodiversity in all its splendour.
Go on a plantation trail
Goa’s many spice plantations beckon during the monsoons, and it makes perfect sense to skip the tumultuous sea and head to these green canopies instead. These plantations – most of which are located around Ponda, about 30 km southeast of Panjim, the capital – spring to life with cardamom, nutmeg, cashews, vanilla, cloves and the like, this time of the year. Guided tours are conducted, and some of them, like Savoi Plantations, feature a distillery where one can catch a glimpse of how feni is extracted from cashew. With in-house restaurants, shopping and accommodation options, these plantations are mini vacations in themselves.
Be a culture vulture
Goa boasts a unique culture, which is an amalgamation of Portuguese and local Hindu and Christian influences. This East-meets-West sensibility manifests itself in every aspect of the state – its food, architecture and way of life. If you want to explore Goa beyond the beaches, the museums are a good place to start. Houses of Goa, located in Bardez, offers interesting insights into the unique architecture of the state; the Goa State Museum appeals to history and art lovers alike. Visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral in Old Goa. A walk down Fontainhas or the Latin Quarter in Panjim comes highly recommended; it transports you to another world, with its colourful buildings, quaint cafes and boutique stores selling hand-painted tiles and Mario Miranda artworks, among others.
Join the festivities
The onset of monsoons also marks the beginning of festive season in Goa. Sao Joao or the Feast of St. John the Baptist in Siolim is among the most prominent ones, and dates back over 150 years. Held on June 24, the festival has men jumping into wells and rivers to retrieve gifts, and this is accompanied with much dancing and revelry. There’s also the Sangodd Festival (June 29), which is essentially celebrated by the fishing community. If you love quirky, partake in the Ponsachem Fest or Jackfruit Festival in Socorro, for all things jackfruit. Who said monsoons are not for partying?
Gorge on great food
During the monsoons, the beaches in Goa are quieter, and the eateries, less crowded. With North Goa’s vibrant food scene, it’s a great idea to eat your way through your holiday. While most shacks are not operational during the monsoon, you could use the opportunity to check out some of Goa’s most talked-about restaurants. Whether it’s simple no-frills Goan food at Mum’s Kitchen in Panjim, or cutting-edge Brazilian and Mediterranean platters at Go With The Flow in Baga, or iconic establishments such as Souza Lobo in Calangute, there’s something in Goa for every kind of foodie.
To know more about this state, grab a copy of ‘Goa for the Indian traveller‘