High atop a lighthouse, in a little balcony that circles its rotund, red-striped tower, the wind swooshes around. The sea looks like burnished liquid gold, stretching far over a horizon so arched that a lonely boat on it might fall off. Rustic and thoroughly Konkan at heart, Vengurla is thankfully modest on tourist trappings, and also oblivious to its simple charms.
Small boats slice the waters as they approach a wooden pier, where fishermen busily unload the day's catch of silver-grey fish. The countryside is resplendent with little rivers snaking past palms. Bordering it all, like a strip of lace, is the Sagareshwar Beach, one of the many unspoiled beaches in Vengurla.
Vengurla's beaches are untouched, which is perfect for the beach buff looking for a quiet holiday. Besides chilling out on the beach, there is much to be seen ancient temples, historical forts and quaint villages, all tucked away in the lush green countryside.
Sagareshwar Beach: Located about 3 km from the bus stand, the beach is hidden behind rows of tall casuarinas. Here you can walk on soft sand dunes that are white and thick with powdery shell deposits. At night, to the north, you can see the lights of the jetty and the red beam of the lighthouse. Up in the clear sky, the flickering constellations have their own light show. On some mornings, dolphins can be seen near the southern end of the beach.
Lighthouse: About 3 km from the town and near the jetty is Vengurla's lighthouse. Established in 1931, it is perched on a small plateau atop a hill, and offers a spectacular view, with the ocean below stretching far to the horizon the jetty and its boats the gorgeous palm-fringed coastline to the left and a creek far away trailing out to the sea. To the right is a sheer drop down to the sea past jagged cliffs. To the northwest are the Vengurla Rocks, also called Burnt Islands, which were an important pointer for seafarers in ancient times.
Vengurla Jetty: This jetty was once a bustling port, part of a trading settlement set up by the Dutch (the ruins of their warehouses are still found in the town). The best time to visit the jetty is in the evening around 5 pm when the boats return with the day's catch. The place comes alive with the sounds of fisherfolk fisherwomen slip silver fish into their baskets and men anchor their boats with ropes.
Vengurla Fruit Research Centre: If you would like to know how mangoes keep getting bigger and more delicious, head to the Konkan Farming University and Fruit Research Centre at Vengurla. You are more likely to find it if you ask for the "Sanshodhan Kendra" though. At the university, experiments on mango, cashews and fruits indigenous to the region are conducted to study the effects of pests and fertilisers.
This tiny yet bustling market will surprise you with its exotic fruits. Most eye-catching are the plump cashew fruits in all shades of yellow and red, which, as the seller will warn you, are to be eaten with salt, first thing in the morning before it ferments. Also sold are pink jaam, a fruit the shape and size of a top with a small marble-like seed, green betel leaves, and Alphonso mangoes. Women in the fish market sell bangda, prawn and shellfish.
Vayangani and Mochemad: The first two gems in the string of stunning beaches that trail the coast, lie on either side of Vengurla town. Vayangani is a tiny beach, 7 km from Vengurla, and is accessed via shady paths that wind through Vayangani Gaon, between towering supari and casuarina groves. The way to Mochemad, 9 km from Vengurla, is past a little blue-and-white church reminiscent of Goa's churches, looking over green fields. With a backdrop of towering hills, the beach is undoubtedly the most scenic on this stretch. Do carry some snacks along.
Located 10 km south of Vengurla, Shiroda is home to the Mauli Devi Temple whose presiding deity is the kul devi, or patron goddess, of the region. The salt pans in this village are memorable, particularly because Mahatma Gandhi visited the place during the significant Salt Satyagraha of 1930. Aravali, Shiroda's twin village, houses the Sri Vithoba Temple and the Sateri Devi Mandir.
These beaches are about 14 km south of Vengurla town, and are attached to the villages of Shiroda and Aravali. Though both have become popular with tourists from Kolhapur and Belgaum, the beaches are still pristine. The beaches lie in a line, one continuing from where the other leaves off. The white sand glitters silver in the moonlight, thanks to the high content of shell deposits.
Redi Beach: About 21 km south of Vengurla, Redi is the southernmost beach in Maharashtra, bordering Tiracol and Goa. Redi is known to many as a small mining town. But it's most famous for its Ganapati Temple, close to the beach, and the 6-foot-high statue of the elephant god. Stroll down the path behind the temple for a view of a stretch of beach that goes right down to Mochemad.
Air: From Vengurla, the nearest airport is MOPA, Goa (48 km/ 1.5 hrs). Alternatively one can fly to Sindhudurg airport from Mumbai on the single Alliance Air flight.
Rail: The nearest railhead is Sawantwadi (28 km/1 hr).
Road: NH17 to Kudal via Mahad, Lanja and Kankavli, then SH120 to Math and SH121 to Vengurla
In Vengurla town: Maachli Farmstay offers tastefully done accommodations in wooden cottages (starting Rs 8500 per night for two). Hotel Laukik (Tel 02366-263418 Tariff INR 600-3,000), near Vengurla Market, has 8 clean rooms. Near the Fruit Research Centre, is a PWD property. Reservations have to be made at the PWD head office (Tel 02363-272214) at Sawantwadi.
On Sagareshwar Beach: Hotel Kokan Kinara (Tel 093264 07842 Tariff INR 700-1,300), on Khardekar Road has 13 rooms plus a restaurant and bar. Perched on a rocky outcrop, near Vengurla Jetty is the PWD guesthouse Sagar (Tel 07582-224578 Tariff INR 400-800 facing the sea, with 2 VIP suites. The USP of this place is the amazing view of the sea, right up to the horizon. It is compulsory to make reservations at the PWD Head Office (Tel 02363-272214) at Moti Talao, Sawantwadi.
Vengurla has a few small restaurants. Bamboo Inn on the road to Sagareshwar Beach, about 11/2 km from the ST Bus Stand, serves good seafood, Chinese and vegetarian dishes. Gajaalee, near the jetty, which, thanks to its location, serves a popular fish thali. You can find several hole-in-the-wall places like Gomantak in the market, which serves both vegetarian and fish dishes.