Journey By Bicycle Through Uncharted Lands Around India’s Sunshine State
Imagine pedalling through a kaleidoscope of colours, where every turn unfolds a new vista – welcome to adventure cycling in Goa! Away from the usual tourist tracks, the Goan landscape hides secrets only accessible to those on two wheels. As an expat of five years, I can vouch that Goa offers a unique blend of thrill and serenity for the intrepid adventure cyclist.
In this brief article, I’ll describe my favourite things to see in Goa for a bike traveller and the tastiest treats for roadside refreshment. Think of it as a sketch outline that you can use to build your own itinerary for an adventurous bike trip around Goa.
Adventure Cycling in Goa: Know Before You Go
Adventure Cycling in Goa offers a unique experience combining the thrill of exploration with the beauty of Goa’s diverse landscape. Here’s what travellers should know before they go:
- Choosing the Right Time of Year: Goa’s weather varies significantly throughout the year. The best time for cycling is from November to February, when the weather is cooler and more comfortable.
- Selecting the Right Gear: Due to Goa’s tropical climate, it’s important to have lightweight and breathable cycling gear. Don’t forget a good-quality helmet, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Route Planning: Goa has a mix of coastal roads, hilly terrains, and off-road trails. Plan your route based on your experience and fitness level. This includes popular spots like the Divar and Chorao islands, known for their scenic beauty and less crowded paths.
- Staying Hydrated and Nourished: The tropical climate can be dehydrating. Carry enough water and snacks. Coconut water, widely available in Goa, is a great natural hydrator.
- Respecting Local Culture: Goa is a mix of different cultures. Dress modestly, especially when visiting rural areas or religious sites.
Plan Ahead for a Smooth Ride
- Accommodation: Plan your accommodation in advance, especially if you are travelling during the peak tourist season. Goa offers a range of options from luxury resorts to budget homestays.
- Health and Safety: Carry a basic first-aid kit and know the locations of nearby medical facilities. Always inform someone of your route and expected return time.
- Local Laws and Etiquette: Familiarize yourself with local traffic regulations. Riding on the beach is often prohibited to protect the environment.
- Environmental Responsibility: Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles to minimize your environmental impact.
- Enjoying the Journey: Finally, while it’s important to be prepared, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Stop to take in the views, interact with locals, and immerse yourself in the Goan way of life.
Remember, adventure cycling in Goa immerses in the local culture and enjoys the diverse experiences that Goa offers. It’s a little bit of India by the sea.
Plan Your Adventure Cycling Trip To Goa
Bike Ready Attire for the Tropics
Before planning your adventurous bike trip around Goa, consider a few things. Remember, Goa has a tropical climate that calls for lightweight, breathable gear. In the tropics, I tend to wear a long-sleeved cotton shirt, a pocket on each breast with a button-down collar. Craghoppers make a cracking one that I’ve used for years. I don’t bother with suncream, so covered arms are handy. I generally wear a wide-brimmed soft hat with a drawstring fastener. Better for the long days in the saddle than a cap and helmet.
Wayfinding on the backcountry
Navigation is key in uncharted territory – a reliable GPS and physical maps are indispensable. Plot a route using Komoot or Strava if that’s your thing, but asking locals and paper are also helpful wayfinding tools. Roadsigns are few and likely in Konkani or Hindi. India has a great British legacy, and English is widely spoken. However, you’ll want to brush up on a few words for ease and convenience.
The best months for cycling in Goa are from November to February, offering pleasant weather and less rainfall. Typically, it’s either side of 30 degrees for the season. Outside of these months, expect savage humidity, cyclones and unpredictable storms. The monsoon is a wild one on the coast of India. Adventure cycling in Goa around Christmas and New Year will mean the roads are busier due to festive holiday making. Make a note to travel in more rural areas at these times to avoid the rush and drunk drivers in the main resorts.
Hidden Cycling Trails of Goa
Biking the Back Roads of North Goa
Venture beyond the known for the best off-road cycling experience. The backroads of North Goa, less trodden and raw, lead to chapels and villages frozen in time. These can be minor roads and, often, simple dirt tracks. The plateau of the far north of Goa offers a few hundred kilometres of backcountry cycling that calls to be explored. Expect this to be dry, dusty and wild. Leopards have been spotted, and there are snakes too. Be prepared and take necessary precautions.
