Explore Goa: A Guide to When to Go, What to Do, and Why You’ll Love It

Why You’ll Love It

Discover the essence of susegad in Goa, a state known for its laid-back and tranquil vibe. Derived from the Portuguese word “sossegado,” meaning quiet or peaceful, susegad represents the contentment and joy of life that permeates this coastal paradise. While the beautiful beaches, chilled-out shacks, and vibrant bars attract tourists, it’s the unique susegad atmosphere that keeps them returning for more.

Goa, despite being the smallest state in India, is a popular destination, attracting both domestic and international travelers. With a rich history influenced by over 450 years of Portuguese rule, Goa showcases its heritage through crumbling forts, baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, and distinct cuisine. The fusion of Portuguese and Indian flavors can be experienced in dishes like vindaloo, which transforms a Portuguese meat dish into a fiery Goan specialty using local ingredients such as palm vinegar and Kashmiri chillies.

From its hippie roots in the 1960s, Goa has evolved into a vibrant global village. Resourceful entrepreneurs, including locals, migrants from other states, and international settlers, contribute to the diverse and creative business ventures that thrive under the Goan sun.

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What to Do

The sun-kissed golden beaches of Goa remain the top attraction for tourists. Stretching along the Arabian Sea, each beach has its own character and allure. In North Goa, Anjuna is popular for its vibrant party scene, Mandrem and Morjim offer thrilling water sports, Calangute and Baga are renowned for their culinary delights and nightlife, and Assagao and Arambol provide a serene setting for beach yoga. For a more secluded experience, venture to the northernmost beach of Querim (Keri).

In contrast, South Goa offers a quieter ambiance. Colva and Benaulim are well-liked beaches, Palolem boasts a crescent-shaped shoreline ideal for swimming and kayaking, Agonda is a family-friendly destination with dolphin-spotting opportunities, and Galgibaga serves as a nesting site for olive ridley sea turtles (November-April).

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Apart from sun and sand, Goa showcases its religious heritage through numerous churches and cathedrals. The Basilica of Bom Jesus, with its baroque grandeur and the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, stands as a prominent attraction. The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and Sé Cathedral are also notable religious landmarks. Exploring the capital city of Panaji reveals bustling local markets, artistic boutiques, and riverside bars offering glimpses of Goan culture. Don’t miss Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter, where colorful houses, cafes, art galleries, and shops create a vibrant atmosphere. Velha Goa Galeria is a recommended stop for acquiring azulejos (glazed colored tiles) as souvenirs.

For a deeper immersion into Goa’s heritage, visit the restored Portuguese-era mansions. Figueiredo Mansion in Loutolim and Palácio do Deão in Quepem offer guided tours and serve authentic Indo-Portuguese meals. Another highlight is a day trip to Dudhsagar Falls, India’s second-highest waterfall, cascading down 320 meters and resembling a “sea of milk.”

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Where to Stay

Accommodation options in Goa cater to a wide range of preferences. From basic budget stays to luxurious sea-facing chain hotels, there is something for everyone. Taj Fort Aguada Resort and Spa, built on the ramparts of a 16th-century Portuguese fort, was the first luxury hotel in Goa. Other popular luxury hotels include ITC Grand Goa, The Leela Goa, Hilton Goa Resort, party-centric W Goa, and family-friendly Alila Diwa.

For a more intimate experience, boutique stays provide charm and character. Ahilya by the Sea offers beach views and an exquisite infinity pool. Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel, perched on a hilltop, provides panoramic vistas, while WelcomHeritage Panjim Inn is set in a colonial mansion in Fontainhas. To escape the crowds, The Postcard Hideaway Netravali offers a serene retreat nestled in the Western Ghats forest.

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Food & Drink

Goan cuisine is a delightful fusion of Portuguese-influenced Catholic dishes and Goan Hindu Saraswat cuisine, both prominently featuring seafood. Fish curry and rice, accompanied by fried fish, form the staple diet. Sol kadhi, a tangy and spicy drink made with coconut milk and kokum (a type of mangosteen), complements the flavors. Choriz, a spicy pork sausage, is a Goan specialty best enjoyed with pao (soft bread) or in a curry. Signature dishes like vindaloo, xacuti, cafreal, and sorpotel showcase the Portuguese influence. Indulge in traditional desserts such as bebinca, a layered cake, and serradura, a biscuit and cream pudding. To savor authentic Goan cuisine, visit renowned restaurants like Martin’s Corner in Betalbatim, Chef Fernando’s Nostalgia in Raia, Viva Panjim in Panaji, Bhatti Village in Nerul, and Souza Lobo in Calangute.

Goa’s culinary scene extends beyond traditional cuisine, with eclectic bars and restaurants serving a range of international and reimagined Goan dishes. Explore establishments like Gunpowder in Assagao, Bomras, Mahé, and Baba au Rhum in Anjuna, Pousada By The Beach in Calangute, Fisherman’s Wharf in Cavelossim, The Black Sheep Bistro in Panaji, Thalassa in Siolim, and Sakana in Vagator to experience the diverse gastronomic landscape.

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Don’t Miss

In recent years, Goa has emerged as a hub for craft beverages, including high-quality gins, rums, whiskies, beers, and agave spirits. Enthusiastic entrepreneurs have put Goa on the international spirits map with their distilleries.

Tamras, a homegrown gin brand, offers tours at its distillery located in Colvale, North Goa. Explore the distillation process, admire the gleaming copper stills, and savor refreshing G&Ts and cocktails in the lounge. For whisky enthusiasts, a visit to Paul John distillery in Cuncolim is a must for a tour and tasting experience.

For an authentic local experience, indulge in Goan feni, an aromatic spirit distilled from cashew nuts or toddy palm. Cazulo Premium Feni’s tasting room in Cansaulim is the world’s first feni cellar, allowing visitors to witness hundreds of garrafões (round-bellied glass bottles used for aging and storing feni) and sample different varieties and inventive cocktails.

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Enhance your understanding of Indian alcohol at All About Alcohol, Goa’s first museum dedicated to the subject. Located in Candolim, this expansive space showcases manufacturing and distilling equipment, historical bottles and glasses, and offers cellar tours with feni tastings and pairing sessions.

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Know Before You Go

The currency in Goa is the Indian rupee. The best time to visit is from mid-November to mid-February, although this period corresponds with the peak tourist season. If you’re interested in beach parties and music festivals, such as the popular Sunburn Festival in December, this is the ideal time to visit. The monsoon season (June-October) is great for trekking and exploring waterfalls. The São João festival, celebrated every June in honor of St. John the Baptist, is a vibrant cultural event.

To get around Goa, consider renting a bicycle, scooter, or motorcycle. Rental rates are not regulated and can range from £2-10 per day. Taxis are also available, but it’s advisable to negotiate the fare in advance, as they rarely run on meters.

Goa is generally safe for tourists, but solo female travelers should avoid isolated areas, especially at night. Take precautions against taxi scams and petty theft by carrying limited cash and keeping your passport and valuables secure. Drink spiking incidents have been reported, so exercise the same caution as you would in your home country.

With its captivating blend of culture, stunning beaches, delectable cuisine, and vibrant spirit, Goa offers an unforgettable experience that will leave you yearning for more.