Few beaches can claim to have inspired filmmakers, especially someone of the stature of the late Raj Kapoor. But perhaps that classic Hindi film of his, Bobby, wouldn’t have been made if not for Calangute. It’s said that during a visit to the beach, he saw a dance troupe perform 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 superhit Ghe re saiba.
That Calangute’s name graces the annals of Hindi films should come as no surprise. Together with the village of Candolim that flanks it to the south and the hamlet of Baga to its north, Calangute Beach forms the very heartland of tourism in Goa. It’s known, somewhat immodestly, as the ‘queen’ of Goa’s beaches. After the hippies first discovered it in the late 1960s, it went on to become the favourite of Mumbai’s biggest film stars in the 1970s. Actor Shashi Kapoor even rented a house here at that time.
Now in the 21st century, Calangute’s visitors are busloads of tourists who tumble out of their vehicles onto the beach and into the restaurants, nighthotspots and night-markets. But between the Tai Chi hoardings and the raver’s graffiti, you can still catch a glimpse of seaside village vaddos as they used to be before they metamorphosed into Goa’s biggest beach destinations. And that, perhaps, is what helps Calangute retain its charm.
Calangute is considered a reasonably safe place to swim, though large waves have been known to drag swimmers out into the sea. A river flows to the north of Baga Beach. Keep at least 300m 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 flock in mid-May for the sea cure. It’s an endless line of shops, restaurants and hotels. But the beach is still very beautiful, especially when seen against the thickly forested Baga-Anjuna Hill.
Walk up the Baga Hill to the Baga Retreat House, established and dedicated to St Francis Xavier in 1953. The path up the hill continues past the Retreat House to the other side of the hill, till it comes out at the flea market on South Anjuna Beach. With spectacular views along the way, it’s a great walk for the adventurous, but should be done before night falls. Baga is also home to some of the biggest hot spots by night in Goa, including Tito’s and Café Mambo.
Candolim Beach extends from the Taj hotels near the vaddo of Sinquerim (the Taj calls its part of the seafront ‘Sinquerim Beach’) to Escrivao Vaddo, on the main Candolim-Calangute Road. This road and the lanes off it are packed with shops, hotels and restaurants, but the Candolim beach front itself is much less crowded.
Candolim is the native village of Fr Abbe Faria, founder of the science of hypnotism. It’s also the place where one of the first revolts against Portuguese rule was launched by Goans — that is, the revolt of the Pintos, led by Goan Catholic priests. Abbe Faria apparently suggested to the Pintos that they overthrow the Portuguese and set up a republic in Goa. One Pinto from Candolim offered them the use of his house, and here they met secretly. However, someone betrayed their plot to the Portuguese, who had the house surrounded and the conspirators caught. A few 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 phases of the tide. To be safe, don’t venture in deeper than your waist if 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 chocolaterie. 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 at the centre of the Bardez Coast. It’s bordered by Candolim Beach to the south and Baga to the north
Distances Calangute Beach is 592 km S of Mumbai; Candolim Beach is just 3-4 km S of Calangute
Journey Time By rail 101/4 hrs + 1/2 hr by road By air 1 hr + 1 hr by road
By road 12 hrs
Route State road to Kalamboli; NH4 to Panvel; NH17 to Mapusa via Pen, Nagothane, Kolad, Mangaon, Mahad, Chiplun, Nandgaon and Sawantwadi; state road to Calangute.
When to go Any time of the year but the best season of course is winter. Though this is also the time when Goa is at its most expensive and crowded
Goa Tourism Development Corp Ltd
Dr Alvares Costa Road
Email: [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 magazine), a researcher (MacArthur Foundation population fellow) and a street theatre activist (with Aavhaan Natya Manch). He is now a part-time writer and media consultant, when he is not sailing, swimming or coaching Goa’s children in these sports.