Few beaches can claim to have inspired filmmakers, especially one of the stature of the late Raj Kapoor. But perhaps that classic Hindi film of his, Bobby, would not have been made if not for Calangute. It is said that while visiting the beach, he saw a dance troupe performing the dekhni, a local folk dance, and was immediately hooked. He asked music directors Laxmikant-Pyarelal to compose a song with that tune, a request that resulted in the super hit Ghe re saiba.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise that the name Calangute graces the annals of Hindi films. Along with the village of Candolim that flanks it to the south and the hamlet Baga in the north, Calangute Beach is the heart of Goa’s tourism. It is known, somewhat immodestly, as the ‘queen’ of Goa’s beaches. After the hippies first discovered it in the late 1960s, it became the favorite of Mumbai’s biggest movie stars in the 1970s. Actor Shashi Kapoor was even renting a house at that time.
Now in the 21st century, visitors to Calangute are busloads of tourists tumbling out of their vehicles onto the beach and into the restaurants, night hotspots and night markets. But among the Tai Chi billboards and raver graffiti, you can still catch a glimpse of coastal village vaddos as they were before they turned into Goa’s biggest beach destinations. And that is perhaps what helps Calangute retain its charm.
Calangute is considered a fairly safe place for swimming, although large waves have been known to drag swimmers out to sea. A river flows to the north of Baga Beach. Stay at least 300 meters away from the mouth of this river. The best thing to do is to swim in the designated areas.
Baga is a vaddo of Calangute, where Goans gather for the sea cure in mid-May. It’s an endless array of shops, restaurants and hotels. But the beach is still very beautiful, especially when viewed against the densely forested Baga-Anjuna hill.
Walk up Baga Hill to the Baga Retreat House, founded and dedicated to St Francis Xavier in 1953. The path up the hill passes the Retreat House to the other side of the hill, until it reaches the flea market on South Anjuna Strand. With spectacular views along the way, it’s a great hike for the adventurous, but must be done before night falls. Baga is also home to some of the biggest nighttime hotspots in Goa, including Tito’s and Café Mambo.
Candolim Beach stretches from the Taj hotels near the vaddo of Sinquerim (the Taj calls it part of the beach ‘Sinquerim Beach’) to Escrivao Vaddo, on the main Candolim-Calangute Road. This road and the lanes off it are full of shops, hotels and restaurants, but Candolim beach itself is much less busy.
Candolim is the birthplace of Fr Abbe Faria, founder of the science of hypnosis. It is also the place where one of the first uprisings against Portuguese rule was launched by Goans – i.e., the Revolt of the Pintos, led by Goan Catholic priests. Abbe Faria apparently proposed to the Pintos to overthrow the Portuguese and set up a republic in Goa. A Pinto of Candolim offered them the use of his house, and here they met secretly. However, someone betrayed their plot to the Portuguese, who surrounded the house and captured the conspirators. Some of them were executed, but most were imprisoned in Lisbon. The house where the conspiracy was launched still stands. It now houses the Boscio Hospital, just off the main road in Pinto Vaddo.
Thanks to the grounding of a ship called the River Princess, Candolim is no longer safe for swimming as there can be an unpredictable undertow at different stages of the tide. To feel safe, do not venture deeper than your waist when you are within 500m of the ship.
If you are in Candolim you must visit Rust, a lifestyle store. From studio pottery to furniture to conversation pieces, Rust has it all. But not to be missed is Rust’s incredible chocolate shop. 10 Downing Street is a club and pub next to Taj Holiday Village. Geoffrey’s pub plays 80s music at softer volumes.
Location Calangute is located in the center of the Bardez coast. It is bordered by Candolim Beach to the south and Baga to the north
Distances Calangute Beach is located 592 km south of Mumbai; Candolim Beach is located just 3-4 km S of Calangute
Travel time By train 101/4 hours + 1/2 hour by road By plane 1 hour + 1 hour by road
By road 12 hours
Route State Road to Kalamboli; NH4 to Panvel; NH17 to Mapusa via Pen, Nagothane, Kolad, Mangaon, Mahad, Chiplun, Nandgaon and Sawantwadi; provincial road to Calangute.
When to go Any time of the year, but the best season is of course winter. Although this is also the time when Goa is most expensive and crowded
Goa Tourism Development Corp. Ltd
Dr Alvares Costa Road
E-mail: [email protected]
STD code 0832
By Ashwin Tombat
About the author
Ashwin Tombat was a journalist (he was the editor of Gomantak Times and Goa Today magazine and the assistant editor of Gentleman), a researcher (MacArthur Foundation population fellow) and a street theater activist (with Aavhaan Natya Manch). He is now a part-time writer and media consultant, when he is not sailing, swimming or coaching the children of Goa in these sports.