Goa is the party destination in India but parties don’t define it. There is so much to a holiday other than visiting beaches and parties. Goa is much more than parties and beaches. Most of the people go to Goa but don’t explore less touristy places. Most of the beaches of Goa remain busy with tourists, some have a mad rush of tourists and some have comparatively lesser. I get little burned out from constant activity on beaches and like to spend a day or 2 away from hustle and bustle, something offbeat. During one of my trip to Goa, I searched for the quiet offbeat places and stumbled upon Divar Island & Chorao Island.
Read more about Things to do in Goa for First time Travelers
It was a few years back, at that time we went to Divar island for a half day trip to Divar island but skipped the Chorao island because we had few hours. I enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and the laidback feel of Divar Island.
Read more about Offbeat Places in Goa Beyond Beaches
So during my last trip to Goa, I decided to stay for a night in Divar island and explore it at my own pace. This time I decided to visit Chorao island also. After spending two days on both islands I felt rejuvenated. There were mostly local people and few tourists on both islands. The villages on these islands are the best place to experience local culture and way of life.
What to expect on Divar Island
Divar Island has more houses and buildings as compared to Chorao’s Island but it not crowded. We saw a few tourists here and there. There are narrow roads and lush green fields all around on the island. The life moves at a slow pace and locals are not in rush to finish deadlines. Divar Island gave me the true feeling of Goan Susegad. There are three villages named Piedade, Malar and Naroa on the Divar island and Piedade is the largest among them. There are not too many spots to visit on the island, visiting here is more about solitude and peace. It made me feel that I traveled back in time. From the top of the hillock near the church, I saw the 360 views of the Mandovi river and surrounding areas.
Places to Visit in Divar Island
Temples of Divar Island
There were two important temples on Divar Island. Before the Portuguese invasion, these temples attracted thousands of pilgrims from surrounding areas. Saptakoteshwara temple, which contained a powerful Shivalingam is now shifted to Benaulim village. The other temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesh and stood on a solitary hill in village Piedade.
Church of Our Lady of Compassion
This church is located on a hillock. It was built in by missionaries with the assistance of Portuguese rulers. Its facade is very impressive and the beautiful interiors of the church are worth taking a trip here. The inside of the church is dimly lit from natural light because its windows are set back in walls. From the top of the hill near the church, we saw the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the Mandovi river and Old Goa across the river.
Cemetery of Kadamba Dynasty
There is a small cemetery next to the church, it is the resting place for the rulers of grand Kadamba dynasty. The small chapel in the cemetery was converted from an older Hindu temple. It’s interior and carvings are dated before the death of the Kadamba dynasty. It one of the important ruin from the period before the Portuguese took over the island. This is the oldest structure on the island.
Old Portuguese houses
There are few old Portuguese houses left on Divar island. We saw some beautiful villas while exploring the island. We saw many brightly painted houses in the countryside and the main square of the area.
Cycle or Walk in Divar Island
If you are short of time then explore the island by car or bike. If you have time and staying in Divar Island then cycle or walk around to explore the area. Most of the resorts provide cycles free of cost to their guests.
We saw the road passes through the picturesque Goan countryside and saw the fields full of the rice crop and small hills with trees. The villages on the island are small and traditional. Local people are very conscious about the culture and like to keep the tradition alive. They didn’t change the living style according to modern culture.
History of Divar Island
It was once inhabited by people from old Goa who shifted from here after the disastrous plague. The Divar island was main pilgrimage center in those days and thousands of people visited Saptakoteshwara during the annual procession. The temple was moved out from the island after Muslim invasion in mid 14th Century. It was known as Porne Tirth means complete pilgrim spot.
How to reach Divar Island
Divar island is connected with Goa through different ferry points. These ferries run by Goa government. You can take their vehicles on these ferries.
Divar Island Ferry Timing and Ferry Points
There are three ferry points to connect the Divar island with mainland Goa.
i.) St.Pedro to Divar Island from 06.00 AM to 12.30 AM-Midnight
ii) Old Goa ferry terminal to Piedade from 05.00 AM to 02.00 AM-Next Morning
iii) Naroa jetty to Divar Island from 06.00 AM to 12.00 AM-Midnight
Ferries run every 30 minutes from 7.00 AM to 8.00 PM.
