Goa’s irrefutable appeal lies in its 105km long coastline divided by headlands, rivers, estuaries and bays into 40 plus beautiful beaches. Palm-fringed, rimmed by rocks, abutting rivers, outlined by laterite cliffs or approached through a tangle of vegetation, each beach is unique whether its sand is soft silver or coarse golden.
The easy going, relaxed air conjures up the magic to make Goa one of India’s major tourist destinations, attracting over a million visitors annually, three quarters of them from overseas. Visitors are drawn to Goa for its joie de vivre and its warm and friendly people.
So come to Goa – all you need to take along with loads of suntan lotion is loads of holiday spirit.
Though the Marathas posed a threat in the early 18th century, the Portuguese were able to retain control and continued to enlarge their territory further east. A fledgling independence movement began in the late 19th century, seeking self-rule or even merger with British ruled India. However, the territory remained under Portuguese rule till 1961 when a political movement, launched in the wake of India’s independence in 1947, led to its liberation by India. After 26 years as a centrally administered Union Territory, Goa was granted full statehood on 30 May 1987. More than 15 centuries of Hindu rule, followed by a short span of Muslim control and then 450 years of Roman Catholic domination under Portugal, has left a hybrid of Eastern and Western cultures that makes Goa a unique experience. Happily, the large community has managed to neatly balance its Konkani roots with the dominant Christian influence.
Things To Do
There are varieties of things to do in Goa for both adventurous as well as laid-back travellers. Shopaholics will also not be disappointed in Goa. The long stretches of golden sand and the pandemonium of the waves will captivate you. Apart from beaches, the old state of Goa has several forts, churches, monastery and cathedrals to visit.
Exotic river cruises or sunset cruises that offer live music and dance performances are a sheer joy. Embark on one of these and see the fun song & dance side of Goa.
You wouldn’t have thought Goa to be a dolphin-seeing kind of place. But, it is! There are many boat services on which you can embark to see dolphins frolic and play around in the sea.
The 125 kilometer long coastline of Goa is dotted with a total number of 16 beaches categorized as North Goa and South Goa beaches.
The concept of home stays in Goa is fast picking up with those interested in glimpsing the local lifestyle of the populace. Here a local resident lends a part of their home to the tourist on rent which also helps in generating income for them.
The full of beans night life of Goa is quite hit with youngsters who love to groove on the beats of trance music. Anjuna and Vagator are the most popular party destinations in Goa and therefore, you will find number bars and pubs such as Café Looda’s, Mango Tree, Curlies and Paradiso.
Goa which is geographically divided into the North and South districts offers a wide range of places to visit.
The small and charming state capital, Panaji, lies on the southern bank of the Mandovi River in North Goa. A lot of its Portuguese heritage still survives in the oldest part of the town – Fontain has and Sao Tome, with old villas with wrought iron balconies looking down upon narrow cobbled streets and white washed churches in village squares. Learn more
Miramar Beach, closest to the capital Panaji (3 km), is conveniently located in the heart of the state capital which is also why it is rather crowded and often dirty, though you can watch some spectacular sunsets, as the sun sets at the confluence of the River Mandovi as it flows into the Arabian Sea. Learn More
The entire coast from Fort Aguada all the way to Goa’s border with Maharashtra is a virtually unbroken 30 km stretch of beach, some rocky, hazardous and hidden in secluded coves and others that are long stretches of golden sand.
Calangute is the busiest resort in Goa and now the centre of the ‘package’ tourist trade and has a long beach of coarse golden sand but there is a dangerous undertow that restricts swimming time. There is plenty of accommodation available here and lots of fellow tourists for company. Learn more
This area is quieter than North Goa and has several beaches as well as up-market resorts. Between Mormugao and Cape Rama lies a 20 km stretch of white sand with calm sea, starting from Velsao and ending at Mobor. Just 4km from the airport is the small cove at Bogmalo, not easily accessible, and, therefore, fairly empty. Good for swimming. Velsao is quiet and clean. Majorda is wider and dotted with beach shacks against a backdrop of resort complexes. Learn more
Rockfish, Stingray and Guitarfish are a number of fish species that are found here in the beaches of Goa. Among the popular targets are Salmon, Mullet, and Surmai which are found in Agonda Beach. Barramundi and Snapper are among the other fish species that are commonly found. However monsoons are the best time to go fishing and one can find ample species along the sea shore.
You can enjoy Kayaking while exploring the beauty of the Goan shores where you can move freely using a paddle and explore the Natural Ecosystem of Goa in the mangroves, mud-flats, backwaters, coves and mini bays. Kayaking in Goa is popular along the South Goa beaches and at some beaches of the North Goa, including Palolem Beach, Dona Paula jetty, and Hollant Beach.
Arambol, Colva, Candolim, Calangute, Aguada, and Miramar Beach are the ideal hot spots for activities like Jet Skiing in Goa. The Jet Ski equipment can accommodate at least 3 people. You are best advised to take a trainer along with you and adhere to the safety guidelines drawn by your instructor. Generally, there is a section on the beach where this activity can be performed and it is not at all advised to cross the limit of that particular section.
