For many, Goa brings back images of parties, hippies and sun soaked pristine beaches. But, there is much more to explore in this tiny western state. Goa is unique in its culture as it has a rich blend of Portuguese and Indian culture.
There is something special about Goa which brings me to this place every year. Be it the hot summers, the wet monsoon or the peak season (Christmas and New year’s), Goa has something unique to offer all throughout the year. It would be unfair to tag Goa as a place to visit only during the peak season. Over the next few articles I would try to bring out the beauty of Goa, places to visit and the resorts where one could camp for family vacations.
I live in Bengaluru and Goa is one of the ideal holiday destinations. It is around 650 Kilometres from Bengaluru and can be accessed through air, road and train. Both the cities are very well connected and thus one would find many folks packing their bags to Goa from Bengaluru throughout the year. I usually prefer driving down to Goa, as the drive is very relaxing and one gets to see the beauty of the Western ghats.
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In multiple forums and discussions with friends, one of the common topic of discussion related to Goa would be – “What is the best route to take when driving down from Bengaluru to Goa??”. Having driven this stretch around 5-6 times, I do have a fair idea about what to expect from the various routes. There are 3 routes one can take while driving from Bengaluru to Goa – via Dharwad, Karwar or Belgaum.
I have highlighted in the map about the route to take while driving via Dharwad and Karwar (Now a days I don’t see many people taking the Belgaum route). Google maps would show the first route through Dharwad always as it is the shortest route to Goa – both North and South as you would be entering Goa through Ponda which is centrally located.
I have taken this route on a couple of occasions while visiting north Goa and found it to be a bit challenging. By challenging, I mean road conditions are not great (depends on the season, driving through this stretch in monsoon is tough and road conditions are bad) and secondly the road itself is pretty narrow. This route would take you through Anmod Ghat which is very beautiful during monsoon season. The route though, is no where as challenging as the 36-hair pin climb to Ooty.
Usually during monsoon, the ghat is covered with fog and though beautiful and scenic, it makes the drive that much more challenging. The route has virtually no traffic and thus would require you to be alert while driving (One tends to take it easy when the roads are empty only to find a vehicle on the wrong side or over-speeding on a blind turn)
Anmod Ghat during Monsoons:
In recent times, I have always been taking the Karwar route – well most of my recent stays have been in south Goa, so this route does help. Though this route is a good 60-70 kilometres longer than the Dharwad route, one would not lose much on time-wise. The roads are in good condition throughout the year (there are few potholes during monsoon while crossing Yellapur ghat section) and the roads are pretty wide. One can maintain good speeds at this stretch without taking much chances. I would recommend this route any-day to folks who are travelling as a family as it provides a much more relaxed drive.
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Itinerary of the drive:
I usually start at around 5:30AM and reach South Goa by around 2:30 PM. Total drive time around 9 hrs (this would included a 30 mins break for breakfast). It is better to leave Bengaluru as early as possible in order to avoid the early morning traffic at the toll gates near Nelemangala.
Almost 50% of the time, one would be driving through NH4 which is 4/6 lane highway till Mumbai. This stretch is bliss and one can easily maintain 3 digit speeds. Traffic is heavy till Tumkur, but once you cross it, the highway opens up. For anyone who enjoys long drive, the stretch till Hubli is heavenly. All along the route (till Hubli), you would find places of historical significance. If you have time and dont mind reaching Goa late in the evening, you can make a quick visit to the Chitradurga fort. The fort was built and ruled by various dynasties like, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoysalas. The Nayakas of Chitradurga, feudal lords in the Vijayanagar Empire also ruled this fort for sometime. With so much history behind it, one can easily spend around 3-4 hours exploring the place. Just before reaching Chitradurga, one would see the landscape embellished with the gigantic windmills. With so much focus these days on clean energy, it is a great sight to see these massive structures. Since Chitradurga is located on a hilly region, it experiences wind currents throughout the year, thereby making it an economically viable region to generate wind energy.
Regarding eating joints on this highway.. It is hotel Kamat all the way..
a. Kamat Sira – I generally skip this joint as I kinda reach this place within 90mins of the drive from Bangalore..
b. Kamat Ranebennur – Usually stop here.. I reach here at around 930 AM. After 4 hrs of driving this is a perfect pitstop. We usually have a very heavy breakfast here and then head for Goa.
c. Kamat just before Hubli – Unfortunately this is at the other side of the road. One would have to drive a bit down the lane to take a U turn. While returning back from Goa, this is an ideal place to take a break.
There is also a Kamat (between Sira and Ranebennur) which is no longer functional. If I recollect it correctly, it is beside a HP or BP petrol pump. The one that I was mentioning at Ranebennur is beside a non functional Reliance Pump. There are few Cafe Coffee Day outlets which have come up along this stretch in the past couple of years. A good pit-stop to refresh with a quick snack and hot beverage. Once you cross Hubli, there arent many decent eating joints. The road would take you through the beautiful Western Ghats and you would mostly find only road side eating joints. I love driving on this road during monsoons due to the greenery. One has to wait till Karwar to find the next decent place to grab anything to eat.
As you descent the Western ghats, you would see the sea on the horizon. Within few minutes you would reach Karwar which is a seaside city east of the Western ghats. Karwar is the last stop before you enter Goa – infact it is around 15 Kilometers from the Karnataka – Goa border. There are many beautiful beaches in Karwar also and it would not be a bad idea to take an hour off and visit one of the beaches. These beaches have not yet been commercialized and retain the rustic look. Some of the key places that one can visit enroute to Goa are:
- The most famous beach in Karwar is the “Tagore Beach”, which is right next to the highway to Goa.
- The Maritime museum is located on the Tagore beach
If you are driving from Bangalore and have started the journey early in the morning, you should be reaching Karwar by around noon to 2PM (Not an ideal time to hit the beach). But I would still recommend to take an hour or 2 to stop at Tagore beach, relax yourself before driving to Goa. There are also good restaurants in Karwar where you could break and have your lunch.
As we continue on the Edapally – Panvel highway (towards Goa), you would hit the bridge which crosses the Kali river. As soon as you cross the bridge you would see the Goa border and huge signboards welcoming you to the state of Goa !!
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The time to reach your destination would depend on the place that you have chosen to camp. The first town that you would reach after crossing the border is Polem and you would see a significant change in the lifestyle, and architecture – the influence of Portuguese culture could be seen in many monuments. If you have planned your stay in South Goa, it would take a good 1-1.5 hours to reach your destination. It could take more than 2 hours to reach north Goa mainly due to the traffic that you would encounter while crossing Panjim.
But time stops still when in Goa!
Note: In the next series of articles, I’d highlight the places (well known as well as the nooks that arent as commercialised) one could visit in Goa and the beautiful resorts that you could stay at
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