Between the roads leading up to Anjuna and Mapusa is one of the most prettiest North Goan villages that has recently come to the attention of many tourists as well as locals. Known for its whitewashed churches that have watched generations of Goans come and go, age-old Portuguese mansions that come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, and an evolving community of creative individuals that have moved from different parts of the country to come and coexist with the serenity in the region - Assagao is where the best of Goa’s heritage and modern ideals converge. Quaint yet modern, busy yet secluded; Assagao exists somewhere in between the concealed charm of South Goa’s isolated beaches and the raging all-nighter scenes in nearby areas of Anjuna and Baga.
In the past few years, Assagao, a village that houses less than 4,000 residents, has become a hotspot for new experimental spaces to open up their doors to the world. Whether its exclusive Yoga retreats, delightful dine-out restaurants, cute little off-the-grid cafes, or Portuguese villas - Assagao’s many charms are an adventure of its own. So let this painstakingly created insider’s guide to Assagao take you through the unexplored alleys of the village and understand what exactly it is that’s making everyone flock towards it.
Where: 283, Badem Church Rd, Socol Vaddo, Assagao, Vagator.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of Vagator, Villa Blanche Bistro is not as characteristically loud as you’d expect a typical Goan eatery to be. Here you can unwind at peace. Located in a heritage building, with mosaic paintings all over the calming blue walls, Villa Blanche is one of Goa’s many hidden gems. Serving a mix of both German and Italian cuisines, the food here is freshly prepared and served with a warm smile always. Their lasagne is dripping with flavours and their desserts come is all varieties - from secret grandmother’s recipes to gluten-free options. This season, their Sunday Brunch Buffets are open once again, which is definitely the best option if you want to try the best of everything the Bistro has to offer.
Cost: INR 1,000 for two.
Where: Anjuna Mapusa Road, Assagao, Goa.
Set in an old Portuguese building, Gunpowder’s rustic, laid-back vibe is the reason most people prefer it. Serving an array of authentic coastal food, the menu is a blend of the best chicken curries, seafood preparations, and desserts along with a range of traditional south Indian dishes like egg appam, malabar parotta and dosai. Gunpowder also comes with its own boutique store that sells everything from high-end jewellery to some really outstanding garments and an even more eclectic collection of home decor. Rest assured that you’ll leave this place with a full stomach, a couple of shopping bags, and whole lot of satisfaction.
Cost: INR 1000 for two.
Where: House No 278, Sacol Waddo, Assagao.
Away from the chaos of the main road, Vinayak is one of Assagao’s many hidden treasures. A family-run place that exudes a very homely aura, Vinayak attracts a lot of tourists, including those who have settled in Assagao in the last few years. Run by a humble Goan couple Rajesh Gadekar and his wife Ujjwala, Vinayak opened its doors way back in 2013. Today, the locals vouch for the traditional Goan fish thali served here. However, the thalis are not listed on their online menu so make sure to ask for the same.
Cost: A fish thali here costs INR 200 (approx).
IV. The Banyan
Where: 345/1, Munag Vado, Assagao.
In the less-frequented outskirts of Assagao is a tiny restaurant serving authentic Asian cuisine. Set up around a 300-year-old Banyan tree, the restaurant belongs to Tejpal, a third generation restaurateur who has put much thought into every nook and corner of the place, including the life-size wooden door with intricate carvings. The food here is prepared using fresh produce in a kitchen that’s situated right next to the vertical garden. You can also ask for a tour of the place and Tejpal will be more than happy to take you around. From traditional Thai boiled eggs to the tofu and vegetable mixture served on a banana leaf (Tofu Tangsuyuk), The Banyan is the place for discovering authentic Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese flavours.
V. Ciao Bella
Where: 569, Assagao Baden Road, Assagao.
A slice of Italy in Assagao, Ciao Bella’s scrumptious Italian cuisine comes with live music and personal touch in the form of the owners themselves going from one table to another and asking for feedback. A little farther from the more popular places, but we promise the food more than makes up for it. Whether it’s the crispiness of their thin-crust pizzas or the prominent rooster on their restaurant logo or their rich wine collection, Ciao Bella is nothing short of an extravagance at (surprisingly) pocket-friendly rates!
Cost: INR 1,000 for two.
With its vitrified-tiled tables made by local artisans, open-air seating, or fairy lights, EscoBar is where history, art, and culture converge effortlessly. This place takes you back in time as it functions out of a small house nestled in the middle of nowhere - a very off-the-grid kind of vibe. With a copy of Pablo Escobar: My Father lying around and some Indian craft gin to give you company, EscoBar is the low-key, old-Goan experience you need. As of now, they’re not on Zomato but you can find them on Facebook or Instagram if needed.
VII. Ruta’s Roadhouse
Where: Mapusa-Anjuna Main Road, Near Happy Bar Cross Road, Assagao.
