There is a winding road that heads out of Panjim that is much celebrated among nature lovers. Chorla Ghat is a part of the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, and stands at a mean elevation of 800m above the sea. The Mhadei Research Center here monitors the Mhadei region’s biodiversity and researchers have recently discovered a new species of limbless serpentine amphibian named Ichthyophis davidi. Unmissable at Chorla are the roaring twin waterfalls of Vajra–Sakla, where the river Valvanti cascades down almost 150m into two distinct cataracts. Chorla Ghat is on the State Highway 4, 56km from Panjim and 58km from Belgavi. Stay at the wonderfully appointed resort Wildernest (wildernest-goa.com).
Reis Margos Fort
It’s now a charming heritage site that forms an idyllic backdrop for weddings and fashion shoots, but the fact is, this used to be a highly strategic fort. Portuguese general Afonso de Albuquerque built the Reis Magos Fort in 1551 over a steep slope of headland on the banks of the Mandovi river. Together with an outpost on the opposite side, the fortification was the first line of defence against the Dutch incursions into the port town of Goa. The same building was later used as a jail, and after that a hospital, before falling into disuse. The Reis Magos Fort was lovingly restored and it is now being used as a cultural centre. Reis Magos Fort is 9 km away from the city of Panjim; see reismagosfort.com.
Velha Goa is Portuguese for ‘Old Goa’—the historical remains of what was once a thriving hub of religious propagation and commerce. Constructed by the Bijapur Sultanate in the 15th century, this port on the banks of the Mandovi was the capital of Portuguese India from 1510 till it was abandoned in the 18th century due to an epidemic. A city of nearly 20 lakh people, this Unesco World Heritage Site used to be the seat of several religious orders, which explains its abundance of beautiful churches: the Se Cathedral, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi, and of course the famous Basilica of Bom Jesus. Velha Goa is 10km from Panjim.