As the beaches of North Goa fill up, the locals are heading South to escape the crowds. Here are some of their best-kept secrets — from farm stays to quiet sea fronts

The sun is peaking. The sea is fairly still. There is a gentle breeze, not too warm, that is causing the coconut palms to stir. Palolem beach, in South Goa, is largely empty. It is a Sunday in high season, but there is no yelling and screaming. No hustlers attempting to sell trinkets and sarongs and DVDs and wood carvings. Just some kids building sand castles. Adults sunbathing. The occasional foot massage offer. Peaceful and quiet. I wonder to myself why I haven’t done this before. Why don’t more Goa regulars head South more often?

Yes, the North does have a buzzing entertainment scene (and some of the fanciest sports cars bearing number plates from around the country). But the South has the secluded serenity that many of us want. Especially now. To be able to escape our urban existences without wondering if we’re jumping from the pan into the fire. So, where should one go? I have always believed the locals have the best intel. So, I asked a few of them:

Clockwise from top: Fishermen at Palolem, with the family, Satinder Singh
 
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Satinder (Sonny) Singh

Los Angeles-trained architect and founder of the art space, The Cube Gallery (@the_cube_gallery)

“I vacation with my family, and both the jungles of Chorla Ghat and Palolem beach are great for family bonding. You are in a natural setting but with access to fine service by experienced staff. The simple yet comfortable accommodation at Wildernest (wildernest-goa.com) in Chorla, and Ciaren’s (ciarans.com) in Palolem don’t distract you from the surroundings, something that five-star hotels often do. These hotels also have options where the family can stay together, which is quite convenient. Wildernest has naturalists who take you on guided treks in the Western Ghats, which is such a critical biodiversity hotspot. And in Palolem, we go kayaking in the backwaters.”

Jagvir Matharoo and Martino Caramia

Martino Caramia and Jagvir Matharoo

Creative directors of home, fashion and accessories concept store, The Flame Store (@theflamestore)

“We find the beaches of the South — Patnem, Colomb, Talpona — quite special. Unlike in the North, the season down South starts in November. And even then, comparatively, the beaches are empty. There’s the rustic-chic Turtle Hill (turtlehillgoa.com) in Patnem, the mother of all boutique hotels to stay at. Right next to the quaint Peace Garden on Talpona beach are two beachside thali spots that serve excellent homestyle food. The always fantastic Jaali Boutique and Café on Patnem Beach Road, run by [South African designer] Kate Abramovitz, is where you should shop for resort wear and espressos after (or something stronger, if you please). Incidentally, Kate’s opening Casa Jaali, a B&B on the rocks between Patnem and Colomb, and we can’t wait to check in. Lastly, you should book a tour of Cazulo (cazulofeni.com), which houses Goa’s only feni cellar and offers a tasting session like none other.”

The susegad life you didn’t know about

Mandira Sharma

Owner, The Inner Temple (theinnertemple.in), a three-bed villa in the village of Moira, North Goa

“Galgibaga beach is my secret happy place in the South. It is an Olive Ridley turtle nesting site. So it is not an average beach where you go for water sports or to hit the shacks. There’s a sweet two-bedroom villa there called Casa Galgibaga that I rent. It is an old Goan home that’s been renovated to today’s standards. They also organise excursions into the Catigao Wildlife Sanctuary and fishing trips with local fishermen. Even if you catch nothing, you can still return to Luiza’s (9765855021) for a food coma-inducing meal. She’s a proper Goan lady who will feed you the best home-style seafood. Another area I frequent is Chaudi in Canacona. Turiya Villa (turiyavilla.com), which is also an old Goan home, refurbished by architect Sandesh Prabhu, is a charming place to stay. You are within earshot of the sea and yet can wake up to birdsong in a garden full of chikoo, coconut, mango, and frangipani trees.”

The susegad life you didn’t know about

Lydon Alves

Founder of Goa-based event management company, Sunset Getaways (sunsetgetawaysgoa.com)

“My first choice is the quaint Agonda beach front, just a few minutes’ drive from the more popular and relatively crowded Palolem beach. I normally stay at Mariposa Beach Grove (mariposabeachgrove.com). All the cottages come with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, and open out to the sea. Most of the seafood served at the shacks along the beach are pretty amazing. However, if you’re looking for that ‘out of the ordinary’ experience, Cow Corner (cowcorner.space) on Patnem Beach Road stands out. My favourite is the Hungarian Goulash, by far the best in all of Goa. To make the most of the beach life, you should ask a local fisherman to take you to secluded beaches like Butterfly and Paradise. Chances are you’ll spot dolphins en route. A drive down to the Cabo de Rama Fort is a must. And the Cabo beach is as stunning as it gets.”

Clockwise from top left: The Kushavati Heritage Trail at Rivona Caves, Menezes Braganca House in Chandor, Maria Victor

Clockwise from top left: The Kushavati Heritage Trail at Rivona Caves, Menezes Braganca House in Chandor, Maria Victor
 
| Photo Credit:
Make It Happen

Maria Victor

Founder-CEO of experiential travel company, Make It Happen (makeithappen.co.in)

“I have always been fascinated by the quaint villages in the hinterland. There is so much mysticism that surrounds the pre-Portuguese heritage of the old Goan capital of Chandor. Some of the grandest Indo-Portuguese mansions are in Salcete and Quepem. Palacio De Deao in Quepem, which is a mansion that’s over 200 years old, was built by the Dean of the Church. Ruben and his wife Celia, who now own the house, curate home-cooked meals fit for a bhatkar (landlord). The Figueiredo Mansion in Loutolim was built in 1590, and predates the Taj Mahal. Loutolim is also where satirist Mario Miranda hailed from. His ancestral residence close to the main square is a sight to behold. Trikal, one of my favourite Shyam Benegal films, was shot in Loutolim and captured the vibe of a sleepy Goan village. You could also drive down and experience the Buddhist caves of Rivona, the prehistoric rock carvings in Usgalimal, and the Betal Sateri temple in Netravali. I wouldn’t leave the South without treating myself to delicious bakes at Jila bakery. Their eclairs and Geneva pastry are to die for!”

Clockwise from top left: Kunal Shah, and the Mangal Farm Stay

Clockwise from top left: Kunal Shah, and the Mangal Farm Stay
 
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Kunal Shah

Interior designer and co-founder of the furniture and interiors store, Claro (@claro.goa)

“There is a lot to explore on the culture and heritage front in South Goa. I recommend a visit to the Shaivite shrine in Tambdi Surla. Surrounded by mountains, it is highly atmospheric and best visited early in the morning. Then there’s the Safa Masjid in Ponda, which was built by Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur, in the Deccani style. Those interested in art should book a trip that takes in the major Kaavi art sites. Kaavi, indigenous to Goa, was painted on religious shrines and homes of landed gentry in the pre-Portuguese area. Portuguese builders adapted this technique, rechristening it as graffito, and used it to decorate their religious structures. Lastly, if you’re looking for a place to stay that’s not on a beach, check into 250-acre Mangal Farm Stay (mangaalfarmstay.com). It is a working organic farm where they grow exotic vegetables, over 200 varieties of mangoes, herbs and spices, and ornamental flowers. Plant paddy in the day, eat what they grow (cooked in the local Velip tribal way), and sip on home-brewed feni come evening. It is a whole different take on the susegad life.”



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