Travelling exposes you to a world of fascination and surprises. A surprising fact I recently came across inspite of living here all my life was that Goa, with the Arabian Sea on its west coast houses a total of 17 islands. Each of them having an ecological speciality of its own. On my short recent tour, I visited one of the biggest one of them- Chorao located in north Goa. This island, was also called as the ‘island of the noblemen’ during the Portuguese era should be on your list if you want to have a glimpse of the countryside laden with fields, cattle, ancient houses and pasturelands. If you choose to explore the modern laid back village of Goa not so very far from the capital city, than Chorao should be the stop.
Due to the current pandemic restrictions I couldn’t really explore the place as much plus I had visited it with some work related purpose, but here is what of the little I could explore in Chorao. So come journey with me.
- A few interesting historic facts about the place.
‘Chorao’ was the name the Portuguese gave the island. Interestingly the ancient name of the island was “Choddnem” which was derived from a Sanskrit word, which translates to “head jewellery”.
Chorao was dotted with many beautiful mansions with elaborate garden and the rich and wealthy resided in these areas and hence the Portuguese called it ‘Illhas de Fidalgos’ (Island of the noblemen).
Another interesting fact about Chorao was that it was world famous for a special kind of cheese that was made here. Yes, surprise surprise! Cheese making is not a usual thing that we do here in Goa. This cheese called the ‘Queijo de Illha de Chorao’ was of a smooth textured cheese, delicate in flavour and was loved by the locals of Goa and even exported to far off countries. This was the story in the 16th century, but with time this trade was lost and its tale forgotten.
My day started on a pleasant morning. The easiest and the most scenic route to reach Chorao is via a ferry from Ribandar. The Ribandar Jetty is located at a distance of approx imately 5 kms from the state capital Panjim. Once you travel through ‘Ponte Conde de Linhares‘, the old Portuguese built bridge connecting Panjim to Old Goa, the first ferry you see on the left will get you here. Yes for some the patience of crossing a ferry may be too much, while some enjoy the view, but the more stunning things are always difficult to assess right?
Chorao is a quiet laid back village and like most Goan villages, blossoms with greenery. It takes you on a journey of vast pasture lands and plunges of greens.
Once you set foot on the island crossing the Mandovi river, the first thing that welcomes you is the iconic Dr. Salim Ali bird sanctuary, which also stands as synonyms to the island. Named after a famed ornithologist of India, Dr. Salim Ali, the sanctuary boosts of a rich experience of flora and fauna, you get to see a variety of birds and reptiles and the trails takes you through a network of dense mangrove forest. This is one of the most popular bird watching sites in Goa and while in Chorao should definitely be visited.
After the escapade with the birds, the next adventurethe island than offers is a surreal experience in the form of wide smooth long stretches of roads passing through the village pastureland and fields-best explored with your own transport. Enjoying the pleasant wheather while stopping at a random chai ghada to eat some Goan fav batata vada and pav (local vada pav), Bhajjya’s (local pakoras) and chai makes it an ultimate pleasure.https://www.instagram.com/p/CDS3vVjDQt1/?igshid=14s7xp6obos66
Chorao has some sweet mansions along the way, which left me appreciating the glory of the noblemen I have mentioned before.
I let myself wander around as not much could be done but the worthwhile place one can explore are –there are bunches of temples like the Devki Krishna temple, the Saptakoteshwar temple and the churches including Our Lady of Grace church and the 16th century church of St. Bartholomew, built by the Jesuits. There is also a statue of Christ the king located on a hill top-a popular location amongst the locals, which gives you quiet a view from top.
While chorao is an island it is connected by road now to Bicholim town. One can visit the famed Mayem lake there and try your hands at the only bunjee jumping spot in Goa-an initiative by the government of Goa.
The gorgeous island of Divar, famed for its deep Portuguese impact and Portuguese styled houses is just besides this one and can be added to the itinerary.
The UNESCO world heritage site of Old Goa, with its 20 plus monuments can also lies withing close proximity-a 10 minutes ride from the ferry point at Ribandar.
While Chorao is a place which may not have many touristy places, it definitely has what it takes to make your day if you want to just ride around, enjoy a lazy day sitting at some pleasant corner or just spend a quiet day with your buddies. It surelycounts if you just want to explore and experience a quiet Goan village lifestyle.*P.S-If you are interested in bird watching in Goa, there’s another place you would love- Check out my other post about an interesting bird watching spot.