When you think of Goa, what’s the first thing that springs to mind? For most the answer would be paradisal beaches, coconut palms and a little slice of Heaven. For others, hippy markets and yoga retreats. Then again, the first thoughts of some would be cheap alcohol and partying!
Had you asked me this time last year, by which point I had already visited Goa once, I would have told you the first answer. If someone told me that Goa was full of luscious greenery reminiscent of what you’d find in Kerala and Sri Lanka and a fair few centuries-old forts ready to be explored, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Goa is a popular tourist destination for foreigners and Indians alike. In fact, both times I visited Goa was in the company of my Malayali friends making the most of a few days holiday in the relaxed atmosphere of Goa’s beaches. Because everyone knows Goa isn’t short of stunning beaches, right? As a British person, my preconceived thoughts on Goa would be that it’s the perfect place for a beach holiday. Somewhere you go to stay in a nice hotel or resort and spend your days lounging on sunbed reading a book or drinking a mocktail. That’s the view that has always been sold to me by the TV commercials and travel agency advertisements.
There is so much more to Goa than pretty beaches, though. There’s a rich history and culture behind Goa, which are evidenced in the remaining structures and forts from years gone by, and you only need to venture a little further than the well-trodden tourist path to find them.
I fell in love with Goa’s forts during my second visit, but there were two in particular that really captured my heart.
Fort Cabo de Rama
Located in South Goa, just 16km north of Agonda Beach, Cabo de Rama Fort is the largest of all of Goa’s forts (and trust me when I say there are a lot of forts in Goa!). Originally believed to have been built by Hindu rulers, over time Fort Cabo de Rama has passed hands so many times that even the history books struggle to keep track of who’s who. It was restored by the Portuguese in 1763, but most recently used as a government prison, until 1955 when it was abandoned and left to ruins. Many say there is beauty in abandonment, and nothing rings truer in this case.
The Fort is a little bit of a nightmare to get to – although I did see some crazy fools walking back, I would highly recommend either hiring a taxi, or a moped and driving yourself there. As far as I’m aware there are no direct transport links to the fort, as it really is in the middle of nowhere.
We opted to hire a moped and with the use of Google Maps, managed to navigate our way from where we were staying on Palolem Beach, arriving at the fort just after 2pm. Although the Fort is said to be open until 10pm, when we arrived we were told it would be close at 5pm, meaning we had little over 3 hours to explore.
One of the things I love most about India is the complete lack of concern for health and safety. In the UK we’re health and safety crazy! We have an abundance of beautiful castles and centuries-old buildings we’re not allowed to get close to in case they collapse in on us. And the ones we can enter, we’re limited in what we’re allowed to see and allowed to touch.
In India and many of the other countries I’ve visited, it’s the complete opposite and I just love it! I much prefer the “walk to the edge of the dangerous cliff if you want, but it’s your own fault if you hurt yourself” attitude to life then the over-the- top safety cautious ways of the UK.
I think it was the lack of barricades and warning sides that made me enjoy exploring the Fort so much. We were able to climb over and under the broken-down pieces of the walls without being whistled at by over-protective security guards, get right up close to the water’s edge and find little hidden treasures and parts of the enclosure we otherwise wouldn’t have come across.
The dusky brown of the walls, most of which have begun to crumble, offer a striking contrast to the orange and greens of the area’s natural foliage, and its idyllic location presents you with the most incredible views of Cabo de Rama Beach and across the Arabian Sea.
Fort Cabo de Rama is 180,000 square metres in size which, let’s be fair, is a lot of ground to cover, even if you have all day! So, to make sure we made the most of our limited time we opted to follow the walls half way around the fort, and when we were done cut across the open part of it back to the entrance. I’m so happy we did it this way, as by following the path along the walls we were able to enjoy the most breath-taking views I’ve ever seen!
The South Indian coast is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stretches of land in the world but seeing just a small piece of it from above really made me appreciate the natural beauty of the area. It only intensified my already colossal amount of love for this part of the country. If you’re planning to visit the Fort (you really should!) don’t forget to bring water with you, and
consider wearing loose trousers instead of shorts, as the grass is very itchy.
The complete opposite end of Goa, so far up North you may as well be in Maharashtra, Chapora Fort is slightly more accessible than Fort Cabo de Rama, but no less enjoyable or beautiful.
Unlike Cabo de Rama, Chapora Fort can easily be reached by bus heading from Mapusa to Anjuna and Vagator. I’m not sure how long the journey is or how much the ticket, as we drove, but it can’t have been too long as it took us only 20 minutes to reach from Calangute.
It’s position overlooking the Chapora River is what gives the fort its name, but it’s better known to some by its nickname of ‘Dil Chahta Hai Fort’, named after the Bollywood film which used the area as a filming location in 2001. Much the same as Fort Cabo de Rama, ownership of the Fort has exchanged hands numerous times over history – so much so that it’s hard to tell when one rule ended and the next began.
The fort’s walls follow the natural slopes of the landscape, which once led people to believe made it impenetrable. However, legend has it that this belief was quashed when Maratha leader Sambhaji allegedly had his men mount 1.5m ride monitor lizards to scale the wall and descend upon his enemies.
Chapora felt a lot less forgotten about than Cabo de Rama, and there were far more people enjoying the scenery there. It seems to be a popular place for young families and couples to enjoy the sunset, and in fact we even saw a couple taking engagement photos while we were there! It’s recommended to visit the fort in late afternoon to avoid the sun – however, there are a few vendors outside the entrance selling over-priced water and snacks, so if you bear this in mind you could visit
at any time of day.
I would personally recommend arriving in time to see the sunset. The fort overlooks Vagator and Anjuna beaches, as well as the Arabian sea, and the shape and terrain of the coastline here looks somewhat prehistoric. It really is a beautiful sight to behold, and one I would encourage anybody visiting Goa to consider!
Both forts are free to enter, so what’s stopping you?
Coming from such a small place where everyone knows everyone else’s business but rarely venture further than the end of their street, she’s always felt a pull to get out there and explore the world, which she writes about on her blog Wales to Wherever.