General Information


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.

History


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.

Trivia


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.

Sightseeing


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

Beaches


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

North Goa


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

South Goa


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

Angling

Angling


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.

Kayaking

Kayaking


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.

Jet Skiing

Jet-Skiing


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.

Surfing

Surfing


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

Paragliding


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.

Trekking

Trekking


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.

Para-Sailing

Parasailing


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.

Wind surfing

Wind Surfing


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

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

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.

Tarkarli

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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Where to Stay

The majority of accommodation on offer are cheap palm-thatched beach huts. High season is from mid October to March, although these dates vary depending on the demand. Most of the resorts double their prices in this time.
There are more than 50 resorts at Havelock. Choose from a few mid range and budget resorts and guesthouses offering comfortable stay with basic amenities. The most sought after is the Dolphin Resort, run by Tourism Department. Reservation at Dolphin Resort can be secured from the Tourist Information Centre in the Directorate of Tourism at Port Blair by advance payment. The Tourism Department put up domes during the tourist season at Radhanagar beach. Silver Sand Beach Resort, Symphony Palm Beach Resort, and Sea Shell Beach Resort are some of the other places that you can consider while in Havelock.

Budget Accommodation

The recent boom in tourism means that there is not always enough accommodation to meet demand — the majority of the places between Beaches #3 and #5 have huts for around ₹200/night, so it makes sense to start at one end and work your way down looking for an available hut. In busier times you may end up pitching a tent if you have one, or sleeping in a hammock for a night or two until something frees up.

Emerald Gecko (The Wild Orchid): A new resort with well constructed huts with en suite, tiled bathrooms. ₹500-1250 (low - high season). Restaurant is shared with the next door Emerald Gecko. Huts ₹1500, bungalows ₹2500, bamboo lodges ₹3000.
Cafe del Mar: Perennially popular melting pot. Has a range of options from tents and/or basic A-frame huts with sheets for doors (the cheapest option on the island) to deluxe sea-facing huts. ₹200 to ₹2000.
EL Dorado: Quite new, huts with communal showers and toilets ₹200. Huts with en suite toilet and shower ₹500. Due to the place being quite new most huts are reasonably clean and well maintained. Reasonable restaurant, serves beer.
Gold India: Another newish resort. Huts with en suite toilet and shower ₹500. Average restaurant, serves alcohol.
Island Camping operated by the Andaman Tourist Office, offers pre-setup tents on Beach #7 where the road meets the beach. Tents range from ₹150-500. The more expensive ones come with private bath and toilet, but has no hot water. Bookings must be made in advance at the Tourism Office in Port Blair, though this can be done by telephone.

Mid Range Accommodation

Island Vinnie's Tropical Beach Cabanas and Dive Centre. Beach #3, is also home of DIVEIndia. During the high season the dive centre can fill quickly book in advance.
Dolphin Beach Resort is a government run resort. It's popular with Indian families, their VIP suites offering excellent value. On the plus side if you can't live without a/c, then you can find it here in large huts for around ₹1000, cheaper than you'll get elsewhere. There's a restaurant on site, and pre-booking in Port Blair is advised. ₹500-2000.
Sea Shell resort: Has good wooden cottages with a/c, and TV, should you need to watch the cricket. The setting is great beneath the palm trees (beware falling coconuts). The restaurant is OK and the bar better that most on the island. Singles ₹2,500, doubles ₹3,000, incl breakfast.
Symphony Inn, at the middle of Beach #5. Has a good beach spot, rooms are nice and are kept clean and tidy, there are some shops right outside the resort that offer Ayurvedic massage, Internet, General Store. Nice bamboo bungalows ₹2000 Non AC, AC @ ₹4000, incl breakfast. If you are staying more night you can bargain and get some discount. On the downside there are no phones in the rooms so if you need any thing you will have to go to the reception personally if you don't find any one of the helper there.
V-Knot Residency, at Govind Nagar is a newly constructed RCC Hotel with well furnished and clean rooms AC ₹1600 and Non AC ₹1100, they can give you discount if contacted directly.

