central goa: velha goa & the islands of chorao and divar

in my quest to see goa beyond the beaches, we drove inland, away from the sea. and as you go away from the sea, you almost step away from the glamour that surrounds goa and the reasons why you first started going there  – the beaches!

the first stop was velha goa (yes, and not goa velha, only recently i came to know that those are two different places!). i had been there many years ago, and while i remembered my emotion from being there i did not remember much more. velha goa has a certain charm, maybe in-built even in that name. there aren’t too many things to see, but visiting those old churches, remnants from buildings, churches and cemeteries was interesting as all excavations and heritage monuments… first ‘awe’ that they made something so beautiful so many years ago and second ‘awe’ that they have preserved in such a good way…

this city was first built by the bijapur sultanate. the portuguese captured it, but shifted the capital to panjim. so this became the religious centre. velha goa was the centre for portuguese christianisation in the east. today, this site is a unesco world heritage site. it was a flourishing town, but in the 17th century it was wiped out by an outbreak of malaria and cholera. it’s on a list of ‘ghost towns’ along with fatehpur sikri in agra and some others in india… cities that have been suddenly wiped out by multiple causes…

post that, we wanted to head to chorao island. goa has some islands, two, chorao and divar are on the river mandovi, not in the sea as one would assume  of goa! i had been to chorao many years ago, but in a car full of friends meeting after a few years. all i remember of that trip is the loud chatter and laughter, nothing about the islands – the sights or the feel of it. so while i had been there but i couldn’t say i had seen it!

we saw a jetty and a ferry-boat waiting, so we quickly drove onto it. once onboard, we asked where it was headed, “divar“, he said! so, we had missed the chorao jetty… since neither of us had been to divar, we decided to go ahead and stay on the ferry! …

we got off the ferry, drove down the slope and then up the cemented path into divar. a tiny road with water on either side welcomed us. was this river water? was this monsoon rain water? or was it a perennial shallow pond? i wasn’t too sure… what was evident was that the land and sea levels were almost the same. it got me wondering if it ever flooded during the rains? would that mean that the people from this already isolated village were even more cut-off.. today they need to take a ferry to get into town, imagine if they cannot even access that… 

this was a long stretch of road that we kept driving down… it started with a tiny road, with water on both sides, and then the water turned into green fields on either side with a lone tree standing out at irregular intervals. a desolated landscape, beautiful in its sheer green. at the horizon was a cluster of trees and the town.

divar surprised me with its beauty… beauty in old bungalows, in the green surroundings, in the quiet, silent roads, we felt our car was creating a racket! some of the bungalows are very well maintained, some gaudily refurbished and some in terrible states of disrepair… the common element was the animal motif… either on the gate or on the main bungalow roof.. there was always an animal. the roads were empty, and we rarely passed anyone… there seems to be no public transport. and it seems like a rather large island as we kept chancing upon new roads till we turned back.. .or were we going around in circles?

for a person from a noisy, populated city like mumbai while i envy the divar locals for their peace and solitude, but i find security in numbers. what if there is a murder or robbery? but then again one reaches the point of physical isolation versus mental. in mumbai, i don’t even know my neighbours in my apartment block.. if someone is trying to pry my door the neighbours might not even ask, as they might think i am getting it opened as i lost the keys… we are that unconnected. (this is a true story as it happened to my friend) in a place like divar, one little noise and maybe all the people will come onto the streets to check if its alls well.

can a city person like me be content in a place like divar? i would like to give it a shot to challenge and discover myself? so for now, does anyone know of a homestay or a house on rent there?

divar (and chorao) are beautiful in their silence and quiet. if you can take a cycle on the ferry will make for a nice ride in and around the sloping roads.
velha goa is the furthest and is approximately 12 kms from panjim city centre. you will travel along the mandovi river and its a lovely road. do walk through the remnants laid out in front of the some really lovely tombstones and decorations and then walk down to the old church
are no restaurants around these sites, you will need to plan your breaks (read meals)
on the way back, come back via the fountanhas, panjim’s latin quarter for a meal. you can head to panjim inn, elite flavours and then maybe to confeitaria 31st janeiro

route map: panjim to chorao to divar to velha goa

8 thoughts on “central goa: velha goa & the islands of chorao and divar

  1. Divar is isolated, but the people are connected. we had walked up to the church when we were there. And unknowingly, we walked in during the preparations for a wedding. Each row of wooden benches was decorated with fresh flowers in colours of yellow and white. And it looked like all of Divar was going to attend. Anyway, we walked out of that and sat outside. The view is breathtaking…the Mandovi glitters against the sunlight and we could see our campus across too. am so glad you shared this 🙂


  2. thanks for that story indrani. really nice. like the thought of white and yellow flowers decorating little wooden benches. looks awesome in my head…

    and yeah your campus is to die for too.. close to all of this and what a view of the river! its sad they shifted out of there no?


  3. Hi! I wanted to ask you how much time did you spend driving around Divar? I’m planning to go there next week. Just wanted to know the time frame I need to keep for the island. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, we’d actually driven around for a day, didn’t know then that there were homestays that could choose to stay at on divar itself. it is, so i’ve heard, a slow life, and you can choose to roam around and just sink into that experience for any number of days. we saw tourists hiring cycles and just going around, they probably just cycle around all day. and it’s gorgeous during and just after the monsoons, just another green! have fun 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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