The hot spots for surfing in blue waters in Goa are- Patnem Beach, Agonda Beach, Calangute Beach, Colva Beach, Anjuna Beach, Vagator Beach, Baga Beach, Palolem Beach, Dona Puala Beach, Miramar Beach and Bogmalo Beach. The waves can be a little tough and surfing is definitely not for the light-hearted. Best to avoid the months of April to June and again September to December as the sea tends to be especially rough around this time of year.
Paragliding is thrilling sport that offers you a combination of an adrenaline filled as well as a peaceful and serene experience that can only be witnessed while soaring through the sky! Goa, offers an excellent destination for paragliding. Paragliding courses and trips take place in North Goa at Arambol beach as well as in Querim beach.
There are a number of exciting trekking trails in Goa like Mollem, Sanguem and Valpoi Goa. You can trek on the abundant greens trails of Sahyadri hills. The best time to haul onto your backpacks is in the months between October and December. In order to take up some of the challenging treks, you have to be both physically and mentally fit for this. Make sure you carry comfortable walking shoes and bottled water as they will be essential for the trek journey.
The well known beaches that offer Para-sailing are Majorda Beach, Candolim Beach, Baga Beach, and Anjuna Beach. Soar silently through the air as you can take in the stunning views of the seashore. There is a huge parachute attached to the motorboat which will take you across the deep blue waters. One can take complete pleasure in Para-sailing on a clear sunny day as it will suit you the best to perform this activity.
Sport enthusiasts can enjoy adventure activities like wind surfing on the beaches of Goa. This activity is an amalgamation of surfing as well as sailing. The well known beaches for wind surfing are Baga Beach, Miramar Beach, Arossim Beach, Benaulim Beach, Calangute Beach, Vagator Beach, Bogmalo Beach and Utorda Beach. The best time to hit the sea is in the early hours in morning as the surrounding is peaceful with no disturbance.
Vengurla is an alluring beach town, located on the Konkan coast in the southern most district of Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. Just 110 km north of Goa, Vengurla is popular for its long stretch of clear white sand beaches ringed by high mountains. It is surrounded by a semicircular range of hills with lush green foliage mainly of cashew, mango, coconut, and different kinds of berry trees.
Vengurla boasts of five stunning beaches. Nivati beach, Shiroda beach, Mochemad beach, Sagareshwar beach, and Vayangani beach. Of these, Nivati and Shiroda beaches are highly recommended as they are blessed with crystal clear water and offer great opportunities for water sports.
Amboli lies in the Sahyadri hills in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. It is the last hill station of Maharashtra before the plains of Goa begin and is a relatively unexplored one. Situated 3 km from the Main bus stop, the Amboli Waterfalls are a major attraction here. This historic fort of Madhav Gad is situated 2.5km from the Main bus stop in Amboli. Though in a state of ruins, the view atop the fort is breathtaking. In the hills of Amboli village lies the source of the Hiranyakeshi river, and an ancient Shiva temple (called Hiranyakeshwar) exists at the cave where the water emerges. Legend has it that there are 108 Shiva temples in and around Amboli of which only a dozen have been uncovered, one as recently as 2005.
Known for its white sandy beach and water sports, Tarkarli is situated in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra. Tarkarli beach is arguably one of the most picturesque beaches in the Konkan region of Maharashtra.The white sand, clear blue water and the suru (casurina) trees add to the splendor of the beach.
Another attraction of Tarkarli is the backwaters of Karli river which extend from Tarkarli to Kudal. Tarkarli is also the only place in Maharashtra where you can scuba dive. The waters are relatively clear around the Sindhudurg fort and though the reefs here aren’t exactly world class, it is not a bad idea to try it out once.
How to get there by Air
Goa has an international airport at Dabolim, 30 km from the capital, Panaji. Several overseas charter companies as well as most domestic airlines have flights to Dabolim. The regular domestic connections are from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi and Chennai.
From the airport to your hotel or to any of the towns, catch a cab or a metered taxi. If you are booked to stay at a hotel, most offer pick ups within their price.
How to get there by Rail
The two main railway stations are Margao (Madgaon) and Vasco da Gama. The major connections are to Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Rajkot and Thiruvananthapuram. From other places in the north, east and southeast you can travel to Londa Junction and then transfer to a connecting train to Margao/Vasco da Gama.
How to get there by Road
Renting a car and being independent is really the best thing, but the buses are pretty good too. Bus connections are available to Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Pune, and other important tourist destinations in the region, operated by the Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra Road Transport Corporations and some private operators. Air-conditioned bus services are also available on some of the routes.
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The Goa Carnival festival is held in late February or early March and this again is a great time to be in Goa. The festivities are filled with music and dancing, pageants and parades!
The rains descend upon Goa during the months of June and July. Although really wet, Goa looks beautiful and lush and while swimming in the sea is not recommended, the flip side is that there are not too many tourists around so hotel prices are bottomed out. Take advantage of the low prices and visit Goa in the monsoons for a very different experience!