Goa has become synonymous with beaches, parties, food and Feni. Tourists are flocking there through the year to soak up every bit of the non stop revelry. But for travellers who have “been there, done that”, Goa carefully guards a few treasures, reserved for those willing to go beyond the usual haunts of revellers.
Siolim is one such gem in North Goa, nestled next to the Chapora river. It is an epitome of Goan lifestyle. Heritage cottages line clean narrow lanes, interspersed with small bakeries, friendly bars, family run restaurants and functional grocery stores. All the lanes lead up to the beautiful St. Anthony’s church, which is still a hub for the community with regular fairs and festivals.
Friendliness defines this little village. You can start a chat with just about anybody. Need directions? Want to buy fresh fish or cheese? Interested in the history of a heritage building? Thirsty for a cold beer? Just ask the first person you come across and more likely than not you will end up in a long chat about … just about anything!!
Many cottages have been converted to heritage hotels without disturbing the local ethos. No flashy signboards, huge car parks or manicured lawns will greet you. Enter the premises and you will be in the lap of the warmest Goan hospitality amidst carefully restored and well-appointed properties. You can choose from a wide range of options right from the UNESCO award winning Siolim House and luxurious Ishavilas to the homely Heritage Hotel and functional guest houses for short stays. Even for long stays, there are ample options of homestays, apartments and full bungalows in plenty.
Siolim is a place to relax and soak in the atmosphere, away from the bustle of the tourist hubs like Candolim or Baga. Wake up early, savour the crisp morning air and walk leisurely down twisting lanes to the bakeries and “hotels” near the church gate. Start the day with freshly baked ‘jeera poi’ and piping hot ‘chai’ at the Laxmi Hotel or select from a range of fresh cookies from Siolim Bakery. Time for lunch? Satiate your craving for seafood at Anand Restaurant, a foodie’s paradise a short drive away, situated next to a huge open field. Go early to avoid standing in que to get in. There are other surprising places nearby like the up market “Banyan Tree”, serving Thai and oriental cuisine. The open air restaurant is built around and seems to almost embrace a massive banyan tree, which it’s named after.
A visit to the spectacular Morjim beach nearby is a must. It’s about 15-20 minutes away by car/bike and is situated right at the wide mouth of the Chapora river where it meets the Arabian Sea. Further north is the equally pristine Ashwem beach. To the south is Vagator beach. Climb up the hill to one of Goa’s famous hot spots today – Thalassa. If nothing, it’s worth the awesome view of the sea from the hill top which is perfect for a sundowner before the dinner binge (see cover photo above)
Siolim is not about sun, sand and surf. It’s about the leisurely elegance of a fast vanishing way of life. If you want to experience Goa the way Goans do, head to Siolim on your next trip.