The roads north of Querim up into Mahgarastra are wonderful and lead through the Western Ghats. If you like climbs, as I do, this is a fantastic place to push your limits into the dense sub-tropical jungle. Be sure to visit Fort Tioracol for a Coke and a hot meal. Sat high above the sea on a rocky outcrop, this is where the Portuguese first landed in the 1600s – it’s one of the best ocean views in the north of Goa. Redi Fort is also well worth a walk around.
Exploring South Goa by Bike
South Goa’s Canacona region offers rugged terrain and elevated paths, ideal for adrenaline seekers. These paths are not just routes but gateways to Goa’s soul. The South is generally more relaxed and less developed. Nature is more pristine, and there’s an abundance of secluded beaches and jungle stop-offs for easy camping and hammock slinging.
I particularly like Agonda beach, though it’s a little expensive, the accommodation is a high standard and offers beachside stays in magical resorts. Hot tub on the veranda with a sea view, anyone?
A ride down beyond the border to Gokarna is highly recommended, too. The beaches at Kudle and Om have chilled-out hippie vibes. The old town is a major Shiva pilgrimage site and offers an authentic Hindu experience for those attending a temple. Eat at the local chai shop for a ‘Big India’ experience. Masala chai, bhaji, and pau will be traditional local snacks to satisfy your hungry belly.
Secret Sea Swims
After a sweaty ride, nothing beats a secret swim. The hidden cove near Butterfly Beach, only accessible by a narrow path near Palolem, offers crystal-clear waters. Time your swim around mid-day when the sun is high and the tide is gentle.
Far up in the North Of Goa, I love to swim at Keri Beach. The estuary which forms the border with Maharastra is a wonderful aspect for a refreshing post-ride dip.
As with travel in any country, follow local customs and culture. A swimsuit is recommended in India. Nudity is still taboo and may attract unnecessary attention.
Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
Goa’s monsoon season transforms it into a waterfall paradise. The lesser-known Dudhsagar Falls, nestled in the Mollem National Park, is a sight to behold post-monsoon. It’s a challenging ride, but the spectacle of cascading water is a worthy reward.
It is possible to see the waterfall in November when the rain has mostly stopped, but a monsoon visit may be required to get the full effect. I’ve ridden up to Amboli Ghats a few times during the rain, which is very beautiful. Just be sure to check your brakes when returning from the ghats.
There are dozens of waterfalls and many dry up at the end of monsoon season. Unless you’re fully committed to adventure cycling in Goa through heavy rains, plan your trip around the biggest falls such as Dudhsagar and possibly Amboli. Goa is generally best enjoyed in the sunshine!
The Goan adventure cycling route is peppered with cultural gems. Stop by a local ‘poder’ (bread maker) for a fresh ‘poi’ or ‘undo’ – the local bread. Respectful interactions with locals can turn into enriching cultural exchanges. I love a chai and a nice sit down while out riding. I find it one of the best ways to feel into a place as I travel.
In Goa, you’ll enjoy the laid-back vibe, or as the locals say, susegado.
Food Is Ready
Roadside dhabas are plentiful and serve as excellent pit stops for food or accommodation. A fish thali is a well-known and popular local staple. Veg thali is also widely available and is a great way to ensure you get all the calories you need to keep turning the pedals. Typically, Goan dishes include fish curry rice, Spicy Goan sausage – sometimes cooked in a pilau dish as a main or a side, and pav bhaji, a fried potato bread roll.
A hotel is often a chai shop and a restaurant, not a place to stay. This can be a confusing quirk of the Indian language and an essential thing to understand when making plans from afar or travelling in the country.
Since Goa is way down south, you’ll also find dosa and idli, which are popular south Indian specialities. I particularly love masala cheese dosa with the accompanying chutneys. Poha is another classic rice dish that can be sweet or savoury. Well worth a taste!
May The Forts Be With You
Exploring forts in Goa is like stepping into pages of history, each fort telling its own story. Here are some of the best forts in Goa that you should consider visiting:
- Cabo de Rama Fort: One of the oldest and largest forts in Goa, named after Lord Rama. It offers a magnificent view of the Arabian Sea and a mix of legends and ruins, making it a perfect spot for explorers.
- Ponda Fort: Also known as the “Shivaji Fort,” it’s named after the Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The fort offers a garden and panoramic views, making it an ideal picnic spot.
