An insider’s travel guide Goa

This is a post by writer Rosalie Cruz, who spent the past few months in Goa, experiencing all that life had to offer there. Read her insider’s travel guide to Goa and find her online on Facebook.

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India has always held a certain magical appeal to westerners. The reasons for that are more than we can list; maybe it’s the spirituality or perhaps it’s the amazing diversity of cultures, spice, food, colour that floods your senses at every turn but the truth is, there isn’t much you can’t find in India. From beautiful palaces tucked away in the deserts of Rajasthan, ageless rituals and the mysticism of Varanasi, the massive city sprawl of Mumbai or Delhi where anything can happen, the beauty of Kerala, the quaintness of Pondicherry. And then there is Goa, playground for Indians and the rest of the world alike.

Goa is quickly becoming the place to be if you’re looking for an amazing holiday at a relatively purse friendly rate. With its peaceful warm waters, stretches of fine sand surrounded by jungle and coconut tree forests, every beach in Goa could make it on a postcard. If you’re not so much into beaches, there is always the thrill of bargaining for handcrafted souvenirs in the many flea markets that dot the area or driving around on a spiffy little Vespa, snapping shot after shot of the architectural gems that remain from colonial days.

But if a beach holiday is what you crave, then Goa has much to offer. Some of my favourite beaches in North Goa are Morgim, Mandrem and Aswen. The three beaches are all part of the same large stretch of fine white sands, quiet warm waters and beach shacks and huts. If water based sports are your thing or you just need something to occupy yourself when you have decided to give yourself a break from tanning, this is the place to be. Surf lessons, para sailing, kite surfing. You name it, they’ll have it.

Dudhsagar Waterfall

Then there is Arambol, also to the North. Home to hippies, yogis and free spirits in general, this beach is the place to be if you’re looking for some serious chill out time with all mod cons. I recommend you stay for sunset and the drum circle that happens at the beach every night.

As you make your way further south, be sure to visit Anjuna. If you’re looking for a party (a trance party I should say) this is definitely the place to be. There is always a party going on in any of the many shacks on the beach. Curlie’s is an institution when it comes to partying in Anjuna but Hippies, Shiva Valley and Café Lilliput should be on your to do list as well. Days here are all about lazing by the beach, spending a Wednesday bargaining at the massive flea market and getting some food before heading out to party all over again.

Vagator, the smaller town neighbouring Anjuna, is said to be the birthplace of Goan Trance and has a much different vibe. Here you’ll end up rubbing shoulders with the people who fell in love with Goa back in the 60’s and have been unable to ever truly leave. All you have to do is pull up a stool at the Mango Tree (renowned for its bad service but still a favourite in the area); I promise you’ll leave with a story to tell. For some trance, try Hilltop or Nine Bar.

Baga and Calangute could well be the places for you if things get a bit too quiet while you bum around in North Goa. Tito’s Lane in Baga will definitely have a bar that suits you down to a T. It’s a great place to mingle and meet some locals. If you time your stay well you’ll be around for Sunburn, a music festival that caters for those who enjoy dance, house and trance music and renowned as one of the best festivals in the world.

Guetta in Goa

Before you leave, make sure you spend a Saturday night in the Arpora Saturday Night Market. Amazing stalls with local crafts as well as clothing and jewellery; designers from all over the world come here to sell their beautiful wares. It’s impossible to resist the urge to shop here, even if you dread the thought of shopping.

Before you leave North Goa, hop on a taxi and head to Old Goa, the district that was once the heart of Portuguese Goa. Beautiful churches and old colonial homes are the most evident remains of the colonial occupation. There is a stunning multi-dimensional feel to the whole state but Old Goa is where it is more evident and best preserved. It’s well worth spending an afternoon walking around with your camera in hand.

Once you hit South Goa, life slows down a bit more. The white sand beaches and warm waters of the Arabian Sea create the ideal place to see life go by. Away from the partying of North Goa, the key word here is “chill.” Palolem Beach, also known as paradise beach is definitely a must during a visit to Goa. And we assure you they don’t call it paradise beach for nothing. Sunset here is like nothing you have ever seen before. Spending the last few days of your holiday here will leave you invigorated and happy.

If after all the beachcombing you still have the time and energy, take a trip to Hampi in the state of Karnataka or Kerala but we’ll tell you all about that in another post.

All images via Rosalie Cruz.

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