A Travel Guide to Goa

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Goa Airport Directory (GOI)   North Goa Airport Guide (GOX)
India’s smallest state Goa is packed with sandy beaches and lively ambience, all this makes for a perfect beach vacation. Besides the nightlife in Goa, there is another side to Goa which follows quaint villages, churches, museums and galleries that make it easy for you to cut away from the crowd and explore the state’s cultural offerings. Goa is known for its rich and remarkable history; of all the dynasties that ruled here, the Portuguese, who arrived here in the 16th century were the ones who gave Goa its extraordinary legacy and its distinctive heritage. Their strong influence is seen in the baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, old forts, vibrant and lively festivals and ceremonies, soulful fado music, and the stunning cathedrals. The Goans love their food, which is a beautiful Indo-Portuguese blend of spices, flavours, and aromas.

Best time to visit Goa

The months between November to February is the best time to experience Goa at its full glory. The weather during these months remain pleasant and ideal for exploration. 

How to reach Goa

  • By air: Goa has two airports. The first is Dabolim Airport, which is located 29 km away from the state’s capital, Panjim. The other is the newly opened New Goa International Airport which is located in Mopa Village in North Goa. IndiGo operates more than 150 non-stop weekly flights to Goa and all other key locations.
  • By train: Madgaon and Thivim are the two prime railway stations, connecting Goa to the rest of the country.
  • By bus: There are ample public and private bus operators in Goa that connects the city with the neighbouring region and other cities.

Getting around Goa

You could either book a taxi for your trip or hail a cab as you travel to attractions. The best way to see Goa is by renting cars, or motorcycles and start exploring yourself.

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15Kg
7Kg
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Places to visit in Goa

  • North Goa: Head towards the north straight from the airport and get to any of the several shacks on Baga beach. If you love adventure, make a beeline for the sea, where you can go parasailing, jet-skiing or on a regular boat ride. Party the night away at Baga beach or Anjuna beach.
  • Churches: Goa also boasts some lovely Portuguese-era churches that deserve a visit. We’d pick the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panjim for its impressive white exterior and eye-catching ornamented altars. There’s also the Basilica of Bom Jesus in old Goa, somewhat in ruins but still standing proof of brilliant Jesuit architecture. For the devout, it houses a silver casket that holds the sacred relics of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. This is also where Goa’s biggest and most important festival takes place - the Feast of St Xavier, which happens during the first week of December, and is a time for prayer and processions. Panjim also has the gorgeous Latin Quarter of Fontainhas.
  • Fort Aguada: Not far is the historic Fort Aguada and its lighthouse, where the cellular jail is now thrown open to tourists. It is a 17th century well-preserved Portuguese Fort standing on Sinquerim beach overlooking the beautiful Arabian Sea. Aguada Fort, erected in 1612, encircling the entire peninsula at the south-western extremity of the Bardez Taluka in North Goa, is known for its first lighthouse in Asia.
  • Chapora Fort: Yes, you guessed it right! This is the place where the iconic shot from the movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ was shot and thus a popular tourist destination. The fort which is now in ruins overlooks the scenic Chapora river. The evening is the best time to visit this place to experience spectacular views of the sunset.
  • South Goa: Don’t just stick to the north, though—south Goa has Palolem beach, one of the safest stretches of sea in the region. Goa is also one of the few states in India where gambling is legal. So, you can try your luck at casinos such as the Deltin Royale, with India’s only dedicated poker room, and Casino Pride, which also has a kids’ zone with computer games.
  • Old Goa: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding group of churches and convents, Old Goa or Velha Goa was once the prosperous capital of the Bahmani Sultan Adil Shah. When the Portuguese conquered the city in 1510, Old Goa went on to become a glorious, flourishing city that attracted traders and travellers from all over Europe. Traders came from China, Arabia, Zanzibar etc. to trade in silk, cotton, spices, and perfumed oils, etc. At its zenith, the city was bigger than even Lisbon, and was called “the Rome of the East”. Today, Old Goa offers glimpses of a grand old era, bringing to life its marvellous heritage by way of its gorgeous churches and convents.
  • Dona Paula: Dona Paula is a village named after Dona Paula de Menezes. This place offers water sports such as boating, fishing, etc. at the Donna Paula Bay. The platform on the highest point also gives pleasant views out to the Arabian Sea and across the Port of Mormugao.
  • Panjim: With its cobbled lanes, old taverns, churches, brightly painted houses, mansions, restaurants, bakeries, promenades, and jetties, Panjim in central Goa has the lovely ambience of a little Mediterranean town on the riverfront. Showcasing grand Portuguese architecture, Panjim contains heritage areas that co-exist with bustling parts of the city. The elegant city built on the banks of the Mandovi River, is a walker’s pardise.
  • Se Cathedral: Dedicated to St. Catherine, Se Catheral is the most imposing of all churches in Old Goa. It has fifteen altars and houses the famous 'Golden Bell'. Situated across the road from the Basilica, the Se Cathedral was completed in 1652. It was built to represent the wealth, fame, power, and glory of the 16th century Portuguese rulers. The Se Cathedral is the largest church in Asia. On top of its facade hangs the Golden Bell – also Asia’s largest – whose mellow sound, it is said, could be heard all over Goa. Inside the Cathedral are eight chapels and six side altars, apart from the main altar that is dedicated to Saint Catherine.
  • Shri Manguesh: Surrounded by rolling green hills, the Shri Manguesh is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the most important of all temples in Goa and is located at Priol in Ponda Taluka. 
  • Ancestral Goa: A village model in Loutolim, this place is a museum that was designed to illustrate Goa's traditional past where one is given a guided tour illustrating interesting details of day-to-day village life. 
  • Miramar Beach: An urban beach where the Mandovi River meets the Arabian Sea, is just 2 km from Panaji City and is the towns people rendezvous point that offers the best location to watch enchanting sunsets.

