Goa is a small state in India on the west coast just south of Bombay or Mumbai. On the coast of the Arabian Sea, it is the 7th smallest state of India. Goa has a total area of 1,429 square miles or 3,702 square kilometers. Vasco da Gama is the biggest city with a population of 100,000 (2011), while Panaji or Panjim is the state capital. Margao in south Goa is the state’s business capital.
Goa is also one of the most popular tourist destinations in India, and a top beach resort in Asia. From north to south, there are 70 beaches in Goa, but the most popular ones are Baga, Candolim, Calangute, Anjuna, Ashwem, and Arambol in north Goa, and Palolem, Agonda, Mobor, Cavelossim, Benaulim, and Colva in south Goa. Many of the beaches are tree-lined and serene, while the others are full of activities. There is plenty of water sports, many beach shacks, sun loungers with umbrellas, restaurants, bars, and cafes.
Go into the interiors, and there are many wildlife areas to explore like Bondla, Mhadei, Netravali, and Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife sanctuary that are full of many species of flora and fauna. The famous Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is located on the riverfront. A highlight of the trip will be the Dudhsagar Waterfalls. You can also do white water rafting.
Many tourists visit Goa for its vibrant nightlife scene and entertainment. There are very good nightclubs here like Club Tito’s, Sinq, LKP, and Hilltop. For entertainment, head to a casino and gaming house. Goa has both overwater and land-based casinos offering a variety of games – roulette, blackjack, poker, baccarat, and slots machines along with live entertainment and dancing.
For a quieter holiday, you can cruise on the rivers like Sal in the south and Mandovi for a nice, relaxing experience. There are sunset and dinner cruises with traditional music and cultural shows. There are also bird watching tours. You can also visit Grande Island off the coast and enjoy snorkeling, deep sea diving, swimming, and fishing. Bring back your catch of the day and get it prepared for a barbecue on the beach.
Regions Of Goa
Politically, Goa has just 2 districts – North and South. However, the state can be divided into 4 distinct regions –
- North Goa
- South Goa
- Central Goa
- The interiors
North Goa – The north is busier with more hotels, budget accommodations, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. The beaches are more crowded. But further north, as you go up to Arambol, you will see fewer tourists. The busiest beaches are Baga, Candolim, and Calangute. In peak season (November to February), there are often parties at many beaches as well. You will find plenty of water sport on the beaches – speed and banana boat rides, parasailing, windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding, knee boarding, and water skiing.
South Goa – The south is more serene. The beaches are cleaner as there are fewer people. Many of them are very quiet and very good for relaxation. You will find very few nightclubs here, so unlike the north, the south is not a party destination. There is a lot more greenery in south Goa, with many trees having palm and coconut plantations beside them. Most luxury resorts are location in the south.
Central Goa – This region comprises of mostly the big cities of Vasco da Gama and Panaji, which is the administrative headquarters of the state. The Goa International airport and shipping port are both located at Vasco da Gama. Central Goa also has the 2 biggest rivers – Zuari and Mandovi. Most of Goa’s water based casinos are on the Mandovi River. There are also a few beaches here like Miramar, Bambolim, and Baina among others.
Interiors – Goa’s interiors are vastly different in nature than the coastal regions. Bordering the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, they are rural communities where you can see the traditional way of life. This is a green area with several wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, a few lakes, and water reservoir. The forests are full of wildlife. There are many hiking trails.
State capital and the biggest city in north Goa. The city has many churches, temples, heritage buildings with unique architecture. Panjim’s Fontainhas neighborhood is a UNESCO Heritage zone with many art galleries, bakeries, restaurants, and old Portuguese mansions with beautiful balconies. Close to Panaji is Old Goa where you will find famous landmarks like Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Basilica of Bom Jesus, and the Se Cathedral.
Vasco da Gama
Goa’s largest city at the mouth of the Zuari River and the Arabian Sea. Vasco has Goa’s port and the state’s busiest railway station. The Goa International Airport is at Dabolim. Tourist attractions include Naval Aviation Museum and the St. Andrew's Church. There are a few beaches too like Bogmalo, Baina, and Hollant.
Margao, also called Margaon or Madgaon is in South Goa. It is the second largest city in Goa by population after Vasco da Gama. Margao is also the commercial, cultural and religious capital of Goa. It also has a rail station, which is the gateway for tourists visiting south Goa beaches.
How To Reach
You can reach Goa by flight, train, bus, car, and even a cruise that has started recently from Mumbai. Most international tourists arrive by flight. Many Indians too take a flight from different cities.
- Air – The Goa airport is located at Dabolim in Vasco da Gama. This is a busy airport connected to many Indian and international cities. This is India’s 10th busiest airport by passenger traffic. Many charter flights arrive here from Europe in the peak tourist season.
- Road – Goa is connected to the rest of India by national highways. There are both government and private bus services from many cities that run daily. You can also drive your own car to reach Goa. Mumbai is 581.5 kilometers by the NH 48 – it takes about 10 hours and 30 minutes. Bangalore is 572.3 kilometers away.
- Train – There are trains from all big Indian cities. Get down at Thivim for north Goa, Vasco da Gama for central, and Margao for south Goa.
- Cruise – India’s first luxury cruise service has started recently between Mumbai (Bombay) and Goa. The cruise has a swimming pool, spa, restaurants, and a disco. It’s an approximately 17 hour overnight cruise.
