Located on the south west coast of India, Goa is a well known holiday location due to its beautiful, golden sandy beaches. Yet there are also many hiking opportunities in Goa for people who like to explore the countryside on foot. Take a journey inland in this tropical region and the terrain becomes mountainous. The mountainsides are green, covered by moist broadleaf deciduous forests that support many species of flora and fauna. Goa is an area that is world renowned for its biodiversity.
In the third century BC Goa was ruled by Buddhists, after which it became feudatory states governed by various rulers and monarchs. The Portuguese took control in 1510 until they were ousted by the Indian Army in 1961. This legacy of rulers have left their mark on the region where there are many historic monasteries, temples and churches and a large number of forts which can be discovered whilst trekking in the Goan countryside.
Trekking in the Sahyadri Hills
Along the whole western side of India, running from Maharashtra in the north through Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and ending at Kanyakumari in the south, are the Sahyadri Hills. Although they are called hills there are many peaks around or above 2000 metres in height. The highest peak in Goa is called Sonsogor which is 1,166 metres (3,825 ft) above sea level. The entire range of mountains is known collectively as the Western Ghats.
Where is Best Hike in Goa?
Dudhsagar Falls Trek
Arguably the best hike in Goa is the spectacular Collem-Castle Rock-Kuveshi trek. This popular hike begins at the base of the impressive Dudhsagar Falls, then moves up to its mid point at Castle Rock and then onto the pinnacle of the falls at Kuveshi. There is a breathtaking view across Goa from the top of waterfall. At 310 metres, Dudhsagar Falls are the highest waterfall in Goa.
To reach Dudhsagar falls you can take the train along the S.C. railway or they can be reached by walking along a 10km dirt road from the town of Mollem. Mollem is located in the east of of Goa, 57 miles from the Goan capital of Panaji.
Mollem, Sanguem and Valpoi
There are three towns that are good starting points for hiking in the hills around eastern Goa. These are Mollem, Sanguem and Valpoi.
South west of Mollem is the Dudhsagar falls hike mentioned above. Further downstream from Dudhsagar falls is the Devil’s Canyon. The canyon is small and serene but with strong undercurrents, swimming in the river is not recommended.
The story about this place is that everyday a villager used to ask the canyon’s resident devil for fish by telling him that he had to entertain some guests. The devil who was curious, one day after following the villager saw him munching on the fish himself. He cursed that from then onward no one will be able to catch fish in the canyon, as he was furious at that time. Till today the curse still stands.
To the north of Mollem is Tambdi Surla Temple. This small temple 12th century is made from basalt that has been intricately carved. Devoted to Lord Shiva, it is still an active place of worship.
The whole area around Mollem is part of Goa’s largest wildlife sanctuary called Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary.
From Sanguem in the south east of Goa there are scenic walks which take in the village of Netravali and the Chandrasurya Temple in the Netravali wildlife reserve.
Valpoi is located in the north east of Goa. From Valpoi you can take a 15 km trek eastwards to Krishnapur Canyon in the heart of the forest. This tranquil area contains water pools and rock formations amongst the trees.
The main attraction in the vicinity of Valpoi are the peaks of the Vagheri Hills…
Vagheri Peaks, Sattari Taluka
Goa’s northernmost region is called Sattari and this is the region (taluka) where Goa’s highest peaks are located. These are, in order of height:
- Sonsogor (Sonsogad) – 1,166 m
- Catlanchi Mauli (Katlanchi Mauli) – 1,107 m
- Vagheri (Vagueri) – 1,067 m
- Morlem (Morllengod) – 1,036 m
Although these are the highest peaks, a one hour trek from the Chorla Ghat road will take you to the summit of Vagheri. From the summit it is possible to follow a trail through the sacred grove of Maulichi Rai to the village of Keri. This region contains many wild flowers, birds and butterflies, including the blue Tiger butterfly.
