There’s no where in the world quite like Goa, it’s one of the few places in the world that you’ll find yourself sipping a freshly made cocktail, watching the sunset and enjoying the view of a cow leading its calfs across the beach. Goa leaves practically nothing to be desired and you’ll soon ease into it’s chilled out, friendly way of life. The locals are charming, welcoming and full of smiles and offer a range of essential services to keep travellers happy. Whether you’re looking at spending a few days partying in some of India’s best clubs, or are in desperate need of a little you time complemented with a few sessions of Yoga and plenty of tasty, healthy treats then Goa is the place for you.
It’s generally considered that North Goa is the place to head to let your hair down and people tend to find the right party vibe for them somewhere between Candolim and Arambol. One of the main party destinations is Anjuna which is renowned for its endless assortment of nightclubs, funky bars and lively cafes. The beachside town is infamous for its flea market each Wednesday afternoon, which attracts people from all over Goa looking for great bargains on colourful, handcrafted goods. It’s also a convenient place to crash if you fancy checking out Arpora’s Saturday Night Market, one of Goa’s must sees. If the party scene in Anjuna tires you out there are plenty of havens of tranquility in the form of the sandy beach, or relaxed cafes where you can tend to your hangover and boost your Vitamin D levels.
Arambol, which you’ll find further north of Anjuna, was the original hippie hang out of Goa. Now you’ll find colourful reminders of the hippies of the ‘70s mixed with today’s hippies adding their own touch of magic to this spiritual town. The main beach is sprinkled with cafes, restaurants and bars which extend along the road leading to the beach where they are joined by stalls selling a variety of clothes, jewellry and other glittering Indian goodies. If you head right along the beach you’ll find a path leading around the cliff face to another, smaller beach with a sweet lake behind it. The lake is popular for a refreshing dip and the streams leading up to it contain natural mud spas, so don’t be surprised to see people wandering around covered in mud, and by all means get involved, as it works wonders for your skin. Nightlife in Arambol consists largely of drum circles on the beach or silent discos in mesmerizing locations.
Between Arambol and Anjuna you’ll find other beautiful beach towns which are all well worth seeing, Mandrem and Ashwem beach are both feats of nature with endless white sand and turquoise water. Here you’ll find unique and slightly pricier boutiques as well as stylish restaurants and chic beach huts, perfect if you’re looking to treat yourselves to a few days of luxury. These two beaches are also home to several Yoga schools and retreats which have chosen to utilise the soothing energy of the pristine beaches and relaxing atmosphere.
Head south from Morjim and you’ll find yourself in the peaceful Chapora, a chilled out sleepy village with a lovely relaxing beach, where you’ll find cheap accommodation and some tasty cafes. Neighbouring beach town Vagator is a little livelier than Chapora and has a range of restaurants and a few late night bars to enjoy. Vagator is the ideal place to stay if you are looking to enjoy the nightlife of Anjuna but don’t necessarily fancy staying in the heart of all of the fun, as it’s just a ten minute journey between the two.
Further along from Anjuna you’ll find the stretch of beach which is home to Candolim, Calangute and Baga which are popular amongst cheap, package holidaymakers which unfortunately has encouraged them to lose their Indian charm and transform into a tacky seaside resort. Baga does have quite a lot going on in the evening and Candolim is home to some delicious cafes and restaurants as well as a decent stretch of beach, so you can easily find things to satisfy you if you find yourself heading in that direction.
You may want to take some time out from life on the beach and head into Goa’s capital which is conveniently situated in the centre of Goa’s coastline. Panjim is the perfect place to head to if you are interested in learning a little more about Goa’s diverse and colourful history as each street will tell you a different story of Goa’s past. Las Fontainhas is the part of Panjim that will truly steal your heart as well as provoke daydreams of times gone by. You will feel as though you have stepped back in time as you wander through the picturesque streets lined with quaint houses decorated with well cared for plants and peeling paint. Just outside of Panjim you’ll find Old Goa, which was once a thriving capital city until it was evacuated after an outbreak of the plague. Now all that remains are breathtakingly large churches some of which are still being used today.
After your colourful burst of culture you may well feel ready check out to the golden beaches of South Goa, which are considered to be the most beautiful beaches in the area. Head all the way down to the south and you’ll find the sleepy beach of Patnem which is home to several charming and reasonably priced huts which help you to make the most of the beach. If you feel the need to explore you can head south of Patnem and you’ll find endless stretches of deserted beaches which will allow you to live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy with ease. The next beach along from Patnem is Palolem, a stunning beach with a slightly livelier atmosphere than Patnem, where you’ll find a range of delicious restaurants, welcoming bars and regular headphone parties. There are kayaks for rent along the beach enabling you to explore neighbouring butterfly island and to help you spot the cheeky dolphins which often pass by the beach.
As you head up the coast you’ll find Agonda, one of Goa’s most popular spots to watch the sunset from. This gorgeous stretch of beach knows exactly when to relax and when to start mixing the cocktails, an ideal place to spend a few weeks doing very little and simply enjoying the scenery, which is second to none. A little further up lies Benaulim, one of the larger beach resorts in the south which generally attracts a combination of retirees and backpackers wanting a little chill out time. There are guest houses a plenty, as well as beach restaurants and lively bars to explore.
The next popular town along the coast is Colva, although it seems to be gradually losing its appeal as it turns into a more commercialised and significantly less hippy orientated resort. There is still plenty going on here though, and it’s lively atmosphere creates a great holiday feeling.
The main overall draw of South Goa is its stunning beaches and relaxing atmosphere, if you are looking for the perfect place to unwind and grab some sunshine then this is the place for you. As well as it being home to Goa’s best beaches, you’ll also find that the countryside is well worth exploring. Grab a scooter and explore the quiet lanes or head to Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park and check out it’s impressive waterfalls and collection of ancient temples.
Whichever part of Goa tickles your fancy, you’ll find yourself being blown away by it’s brilliant beaches, charmed by its colourful culture, soothed by its spiritual side and delighted by its dance floors.
Need to know…
Getting Here: Goa is easily accessible by both air and train. It’s airport is central and easy to reach from anywhere in the state, while the main train station, Margao has links to all over India.
Getting Around: The easiest, and most enjoyable way to explore Goa is by scooter, you can cheaply rent scooters per day from plenty of places around Goa. If you are nervous about braving the roads, then you can use the public buses or local taxi services.
Budget: You can easily do Goa on a budget and if you are willing to haggle and explore then you will find accommodation from around Rs500 per night. Alcohol is exceptionally cheap and if you are a fan of local cuisine then you’ll find plenty to eat without breaking the bank each meal time.
When to Go: The main tourist season runs from around November – mid March which is when the temperature is the most comfortable. You’ll find that most things tend to shut down after this period in preparation for the monsoon season, however you’ll always manage to find somewhere to stay, no matter what time of year it is.
Paperwork: Pretty much everyone is required to have a valid visa for their stay in Goa, applying for a visa used to be a frustrating process but recently it has become far easier and you can obtain a six month tourist visa without much hassle, giving you the perfect excuse to enjoy India for six months.