Ditch the car and experience Goa on a bicycle
Leave the car and two-wheeler behind, and cycle around Goa for a change. You’ll watch life pass you by in slow motion, visit places on your journey you wouldn’t normally get to and notice things you would usually miss at a faster pace. You’re bound to experience another side of Goa’s beauty when you slow down long enough to notice the birds darting around and the way the light filters through the lush foliage. Here are Skyscanner’s suggestions of the best cycling routes to try on your Goa holiday:
1. Heritage Forts
The small fishing village of Nerul, along the banks of the river Mandovi, is known for Coco beach, its laid back beach shacks and a clutch of small restaurants. As you cycle around you’ll spot a few Portuguese-style mansions scattered about the area. Head across to Aguada plateau by cycle, from where you’ll be able to see Fort Aguada overlooking the long unbroken beach belt of Candolim, Calangute and Baga. Then make your way to the 450 year old Reis Magos fort, about three kilometres from Fort Aguada.
2. Lakes and birds
Bird-watchers and nature lovers should try off-road cycling around Carambolim Lake. You’ll enjoy the feel of fresh breezes ruffling your hair and revel in the verdant green stretches around the lake while riding your cycle. The area is considered a bird-watcher’s paradise so remember to bring your binoculars if you want to spot a rare migratory bird or two.
3. Coastline Beaches
Long-distance cyclists, especially those travelling south from Mumbai, will love this route. Just follow the sideroads that parallel Goa’s coastline, from Querim at Goa’s northern border, to Polem on the southern border. En route you’ll end up crossing Charpora, Mandovi and Zuari rivers, three of Goa’s largest and most impressive water bodies, by bridge or ferry. This route is one of the best ways to enjoy Goa’s beach culture by staying overnight at the smaller beach resorts and homestays along the way and sampling both local food and global dishes at beachshacks that catch your eye. Catch the cool breezes from the Arabian Sea and if you feel adventurous, try riding the hard-packed white sand beaches south of Vasco de Gama at low tide.
4. Rivers and villages
Goa’s extensive river system is often lined by quiet roads that wind around tranquil riverside villages. Start out from Panjim and cycle across Mandovi River to Bastora village. Check out Bastora’s two hundred year old St. Cajetan church and notice the beautiful ancestral village homes as you cycle around. One of the most scenic routes is from the mouth of the Mandovi River east past the Pomburpa hot spring into the artists’ village of Aldona. About four kilometres north of Pomburpa, along Mapusa river near the village of Aldona, is Corjuem fort built in 1705. To get there you could go over the cable-stayed bridge connecting the sedate, residential village of Aldona with Corjuem. Stay over in Olaulim village and rent one of the eco-cottages at Olaulim Backyards, built with reclaimed materials. The guesthouse also has kayaks, canoes and bicycles for guests to borrow.
5. Ferries and Islands
About twelve kilometres east of Goa’s capital city, Panjim, lies the tranquil, picturesque island of Divar. Once on the island you’ll get a stronger feel for the original setting of rural Goa before it was touched by economic prosperity. The free ferry ride to the island is a bonus and every fourth Saturday in August, the island comes to life with fancy dress competitions and parades to celebrate Bonderam festival. Chorao island, just next to Divar and also accessible by ferry, has the Dr. Salim Ali bird sanctuary where you can stop and enjoy the sights and sounds of migratory birds that flock to Goa. Both islands are full of natural beauty for landscape photographers in search of inspiration. The islands can also be pretty isolated at times, so keep this in mind as you cycle around and remember to pack some food and water for your trip, along with your camera!
6. Spice Plantations
Eco-tourists can pedal Goa’s quiet side roads to the hillier east to arrive at family-run, organic spice plantations, some of which offer hot meals and rustic overnight lodge accommodation. Tanshikar Spice farm in Netravali offers modest, cheap and cheerful Indian-style cottages where nature’s sounds will soothe you to sleep and you’ll wake up to the scent of vanilla from the working spice farm nestled in a rainforest. Sahakari Spice farm in Ponda, doesn’t have accommodation but offers a guided tour of its agro-processing facilities for cashewnut and vanilla, and is a great lunch stopover for simple fare served on banana leaves. Similarly, Tropical Spice Plantation is another great location in Ponda which offers tours and serves lunch.
7. Wilderness Sanctuaries
For the most adventurous cyclists, a cycle route on sideroads through cooling forests and past emerald green rice fields to one of several wilderness parks on the eastern edge of Goa is just the thing. Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, with its milky white Dudhsagar Falls, is an obvious choice. But, Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary to the north and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary to the south are equally wonderful, less-known destinations. Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary has group accommodations, as well as a zoo with snakes, cats, and animals native to Goa. Fall asleep to the sounds of a tiger’s roar!
Take a cycle tour
If you’re wary about cycling on your own, there are a few cycle tour companies that have already mapped out routes and camps. So, you don’t have to worry about sorting out food and lodging logistics yourself. The Youth Hostels Association of India – Goa offers an 8-day long Goa cycling expedition for experienced cyclists that moves across Goan beaches, forests and historical sites of interest. The group covers an average 45 kilometres per day, starting in Panjim and biking through the small and quiet villages of Sanguem, visiting the Dudhsagar waterfalls and spending a night in the woods at Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. The trail makes it way to the banks of the Mandovi river including a visit to the UNESCO World heritage site of Old Goa. You’ll find more information on their blog http://yhaigoa.blogspot.in/p/goa-biking-expedition.html. Goa Nature Trails also has organised cycling tours on mountain bikes, starting at Nerul and going parallel to the coastal beach belt of Candolim and Sinquerim. The tour cuts through little hamlets where you can revel in the beauty of the Goan countryside. Visit http://www.goanaturetrails.com for further information. You can also check out Cycling Goa on Facebook, a group of members dedicated to spending time on their bikes.
You can easily rent cycles from various shops in the popular beach areas. Just ask local residents. Some guest houses also have cycles for hire. The cost can be anywhere between INR 40 and INR 100 per day. It’s not difficult to find bicycle mechanics in the smaller towns or larger villages and once you get away from the city and the main roads, the roads are quite empty especially in rural areas. If you’re looking for a higher performance bike and are serious about your cycling, then you can buy a cycle from any of the main cities like Panjim, Margao, Vasco or Mapusa. Prices start from INR 15000 for a good bicycle. Remember to carry a cycling helmet, water, a spare tube, cycle tool, cycle pump and sun protection with you.