10 Things to Do in Goa
Featured destinations: Goa
Published 16 June 2017
Goa may be the smallest state in India, but it is also one of the country’s most eclectic. It would be easy to let its size fool you, but you’ll find that there is plenty to keep you busy here. Whether you want a beach day, to uncover some history, bar hop, try some water sports or just have a bit of retail therapy; you will be able to do it all, and more, in Goa.
While on a stint volunteering and travelling around India, I called this plush, coastal getaway my home; so I like to think of myself as a bit of an honourary local. Read on for my insiders’ tips of the best sights, beaches and attractions in gorgeous Goa:
Anjuna Beach image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Visit vibrant Anjuna Beach
Famous for its lively nightlife and weekly flea market, hippy haunt Anjuna tops the list of Goa’s must-see destinations. A big favourite among holidaymakers, young and old, for its laid-back and welcoming atmosphere, you’ll be pleased to know that you won’t get the same persistent hassle from sellers like at the other nearby beach hotspots, leaving you free to relax along the long stretch of beautiful white sand as ambient chill out tunes drift out from the lining beach bars.
Anjuna Flea Market image: Sandy Dhaliwal
You’ll of course want to so make a date for Wednesday’s vast and colourful flea market to pick up souvenirs. Here you’ll find a varied selection of clothing, jewellery, furnishings and more; while live bands play throughout the day at the market’s pop up bars and cafes. A good tip is to head here late afternoon, as the prices will decrease with sellers eager to make final sales. Wednesday is also ladies’ night at one of Asia’s most renowned venues, Club Cubana. Dubbed the ‘night club in the sky’ for its location in the hills, head here post shop for the picturesque vistas, a dip in the pool or for cocktails on one the four poster beds on the terrace, a truly stylish way to end your day.
Fort Aguada image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Explore Goa’s historical forts
Walk along the stone walls of one of Goa’s most impressive historical sites, Fort Aguada. Facing the Arabian Sea, the fort was built during the 16th Century Portuguese rule to guard against Dutch and Marantha invaders. With its breath-taking views, this wonderfully preserved landmark is well worth leaving the beach for.
Vagator Beach image: Sandy Dhaliwal
If you’re up for a bit of a hike, climb the hills of Vagator Beach to find the ruins of Chapora Fort. A perfect picnic spot, enjoy enchanting views of the palm tree lined beaches, as well as the neighbouring valleys below.
Spices at Mapusa Market image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Shop like a local at Mapusa Market
Popular with the locals, Mapusa Market is perfect for reasonably-priced meat, fish, fruit, veg and spices. You can also pick up a number of household goods, clothes and shoes here. Friday is the day tourists tend to go, but shopping on any other day is quieter and you’re bound to get better deals.
Bottle Bay, Baga image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Get lost in the madness of Calangute and Baga
Calangute is one of Goa’s most popular and naturally, overcrowded beaches. At the same time, it makes sense to be based here as much is easily accessible and available in the area. Here you’ll be able to wander through endless colourful markets – though I’d suggest heading to the quieter parts for the best bargains – experience the best in Ayurvedic massage and yoga, buy exquisite jewellery from the Tibetan Market and sample mouth-watering delicacies from the region. Excursions including scuba diving, fishing, crocodile tours, dolphin watching and island trips can also be booked here.
The equally as popular Baga is the place for water sports, as well as a cocktail (or five!). By day, enjoy parasailing, jet skiing and banana boat rides; and by night, sit under the harem tents of Café Laval, Bottle Bay and Café Del Mar or enjoy a fresh seafood barbecue at Love Shack, Dream Catcher or X9 Surfers Lounge. And if you want to take things up a notch, there’s always Tito’s Road, the lively bar strip that feels straight out of Zante. For a night reliving the glory days, head to the big three: Cape Town Café, Tito’s and Café Mambo’s; rounding off activities with a post club snack at Baptis.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Panaji image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Don’t miss the capital, Panaji
Experience a mix of old and new in Goa’s capital. Browse the Secretariat Buildings for their colonial architecture, explore the ancient artefacts housed in Goa’s State Museum and appreciate the dazzling art displayed at the Goa Central Library. Then head to the city’s main square for the grand view of the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, one of Goa’s major landmarks.
Church of Francis of Assisi, Old Goa image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Get spiritual in Old Goa
Explore the iconic churches, cathedrals and monasteries of Goa’s most sacred region. Marvel at the revered beauty of the Church of Francis of Assisi; explore Asia’s largest church, Se Cathedral; and glimpse of the tomb of St Francis Xavier, Goa’s patron saint, at the majestic Basilica of Bom Jesus. Also visit the nearby Archaeological Museum, housing an impressive collection of portraits, sculptures and stone carvings. And if you’re up for a walk, trek to the Church of Our Lady of the Mount for its scenic views, then wander through the stunning ruins of the Monastery of St Augustine. Round off your trip with delicious pastries at Mongini’s Cake Shop, which tastes like a slice of home.
Sandy at Palolem Beach, Goa image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Experience paradise at Palolem Beach
Palolem is quite literally beach heaven. I am not sure if I can do this place justice description-wise, so I’ll let the images speak for themselves. Here you can hire a bohemian bungalow, or even a tree house, and sleep right by the ocean. If you fancy a break from the perfect beaches, you can also take a trip into the backwaters or go dolphin watching on a fishing boat.
Head to Dudhsagar Falls
Lying close to the state border is India’s second highest waterfall. Take a day trip down to the nearest town Collem, close to the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, and from here take a jeep ride along the rocky terrain to this spectacular natural spot. From here you’ll be able to bathe under the waterfall and spot local wildlife.
Tropical Spice Plantation, Ponda image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Tour the Tropical Spice Plantation and its nearby temples
Visit the town of Ponda for a tour of the Tropical Spice Plantation. Take in the captivating views as you head across the rope bridge to the grounds – you’ll instantly feel like you’re on safari. From here, you’ll be greeted with a lemon grass tea and a trip around the jungle-like surroundings, filled with herbs, spices, wildlife and exotic plants, all rounded off with a delicious Goan feast of curries, breads and sweet rice.Safa Shahouri Masjid Mosque, Ponda image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Combine your plantation trip with a visit to one of the seven Ponda temples. Dedicated to a particular Hindu god, each of these colonial-built shrines combines European, Hindu and Muslim architectural styles. One of the most ornate, Shree Saunsthan Mahalaxmi, displays a beautiful statue of Lakshmi and a 16th Century carriage. Monkeys can also be seen swinging from the rooftops and trees, adding to the adventure. The historical Safa Shahouri Masjid Mosque is another must-see, as its Islamic designs contrast the Hindu temples of the area.
Mackie's Night Bazaar image: Sandy Dhaliwal
Make an evening of it at the Arpora night markets
Make a date for Saturday’s two evening markets, Mackie’s Night Bazaar and Ingo’s Night Market. While selling similar items to the flea market and the beach stalls, I would recommend checking them out for the social aspect. Here you can relax in the open-air bars, watch local bands and eat from the alfresco kitchens serving up roast dinners, baked potatoes, Belgian waffles and more. The chance to eat some familiar food may be enough to keep you returning every week – it certainly kept me coming come back!
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