Seven super ways to explore a Goa that exists beyond its beaches

We got tea sommelier Snigdha Manchanda, who has made Goa her own, to divulge her favourite haunts in the state.

In 2013, Snigdha Manchanda launched Tea Trunk to sell gourmet tea blends crafted from premium ingredients and offer people a unique tea-drinking experience. In the pandemic last year, the Goa-based start-up’s sales grow 250 per cent. Soon, Manchanda will launch a Tea Experience Centre and Restaurant in Goa. Manchanda has been in Goa since 2012. Here, she shares her recommendations for where to go and what to do in the state.

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Snigdha Manchanda of Tea Trunk shares her secret stash of must-have Goa experiences.

Goa is truly a paradisiacal place, yes, but I think that the majority of people visiting it miss its nuances. Goa is so much more than what is shown to the tourists. It cannot be just the same beaches and same restaurants that the tourists are made to frequent. Thankfully, the narrative of local tourism is changing for the better as there are more passionate locals who have come forward to showcase the other gorgeous sides to this vibrant state! 

Thanks to my friends who have been born and raised in Goa, the people I have met through Tea Trunk, and through my own relationship with the place, I have amassed a list of a few spots that I regularly recommend to folks travelling to the state.

Green trails

The first thing when someone asks me what I like about Goa — I always say that this is such a versatile state that you can go from a forest trek to a beach, all within a few hours in a day. How lucky are we to have that! Especially for folks who live in metro cities where the green cover is scarce, it’s truly refreshing to see the lushness here. Very few know that even today almost 70 per cent of Goa is under forest cover. I love the greenery and countryside in Goa as much as I love the beaches. 

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Goa’s lush forests have their own allure. Image: Shutterstock/MikePhoto23.

Some glorious food

A few restaurants and cafes that are on my must-visit list are Mojigao, Bean me Up in Vagator, and Gunpowder in Assagao for their Prawn mappas with some appam. Panaji has two of my favourites: My top choice for tapas bar in Goa — Antonio@31 — try the crispy chicharrones, and Larder & Folk — for the Vietnamese Banh Mi and you would want to take their Boozy Babka home to your friends.

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From vegan options in the al fresco Bean Me Up at Vagator… Image: Courtesy Bean Me Up.
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To luscious seafood at Gunpowder in Assagao. Image: Courtesy Gunpowder.

For South Goa, I would recommend two places — Mon Petit Frère in Colva for their delicious Banana Walnut pancakes. And there’s La Selle in Margao, which makes a great Shakshouka for breakfast.

A spot of culture

On the same lines, one of the best places to visit in Goa is the beautiful Sunaparanta Art Gallery at Altinho. It has the iconic and popular al fresco Cafe Bodega, set inside the central courtyard of the house. The food here is incredible and the vibe is calm, inviting and very warm. I always order their Turkish Poached Eggs. 

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A film screening in progress at Sunaparanta Goa Centre For the Art’s amphitheatre. Image: Courtesy SGCFA.

Buy the way

Coming to where I shop: Saukhyam in Porvorim has everything I need for my lifestyle — from food, personal care, to all that I need for my house. You can find many local Goan brands here, which is why I frequent this place. 

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Shopaholics can buy responsibly at Shaukhyam in Porvorim. Image: Courtesy Shaukhyam.

Historic home

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I am sure you can find a lot of locals who will have a great list of what heritage sites you can visit in Goa, but I will just lay mine here. My recommendation is the beautiful Figueiredo House, which is a 400-year-old mansion built by one of Goa’s most influential families. This museum-cum-guesthouse pre-dates even the Taj Mahal. Run by a matriarch who’s a wonderful host and an even better baker, this place packs something for everyone! Go for the museum tour but be sure to pre-book a high tea experience for after.

Island hopping

The only tip I wish to leave readers with is to give the usual beaches a break and go explore the islands! You can catch a jetty to Divar island or Chorao island, both of which are stunning. Rent a bicycle to explore these. Relish the fresh local fish thali at the many family-run joints there. Walk through the fields or try your hand at fishing with the locals. 

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The jetty at Chorao Island. Image: Shutterstock/Nataliia Sokolovska.

Serendipi-tea!

Goa is wholesome, embracing and has such an old-world charm to it — a place with an imprint of time, something you can witness when you move around. This is why I started Tea Trunk here in 2013 and have never looked back. Tea Trunk is soon to open doors to its first Tea Experience Centre and Restaurant in Goa. We acquired an iconic 100-year-old building bang in the middle of Fontainhas. The place will have a retail shop, a restaurant, and a tea experience centre, which I envision building as a bustling community space. Set right next to the St Sebastian Chapel, we expect the Tea Trunk Cafe to become a popular pitstop for all major walking trails in the area. 

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