- Betul Fort: Located in Betul Village, this fort is in ruins but offers a beautiful view of where the Sal River meets the Arabian Sea. It’s serene and feels like an abandoned archaeological site.
- St. Estêvão Fort: Built over the confluence of three rivers, this 19th-century fort offers lush greenery and connects the village to other parts of Goa.
Historic Red Block Towers
- Corjuem Fort: A small fort that offers spellbinding views of the surrounding rivers and countryside. It is known for its tranquillity and photographic opportunities.
- Sinquerim Fort: Constructed in 1612, this fort is located on North Goa’s popular Sinquerim beach. It’s known for its spectacular sea views and historic significance.
- Mormugao Fort: Situated at the mouth of the River Zuari, this fort offers a glimpse into the Portuguese colonial past and provides spectacular views of traditional fishing boats along Varca Beach.
- Reis Magos Fort: An ancient fort on the Mandovi River’s banks, built-in 1551. It offers beautiful views of Panjim and the river.
Each of these forts has its unique charm and story, making them must-visit destinations for history enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Whether you’re interested in the panoramic views, historical significance, or the serene atmosphere, these forts in Goa offer a diverse experience.
Leave No Trace
Remember, we’re just visitors on these paths. Practice ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. When adventure cycling in Goa, leading by example is essential. Littering and fly-tipping are rife across the country. It’s a cultural norm to throw trash out onto the street. Burning waste material, including plastic, is typical. Sharing a responsible attitude may help to educate ideas and improve native choices.
Supporting small local businesses along the way contributes to the community. India is one of the most affordable places to travel and every rupee spent goes into a bustling local economy. From chai stalls to homestays, spending your money with independent vendors and businesses is one of the best ways to impact your journey positively.
My Great Big Indian Bike Adventure
Having travelled India by bicycle fairly comprehensively since 2016, I have a working knowledge of the subtlety of navigating the complexities of Indian culture. From cycling the Himalayas to riding a Royal Enfield from Goa to the Himalayas, I’ve spent miles exploring this magical continent.
My top tip is to embrace the chaos. India has a remarkable Marmite-ness about it
One of the things that fascinates me about India is the idiosyncracies and juxtapositions. At first glance, some things look unusual to the untrained eye. Other notions seem just plain bonkers to the Western mind. But it is important to remember that however Anglicised this great nation has become, it is still India. And that means many things depending on where you find yourself.
Quirky Indian Ways
My favourite Indian quirks:
- Privacy and personal space – expect crowds to gather when you least expect it, especially in remote places. If you camp, you’ll make friends.
- Head wobblings – can mean whatever you want it to mean, usually the opposite of what you think.
- Foodings and lodgings – the ‘ings’ of words is one of my most cherished and charming vernacular Indianisms
- Victorian politeness – ‘What is your good sweet name, sir?’ Strangers will address you with an antiquated sense of propriety
- Two-handed shovel – share the tool, split the wage. As a developing nation, working folks gotta eat.
A Goan Cycling Adventure
Adventure cycling in Goa is a unique blend of exhilarating exploration and serene scenic beauty. It’s an experience that combines the thrill of navigating through diverse landscapes – from the sun-kissed beaches to the mystical hinterlands. With its picturesque coastal roads, undulating hills, and off-road trails, Goa presents a haven for cyclists. The state’s relatively small size makes it possible to traverse a variety of terrains in a short span of time. Additionally, the temperate climate during the cooler months (November to February) makes cycling a pleasant experience. Whether it’s the challenge of the rugged terrains or the leisure of the smooth coastal roads, adventure cycling in Goa caters to every kind of biking enthusiast.
Beautiful Bharat by Bike
Beyond the physical ride, adventure cycling in Goa is an immersive cultural experience. The journey is interspersed with encounters that reflect Goa’s rich history and diverse influences. Cyclists can explore centuries-old forts, witness traditional fishing communities, and enjoy the local cuisine, a blend of Indian and Portuguese flavours. The warmth of the Goan people adds to the experience, making cyclists feel like they’re part of the community. This blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and hospitable atmosphere makes adventure cycling in Goa a uniquely enriching experience.
Are you ready to embark on a Goan cycling adventure that goes beyond the usual and discover the hidden rhythms and secret places?