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