Goa Guide: 8 Essential Experiences

With miles of beautiful beaches, colonial architecture, and biodiversity hotspots, it’s little wonder that Goa is one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. Explore the best bits and go off the beaten track with our local insider, Chryselle.


Photo © iStock/byheaven

With everything from beaches to film festivals, Goa is now a year-long holiday destination. Whether you visit in the monsoon when everything is green and fresh, or join the throng of year-end visitors, Goa has something special for you.  

Must See and Do

Goa's Best Beaches

For long stretches of unspoiled beaches, head to the less-crowded Arambol and Mandrem in North Goa, or Polem Beach in the south. Baga Beach is best for water sports such as parasailing, jet-skiing, speedboat rides, and banana rides.

As you make your way along Goa’s coastline, be sure to stop in at the forts that are littered along the coast. Spend a day in one of the beach shacks and get to know the locals. If you make friends with the waiters and bartenders, ask them to share their story – you’ll be rewarded with interesting tales.


Take a stroll along Arambol beach at sundown. Everyone comes here to watch the sunset, surrounded by street performers playing music and doing circus tricks on the sand. North of Arambol, visit the Banyan Tree where The Beatles once lived to make music with the locals.


In Panjim, the capital of Goa, explore the colonial legacy showcased through brightly-painted heritage buildings. Visit Mapusa Market for regional delicacies such as sausages, dried fish, and Goan sweets.


Even if it’s not your scene, attend a psytrance event on Anjuna beach – it’s quite the experience. If you’re there on a Wednesday, head to the flea market at Anjuna. If you’ve got time, hire a motorbike and drive the backstreets between Anjuna and Vagator. 

Old Goa

Old Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its churches are some of the most important in Asia, including the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier.

Visit some of Goa’s museums to investigate the houses of Goa, its glorious agrarian past, and the state’s smuggling history.

Bogmalo beach, Goa. Photo credit: iStock

Cultural Experiences

Goa’s cultural calendar is full up with concerts, festivals, and events throughout the year.

New Year’s festivities continue well into February, with the Monte Music Festival in Old Goa, the D.D. Kosambi Festival of Ideas, and a four-day celebration of Carnival across the state.

Bring in spring with the colorful parades of Shigmo, or jump into local ponds for São João in June.

Shigmo festival in Panjim. Photo credit: iStock

In August-September, enjoy the spectacle of Ganesh Chaturthi, Goa’s biggest religious festival, or head over to Divar island for Bonderam (Festival of Flags).

In November, the annual International Film Festival of India (IFFI) sets the tone for the year-end festivities, and is followed by the Goa Arts and Literature Festival in December.

Don’t forget to see a tiatr (local theater) when you’re here.

Outdoor Activities

Try a water sport or two on Goa’s beaches, or go on an eco-friendly and sustainable dolphin-spotting trip with Terra Conscious, and scuba-diving or snorkeling off the coast with Dive Goa.

During the monsoon season, or just after, head inland to Goa’s forests for an invigorating trek to a gushing waterfall.

Birdwatchers should visit Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, or Carambolim Lake, to admire the migratory birds that come this way every year.

Local Secrets

The best way to see the real Goa is to spend time with a local family.

Try a local homestay where the owners not only welcome you into their homes, but also help you see a slice of the real Goa.

For shopping, head to 18 June Road in Panjim, the Anjuna flea market or the hip stores in Candolim and Assagao.

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  • rick be said

    There was-(is?) a nude beach in Goa,the only one in India.Most Indians are fully dressed except for shoes when they go there. In my more daring days I did let it all hang out.

  • Mega said

    I'm a Singaporean. Am travelling to Goa for the first time from 8th to 18 Dec 2017. I need a private guide... pleass help.. ????

  • Julie said

    What a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing a detailed guide on Goa.
    Goa is definitely a year-long holiday destination because of having beautiful beaches, chill nightlife, forts, markets, food and adventures water sports.
    While this blog lists almost everything that's amazing about Goa, here is detailed list of some other top things to do in Goa - https://www.yatra.com/india-tourism/things-to-do-in-goa

  • Emmanuel said

    Does that Beatles claim have any sort of factual basis or is it just something people started saying?

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