India’s smallest state, Goa is proof that size definitely doesn’t matter when it comes to a memorable holiday. With picture-perfect beaches, a fascinating mix of Indian, Portuguese and Islamic culture, historic architecture at every turn and a contagious zest for life, Goa is a tantalising and exotic East-meets-West paradise.
Goa’s biggest draw cards are its warm sandy beaches, Arabian Sea views, centuries-old cathedrals, spice plantations, cascading waterfalls and colourful street bazaars. The leisurely atmosphere of this delightful Indian city is unlike any other in the eastern world.
Goa is a spiritually diverse and culturally eclectic city with historic landmarks and natural attractions around every corner. For a touch of history, visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus located in Old Goa. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is one of the oldest churches in the state, is most famous for being the site of the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier.
Set in the coastal village of Benaulim, Goa Chitra is another popular historical landmark. This fascinating museum is home to more than 4,000 ancient artefacts that tell the stories of Goa’s traditional lifestyle and early technology.
For natural attractions off the beaten track, venture away from the beaches and into the wilderness to visit the magnificent 4-tiered Dudhsagar Falls. Join an organised tour to the falls and don’t forget to take your swimmers – the pool at the bottom of the waterfall is a popular swimming spot.
Eat and Drink
The tourist boom has seen an array of international cuisines pop up around Goa, from Greek and Middle Eastern to Italian. If you’re keen to try the local tucker get set to enjoy a unique blend of Indian and Portuguese flavours with a spicy kick.
Beach shacks serve up super fresh seafood dishes that are often better than the touristy restaurants, with favourites being fish curry with rice and fried fish with pickles. For dessert, the Goan specialty to seek out is bebinca, an indulgent layered pudding made of flour, sugar, ghee, coconut milk, egg yolk, sugar and slivered almonds.
Daytime cocktails are a popular tourist activity on all of Goa’s beaches, but once night falls visitors flock to Anjuna Beach and Vagator Beach and the well-known clubbing strip of Tito’s Road in the district of Baga.
Where to Stay
For a truly relaxed all-in-one holiday experience, the 5-star resorts of Central Goa will ensure you don’t have to worry about a thing. For something a little different, luxury villas, hideaway eco-lodges, bungalows and even ‘glamping’ tents are becoming the chic alternative around the beaches of Goa.
If you’re not interested in staying in the bustling tourist hubs of Baga and Calangute, head south to the beautiful beach of Agonda where you’ll find quaint beachfront huts and – most importantly – no crowds, ensuring a serene and laid-back atmosphere.
North Goa is well known for its colourful marketplaces. The Saturday Night Market in Arpora is especially popular for its upbeat vibe, live entertainment and stalls upon stalls of shopping, eating and drinking. For daytime market action, the Anjuna Flea Market sets up shop every Wednesday during the high season (from October to January) and sells everything from exotic jewellery and ethnic clothing to handicrafts, local tea, handbags and sarongs. Hand-painted ceramics are a Goan specialty and make for lovely mementos or gifts.
Goa Like a Local
To eat like a local in Goa, simply keep an eye out for food shacks away from the tourist strips where you find the locals gathering to chow down on fresh seafood and regional dishes. Match your authentic Goan meal with an equally authentic beverage. Feni, a spirit that is made exclusively in Goa, is the quintessential drop to wet your whistle. There are 2 types available: coconut feni and cashew feni. If drinking it neat is not your style, try it in a cocktail, mixed with juice or with a slice of lime.