High range Accommodation

Silver Sand: Accommodation ranges from large rooms with en suite, TV and a/c, to whole two story cottages suitable for families. Rooms are clean, in good condition, and decorated in king style. Rates start at ₹6,500-10,000.
Symphony Palms Beach Resort, Govind Nagar Beach: One of the biggest resort in the entire havelock island offering 70 Scottish cottages. The resort has its own private beach, sumptuous interiors, and superb modern facilities. The Resort also has a full range of audiovisual equipment and trained staff. The tariff for season ranges from ₹3000-5000.
Wild Orchid Resort: Offers reasonable accommodation in the mid range (real beds, nice bathrooms, some with a/c), with a semi-private path through the jungle to a nice spot on beach #5, with wooden sunbeds for hire. The rooms are however increasingly looking worn down and there are other newer options available in the immediate vicinity. Also has a very good restaurant, the Red Snapper. Occasionally organize low-key evening beach parties/gatherings, with music and food. ₹3000-4000 high season, ₹1500-2000 low season.
Barefoot Resort: An eco-friendly resort at the secluded end of Beach #7 (Radhanagar Beach). Detached accommodation in cottages and villas. Doubles vary from ₹5300-15000, or more, depending on type and season. Italian cuisine in its restaurant by the beach "Mahua", and also has great thalis and other authentic Indian fare on offer in its main restaurant. The resort offers only 18 cottages.
Munjoh Ocean Resort: Air conditioned, luxurious villas, suites & cottages surrounded by coconut & betel nut trees; the Munjoh Ocean Resort on Beach#5 is the only property on Havelock with a little rivulet cutting across its property onwards to the ocean. Quaint, indulgent accommodation & decent service with a restaurant & a bar. Tariffs vary from ₹6000-13000.

The best time to visit Goa is between late October and early April. The peak tourist season is from mid-December to mid-January, when the weather is near perfect, with daytime temperatures rarely going beyond 32° C. People from all over the world descend upon Goa at this time of the year, so be sure to have made your hotel bookings well in advance as accommodation prices hit the ceiling due to high demand. Christmas and New Years is celebrated through out Goa with a lot of gusto and everyone literally lets down their hair to be part of these celebrations.

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!

Dominating the square on which it stands, is the Church of Immaculate Conception (1541 AD), Panaji’s main place of worship for the Catholics and one of the places to see in Goa. In medieval times, all sailors arriving from Portugal congregated here for thanksgiving mass for their safe passage.

Nine kilometres east along the river is the town of Old Goa – what once was the hub of Portugal’s empire in the East and Far East. Virtually abandoned after the river silted up and the new capital was set up at Panaji in 1843, all that remains of this once grand city are half a dozen churches, cathedrals, a monastery and convent that make for the interesting places to see in Goa. Do visit the imposing Se Cathedral of St. Catherine, the largest church in Asia, which has 14 altars, an 80m long aisle, and five bells including the Golden Bell, said to be one of the best in the world.

The late 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus with its richly gilded altars is famous throughout the Catholic world. Take a sightseeing tour to this church as it is the venue for a pilgrimage for both Christians and Hindus who come to pay homage to the embalmed mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier enshrined in a silver casket since 1553. Also worth seeing, up on Holy Hill, are the Church of our Lady of the Rosary (one of the oldest in Goa), and Church and Convent of Santa Monica, reputed to be amongst the largest convents in the Portuguese empire.

This is the land of the magical trinity of sun, sea, and sand, and is most sought after for its captivating beaches. The turquoise blue water is shallow and safe for swimming, except during the monsoon months. Most five star hotels and resorts have their properties overlooking the beach but fortunately Goa does not have any private beaches – all beaches are open to the public.

