The beach and party capital of India. Few years back it was the THE place to visit for party – of any kind. But things have been put under control, or made sane. Today Goa beaches alone attract ~2mn tourist every year. Half of them are non-Indians.
It is a small state in West India about 600km south of Mumbai. Panaji or Panjim is its capital and is located in the Central region.
Being under Portugal rule for 450 years, Portuguese influence is easily visible in every aspect of life in Goa from architecture to people and food and even general lifestyle. In terms of attractions, you can see Goa probably in a day or maximum two. But this is not where or what Goa is. It is in coming here and relaxing on the western coast of the state – beaches or in the quieter parts of the state and reconnecting with nature – south Goa. Blessed with several hundred kilometers of coastline, Goa has some fantastic beaches and eco-system to support it. Some beaches are normal, simple good for relaxing; some become active if not hyper active at night. And some amazing.
Unlike for other cities where I prefer to go outside rain season, for Goa I would suggest the opposite. It is loaded with open green fields and is surrounded by water in one form or the other. And it is in rains when nature refreshes itself and is at its greenest. Don’t think Goa should be missed at this time.
Well connected by Air and Rail. Access to road / highway is good from Mumbai, but road is busy hence not the best way to reach Goa unless you are on a committed road trip. Mumbai to Goa is one of the most beautiful train journeys in India passing through jungles and mountains of scenic Western Ghats and should be undertaken if possible. Train journey is ~14hrs long, starting in day and arriving at night. Do not forget to book window berth. Goa has two train station – Madgaon (South) & Vasco Da Gama (Central), with Madgaon being more popular. International Airport (Dabolim Airport) has good schedule of flights from / to Middle East while charter flights from UK and Russia popular in high season.
Commuting within Goa:
Goa is one of the easier cities to commute in. I find taxi / cab rates in Goa simply horrendous. You can either rent a scooty for Rs. 300 per day or use the great network of local buses. Routes of these buses are well defined and connect almost every part of the city. Plus buses are frequent and reliable. Transport will be required to move from place to another unless you decide not to venture beyond the area you are staying in.
Stay & Accommodation in Goa:
Accommodation tends to be expensive in Goa when compared to other cities in India. Hostels and Hotels both are available in Goa and are spread across. After you have decided which area to stay in, look up for hostel / budget hotel in that area and check in. If you are luxury travel, then you will need to decide between the few five star hotels available. Vagator and Chapora are still the favorite among backpackers.
Places to See:
Basilica of Bom Jesus
Main church of the town. Apart from being a big and important church, it is also one of the oldest churches and has fabulous building. Near to the Gandhi Circle on Old Goa Road, Velha Goa, this is not to be missed by / for everyone. It has lovely history associated with it which needs to be known. This church is especially busy when body of Saint Francis Xavier is on public display once in ten years. Last display was in November 2014.
The largest Cathedral in Asia! 76m long and 55m wide, finishing touches were given 90yrs after the construction started in 1562! Thats a long time. Very simple in design, the building has three notable features which make it distinct or unique – Golden Bell, largest in Asia, Chapel of the Cross of Miracles and huge gilded reredos. The chapel is screened chapel with the story that when cross was placed here in 1619 by the local shepherds, it miraculously and vastly grew in size. The gilded reredos depict the life of St. Catherine to whom the cathedral is dedicated. Church of St Francis of Assisi, located next to the cathedral in same campus, has gorgeous interiors. Do not miss to see it.
Located few kilometers ahead of Candolim beach, it is reached through lovely and lonely shot road drive. Local buses do not go till fort and stop ~3km before it. Next to it is a lighthouse which is open to public to climb up, learn how it functions, and get some nice views of Goa coastline. From the side of the lighthouse, follow the uneven passage to get some more excellent views of Goa coastline and to sit and enjoy the breeze. However, be cautious of the uneven path and not so open space.
Goa State Museum:
Party and beaches is what strikes mind first when Goa is heard. However, Goa has rich and strong history and many firsts too. Located in EDC Complex in Panaji, State Museum is an excellent place to learn all about Goa history during Portuguese era and before that too! Manuscripts, coins, and artifacts are on display with elaborate literature explaining the fine points.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception
Beautiful, or simply nice. I do not have the correct word for it. But church, right in the middle of the town in Panjim, surrounded by other old Portuguese era buildings, is a place to visit because of its lovely architecture. Fine example of Baroque architecture.
Chapora & Cabo de Rama Fort
Two different forts, both disbanded, are in ruins. They at best offer lovely breeze and views. Chapora fort requires small amount of hiking.
Flea markets run on different days at different times in different parts of Goa. Here you will find some amazingly cheap clothes, souvenirs, jewelry, and art pieces. Before reaching, please brush up your bargaining skills. Most popular is the Anjuna Flea market, held south of Anjuna beach on Wednesday. Similar to it, but little different is Mapusa Friday Market. Here you can buy local goods directly from the farmers and small entrepreneurs. Arpora Saturday Night Market is another market which is very popular for buying items to decorate your home / office or to simply buy accessories. It starts ar 6PM on Saturdays.
This is a growing trend. Spices have long been popular in India but now there are being growing in farms and tourist touch is being added to them. Here you will start with a tour of spice farm where different types of spices and their benefits / use will be explained. After ~40min long tour, you can have lunch and ride elephant if you desire. You can even buy spices which you like from the farm.
Casinos are not allowed everywhere in India. Apart from Sikkim, Goa is the other place where you have casinos. Here you can find both – onshore and offshore casinos. Entry and minimum bet amount both are reasonable. Minimum bet amount is ~Rs. 100 per bet.
Beaches: I think one whole website can be dedicated to it, but I will try to list party beaches in few lines. Calungute and Baga are two most popular beaches among the locals. Expect them to be packed in evenings most of the time all of the year. Beaches whose name you may not have heard often will be quieter and peaceful but less magnificent unless it is hard to reach. Apart from Calangute and Baga, party beaches exist in Vagator / Bardez / Anjuna and around. White sand beaches can be found in Agonda. Beaches in south should be one of the best to go to if you want to be away from people. Sand, water, and coconut trees will be your companion.
Though party is never very far in Goa, but old Goa and south of it has been able to save itself from the party scene in rest of the places. It is still lush green, and old lifestyle persists. North Goa is the exact opposite