Goa is an enduring attraction for visitors because of its sun-bathed beaches, huge sea waves, the opportunity to swim in the sea, a variety of water sports and natural scenery. There is no doubt that there are several exciting things to do in Goa. Nonetheless, the attraction of Goa is not just limited to the sea and its alluring beaches.
Goa is an archipelago of 17 islands some of which are extremely attractive for nature lovers and those who like tranquil places with ample natural endowments. Chorao in Goa is one such island, and is the largest of the 17 islands. It is located just five kilometres away from Panaji, the capital of Goa and still remains untouched by excessive tourism. Despite being so naturally alluring and tranquil, Chorao island does not feature in the itineraries of many of the tourists visiting Goa. One substantial reason for this lack of popularity is that visitor’s minds are preoccupied with the thought of beaches, nightlife and activities on the beach. However, if you take it upon yourselves to include some offbeat places in your itinerary, Chorao should be the first name to come up. It will not disappoint you and will add some depth to your memories of Goa. A visit to Chorao is one of the things to do in Goa that you cannot miss out on.
Chorao is not too far from Panaji, the capital of Goa. It is a very attractive destination for travellers and one of the top things to do in Goa. An interesting story about the origin of the islands involves Yashoda, the mother of lord Krishna. It is said that these islands actually emerged from diamonds that were discarded by her.
Chorao is significant both due to its scenic beauty as well as its historical significance. It was one of the earliest settlements of the Portuguese. Before that, it was inhabited by just ten families who were known to be of Goud Saraswat Brahmin origin. When the Portuguese people took over the island, they built some villas for their noblemen as they liked the area very much. They named the place as Ilha dos fidalgos, which means the Island of Noblemen. It was known by this name as the Portugese nobleman who settles here lived a life of luxury among flower gardens. The people inhabiting this island are now known as Chodankars since the island was once known as Chudamani. The word ‘chuda’ means head wear and ‘mani’ implies something worn as a necklace. The island comprises of three comunidades (a form of landholding) which are Devgi, Ambelim and Caraim or Caroi.
Chorao is the name given by the Portuguese. If you are curious about things to see and experience here, you must know that Chorao Island has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty and historical relics. It is the crown of picturesque and tranquil rural Goa. A combination of history and ample natural assets has made visiting this place one of the most attractive things to do in Goa.
Just five kilometres away from Panaji lies the village Ribandar. Take a boat ride from Ribandar across the Mandvi River and reach Chorao. As the ferry approaches the island, the mystical sight of thick mangrove forest beyond the river and the alluring network of rivulets lure the tourists into exploring the land. Even before you get down, you can experience the idyllic pace of life on the island.
The history of Chorao is deeply embedded in Portuguese settlement. If you are visiting Goa and not going to Chorao, you are missing out on the essence of Goa that narrates fascinating tales of the Portuguese times. Visiting and exploring the historical monuments of Chorao is one of the topmost things to do in Goa. You can visit the ruins of Fortaleza de São Bartolomeu de Chorão that was said to be a formidable fort once upon a time, protecting the northern part of Chorao island. Nonetheless, it is not the buildings that warrant a visit to the island; it is the natural charm of this place that does.
Chorao is comparable to a green canopy punctuated by rivulets emptying into the Mandvi and the Mapusa rivers. It is the largest of Goa's 17 islands and is bestowed with rich riverine networks fed by the two rivers.
After alighting at Chorao, you will find two roads. One of these roads heads towards the most populated places in Chorao - Bicholim and Mayem, while the other goes straight to the church. The latter route is uphill, but a ride on this route will bring you to the majestic Sao Bartholomew Church built in the 16th century. The church faces the Arabian Sea and is a major landmark of Chorao. It is also one of the very few structures on the island whose architectural splendour is worth a deep observation. There is another church on the island at Maddel. This one is dedicated to Our Lady of Grace. It was once a place where a large fair would be held every year, and various animals like camels, horses, and textiles were traded by merchants.
The lives and activities of inhabitants of Chorao are deeply embedded in Portuguese ethos. There is ample evidence of Portuguese influence on the locals be it the language, food or education. Before the Portuguese, the Benares University is said to have had a seat here. Sanskrit and some ancient literature were taught. However, the Portuguese people disbanded the system and started their own system of education through a seminary called Real Colegio de Educacao de Chorao.
Apart from the two historically significant and architecturally appealing churches, there are many ancient temples on the island. There are temples dedicated to Ganesha, Bhaukadevi, Ravalnatha, Bhagvati, Mallinatha, Devki, Santa-Purusha, Narayan, Barazan etc. However, most of these Hindu places of worship were destroyed by the Portuguese people. There are also some towering convents that remind one of old Goa.
The most popular and famous sightseeing spots in Chorao are neither the churches nor the villas or towers of convents. While in Chorao, it is the bounty of nature that overwhelms visitors. The famous bird sanctuary known as Dr Salim Ali bird sanctuary is located here. It is a reserved area, and it covers large tracts of the western part of Chorao. This is the place in Chorao where you can witness and experience natural bounty in the form of creeks, mangrove forests, swamps and a lot of birds.
Apart from the flora, the sanctuary hosts a variety of fauna such as animals and crocodiles apart from the ubiquitous flock of birds. There are some rare fish in the waters of the island like the mudskipper, which has a mid-sized bulbous head and can skip through the mud. However, exploring the sanctuary is not everybody’s cup of tea. You need to take a canoe to do so through the crisscrossing rivulets as you experience nature in its natural rhythm. However, if you are lucky, you can get a canoe with a guide during peak season, i.e. from October to April. There are also some soft drink stalls on the ferry wharf from where you can hire a canoe and guide.
Nonetheless, it is not just water all around you. You do have the option of driving around the island, and when you do so, you can witness the life in vintage Goa. The village, mostly on the eastern side of the island, is a collection of thatch and mud houses where life goes on in a tranquil and slow rhythm far away from the rat race of the urban cites. However, the Portuguese villas on the island are quite attractive both architecturally and aesthetically. The road would finally take you to the other side of the island at Bicholim. From here you can travel to the famous Saptakoteshwar Temple located at Narwe.
Travellers describe Chorão as Goa’s best-kept secret. The awe-inspiring natural splendour surrounding the island is the most attractive piece of attraction here. The cacophony of birds, the cool breeze, the sight of peacocks playing around and a majestic view of the entire island and its surrounding natural bounty right from the top of the hill can transport your feelings to a different world altogether.
Along with visiting Chorao Island, here is a list of top 20 things to do in Goa to make the most of your family vacation!
A place like Chorao is best enjoyed from the luxury of Goa resorts. Since sightseeing on the island takes just a day, it is not a good idea to stay in Chorao. Moreover, there are not many resorts that can be here. You have the option of booking the Club Mahindra Varca Beach resort, Club Mahindra Acacia Palms Goa resort or the Club Mahindra Emerald Palms resort in Goa. All of these resorts have spacious and comfortable rooms with modern amenities. The in-house restaurants in these resorts cater to the penchant of tourists for Konkan dishes as well as others. You can go through Club Mahindra reviews online to get to know more about the Club Mahindra resorts.