The name Vagheri comes from the fact that region was home to the striped Tiger (Panthera Tigris). Sadly the striped Tiger no longer roams this area and is virtually extinct in the forests of India.
Inside the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary is the historic-heritage natural rock fort of Satregad, which makes an interesting place to visit on a trek in Sattari. The fort is called Satregad due to the presiding deity Sateri.
Detailed information about the region of Satteri can be found in this post about the Madei/Mandovi River in Goa.
Maps and Organised Treks
To get a rough idea of the locations within Goa, have a look at this tourist map. It shows mainly beaches, but also some of the wildlife sanctuaries, forts and temples.
As well as booking through private tour operators such as GTTH, it is possible to go on treks organised by Goa Hiking Association and the Youth Hostels Authority of India.
When to go Hiking in Goa
The best time to hiking is Goa is from October to December, following the monsoon and during a time when the weather is pleasant.
The monsoon season, when there is very heavy rainfall, is between June and September. During the monsoon season, clouds moving eastwards are forced upwards by the Sahyadri Hills which causes the rain to fall. The average rainfall is between 3 and 4 metres. In some regions the rainfall can be as much as 9 metres. For comparison, The average annual rainfall for the Lake District is over 2 metres, with localised highs of 3.3 metres in Seathwaite and 5 meters at Sprinkling Tarn. So if you are hiking in Goa during the monsoon you will need your waterproofs! However, during the monsoon season there is also the opportunity to see spectacular waterfalls. In Goa’s neighbouring state of Karnataka are the Jog Falls on the Sharavathi River. Jog Falls are the highest plunge waterfall in India, with a height of 253 metres. Also in Karnataka are the Kunchikal Falls, which are the highest tiered waterfalls in India. As mentioned above, the highest waterfall in Goa are the 310 metre Dudhsagar Falls, on the Mandovi River.
By the coast the climate in Goa is humid and tropical. The relative humidity is usually above 60%, even during the dry season. During the winter temperatures in Goa range from 16 ºC to 34 ºC whilst in the summer you can expect temperatures between 27 ºC and 37 ºC. However, go up into the mountains and the climate becomes more temperate. Temperatures can drop as low as freezing point in the winter. Therefore you will require warm clothing as well as clothing for hot weather.
Hiking in Goa: Wildlife
Over 56% of Goa is forested, as either natural forest or as private plantations. There are three forest types of natural forest, they are Tropical Evergreen, Tropical Semi-Evergreen, and Littoral and Swamp forests. There are seven government controlled wildlife and bird sanctuaries in Goa, which have a total area of 755 sq. km.
Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary covers 240 sq km. There are a vast array of mammals, birds, butterflies and replies. Permits must be obtained from the Range Forest Officer in the town of Mollem.
Mammals include barking deer, Bengal tiger, leopard, bonnet macaque, flying squirrel, porcupine, spotted deer, wild boar and wild dog.
Birds include the Goa state bird called the Ruby-throated yellow bulbul Emerald dove, Fairy bluebird, Greater Indian hornbill, Indian black woodpecker, Grey-headed myna, Golden oriole, Paradise flycatcher, Racket-tailed drongo, and three-toed kingfisher.
Butterflies include Malabar Tree Nymph, Tamil Yoeman, Southern Birdwing and Crimson Rose.
There are many reptiles and snakes, such as the king cobra, Indian rock python, Indian cobra and Bronzeback Tree Snake.
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
Not all of the wildlife sanctuaries are in the mountainous regions of Goa. Around the coast there are many estuaries, creeks and wetlands that are a haven for birdlife. Located on the Chorao Islands the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary covers an area of approximately 1.8 sq. km. Streams and tributaries flow around mangroves where many species of birds can be seen, for example parrots, cormorants, egrets, kingfishers and eagles. Beware there are also crocodiles!
Hiking and Wildlife in Goa
There is a lot beautiful countryside in Goa and an amazing amount of wildlife. Hiking, trekking and bird watching are popular activities for both tourists and locals, so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a great hike in Goa.