Places to eat in Goa

Bistro at Alila Diwa Goa
Bistro at Alila Diwa Goa

Head to Bistro at Alila Diwa Goa and work your way through a delicious meal, using your senses other than sight.

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Antares
Antares

How can you pass up on India’s own MasterChef Australia experience? Sarah Todd, finalist of the 2014 edition, helms Antares, a beachside restaurant attached to a 14-villa resort in Vagator. Expect some exciting creations: pork belly with kokum, lobster linguini, and raisin and onion jam are a few. 

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Palácio do Deão
Palácio do Deão

To go more offbeat, try a meal at a 200-year-old private palace. Palácio do Deão is now a hip restaurant in Quepem, where the focus is on freshly sourced ingredients from local farmers and fishermen and generations-old recipes. Your dinner gets served in a covered courtyard, with eye-stopping greenery all around you.

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Martin’s Corner, Betalbatim
Martin’s Corner, Betalbatim

For local cuisine, wend your way through the tiny lanes till you get to this iconic restaurant. Ask for the sorpotel, pork vindaloo and chicken cafreal or get the king crab, as Sachin Tendulkar does when he comes to dine.

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Mum’s Kitchen
Mum’s Kitchen

No prizes for guessing, this one excels at comfort cuisine. Lamb xacuti, marinated Goan sausages, and pork sorpotel with sannas come highly recommended. But Mum’s Kitchen scores over others because it is one of the few places that also serves authentic Saraswat cuisine.

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Horse Shoe
Horse Shoe

Don’t let the spare ambience trick you, this restaurant’s been pulling in locals for the last 35 years for its squid, prawns and the legendary bebinca. Chef Vasco was born and raised in Angola, so you know you’ll get some flavourful Portuguese cuisine.

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Bhatti Village
Bhatti Village

This cosy, unpretentious nook is another local favourite, for its gaboli (fish roe) and other home-style preparations. Run by an affable couple where the wife runs the kitchen. This feels more like a home than a restaurant.

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Brittos
Brittos

You must try this no-frills crowd-puller at Baga beach. Baked crabs, Goan fish curry with rice, and steak and kidney pudding, all at very pocket-friendly prices.

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Sur la Mer
Sur la Mer

Need another French option? Sur la Mer place exudes a friendly charm that lets you dine leisurely for hours. Enjoy your oysters, lobster, and seafood chowder and finish off with the sinful chocolate fondant.

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Thalassa
Thalassa

Its clifftop location makes this Greek taverna a sunset must-go. Feast on this traditional lamb stew called kleftiko, along with souvlaki wraps and tzatziki dip.

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Souza Lobo
Souza Lobo

It is a large, well laid out, Mangalore tiled roof restaurant that is known for serving a delicious meal and your favourite drinks. Their Crab masala is a must try.

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Shopping places in Goa

  • Caculo Mall: This mall is a one stop destination for all your shopping needs. The mall brings a range of international brand options for visitors to shop from. It comprises not just the most extravagant apparel and accessories brands, but also a number of restaurants to satiate your hunger pangs while shopping here.
  • Mall De Goa: With more than 82 outlets to shop from, this mall brings a range of shopping options for visitors. The mall boasts being Goa’s most popular malls.
  • Flea markets: There are a number of flea and local markets in Goa. While Anjuna’s Wednesday market has cool tops, dresses and flashy footwear, Baga’s Saturday-night markets are the spots for bags, hats and handicrafts.
  • Mapusa Friday market: Head to Mapusa for the Friday market. You will find a variety of knick-knacks here from food to jewellery and more. Bring your best bargaining game to the table.
  • Malini Ramani: If boutiques are more your scene, try Malini Ramani’s at Calangute for a gorgeous collection of jewellery and handbags. Janota, in Bardez, offers some funky, unusual custom-made footwear.
  • Wendell Rodricks Design Space: At the Wendell Rodricks Design Space in Panjim, you can buy some clothes in cotton and satin, available in pop and neutral colours. Not far from here is Sacha’s Shop, run by former writer/stylist of GQ India, Sacha Mendes. Head here for cross-stitch towels, deconstructed Savio Jon blouses, and 11:11 shirts.