A small, idyllic beach with the Dona Paula Beach Resort, and neighbouring Piranha cottages, Caranzalem is situated at a distance of nine kilometres southwest of Panaji. Though not very pretty, Caranzalem (between Miramar and Dona Paula) is quiet and safe for swimming, it has water scooters and other water sports facilities as there is no undercurrent, which makes it an ideal sightseeing place in Goa. The Vaniguinim beach overlooks the Mormugao Bay but is accessible only from the Cidade de Goa Hotel.

Palm-fringed Sinquerim beach lies at the foot of Fort Aguada and is popular with tourist groups. So also is the nearby Candolim beach. All the beaches have beach umbrellas, loungers and plenty of shacks selling beer, feni, and aerated drinks and freshly caught fish right out of the fisherman’s net.

A little further north along the coast is crescent-shaped Baga, a more picturesque beach, with better swimming. This beach is popular for the various water sports - among them are parasailing, jet skiing, body boarding and even surfing, though the waves aren’t good enough for the professional surfers. Another hit amongst the tourists are the "dolphin rides" where a boat takes you out into the sea where one can see the lovely creatures gliding along the surface. The flea market at Baga has recently sprung up (Saturdays from around 4 pm), north of the tiny river that joins the sea, where you could strike some fancy bargains in Kashmiri and other Indian handicrafts.

Further north from Baga is the safe, though somewhat infamous Anjuna beach, which still has a little hangover of the ‘hippy’ culture of the 70s. However, don’t miss the Wednesday flea market, which Anjuna is famous for throughout Goa. It is a fascinating blend of Kashmiri and Tibetan traders, tribals from Gujarat, Karnataka, and Andhra, and local traders selling a delightful range of handicrafts from all across India. So you could pick up mirror-work from Rajasthan, exquisite embroidery from Kutch or woodcarvings from Kerala. Also available are a huge range of furnishings in psychedelic, glow in the dark fabric, along with a wide selection of the famous Goa "Trance" music.

Another attraction of the flea market is the "Mehndi" or henna applications done by tribal women. These tribal women keep pace with contemporary tastes with very lifelike replication of a range of tattoos, made with a paste of henna leaves available in the green or black. These designs stay on for a good week before gradually fading off.

If you are looking for peace and quiet, and don’t mind living with basic amenities, then the Arambol (also called Harmal) would be an ideal place for you. Located far north near the border with Maharashtra, it has stretches of soft white sand that will soothe your senses and give you the peace of mind. It is also the paradise for the ''hippies'', as there are regular trance parties and even "full moon" parties.

Colva, further south, is highly commercialised with resort complexes, large holiday crowds, trinket stalls, and discos. However, you could walk along the beach in either direction to reach quieter spots with greater privacy. Going south you would reach Benaulim (2km), relatively peaceful and empty, shallow and safe.

Further south is a seemingly never-ending stretch around the up-market resorts at Varca, Cavelossim, and Mobor, with pristine sands, wide beach, and shallow sea. If you are mobile (car or motor bike), you might like to venture south beyond Cape Rama to explore the isolated beaches there, which are among the good places to see in Goa. However, you’d need to carry your supplies for the day. This extra effort is well rewarded by the lovely drive, the peace, and beauty of the beaches at Palolem and Galgibaga. Agonda and Rajbag beaches lack shelter from the sun, making them rather isolated and inconvenient.

For some excitement, you can skim over the River Mandovi on hovercraft, or try the pedal boats and aqua bikes at the Dona Paula jetty (Panaji), Ourem Creek at Patto, Panaji and at the Mayem Lake.

If that sounds too tiring, take a leisurely river cruise on the Santa Monica luxury yacht that includes a cultural programme of Goan folk songs and dances. You can choose a cruise to suit your schedule -- an hour-long cruise at sunset (6 pm) or sundown (7.15 pm); two-hour island pleasure cruise; the 5-hour pleasure cruise starting at ten in the morning along the course of the Mandovi and Zuari rivers, or, if you are lucky to be there, the enchanting full moon cruise!

Also available are the range of water sports at the Baga beach. There is a lot of variety to choose from - para-sailing, jet skiing, motorboat, water scooters and so on. The latest attraction is the bungee jump.