There is no ticket for passengers and two-wheelers. For the car, you have to pay 10 INR.
Annual festivals of Divar Island
Bonderam festival is celebrated in Divar on the fourth Saturday of August. It is like a carnival where different sections of the village have a float at the parade accompanied by people in colorful dresses and they the music with this procession. This is one of the most attended festivals of Goa and locals, as well as tourist, participate in this festival.
Other two festivals are –
* The Potekar festival which is celebrated for three days before the start of Lent, it is like Halloween. The youngster wears costumes and mask, they then roam around in village demanding food and drinks.
* Feast of Our Lord Redeemer has been celebrated on a Sunday closest to 18 November. It is celebrated by a village family and devotees from all over Goa visit here.
What and Where to eat in Divar Island
The Urak is the mild version of cashew feni and is available here throughout the year in bars. It’s slightly fruity in taste.
The best place to eat food and drink Urak is small restaurants where local fisherman and farmers visit. These places serve fresh local seafood, chicken dishes, Urak, and beer.
The popular eating places are Island Bar and Restaurant, Bar Carbel, Bradlee Bar and restaurant and Dilkush hotel.
Places to Stay in Divar Island
There are some homestays and Airbnb options available on the island.
Island House Goa and Devaaya Ayurveda & Nature Cure Centre are 3-star properties.
For Budget travel, Moradia dos Quadros is a good option.
What to expect on Chorao Island
Chorao Island is the biggest of 17 Islands in the Mandovi river. The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is the main attraction of this island and if you are lucky then you can also spot crocodiles. The park is inhabited by local and migratory birds. Chorao island is sparsely populated and sometimes you don’t see a house for long stretches.
There are some traditional houses and whitewashed churches which looks beautiful in the middle of lush green vegetation. We saw the dense mangroves as we crossed the Mandovi by boat.
Places to Visit in Chorao Island
The main attraction on Chorao island is Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, which is named after famous Indian ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali. It is spread in 178 hectares of land and situated on the western part of the island. There are around 400 varieties on Indian and migratory birds in the sanctuary. There are a few pathways in the sanctuary otherwise you have to find your own way in dense vegetation or mangroves.
Entry ticket for sanctuary is 50 INR and guide fee is 1000 INR. For visiting bird sanctuary travel to Island via Ribander jetty, which is next to the mangrove habit of birds.
Other than bird sanctuary there are few small temples and churches in the island. The Chapel of St.Jerome, St Bartholomew’s Church, Sateri Goleshwar Temple, and Devi Katyayani Temple are the main places to visit in Chorao Island. There are some colourful Portuguese houses also.
History of Chorao Island
Its first inhabitants were Indo Aryan migrants, who came here between 3rd century BC to 3rd-4th century AD. These people were mainly Brahmins and considered very cultured people. These people converted to Christianity in the 15th Century after the Portuguese invasion.
How to Reach Chorao Island
This island is connected with Goa by ferry service like Divar Island.
Chorao Island Ferry Timing and Ferry Points
There are two ferry points to connect Chorao island with Goa.
i.) Ribandar ferry jetty to Chorao from 06.00 AM to 02.00 AM-Next Morning
ii) Pombura jetty to Chorao from 06.00 AM to 12.00 AM-Midnight
There is no ticket for passengers and bikes. The ferry service charge only 10 INR for cars.
There is shuttle service also from the jetty on the island to the main area of the main village.
Where to eat in Chorao Island
The popular eating joints are Lafayette Restaurant and Bar and Promods Restaurant.
Places to stay in Chorao Island
The Island Pool Villa and Chorao Island Resort are semi-luxury resorts with all basic amenities and pool.
These islands are pocket of heaven and the perfect place to escape from the regular rush of Goa. And also to experience the real Goan Susegad.
If you are nature lover then don’t miss then check these –