Mainly known for its white sands, Goa shows us the tropical side of India yet it still houses some fascinating history. With a long colonial heritage and a UNESCO-listed old city there is plenty to see and do before unwinding on the beach.
It was a colony of Portugal for more than 400 years and those influences are intertwined with Indian culture to bring you a unique paradise. The 66-mile coastline plays host to a laid-back atmosphere as the Arabian Sea laps onto India’s western coastline and attracts two million tourists each and every year.
Goa is best known for its 36 beaches. The north is very popular among tourists and better for a lively beach party destination while the south adopts the quiet and calm approach and is perfect for a romantic picnic, a little paddling and just getting away from it all.
Three of the best beaches are:
Relating to the fact that Goa was a solitary outpost of Portugal for hundreds of years, many refer to the region in this manner. The crumbling architecture left behind by Portuguese heritage, along with a cuisine refined by flavours of the European country are mixed with the remarkable landscape and vibrancy of this charming area.
The dense forest found at the Western Ghats mountain range slowly meanders through lush valleys before ending at the beach. Historic sightseeing can be done as you take in the Se Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, and Basilica of Bom Jesus, both built in the 1600s, before landing at Dona Paula Beach, nicknamed Lovers’ Paradise.
If you’re looking for great views of Old Goa, then make sure the Church of Our Lady of the Mount is part of your checklist. Sat atop a steep hill, it offers wonderful vistas of the Mandovi river, the Konkan railway and the old city.
For the wildlife lovers, Goa has been referred to as a twitcher’s heaven and a short hop to Mollem National Park can see you in the jungle on the hunt for leopards, crocodiles and monkeys.
‘You can’t think, until you’ve eaten well’ is what the Konkani-speaking locals say, and the cuisine here is divine. As you can imagine, the heritage of South Indian and Portuguese is found within the fusion foods that tend to incorporate chillies, coconut, rice, spices and vinegar.
Curries are commonplace and xacutis, cafrials and vindaloos (which originated here) are all worth a look but each have a spicy twang, or more. Religion, and vegetarianism, means that beef and pork tend to be off the menu but chicken and lamb are widespread on menus.
Raves and a nightclub scene began when Western backpackers started to descend on Goa and while there is a relaxed atmosphere during the day, you can find a party in the evening. Vagator and Baga beach are good places to start and the fiery local liquor of Feni is always on the menu.
From the busy north to the Old Goa to the relaxing south, there is something for everyone in the smallest state in India. The Portuguese heritage is the backdrop to a long, sumptuous coastline in a region filled with character and charm.
Whether you want to relax by a beach shack, surrounded by golden sands and dipping your feet in the water or immerse yourself in the colonial history, attend vibrant markets and see some wildlife, the choice is yours.
Things to do in Goa
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Goa is hot and humid, so pack light with natural fibres that will be comfortable in this climate. The first things you need to get in are your beachwear: everything from a swimsuit to cover-ups to sun hats and sunglasses to sunscreen are essential for the blistering heat.
While the beaches are private and relaxed, the state itself is traditional and conservative, so when heading out on day trips or visits be sure to dress comfortably but be respectful of the customs. In places of worship you need to wear long skirts or trousers and, on occasion, a headscarf so consider these.
On your feet, a pair of comfortable sandals and more relaxed flip flops may well be all you need during your visit but be sure to pack long-sleeves for the evening when it cools off slightly. This also helps in your battle against mosquitos and other insects; it is advisable to pack insect repellent.
Elsewhere, you could use a backpack for day trips, torch for the evenings and all of your medical supplies. That said, the pharmacists are well stocked in Goa and you should be able to buy anything you need.
Goa is a year-round destination; often used as the final stop of a tour around India, it is also popular with sun worshippers throughout the year. The temperature remains similar throughout the year with May, the hottest month, boasting an average of 30ºC and the coldest month of January posting averages of 25ºC.
Monsoon season, which starts in June, is often the time that visitors avoid as the hot summer temperatures meet the clouds and rain as the moisture turns the countryside of Goa into a lush green space that is perfect for colourful plant life. Not ideal for the beach, but it does bring the state into a wonderful haven for other activities.
The temperatures drop in the evenings but it is still never cold. The tourist season is noticeable here and runs from October through January, with the beaches filling up again for the warmest weather in May.
Check out our Blog to see some of the amazing experiences Goa has to offer
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