Museums, Wildlife & Ancient Caves: Goa Beyond Beaches And Shacks

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Think that Goa is about beaches and little else? Well then, think again! The smallest state in India {at least in terms of area} sure can pack in a range of experiences. History lovers can explore museums, ancients caves, and architectural marvels, while nature enthusiasts can roam wild and free at Goa’s many sanctuaries and national parks. Bustling markets, verdant spice plantations, and waterfalls can also be part of your itinerary. LBB explores Goa to bring you experiences that ensure that you are more than just a beach bum when you next visit the holiday paradise. 

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Spice Plantations

Shop At The Friday Market At Mapusa

One of North Goa’s largest towns, Mapusa sure can show you what Goan life is all about! While flea markets at Anjuna and the likes are for tourists, the market at Mapusa attracts locals in large numbers. While there’s a market every day of the week {except on Sunday}, it is the lively one on Friday that you should watch out for. Roam the streets checking out fresh produce brought in by farmers, rows and rows of spices, and other knick knacks. The market is a great place to pick up strings of Goan sausages, homemade masalas of the Recheado, Xacuti, and Vindaloo kinds, and to snap up bargains on junk jewellery and souvenirs.  

Tour The Spice Plantations {and then a Butterfly Conservatory}

Travel to the interiors of Ponda, to spend a quiet and relaxing day amidst lush, green plantations. Farms like Tropical Spice Plantation and Sahakari Spice Farm offer highly-rated tours. They showcase locally-grown spices, tropical fruit trees, cashew and betel nut trees. A traditional Goan lunch usually follows. And you can also while away time bird watching {Tropical Spice Plantation is home to over 70 species of birds} or bathing elephants at Sahakari Spice Farm. Both these farms are close to the Butterfly Conservatory {or Mystic Meadows as it locally known}. There, they have recreated a slice of tropical forest to allow more than 100 species of butterflies to roam freely.

Take A Bumpy Ride To Dudhsagar Falls

Best visited from South Goa, Dudhsagar Falls, which sits on the Goa-Karnataka border, might take an entire day to cover but is so worth your time. There are many tour operators that offer day trips to Dudhsagar. It’s a bumpy ride to the falls and it’s unlikely your car will be able to handle it. Pile into jeeps and travel through small and big towns for a view of the splendid waterfalls. Plan your trip on a sunny day during the monsoon so that you can catch the waterfall in full force. You can also sign up a for a trekking trip around the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary {the falls are part of the sanctuary} before you stop by the falls.

Visit Centuries-Old Heritage Mansions

Want to travel back in time and take a sneak peek into life in old Goa? Then, a trip to Chandor is a must. A short ride from Margao, Chandor is a tiny village that’s best known for its old-world Portuguese architecture that’s highlighted across its houses and churches. The star attraction here is the Menezes Braganza House, a 17th-century mansion that looms over the town square. It has now been converted into a museum where you can marvel at all kinds of antiquities and treasures.

Pay Your Respects At Old Goa Churches

Of course, if you are visiting Goa for the first time, a trip to the famed Basilica of Bom Jesus Basilica {a heritage monument that houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier} and Se Cathedral {a 17th-century church that’s stunningly decorated} should be on your list. However, on subsequent trips there are many more that you can explore. The Church of St. Catejan Church, at Bardez, is massive, white structure whose design was inspired by original plan for St. Peter’s Cathedral. We also recommend a visit to the ruins of the St. Augustine Tower that’s a few minutes away from Bom Basilica. The towering belfry, the patches of mosaic in the many chapels, and the abandoned altars are all worth marvelling at.

Go On A Temple Run

While Goa is mostly known for its churches,  the temples here are of architectural and cultural interest too. Take for example, the Shri Mangueshi Temple that’s located in a small village near Ponda. It is dedicated to Lord Manguesh, a Goan deity and an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The 16th-century temple is marked by a seven-storied lamp tower, domes, and ornate chariots. Close by, there’s also the Shri Mahalsa Temple that’s again dedicated to a local deity. Mahalasa is said to be a female reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. 

Go Wild At Wildlife Sanctuaries

If you are in South Goa, then you can head over to the Bondla Sanctuary, a popular picnic spot. You can spot Sambar deer and gaurs here and also visit the mini zoo. The sanctuary also offers cottages for stay. The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, at the southern tip of Goa, is a good spot for trekkers. Apart from encountering the vast variety of flora and fauna, you can also explore the Tambdi Surla Temple and hit up the Dudhsagar Waterfalls here.

For those of you in North Goa, the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary showcases the natural abundance of the Western Ghats. It’s home to many waterfalls and wildlife that includes tigers, sloth bears, gaur, and barking deer. Bird watchers can find happiness at the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, a mangrove habitat by the Mandovi River. Striated Herons, Little Bitterns, Red Knots, and Jack Snipes await you here.

Dive Into History At The Museums

Given its rich history, it comes as little surprise that Goa has a handful of stunning museums that are worth the ticket price. Drive by the town of Benaulim, in South Goa, for a tour of Goa Chitra. A passion project by local artist, Victor Hugo Gomes, you can browse through a collection of more than 4,000 daily life artifacts. From utensils to agricultural tools and altars — you can envision snapshots of Goan life, through the ages, here.

Just outside Panjim, the Houses of Goa Museum is a must visit.  Founded by architect Gerard da Cunha, the triangular building that houses the museum is an architectural marvel in itself. Inside, you can explore the rich and varied architectural history of Goa.

A Slice Of Goan Life In Loutolim

Want to acquaint yourself with traditional, Goan life? Then, a trip to the village of Loutolim will reward you. You can wander about the quaint village and spend your time gazing at Portuguese-style houses including Miranda House that was the ancestral home of the late artist, Mario Miranda. You can also tour Casa Araujo Alvares. Here, you can sign up for a light and sound show showcasing the interesting aspects of the 250-year-old house. Also, don’t forget to stop by the Big Foot rock. It’s a mysterious, large footprint where you can make a wish.

Dive Into Ancient Caves

Take a break from the beaches of North Goa to visit the Arvalem Caves. Widely believed to have been inhabited by the Pandavas during their exile, the ancient caves are said to date back to the 5th and 6th century. One of the caves houses a linga, and the Arvalem Waterfalls and a Rudraksha Temple are close by. In South Goa, the rock cut caves of Khandepar, in Ponda,  are worth peeking into. The 9th-century caves were first occupied by a community of Buddhist monks but the Kadamba dynasty turned them into temples in the following centuries.


Navya considers herself to be the Cassandra of the 21st century – no one ever listens to the wisdom that she so willingly imparts. This is the only Greek tragedy element in her otherwise happy life. She’s got her Husband Charming, has perfected the art of sarcasm, is always fed copious amounts of good food, and is well on her way to self-actualization.