FOOTLOOSE IN GOA
There’s no place like Goa. There’s a sense of revelry, merriment and abandon in the air that is almost sinful. Eating, drinking, singing, and dancing are what Goans love to do, and their conviviality is infectious. The celebrations reach fever pitch at Carnival and Christmas; almost every little hamlet has its own little temple or church with its very own feasting and festivities. In fact, there seems to be a party going on in Goa all through the year. Many pubs and cafes have live bands playing on weeknights and countless shacks on the beaches of Goa resonate with classic international music.
The smallest state in India at 3,702 square kilometers, Goa is located on the West coast between Maharashtra and Karnataka, and is one of the prime destinations on the domestic and foreign tourist circuits. This has something to do with the joie de vivre of the place, but there are more specific reasons.
Goa has all kinds of beaches, from the popular, lively and noisy to the pristine and secluded. It has excellent seafood and the much-loved kaju feni (traditional local liquor made from the cashew fruit). It has some of the most beautiful churches in the country. The Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its exquisite baroque architecture and history, is one example. Goa also has numerous temples dedicated to deities ranging from Shree Bhagawati to Brahma to Kalikadevi, worshipped with equal gusto.
Then there is the shopping — apart from cashewnuts and feni, the flea markets of Goa are famous for quaint and exotic artefacts as well as hip casual wear, bags and accessories. Coconut palms are everywhere, and few people are aware that Goa has a rich forest cover of teak, sal, bamboo, cashew, mango and jackfruit trees, with several nature reserves like Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.
Adventure sports is another attraction. Parasailing, paragliding, water-skiing, windsurfing, dinghy sailing, water scooters, Banana rides and Ringo rides are available on most beaches. You can also go go-karting and knee-boarding, and car and bike rallies are popular.
There’s a lot to do in Goa. But you may choose to do none of it. You can enjoy the place just sitting by the beach, sipping a drink, reading a book, wading in the waves, listening to music, dancing, or stargazing.
- Area: 3,702 sq km
- State: Goa; divided into two districts – North Goa (headquarters Panaji) and South Goa (headquarters Margoa)
- Distance from nearby towns/ cities: Mangalore (360 km), Pune (460 km), Bangalore (575 km), Mumbai (600 km)
- Take away: Cashews, cashew feni, thongs, sarongs, art jewellery, papier-mâché objects, wooden furniture, bamboo and seashell handicrafts
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BEST TIME TO VISIT
Any time of the year is a good time for Goa though the season from October to March has the most pleasant weather and calm seas for water sports.
Note that the week between Christmas and New Year is absolute peak season in Goa; beaches and restaurants are crowded, and rates for everything from hotels to water sports are much higher.
Goa Carnival in February is a four-day celebration that begins on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday. Led by King Momo, the carnival has its own rhythms of guitars, drumbeats and folk songs with a colourful parade of floats and dancing troupes. Again, the carnival draws huge crowds, so you should decide whether you want to attend or skip it.
Feast of St Francis of Xavier on 3rd December every year is a major celebration at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in old Goa.