The most popular way of getting around is by hiring a car or bike. You can either hire a chauffeur driven car, or you can rent a dry car/bike for the entire day. Just fuel up and you are ready to hit the road. Car/bike rental services are available throughout the state.
- Goa Tourism also runs a Hop On Hop Off bus service
For longer distances, for instance, if you are planning to visit the northernmost and the southernmost beaches, it will be better to take a local train. However, most train stations are at a distance from the beaches.
Beaches of Goa
Most tourists visit Goa for its beaches. There are more than 70 to choose from – some busy offering a good sea for swimming, water sports, many beach shacks, restaurants, and bars, while the others are tree-lined, quieter and more serene.
- Top North Goa beaches – Anjuna, Arambol, Ashwem, Vagator, Morjim, Baga, Candolim, and Calangute.
- Top South Goa beaches – Colva, Cavelossim, Mobor, Agonda, Palolem, and Benaulim.
Choose from many water sports activities on the beaches. There are speed and banana boat rides, jet skiing, parasailing, wind surfing, knee boarding, fly boarding, water scooters, and more. Most activities are available in the summer and winter. Many are closed during the monsoon season because of high winds and a rough sea.
Off the beach, there is snorkeling and scuba diving. Explore the many famous dive sites and ship wrecks, or just skim the surface to see colorful marine life.
You can go on a gentle river cruise as well for a chance to see birds and bats, and also go on a fishing expedition if you like. Read our detailed water sports guide for Goa.
Goa has a vibrant and happening nightlife scene, especially in the north. Often the party goes on till late into the night. There is music and dancing – retro, tech, hip hop, EDM, and more. Many nightclubs in Goa are known for their trance parties. The most popular clubs are Tito’s in Baga, Hilltop in Vagator, Club Cubana, LPK (Love, Passion, Karma), Sinq, Silent Noise in Palolem, Shiva Valley, Kamaki, and Club Cubana.
Parties are also held right on the beach at the shacks after sundown. Many of these parties are however private.
Food & Drinks
Goa is famous for its seafood and feni, its traditional drink.
For food, pick from traditional Konkani cuisine, south and north Indian, and continental preparations. In Goa, you will find food from all over the world – China, Japan, France, Turkish, Italian, and Mexican. Some of the best Goan restaurants are,
- Martin's Corner
- Souza Lobo
- La Plage
- Palácio Do Deão
- Viva Panjim
- Casa Sarita
- Pousada By The Beach
- The Beach House
You have got to try feni when visiting Goa. The state’s traditional drink is made from coconut or cashew. This is often a bold drink for many. For something more conventional, head to any of the bars, restaurants, or shacks. You can choose from a wide range of drinks from around the world.
Christmas, New Year, and the Carnival are the biggest festivals.
The Goa carnival is held between February and March every year. There are parades with people wearing colorful dresses. Many creative floats. You will find a lot of singing and dancing on the streets.
Folk festival celebrated mostly by the Hindus. Carnival processions and parades. People colore themselves with powder and bright paints.
Christian religious festival on June 24 th dedicated to St. John the Baptist. People wear flowers, leaves, unique headgear, and masks. They plunge into wells and the Chapora River. A boat festival is also held at the river.
Three King’s Feast
A grand feast is held on January 6th. Dedicated to Three Kings of Magi who came with their gifts to infant Jesus the Christ. It is popular in Cansaulim, Arossim and Quelim.
One of the biggest festivals of the country, popular especially in north India. Diwali has become very popular in Goa as well. Though it is a Hindu festival, but people from all communities celebrate it. Rangoli is painted and diya’s are lit in the homes. Gifts are exchanged. There are huge firework displays.
Goa is mostly Christian, so Christmas, New Year, and Easter are big events. They are celebrated throughout the state. Christmas and New Year also falls in the peak tourist season. So there are big celebrations and parties.
Famous Landmarks/Tourist Attractions
Here is a list of the most visit-places/must-do activities in Goa –
- Chapora Fort
- Fort Aguada
- Basilica of Bom Jesus
- Se Cathedral
- Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception
- Latin Quarter
- Dudhsagar Falls
- Grande Island
- Anjuna Wednesday Market
- Arpora Night Market
- Naval Aviation Museum
- Shri Mahalaxmi Temple
- Mandovi river cruises
- Spice plantations
Check out our detailed guide on the top places to visit in Goa here.
Best Time To Visit Goa
The best time to visit Goa is during the winter season, between November and February. The weather will be much nicer this time of the year. Very little rain and long hours of sunshine, which means you can plan a day of sightseeing.
Goa In Summer (March to early June)
- The summer is hot with high humidity.
- Many beach shacks will be closed, especially in the south. Only the permanent shacks will be open.
- Few tourists, so cleaner and quieter beaches
- Cheaper, good deals.
Find villas with pool to relax when the temperature goes up.
Goa In The Monsoon (Middle of June to late August)
- High wind, choppy seas
- Almost no water sport available
- Good time to see Goa’s greenery
- Visit the Dudhsagar waterfalls, spice plantations
- White water rafting
Monsoon in Goa is very romantic. This is a good time to visit if you love the rains.
Goa In Winter (December, January)
- The peak tourist season
- Pleasant weather, very little rain
- Beach shacks all open, water sports
- Parties, nightlife
- Costlier, especially around Christmas and New Year
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