Goa, one of the few destinations in India that is as popular with the local tourists as it is with those visiting the country.
Over the years this small part of such a vast country has achieved an almost cult status; for many – students out on their first trip without parents – it’s the right of passage, for others a romantic destination, and then there are those wanting to party all night, or there is of course the magnetic pull that the beaches of Goa have which might not be much in comparison to those of the Caribbean or Mediterranean, but still the warm soft sands are a welcoming change especially to those that live far away from the cool sea breezes that graces this land all year long.
What makes Goa so special is the variety of activities it presents to those willing to experience it; there’s something for all age groups and all tastes. A visit to Goa, especially your first, can be a little unnerving with so many options at hand but if you take it slow, plan a little in advance, there’s a good chance that you’ll leave with memories that will stay with you for a long time.
Stay: Everyone wants that perfect beach view when staying near the sea and while there’s obviously no harm in that, one must explore other, more inward resort options as well, especially in Goa since that provides a unique opportunity to explore a different side of the region. Take Resort Rio Goa for instance which is situated by the banks of Baga river and close enough to Baga Beach to give its customers the best of both worlds.
Food: Goan food is in a class of its own, featuring fresh local produce, catch of the day often as you can imagine sea-food forms the basis of many dishes, and the fact that it is influenced by Indian, Portuguese, Konkani, and to some extent even Muslim cuisines makes it truly unique and a must try when there.
Most hotels have multiple restaurants and usually one focuses on local cuisine or if you are unsure, ask the Concierge at the resort you are staying for a nearby local foodie hot-spot.
And then there is the locally produced cashew or toddy-palm liquor, Feni, which is trademark Goa and demands at least a taste when there.
Activities: There is an abundance of activities to partake in when exploring Goa; One can rent a jet-ski, practice other adventurous beach side excursions or simply spend a day in the sun, by the water, doing absolutely nothing. On rainy days, it’s always a good idea to stay in a resort where indoor activities are a-plenty and most places will have kid friendly options too.
Those interested in nature can plan a visit to the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary or to Dudhsagar Falls for a refreshing and scenic view.
But, if your favourite activity is shopping, then Goa has some famous flea-markets during the week and weekend that draw visitors from all over. They are a good place to grab a great deal, find local artifacts, and test your bargaining skills.
Transport: If you’re in Goa for a very short period – say a weekend – then hiring a Taxi is the best option, but if your stay spills over for longer, then renting a car is the preferred way to experience Goa.
However, if you want to be a little more adventurous, then rent a scooter and zip through the inner roads to immerse in the beauty of the state that is tropical in nature and comes with all the attractiveness of palm trees, open green friends, and winding roads that are signature to similar regions.
Heritage: Last but certainly not the least, Goa is a lot more than resorts, the sea, and the beach. The Portuguese influence is evident everywhere you travel within the state from houses to churches and it is essential that you devote some part of your vacation plunging in the cultural aspects of this beautiful land.
A walk around the colourful Fontainhas in Panaji, a visit to Fort Aguada, or the wonderful architecture of the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, all are but a few places that will impress and leave you in awe of their exquisiteness.
Over the years Goa has been balancing on a thin line wherein it has fumbled between being the number one tourist destination of the country to a few cases of illegal activities. Nevertheless, Goa is what you want it to be.
My visit to Goa included romantic walks on the beach, pottery making classes at the resort I stayed in, drinks out in the open watching the sun set, and of course lots of food, wine, feni, and dancing.
Love it or not, there’s a charm to Goa, a certain exclusivity that makes it so special and the fact that it’s relatively accessible once you’re in the country, makes it even more of an attraction.
Sun, sea, beach, food, drink, culture, tropical weather, and the chance to let go of everything and be free… that in a nutshell is Goa!