India’s smallest state and one of its most popular destinations with visitors, Goa lies backing the glorious beaches along India’s western shores. Its unique blend of traditional Indian and Portuguese cultures along with charming towns, remote villages, jungles, laid-back vibes and the spectacular Goan carnival make it the perfect exotic location for your annual break from the norm.
With its bohemian lifestyle, Goa is a hub for the creative arts, with many artists, painters, writers, Goan and Western musicians and dancers making it their home and establishing local artistic communities. Authentic traditional dance and classical song performances and the unique electronic music of Goa Trance, a mix of spiritual and Western music forms, are very much alive.
Old Goa, the former Portuguese colonial capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage site rich in Portuguese architecture, imposing religious buildings and iconic examples of Christian art. If a superb beach is the one essential for your Goan holiday, the Royal Goan Beach Club at MonteRio, set on a hillside close by Calangute’s Queen of Beaches, is the perfect place. The lively resort offers comfortable units, fun evening entertainment and a small spa with self-indulgent treatments.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Nightlife in Goa can be anything you want it to be, from some of the best dance clubs and beach parties to romantic evenings at a harbourside seafood eatery, the vibe made famous by the flower children of the 60’s is alive and well with local music filling the evening air whether you turn.
For a totally traditional experience, local shacks, bars and restaurants crowd the streets and sands, ranging from basic to upscale and serving chilled local beer, seafood and Goan delicacies as well as international cuisines including Portuguese and Italian. For high-end partying and dining, Calangute’s many resort hotels are the places to see and be seen, and several offer evenings of traditional music and dance in addition to DJ nights.
With Goa’s attractions spread across the state, if you plan on visiting a particular attraction a little harder to reach we’d recommend booking up with an organised day trip, otherwise, we’d recommend hiring a taxi for the day. With prices from approximately £25 a day you’re getting great value (certainly when compared with London prices) and some local knowledge too.
Another popular way to travel is by rented motorbike or scooter, although helmets are not provided and neither are accurate maps showing all the sights, making each journey something of an adventure. The local buses run almost everywhere and are incredibly cheap too but remember that Goa is an entire state, with towns set at a good distance from each other and roads which vary condition tremendously.
Must-sees start with Old Goa, its stunning architecture and its colonial heritage, and the adjacent administrative capital of Panjim some 13 kms from Calangute has a lot to offer as regards charm, heritage sites and creative cultural attractions. Anjuna, set to the north of Calangute, is famous for its huge Wednesday flea market set right on the beach, giving the best place in Goa to haggle for arts, crafts, souvenirs and India’s spectacular textiles.
The state’s amazing natural beauty isn’t confined to its beach areas, with the interior home to lush jungles, protected regions and national parks. Just 80kms from Calangute on the border with Karnataka state is glorious Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, nestling around the Mandovi River’s craggy watershed plateau. Here you’ll find the Dudhasagar Falls, one of India’s most exquisite waterfalls. During the monsoon season, the roaring cascade plummets over a thousand feet from its rocky bed through four levels, and gives a breathtaking sight easily accessed by road.
Goan historical sites
Goa’s historical sights are unique in India for their number as well as for their architectural and spiritual impact. Old Goa itself, just 9kms from the popular tourist town of Panjim and 22 from the resort, is the most spectacular, with the Basilica of Bom Jesus holding the remains of St Francis Xavier, Goa’s patron saint. The SE Cathedral and the traditional wooden Archbishop’s Palace are peaceful and serene, and the massive, unassailable Aquada Fort gave Portuguese vessels a safe harbour from pirates and the marauding Dutch for centuries.
For a Hindu experience after a surfeit of Christian religious sites, a visit to the Shree Manguesh Shantadurgai Prasanna Temple, set just 22kms from Panjim in Mangeshi, reveals pristine beauty amid forested hills. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it’s an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus and famous for its festivals featuring traditional singers and musicians.
The 18th century Shantadurga Temple in Quela is the most-visited Hindu shrine in the state, built in an unusual architectural design including a unique, octagonal lamp tower. Its spectacular main hall and silver deity image glitter with the light from huge chandeliers, and nearby Sri Ramnath Temple is well worth a visit. Benolim is home to two heritage museums, the Goa Chitra with its vast collection of ethnographic artefacts tracing the lives of Goans over millennia, and the Houses of Goa architectural museum with its quaint photo opportunities.
Goa eco and family attractions
Goa’s attractions aren’t limited to sites displaying its fascinating history and heritage, as there’s plenty to please ecotourists and family visitors. Wildlife reserves cover a large area of the state, and extend into the ocean with its dolphins and whales, giving great snorkelling and diving opportunities. Molern National Park lies along Goa’s borders with Karnataka state, nestling in evergreen forests home to tigers, leopards, the occasional elephant herd and many more species. Vasco da Gama city is home to Goa’s Naval Aviation Museum with its vintage aircraft and newer planes.
Goan cuisine is a delicious blend of Indian and Portuguese gastronomy, with seafood its staple ingredient along with rice. Coconut milk is widely used, and the best food isn’t necessarily found in the five-star hotel and resort restaurants. Beach shacks all along the coast serve fish, lobsters, crabs, prawns and squid in