Despite being India’s smallest state, Goa has always punched above its weight. Read more.
Despite being India’s smallest state, Goa has always punched above its weight. A major trade centre on the west coast of India and a Portuguese outpost for 450 years, today Goa is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations, with visitors drawn in by its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and laid-back vibe.
Goa’s European heritage is visible across the state. Historic Portuguese-style bungalows line the roads, and forts are dotted strategically along the coastline. On the coast above the state’s modern capital of Panjim is the impressive Fort Aguada, built in the early 1600s. In Panjim itself the stark white Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception was the first port of call for sailors arriving from Lisbon, before they made their way east up the river to the former Portuguese capital, Old Goa. Once known as the ‘Rome of the East’, Old Goa is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a destination for many Christians who journey there to visit the Catholic cathedrals, churches and monasteries, and to pay homage to the embalmed remains of Goa’s patron saint Francis Xavier, kept in the impressive Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Coastal culture and attractions
When Portugal relinquished its post in the 1960s, the beautiful beaches of Goa quickly became a hippy hangout and it gained a reputation for legendary beach parties. While still a magnet for backpackers looking to let their hair down, it’s possible to avoid the busy areas and find your own little paradise amongst the secluded coves and long sweeping beaches that line the coast. There are also many attractions around the region worth leaving your sunlounger for. Shop for local goods - or in fact just about any goods at all - in the numerous markets around the state. Head to the Anjuna flea market on Wednesdays, the Mapusa market on Fridays, or Ingo’s Saturday night bazaar (winter months only) near Calangute and Baga. Take a day trip to explore the Sahakari spice plantation or the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary. Or, relax and unwind at one of the many yoga centres along the coast.
When to go and where to stay
The majority of visitors make their way to Goa between late November and mid-March, as during these months the weather is dry and relatively cooler - that is, around 27 degrees - rather than the blistering temperatures and monsoon downpours at other times of the year. Book well in advance if you plan to visit during peak time.
Settlements line the coast and vary greatly. In the north, busy, flashy Calangute and Baga have a number of upmarket resorts and hotels, as do Colva and Benaulim in the south. Party-goers can head for Anjuna, Vagator and Chapora, whereas budget travellers with more time can make their way to the far south and to quieter settlements like Patnem. From Goa’s lone international airport, Dabolim, many hotels offer free pick-ups and taxis are also plentiful. Once settled in, visitors can consider hiring a car to fully explore the region.