On the border of Assagao and Anjuna is a curious little daytime restaurant run by Ruta, who has long been a part of the American food scene before settling down in Goa. At Ruta’s Roadhouse, she makes all her food from scratch with an aim to bring the best of global cuisine on one menu. Expect to be summoned by the sweet waft from all the baking that goes on through the day in their kitchen. Try their melt-in-your-mouth quiches, sticky buns which are a crowd favourite, or ‘blackies’ - their delicious collection of baked cookies and brownies. Ruta’s Roadhouse also caters to all kinds of eaters - whether you’re vegetarian, non-vegetarian, or vegan.
Cost: INR 800 for two.
VIII. Indian Story
Where: Aldeia Serenia, Bounta Vaddo, Mapusa - Anjuna main road, Assagao.
Unique handmade jewellery, exclusive textiles, clothes, and traditional weaves are all available under one roof at Indian Story - a quirky boutique store that sells clothes for both men and women located on the main road of Assagao. Run by Pooja Swaika who moved to Goa from Kolkata in 2009 and set up Indian Story in an attempt to bring the best of fashion to Goa’s mushrooming creative community. Whether contemporary or traditional, everything at the Indian Story has a story to tell. Some are handmade by traditional artisans, while others are sourced from independent designers including Pooja and her sister. Indian Story also sells accessories, men’s wear, paintings etc. A lesser-known part of the story is a tiny cafe that is often used by the Swaika sisters to organise community talks and other engaging activities.
IX. Cheshire Cat Gallery
Where: Hs 136, Biaro Alto 403507, Assagao.
According to Kees, the co-owner of a high-end fashion boutique Cheshire Cat, Assagao is naturally reminiscent of older times which makes it a perfect home for Cheshire Cat’s quaint jewellery collection. Designed personally and made by hand, the jewellery at Cheshire Cat stands out for it’s unusual designs and good quality. The owners Karen and Kees also accept customised orders. Moreover, they’ve taken their initiative a notch higher and involved the local community in their endeavour. Their team comprises goldsmith artisans and young women from Assagao who help them by making beaded jewellery. Additionally, the gallery also sells paintings and other artistic items.
X. People Tree Design Studio & Store
Where: House No. 6, Cursino Villa, Calangute - Anjuna Rd, Saunta Vaddo, Bardez, Assagao.
What started out as a limited collection of hand-printed, artsy t-shirts has today evolved into a full-fledged boutique and restaurant in Assagao. The products here are ethically produced, fairly traded, and deeply inspired by the country’s traditions and culture. One of the few design collectives that took Goa by storm, People Tree sells a variety of eclectic accessories, attire and natural lifestyle products. Their restaurant, we’ve heard, serves some delicious delicacies that are made using fresh, organic ingredients. Originally from Delhi, the People Tree is situated in an airy and spacious Indo-Portuguese home in Goa.
Where: 13, Near Gunpowder Restaurant, Anjuna - Mapusa Road, Saunta Vaddo, Assagao.
A lifestyle boutique and concept store in Assagao - Goa’s very own creative centre - Rangeela is not exactly new. It’s unique collection of contemporary Indian textiles, home decor and pastel fabrics has been the talk of the town for quite some time. Which is exactly why Rangeela has very recently moved to a bigger space, allowing it to house more gifts, clothes and homeware from designers across the country. The new location is not too far from the original store, and comes with ample parking space (phew!). Moreover, it’s right next to Gunpowder restaurant - the ultimate fix for those mid-shopping hunger pangs.
XII. The Project Cafe
Where: The Project Cafe Amalia Villa No. 198, Mazal Waddo, Assagao.
A 130 years old Portuguese Villa is where all the cool stuff is happening these days. From interesting pop-ups to other artistic meetups and what not, The Project Cafe has a whole lot of stuff planned for the new season. An artistic sanctuary that allows for all kinds of creative expression, The Project Cafe is a unique hotel-cum-art-gallery-cum-cafe situated amidst the old world charm of Assagao. They have six rooms that they can rent out in one go. Alternately, the whole of Amalia Villa can also be booked in advanced.
Where: 45, Mapusa - Anjuna - Chapora Rd, Assagao.
When model-turned-businesswoman Carol Gracias moved to Goa, she set up her own three suite B&B called Botanique in Assagao and to this date, the place is one of the most popular ones in the area even during off-season. Complete with a lush vegetable patch and a yoga lawn. Botanique is for the leisurely vacationer who doesn’t mind going all out to have a good time. Whether it’s lounging by the swimming pool which is shaped like a Christmas tree or waking up to a warm smile and a plate full of eggs, juice, coffee and what not for breakfast - Botanique is the indulgence we all deserve.
XIV. Hotel Astoria
Where: Anjuna Mapusa Rd, Bardez, Mapusa, Assagao.
