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
#1. Woof Woof is a handcrafted 53-foot teakwood boat that sails up to 7 nautical miles into the Arabian sea from the Chapora River, Goa - a serene and blissful ride with the potential for dolphin spotting! Relax with a few cocktails as you sail down the river and gaze upon the breathtaking sunset.
#2. Ever heard of a chocolate thali? That's right - don't miss trying it at La Plage, a lovely French restaurant in Morjim, Goa. The chocolate thali has a delicious spread consisting of 8 different types of chocolate-based desserts like chocolate mousse, chocolate crepes and more.
#3. Enjoy some delicious rotisserie chicken, Goan style at the Saturday Night Market while finding great shopping bargains. The Night Market in Arpora is a place where you can find anything and everything, from export reject clothes to souvenirs, knick-knacks and antiques. The Boutique House Bar is a good place for some cocktails to wash all that street food down.
#4. Enjoy a delicious meal at the Flor de Mar, the floating restaurant that takes you down the river and lets you enjoy awe inspiring sights at night. They serve Mediterranean cuisine, and are known for their delicious desserts and cocktails as well. Get a picturesque view of the nearby sand banks where birds flock at sunset.
#5. Go snorkeling at Bat Island and stumble upon the remains of a ship wreck! The Goan coast has a lot of areas that have the remains of sunken ships, and this makes it an exciting spot for snorkelers. Suzy's Wreck is a 30m long World War II shipwreck site where you can also observe a lot of colourful fish species.
#6. A small Portuguese style fort built in 1551 with a rich history. The bastion installed was used as a prison in the past. Browse through the Mario Miranda gallery that showcases a lot of the late artist's work, and the lovely wooden model of the fort in the main hall.
#7. A beautiful red-tiled temple built in a fusion of Indian and Portuguese architecture. It used to be a simple mud shrine in the past but later got transformed into this beautiful red and white structure, dedicated to the goddess Shantadurga devi. Watch the aarti at sunset, and gaze upon the beautiful stained glass windows.
#8. Watch dozens of beautiful butterfly species showcased at the Butterfly Conservatory in Goa. You can also explore the Sahakari spice plantation in the vicinity. Walking through the park is like being in a tropical rain forest, an experience worth trying!
#9. The Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary offers budding ornithologists a chance to go on a canoe ride and observe some beautiful, rare bird species in their natural habitat. This beautiful sanctuary is located on the western tip of the Island of Chorao along the river Mandovi, Goa and is named after the eminent Indian ornithologist, Salim Ali.
#10. Cirrus is unique for the fact that it has been entirely handcrafted from recyclable materials by the owner, DJ Ignatius. Everything is made from scrap metal, plastic, rubber, empty beverage bottles, and it has lovely hand painted walls with quirky art. Look out for the old fridge that's been converted into a closet in one of the huts.
#11. Enjoy exploring the Cumbharjua Canals & look out for crocodile sightings. Crocodiles are actually worshipped by the locals, in the belief that appeasing them would ensure that they don't attack any humans. The other name for this fascinating spot is 'Crocodile Dundee'.
#12 The local Goan theatre is very unique and a great way to soak up the culture! Interestingly, this art form has survived through sheer popularity and without any support from the local government or any type of overt promotion. Performances are usually based on current social and political issues including drug abuse, alcoholism and other concerns. Make sure you catch a performance the next time you're in Goa.
Want to skip the waiting & view it right away?
Click on the + sign to view the photos.
25°C - 40°C
15°C - 25°C
900 mm avearage
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.