Think of Goa, and think of a coastal retreat with sights of gleaming sands and azure waters with a shimmering sun in the backdrop. A lush green landscape edges the golden coastline, which overlooks the scintillating seas in the beach capital of India. Although the smallest state in the country, Goa is one of the nation’s biggest tourist destinations.
Tourists typically know Goa as North and South Goa; the former being the place to be if you’re looking forward to a “happening” holiday, and the latter, if you need a more relaxing respite from your hectic lifestyle. Whether you’re planning a family holiday, a quick weekend getaway with friends or looking to spend some cherished moments with that special someone, Goa has all the ingredients for a perfect holiday recipe.
Don’t leave Goa before you:
- Beaches: Goa has well over 25 amazing beaches ranging from the full-of-life party destinations to the serene and peaceful ones. North Goa offers sprightly beaches like Baga, Calangute, Anjuna and Arambol, that necklace the northern coastline with tons of shacks buzzing with life, serving lip-smacking delicacies from the Konkan cuisine with cocktails and mocktails to go along; Goa’s beaches make your holiday experience complete.
South Goa is rather mellow, with serene beaches like Colva, Palolem and Galgibaga (famous as a nesting ground for Olive Ridley turtles) which are cut off from the world, but really worth paying a visit if you are looking for some peace and quiet.
- Chapora Fort: Chapora Fort first got noticed in the movie Dil Chahta Hai. This ancient fort in North Goa offers splendid views of the adjoining Vagator beach and overlooks the Arabian Sea from all angles. The fort is located on top of a hillock with slopes on all sides, and though it is almost in ruins now, it doesn’t stop visitors from standing where Bollywood stars once did!
- Basilica de Bom Jesus in Goa: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a church in Old Goa, extremely popular throughout the Roman Catholic world. One of the most important attractions here are the mortal remains of the missionary Saint Francis Xavier. The grand interiors will leave you awestruck the moment you enter.
- Indulge in water sports: Diving, catamaran sailing, jet skiing, parasailing and windsurfing keeps your heart racing as you test the waters and let out the adventurer in you. There are plenty of water sports operators in Goa, especially in North Goa, and you can identify them by the herd of water scooters and boats parked in one corner of the beach.
- Go on a dolphin spotting cruise: Dolphin watching tours are a popular activity in various parts of the Mandovi River and are especially popular at Sinquerim beach alongside Fort Aguada. Operators gather tourists in groups of 4 or 6, who hop on to a boat and venture out about a couple of kilometres into the sea to watch the dolphins circling in action.
- Try your luck at one of the casinos: A visit to one of Goa’s several casinos should be on your to-do list as Goa has some exceptional avenues to put your stakes on. The casinos feature several games like slots, roulette, poker, flush baccarat and more along with live entertainment and occasionally unlimited food and drinks. Even if you’re not a big gambler, cruising on the high seas is a great way to relax. Some casinos you can head to are Caravela (a one-of-its-kind floating casino, anchored on the Mandovi River in Panjim), Casino Carnival (Goa Marriott, Miramar) and Casino Royale (a floating casino on the Mandovi River in Panjim).
- Vindaloo: Fiercely spicy gravy that literally is a hot favourite in Goan households, this preparation can be made using chicken, pork, mutton or prawns. The usage of vinegar and sugar adds a distinctive flavour to the gravy.
- Crab Xec Xec: Yet another fiery preparation from the Konkan kitchen, Crab Xec Xec is made by cooking crabs in thick gravy of tamarind, red chillies and coconut. It is best served with steamed or boiled rice, which is a staple in Goan households.
- Bebinca: A popular Goan, East Indian and Mangalorean dessert, Bebinca is a pudding with 7 layers (or more!) made of flour, eggs, sugar, coconut milk and cardamom-nutmeg powder. It’s a must buy for friends back home!
When to Go:
Mid-November to Mid-February: This is the perfect time to relax on the beaches and for other outdoor activities in Goa. December is the time when Goa witnesses one of its most popular festivals, Sunburn, besides extensive Christmas and New Year celebrations and is home to lakhs of visitors from across the world. You might want to book your flights/hotels in advance since this is the peak season and prices go way higher than you would imagine.
March to May: This is the season when the temperature rises, the sea becomes rougher and the weather turns hot and humid. The good thing is that Goa is not too crowded during this time. However, the prices of hotels and home stays become way too reasonable in case you want to visit Goa for a three-to-four day break with your beloved, looking for peace and calm.
Mid-June to October: There are parties across the length and breadth of Goa to welcome the rains that hit Goa during this time. If you love the monsoon and the lush green countryside that the Rain Gods turn Goa into, July to September is a great time to visit. The festival of Sao-Joao (fertility feast of Saint John the Baptist) is also held in June. It’s an interesting event where men jump into wells that are overflowing to fetch bottles of the local alcohol called feni.
By Air: Dabolim Airport is 29 kilometres away from the state’s capital, Panjim. It is well connected by daily flights from Chennai, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Cochin and Bangalore.
By Train: The two major railheads in Goa are Madgaon and Thivim, which are well connected by trains from all over the country.
By Bus: There are a number of public as well as private bus operators in Goa, which offer options for intra-city and inter-city conveyance. KSRTC, MSRTC and KTC are some of the Government undertakings that operate from Panaji, Madgaon and Vasco Da Gama. Private bus operators include the likes of Neeta Tour and Travels, Paulo Travels and Naik Tours and Travels. Goa enjoys daily bus service from important cities like Mumbai and Pune.
Taxis: Much of Goa is well-connected with roads that are in a good state of repair, and it is not hard to get good rates for taxis and rented cars as well. One can either book a taxi in advance from tour operators/taxi rentals or hire cabs on a direct payment basis from the airport or railway station.
Self drive: Hiring cars and motorcycles on self-drive basis is a popular transport option in Goa. This is one of the best and most economical ways to tour the beach capital on your own. Just grab a two-wheeler or four-wheeler by submitting an ID proof and set off on the ultimate trip around Goa!