A 250-year-old heritage bungalow nestled in the greenery of Assagao in North Goa, Hotel Astoria is situated between the popular Wednesday Flea Market in Anjuna and Mapusa’s Friday Bazaar. It’s also only an hour away from the airport in Dabolim. Neslted in the shade of mango trees and swaying coconut palms, Hotel Astoria is a traditional Goan experience in the lap of nature. You’re likely to wake up to the sweet songs of bulbuls and other indegenous birds as the sit outside your window and welcome the sunrise each morning. A well-stocked bar and restaurant are a part of the premises and offer an array of Goan dishes like fish preparations, prawn curry, sorpotel etc.
XV. Purple Valley Goa
Where: Purple Valley Yoga Retreat, 142 Bairo Alto, Assagao, Bardez, Goa, India.
An exclusive yoga retreat, Purple Valley Goa consists of abundant open spaces where one can meditate and reflect and enjoy lush green landscapes. Guests can stay at either Ganesh House (which is the main house), Savasana House, or any of the cottages. They can also request for private double rooms or share rooms. Spend your evening relaxing on the terrace, soaking in the breathtaking Assagao view, followed by a purely vegetarian dinner, a mix of Indian and Western delicacies. All the ingredient used at the Purple Valley kitchen are sourced from organic farms and bought fresh everyday. An experience here is very different from a typical guest house or boutique establishment but we’d definitely recommend this for the yoga enthusiasts who are truly visiting Goa to help calm their mind and invigorate their soul.
XVI. St. Cajetan’s Church
If you had to visit just one church on your next visit to Goa (the list can be endless, we know..), make it the St. Catejan’s Church in Assagao - one of the 23 churches that were built by the Portuguese in Bardez with the sole objective of spreading Christianity in the area. A short tour of this church is enough to understand the colourful history that defines it. While the exterior of the church drips white, its interiors consist of long corridors punctuated with a dab of colour here and there and sophisticated stained glass windows. The church bell too has an intriguing history to it.
XVII. Live Happy NGO For The Environmentally Conscious Warrior
Where: Bairo-Alto, Assagao, Bardez.
Founded by Felly Gomes, Live Happy is an Assagao-based NGO that works alongside the locals to create awareness about the local environment and its importance. From heritage walks in and around the area to garbage collection drives, Live Happy is just what you need if you’re the kind of environmentally conscious warrior the world today needs. They also organise an Earth Keepers Market on the third Sunday of every month and find new ways of upcycling products. Apart from just working towards the environment, Live Happy is a great way to go out and meet other like-minded tourists and locals. Especially if you’re a solo traveller always on the hunt for new friends and interesting experiences.
You can get in touch with them through their website.
XVIII. The Local Beat For The Curated Tours Of Goa
There really is no other way to get the most authentic Goan experience. As a tourist our visits are usually dominated by North Goan hotspots and online listicles that claim to apprise us of the “local gems”. Keeping that in mind, The Local Beat, a Goa-based organisation curates specific tours around less-explored and less-exotic heritage sites in Goa. Each outing is handpicked by the owner and customised according to the wishes of the guest. For many experiences, experts too are invited. Expect a wide range of activities like pottery, jam-making, cherry-plucking, and sightseeing trips to unexpected locations. The Local Beat also arranges for pick-up and drop services. Each trip is well-planned to include stories by locals themselves, making it all the more genuine and legitimate.
To get in touch with The Local Beat contact on +91 90499 76761 / 70201 68189 or email at email@example.com.
XIX. Nature Trails and Bird Watching
The forests of Goa have many interesting creatures (and experiences) that often remain ignored by the huge number of tourists that flock to the region every year. Goa is seldom recognised as the ideal vacation place for nature enthusiasts but there are plenty of organisations like Khoj-aao that promote the exploration of backyard diversity through specially curated experiences that are not just responsible and sustainable but also engage the local communities. With Khoj-aao (literally translates to ‘get lost’ in Hindi), you can expect overnight camping trips, sunset hikes, and a visit to local villages. Rahul Alvares, a herpetologist and wildlife expert from Goa, also conducts customised bird-watching trips across Goa.
Even though Assagao is only a small village, its offerings are vast and endless. Here we’ve only been able to list a few of the things you can do and places you eat and shop at. Additionally, Assagao Mehfil is an organisation that hosts monthly music performances from artists across the world. The ‘mehfils’ are held in a 25-year-old heritage structure in the area.
Delivering huge portions of delicious Goan food like chingri malai, laal maas, and hara bhara pork curry, Tripti Tiffin is another home kitchen that delivers to doorsteps within Assagao.
For artisanal food in Assagao, head to The Chef’s Kitchen. They serve a range of gluten-free options and have an entire counter for our vegan food lovers.
Research by Kavya Venkataraman.
Feature image credit: Hotel Me A Story (L) Khoj Aao (R)
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