If I were to choose only one holiday destination I am allowed to in India, I would choose Goa.
Because like most days, today also before trying to pen down anything, I decided to go through all our Goa pictures first. And I actually noticed that my son looked exceptionally happy, playing with water in every single picture.
I believe not just me but most people would choose Goa. But obvious, where else would you get everything under one sun…easy to reach destination, sun – sand & great beaches, fun – nightlife – parties, spa – massage – relaxation, great food – drink, fun & frolic in the air bubbling with superb energy set with a laid back tropical vibe.
We have been going to Goa every year since the last 12 years. It’s a great destination for couples, it is a great destination for friends traveling together, it’s a great destination for family get – together, and it is definitely a great destination to take kids to who come alive in water.
Goa, in southwest of India, is its smallest state with an amazing coastline stretching along the Arabian sea. It is known for its beaches & shacks, Portuguese cultural influence, fenny, sea food, flea markets, Carnival (as well as Sunburn festival) and many more things. Goa tourism is looked up as three regions North Goa (also including Old Goa), South Goa and everything else (which is brilliant places like Dudhsagar, Mangeshi temple and the likes). Panjim, the capital though mostly being north, connects to the rest of the state.
North is where you have lot of activities, night life, besides beautiful beaches, flea markets and party friendly resorts. South has lesser crowd, laid back life, green paddy fields & white sandy beaches. Most well known luxury hotels with private beaches are in the south. Old Goa (principally portuguese city from 1510 until its abandonment in 1835) on the other hand is primarily known for its churches.
Best season to go to Goa
Goa is at its crowded best during Christmas and New Year. That is the time when the best of Goa is decked up for huge crowds. It is the most expensive then. The other pleasant months of Oct – Feb are equally good for Goa tourism
For us Goa is in season all 12 months; we love the sun, sand, water, people and lesser clothes:-). Off season months like August and September are quite an attraction with least crowds, better affordability, light showers and greener Goa making it so more romantic.
Top 10 beaches in Goa
Here is our list; this may be different from others’, but this is our list –
If I were to call popular beaches in Goa, names Baga and Calangute would be first, which are overcrowded, with all kinds of bathing humanity in their worn torn underwears. Instead, head to Candolim, which has almost the same amount of activity, comparatively cleaner, better crowd, better eating joints. Its an ideal place to stay when you are with family. Many luxury and boutique resorts, ill famed Mallya’s Kingfisher Villa…they are there. The beach doesn’t have smooth sand though. We prefer to stay in Candolim and dabble in to Brittos in Baga for a meal for the sake of old memories.
This is the beach where one spends the whole time in waters. Though the sand is little black, the beach is flatter and you can afford to be yourself. It is one of the northernmost beaches, less people – mostly backpackers as it offers budget huts for long stays. It is dominated by visitors from Russia, UK and Israel. Enjoy yoga by the beach in the morning and parties at night.
Red cliffed Vagator beach has Chapora fort, popularly known as Dil Chahta Hai point. Till late afternoon you can be at the beach, swimming, sun bathing, reading, walking and then an hour before sunset climb up to Chapora fort, sit peacefully & watch the sun go down from the hill.
Besides, Sunburn festival (Asia’s largest EDM event) is another charm added to Vagator. If you can club your trip with Sunburn then you can add music and dance as well to the sea, sun and sand while in Goa.
Fancy a secluded, calm and serene beach in North Goa, then try Madrem! It is a white sandy beach, only 25 min for Baga. You would need to cross a bridge over the river to get to the Mandrem beach. This place is for people seeking respite from the relentless tourist scene.
Supposedly, the most beautiful beach in Goa. Situated in way down south in Cancona, this is a flat, smooth, palm-fringed beach with silvery white sand. It is ideal for backpackers and long stays. It is popular for hut accommodations and tents ranging from basic to luxury. You can go for a dolphin trip, attend an evening yoga session at sunset under the palm trees and go for an Ayurvedic massage in between swimming & sunbathing.
Benaulim is one among the undiscovered beaches of Goa. It is 6 kms from Madgaon and 2 kms from Colva. As we mostly stay at Varca, which is near Benaulim, we have discovered it more. It’s a fishing beach far away from the usual hustle bustle. One would witness crowds usually during weekends or during festival times otherwise, this is a good beach to relax and rejuvenate yourself.
This was a pleasant surprise and a recent discovery for us. Everytime we would grace Colva but miss this one. Last year we happened to stay in Betalbatim and realized that this an amazing beach which is quieter, cleaner and secluded. You do have variety of options to stay ranging from luxury to basic. Besides, the highly acclaimed Martin’s Corner for sea food is the show stopper in Betalbatim.
