The home of vibrant markets, stunning scenery, spectacular sunsets and erm… cow beaches? Here’s our insider guide to Goa, the perfect winter sunshine holiday destination.
This is the Purple Travel cheat sheet for Goa, it’s right on the western edge of India and known under many guises, including ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and ‘Tourist Paradise’. A former Portuguese colony, it’s home to soaring temples, endless beaches and an eclectic mix of Indian and Portuguese traditions, architecture and food. As you can imagine, holidays in Goa are more than just about beaches and sunshine (although they are near perfect!) they are also about indulging in the unique history and rich culture of this beautiful part of India.
Once a hotspot for hippies in the 60s, Goa’s glorious beaches and wonderful atmosphere has seen it become a firm holiday favourite, with over 2.5 million people visiting every year. Towards the end of September, monsoon season finishes up, leaving lush greenery, around ten hours a day of warm sunshine with little humidity, temperatures averaging 27 degrees and endless sandy beaches to perfect your tan. This carries on through to early March, meaning it’s a great choice for Christmas or New Years too. Throw in great prices, you’ll get a decent dinner for two with some local wine for about a tenner, while there are more budget friendly hotels and apartments than you can shake a stick at. Trust us the ten hour flight from the UK will be worth it. Find out all about this amazing country in our Goa Destination guide.
Goa’s loosely separated into two parts: North and South. The general rule is that it’s a bit busier in the north, maybe because it’s where the capital Panaji is. Plus it was the first part to be developed, when hippies arrived in the early 70s. The Southern part of the country is known as a more relaxed, laidback holiday destination.
Anjuna with a weekly flea market, regular Saturday night bazaars and an alternative feel, Anjuna Beach has got plenty on offer. At sunset the beach is filled with entertainers from jugglers to fire-eaters, a great place to start your night out.
Candolim One of the quieter beaches in the Northern part of Goa, Candolim is not exactly empty, but tends to be on the quieter side. There are plenty of restaurants and bars nearby to keep your energy levels up for all the sunbathing.
Calangute is known as the queen of Goa’s beaches. It’s a really busy, bustling beach with lots of people. You’ll find plenty of children happily plotting sandcastles, while the surrounding bars and beach clubs mean it’s a great place to relax after a heavy night out.
Vagator The cliffside beach is split in two, between Big and Little Vagator Beaches and these are home to some of the best beach parties you’ll find in all of Goa, from trance to techno, hippies and backpackers, it’s a spot for all walks of life and certainly a place to make some new friends as you dance the night away.
Agonda Beach Regularly topping the best beach in Goa lists, Agonda is clean and out of the way. It’s beautiful and secluded so it’s ideal for couples looking for a quiet day relaxing on sand. There aren’t so many food options around, so a sunset picnic sounds like a gorgeous option to us.
Cansaulim offers a really relaxed atmosphere. It’s a quiet, clean stretch close to two airports, so it’s perfect if you want to escape to the sun last minute. The sleepy villages nearby combined with the hotels and resorts mean you’ll never be short of options.
Betalbatim Great value on the shacks that edge the beach, while the peace and quiet is only interrupted by the odd bird or dolphin. Betalbatim has a friendly atmosphere that gets people returning year after year.
Colva A perfect mix of sun, sea and sand, Colva is known for its natural beauty. The 20-odd mile stretch of white sand and sparkling ocean leaves plenty of room to grab a lounger, a good book and take advantage of the sunshine.
Cow beach well, we couldn’t talk about Goa with talking about Cow beach. Bikini clad tourist happily mingle with bulls and heifers. As you do.
Things to do
Family break Many of the hotels dotted along the coast of the Arabian Sea are fully kitted out to make sure you and your little ones get the most out of it. Every conceivable activity is on offer, from Kid’s Clubs, crocodile watching, waterslides, swimming pools, beaches, GoKarting, or cruises. Sounds like a handful for your little handful.
Grownups getaway If you’re after a more grownup approach to your holiday, then a spa break is a pretty decadent way of doing it. Ayurvedic therapies will reunite your mind and body harmony. Failing that, you’ll at least find yourself feeling more relaxed than when you arrived.
Silent discosThe Silent Noise headphone parties in the south of Goa, see clubbers dance the night away – without disturbing any of the neighbours. It’s also some of the best fun you’ll ever have. Two or three DJs play the night away and each clubber has their own headphones so you can tune to whichever song suits your mood. It might sound weird, but when you make eye contact with someone dancing to your song, you’ll know you’re in the right place.
Goan Carnival A yearly procession of colours and costumes, the Goan Carnival lasts for three or four days every year and we’re talking night and day. The legendary King Momo comes to life and takes over to create a riot of music and dance. It’s perfect timing if you’re planning ahead, the 2013 carnival kicks off on February 9th.
Dudhsagar Falls a tiered waterfall just a couple of miles from the capital Panaji, it’s known as one of the most beautiful in India. Surrounded by legend, the story goes that a beautiful princess used to live nearby and enjoyed bathing in her birthday suit, drinking ‘sweetened milk’ from a ‘golden jug,’ honestly, this is how it goes. One day she found herself being watched by a prince. To cover her modesty, threw herself under the jug of milk. It’s said it is that sweetened milk that pours down the mountain today.
Eat in Goa Goa is, naturally enough famous for its seafood. Fish based curries and rice are the staples. Add a dash of coconut and some local spices and you’ll find the intense flavours and delicious aromatic dishes Goa prides itself on.
Find the best cheap flights, hotels and package holidays to Goa from Purple Travel