Nightlife in Goa

  • LPK Waterfront: The party never stops in Goa, provided you know where to go. LPK Waterfront in Nerul channels a bohemian vibe, with terracotta statues and fairy lights.
  • Silent Noise: At the other end of the strip, in Palolem, south Goa is Silent Noise, where you dance on the sands with music pulsing through bluetooth headsets.
  • Leopard Valley: But if you like it loud and crazy, Leopard Valley in Canacona is where you go. The open-air club brings in international DJs to set the mood. With large stage and pyrotechnics, this is where you can pull an all-nighter.
  • The Gonsalves Mansion: The Gonsalves Mansion in Campal is where you go for a romantic night of jazz. A family-run establishment, this old Portuguese bungalow pulls in the best local acts from across the state. This is as Goa as Goa gets.

Where to stay in Goa

Span-Suites-Goa

Span Suites and Villas, Morjim Goa Located near one of Goa’s most tranquil beaches, this hotel is one of the best places to stay located in close proximity to the popular tourist beaches and a riverfront.

ParkHyatt

Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, Cansaulim This five-star property is a short drive from the airport packs. The hotel has gorgeous and breezy rooms along with great food served in its five restaurants and cafes. The hotel also has a spa with an endless view of the Arabian Sea.

Beleza

Beleza by the Beach, Betalbatim Colva beach is where you should stay when you can’t decide if you want to run away from the crowds or get all the action possible. The beaches are clean; the tourists are minimal and yet, there are enough watersports to keep you busy. Beleza by the Beach has a swimming pool, a spa, a beach shack and bar, meaning you never really have to go too far to enjoy. Add babysitting services, and you know why couples prefer this boutique resort.

PanjimInn

Panjim Inn, Panjim This 180-year-old hotel gives you a chance to experience Goa’s rich heritage. Right in the heart of Fontainhas, Panjim Inn has rooms with vintage furniture and fittings that take you back in time. The floating casinos on the Mandovi are barely five minutes away, making it the perfect place for when you think you’re feeling lucky.

ShantiMorada

Shanti Morada, Saligao If you’re among those who think that Goa’s beauty is its countryside, not the beach, you’ll enjoy your stay at this hotel in Saligao. The “home of happiness” is a century-old home now restored and converted into a hotel. With art and furniture going back several hundred years, this place is all about charm. But not everything old is old-fashioned. The hotel has enough to keep you entertained, a jacuzzi pool bar, an Ayurveda massage centre and as many as four lounges. And if you still need more, they’ll arrange private fishing trips for you.

More reasons to visit Goa

  • Hot air balloon ride: If you are seeking thrills then you need to get into a hot-air balloon from where you will get stunning view of Goa.
  • Dudhsagar waterfall: Located approximately 60km away from Panjim, Dudhsagar Waterfall is among the most spectacular waterfalls in India. The fall cascading like milky white water from a height of 310 metres is a site to see. 
  • Yoga hubs: Popular yoga hubs include Palolem, Agonda and Patnem in the south and Arambol, Mandrem and Anjuna in the north. Stay at a chic yoga retreat such as Banyan Tree Yoga in Ashvem, which combines a yoga experience with home-cooked farm-fresh meals (open from November to April).
  • The spice plantations: The spice plantations of Goa are scattered around the interior of Goa's beautiful rural landscape. Traditional Goan methods of organic farming are done here. Coconuts, betel nuts, pineapples, different kinds of spices etc. are grown here. At the plantation, enjoy a delicious Goan buffet lunch that will be specially laid out for you; serve yourself on a banana leaf and eat the traditional Goan way!

Festivals in Goa

  • Goa Carnival: The Goa Carnival takes place during the month of Feburary with parades, song and dance. It is a festival full of colour, extravagant dances, music performances and a lot more. This one of a kind festival portrays the beautiful Goan culture which a mix of Portuguese heritage. Goa Carnival attracts a large number of visitors every year.
  • Shigmahotsav: Shigmahotsav takes place during March, it is considered as the state’s version of Holi. The festival is characterised by music, dance and fervour and is also known as Shigmo. It is a culturally vibrant and colourful festival marking the end of winter and welcoming spring. During this festival, the streets of Goa are abuzz with music, dance and more.
  • Sao Joao: Sao Joao is one of the most prominent festivals of the Catholic community. It is celebrated with great pomp and show in the villages of North Goa.

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