This is where we go almost every year. Zuri, Club Mahindra and many more resorts are on this exotic beach. This beach has miles of marvelous soft white sand stretches and shining blue waves kissing the coast. Varca is quite developed commercially for stay and recreation. It is home to a local fishing community and hence you would see the fishermen with their wooden boats lined up in mornings. It’s a place to find peace and tranquility; add to the fact there is river Sal in the vicinity where you can go for a boat ride and watch dolphins as well.
This beach is famous for water sports, including speed boat rides, jet ski, water skiing, banana and bump rides, wind surfing, parasailing and many others. Mobor is the southern most part of Cavelossim and is not as quiet given that Leela Palace and Holiday Inn both are on the beach . Mobor will be ideal for those who want to make the most of their holiday in terms of activities, adventure and who prefer to always stay in movement and like to feel surrounded and secured.
What to see in Old Goa
So Old Goa or Velha Goa (in Portuguese) which looks like a typical old christian town, was once under the rule of Adil Shah Dynasty. Old Goa, the second capital after Bijapur, was developed as a port on the banks of Mandovi river around 15th century by the Bijapur Sultanate. This city had Shah’s palaces, mosques until 1510 when it was captured by Portuguese. 200,000 people lived in the city till 1543 when malaria and plague broke out reducing the inmates to hardly 1500 folks. The city was then abandoned. In 1961 it became part of republic of India, and soon became a Unesco heritage site..
The major sites are Church of St Francis of Assisi, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Chapel of St Catherine (Se Cathedral), Church of Saint Augustine (now in ruins which are equally famous), St Cajetan’s church and the Church of our Lady of Rosary.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
Basalica of Bom Jesus, almost 400+ years old, is a fine example of Baroque architecture in India. It also holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. St Francis Xavier is said to have the miraculous power of healing. This is considered one of the holiest sites in South Asia.
Church of Francis Assisi
Basilica of Bom Jesus and Church of St Francis Assisi are sitting opposite to each other across a road. It was built in 1661 over the old Church of Holy Ghost which was pulled down. You would see beautiful paintings and frescos depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis Assisi.
Church of St Francis Assisi of Goa
Did you know that Se Cathedral is the largest church in Asia? The exterior of this church is Tuscan. Inside, there is a golden bell which also is the largest in Asia. The church is dedicated to St Catherine who was beheaded in Alexandria. The locked area as you enter was mainly used by Francis Xavier to baptize Goans. You would also find to the right of the nave the chapel of the cross of miracles. The story of this cross is interesting and goes that local shepherds found this cross on a hillside in old Goa. The cross grew bigger and bigger on its own and some would also see an apparition of Christ hanging on it. A church was planned on the spot of the vision but by the time people planned to move the cross to the church, the cross had grown bigger. The same cross was moved to this cathedral in 1885 and till date remains where it is but has stopped growing 🙂 Questions come to mind… so many miracles, so many saints and still the city had to be abandoned due to epidemics.
Se Cathedral, Goa
Nightlife in Goa – Where to party in Goa
As the sun sets, the sea rises and the stars start to shine up in the sky, Goa comes to life with every party lover going to the popular beach shacks or clubs around. Hippies brought the culture of nightlife in 70’s to Goa. That since then has gained Goa the status of party capital with many clubs, local joints and rave parties (full moon parties). To get the information about rave parties at local joints, enquire at any Saturday and Wednesday night markets. These are not really announced in public.
However, if you are cautious and wouldn’t really like going out to such local joints for rave parties, try the clubs for equally great party time.
Club Cabana near Arpora on a hill is a vibrant nightspot with a tempting jacuzzi and an outdoor pool amidst coconut trees. It is literally the nightclub (adorned with white loungers and beach styled cabanas) in the sky with views stretching from Aguada to Anjuna. You have a nice dance floor, Wednesday night dedicated to ladies and good music ranging from hip hop to local. This place is frequented by celebrities.
Besides there are old time popular places like Titos and Mambos in Baga. During off season all of these have no life.
SinQ night club
This is located near Taj Holiday Village in Candolim and ofcourse is for people who prefer uber and trendy clubs. DJ Aqueel and DJ Suketu can be found palying here on Saturdays. This place is relatively new but has a poolside deck, microbrewery and lounge plus a night club.
LPK (Love passion Karma) waterfront
On the banks of the Nerul River with the 400 year old Indo Portuguese Church in Candolim as the backdrop, LPK known for its grand opulence is sure to make you dance all night. One of the few places to be open throughout the year. Good crowd, good music (however can’t guarantee good food)
Party on a cruise
If you are a group of people and don’t really enjoy being in crowded places and fancy your own space while partying, I would suggest hiring a houseboat, or a yacht for a private party. Besides, if you are visiting Goa for a special occasion say anniversary or a birthday party, this is an ideal option to be with your loved ones. Check Thrillophilia for the options available in Goa. Not everything is expensive, there are range of options to make your day special.
Casinos – I have only been to Deltin Royale and it was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful ship floating on the Mandovi river. Infact now you have more casino options on Mandovi. You could try one of these as well.
- Casino Carnival – At two sites, one is Goa Marriott adjoining the Miramar beach, and the second is a boat on the Mandovi
- Casino Paradise – the largest and the most luxurious of all casinos in Goa
- Chances Casino & Club at Vainguinim Beach
- The Gaming Club Las Vegas at The Leela Kempinski
- Casino Goa at The Caravela Beach Resort
Top 10 things to do in Goa
- Go to the beach – swim, come back, have a beer, read a book and then repeat another round. Eat, laze around, hold the hand of your loved ones while walking or just lie on sand. No worries… leave everything behind when in Goa. For a peaceful moment go to Palolem beach for sunset.
- Try water sports – Jet skiing, banana boat ride, parasailing, water scooter, windsurfing, snorkeling, dinghy sailing & scuba diving. While booking Goa packages, make sure you ask for all such activity details available to you.
- Jet skiing – One common water sport option available in most beaches including Baga, Candolim, Vagator, Colva, Mobor and Benaulim. Children under 10 years of age are not allowed on these rides. Avoid if you have hydrophobia and during monsoons when it could be difficult to manuever the scooter due to strong currents of water.
- Parasailing – Enjoy flying high up in the sky, go for parasailing. On one end the string is anchored to the speed boat and on the other it is attached to the parasail wing. As the boat moves so it drags the parasail wing along with the person into the air.
- Water Skiing- In this one you are not in the air but on water along with your skis, helping you float along with the speed boat which drags you as it catches on its speed.This is not for small children, expectant mothers or heart patients. You need to keep yourself balanced to afloat on water. However it is fun and gives a rush to your adrenaline levels in contrast to the lazy life on beach.
- Windsurfing – Popular in Dona Paula bay to teach newbies, this craft has both adventures of sailing as well surfing. If you already know windsurfing, you can hire the equipment from one of the companies like Atlantis water sports. It is said that you can learn the basics within 6 hrs however patience is the key.
- Scuba diving & Snorkeling – Available in Grand Island Goa, this activity is primarily & exclusively for adults who can stay underwaters for a considerable length of time to be able to enjoy the Corals and marine life ofcourse with the help of equipment. You can opt for one of the packages for this island trip to swim, do fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling with professional instructors and trainers.
- Overnight houseboat cruise on Chapora river / Mandovi river sunset cruise or hire a yacht for a private evening
- Attend a beach party – This is about rave parties, trans parties which are hosted by the local joints/beach shacks.
- Visit Anjuna Flea Market- This is on wednesday and is a must part of your Goan experience. A few decades back this was brought up by hippies trying to fund their stays by selling jeans and handmade jewellery but now the merchandize comes from all over India. There are traders selling sculptures, jewellery, colorful clothing, bedspread, artifacts from Kashmir, Tibet, Gujarat, Rajsathan and all over.
- Yoga by the beach and get a massage – Though massages are available on the beaches, you could even go for a more professional one as there is no dearth of good spas and massage parlors in Goa. You have many yoga retreats in Goa specifically in Mandrem. Try one of those if you wish to have a rejuvenating and detoxifying holiday.
- Visit Churches of Old Goa – Spend half a day in Old Goa. Visit the famous sites.
- Attend Sunburn or Goa Carnival – Sunburn is the music festival in Vagator around December and Carnival is a four day festival in February that combines fiestas of diverse cultures, religions and beliefs.
- Go the Aguada fort or Chapora Fort and sit quietly for a few peaceful moments in the midst of all humdrum.
- Casino – Punters can try a hand at one of the casinos on Mandovi river.
Top 5 places to eat in Goa
Earthen Oven in Candolim for authentic North Indian food – A savior, this place has never disappointed our north Indian taste buds till date. It is right on the main road and is a fine dining option. Must try their gosht kebabs.
Mickey’s in Colva Goa for continental – This place is also popular with the localites for any small celebration in the family. There is live singing along with great food. Try their continental for sure.
Thalassa in Vagator Goa for greek cuisine is a popular outdoor restaurant with a sea view. Romantic place visited by celebrities often. Sip your favorite cocktail and watch the sun go down (slightly expensive)
Calamari – The most popular in Candolim. Good food, nice cocktails and lively ambience. We had our family get together here last December and I can say for sure that this place is all about true Goa vibe.
Britto’s– Simply because its there. Simply because in any season this place will always have crowd, energy and activity. This is a multi cuisine place with plenty of seafood and drinks options.
How to plan Goa trip
You have two options
- Make all flight/train/bus and hotel bookings yourself. The activities need not be booked in advance , you can do all that once in Goa. And for Local transport, you can hire a bike or a car in Goa. It is easy and recommended way to tarve within Goa. Just carry your license.
- The other option is to take Goa packages available through various vendors to save yourself the hassle of booking and planning.