The sun-soaked state of Goa is where the East meets the West – the place where Indian culture interlocks with the Portuguese influence, with Goa being a Portuguese colony for more than 500 years. Goa has always been known for their pristine beaches with North Goa being the hub of tourist attractions and South Goa off-late carving a niche for itself by becoming an ideal spot for family getaways. But Goa is not just all about beaches -there are monuments of historical significance, Temples & Churches rich in heritage and wildlife sanctuaries along the Western Ghats.
For many tourists a trip to Goa is all about experiencing the beautiful sun soaked beaches and thus it would be unfair to start this list by not highlighting the famous beaches to visit in Goa. I will try to highlight the places that you can visit in Goa – some famous and some hidden gems which have not yet been commercialized. The list would be pretty exhaustive and you might not be able to cover them in a single trip, for these are places that I have visited over the last 10 odd visits to Goa 🙂
The state of Goa is broadly divided into North Goa and South Goa. Most of the tourist attractions are located in North Goa and hence is much more commercialized. South Goa on the other hand is known for its untouched pristine beaches and hosts most of the luxurious resorts that you can find in Goa for a vacation.
Choosing a right location to stay is very important – based on my experience I would suggest that you should stay in North Goa if you are visiting Goa for the first time and are keen on exploring the city. It will be a tiring ride (especially near Panjim) through the traffic from South Goa to North Goa to explore the places out there. On the other hand, if you have been to Goa multiple times and are not that keen on exploring the places that you have already visited, choose South Goa. The beauty and serenity of South Goa beaches are unmatched and since you are far away from the maddening crowd, you can get enjoy the beaches.
Following are some of the resorts that I recommend. You can leverage the detailed write-ups of the places where I have stayed in North and South Goa and plan your stay accordingly.
- Vivanta by Taj – Fort Aguada, Sinquerium beach, Candolim– (Click here to read my review and recommendations)
- Vivanta by Taj – Holiday Village, Sinquerium beach, Candolim
- Grand Hyatt Goa, Bambolim – (Click here to read my review and recommendations)
- Goa Marriot Resort and Spa, Miramar beach, Panaji
- Vivanta by Taj – Panaji
- Taj Exotica, Benaulim (Click here to read my review and recommendations)
- Kenilworth Resort and Spa, Utorda (Click here to read my review and recommendations)
- The Holiday Inn, Mobor beach, Cavelossim (Click here to read my review and recommendations)
- The Leela Goa, Mobor beach, Cavelossim
- Park Hyatt Goa Resort and Spa, Arrossim Beach, Cansaulim
I am going to elaborate a detailed daily itinerary that you can follow to visit the prominent places, ideally for first time visiters. The entire plan would be laid out assuming that you are camping at North Goa in one of the resort that I have recommended above.
Tip: It will be a good idea for you to hire a car (self- drive). Renting a car in Goa is very easy – many a times you can always get good deals through the hotel contacts or you will find many boards guiding you to a nearby shop. The charges vary depending upon the demand. The rental charges drop significantly (around Rs 800 per day) during off-season (monsoons) and can go up to as high as Rs 3000 during Christmas and New Years. It also depends upon the type of vehicle that you are choosing. You can also rent a bike for around Rs 300 – Rs 600 per day. If you are driving your own car then you can overlook these options.
Note: Roads in Goa are pretty narrow and have many blind turns. Please ensure that you are not over-speeding, wear your seat belts and Do not Drink and Drive (Do not want to sound preachy, but safety comes first 🙂 )
Day-1 Itinerary: ( Visit to – Fort Aguada, Calangute beach, Baga beach and Dinner at one of the well know restaurants around Baga )
The entire coastline of Goa is dotted with pristine beaches and one would literally need to plan for a fortnight’s vacation to visit each and every beach. Starting from the Polem beach at the South most tip to the Querim beach at the North, there are hundreds of beaches lined up for you to explore during your vacations. Something unique about the Goan coastline is that you will find all sorts of beaches here – from the Golden sand beaches of Baga and Calangute , to the white sand beaches of Varca and Utorda, to the rocky beaches of Vagator and Anjuna and the dark sand beaches like Bambolim.
Start your day early after having breakfast at your resort – good idea to opt for the bed and breakfast packages as it is good to have a heavy buffet breakfast before heading out. Goa can get very hot as the day progresses and thus it would be a good idea to visit Fort Aguada during morning. Plan to reach the fort by around 10AM and you can spend around an hour here (before the sun get too harsh and the fort does not have much vegetation and shade where you can relax yourself).
The fort was built in 1612 and comprises of a lower fort with Bastions all around and an upper deck where the light house is situated. The fort skirts the season and gradually ascends to the summit which is generally referred to as “Aguada Point”. The upper deck provides a vantage point overlooking the Arabian sea. The upper deck also served as a fort and a watering station for the ships whereas the lower deck was the place where the ships used to dock. The word “Aguada” literally means “Watering place” in Portuguese. The upper fort also comprises of a Moat, an underground fresh water storage chamber (was one of the largest man made storage tanks during those days – 23,76,000 Gallons), Lighthouse, Gun powder rooms and Bastions. The lighthouse initially used emit light once in every 7 minutes, but in 1834 was updated to emit light every 30 seconds. The Lighthouse was abandoned in 1976.
It will take you an hour or so to visit the entire fort (unless you plan to take few pictures and return). Do visit the South facing side of the fort as it provides a great view of the ships which are lined up to enter the port. You will not find any guide to elaborate the historical significance of the fort and thus would have to reply on the boards which call out the historical facts. There are small shops that have come up outside the fort where you can refresh yourself.
Your next destination to visit on Day 1 would be Calangute beach. The drive from the Fort to Calangute will take around 30mins (under normal traffic conditions) to cover the distance of 7 odd kilometres. Try to reach Calangute by around noon – keep in mind that the beach will be pretty hot. Ensure that you have good shades and a high SPF sun screen lotion to keep away those harsh rays. You will have to park your cars about 1km from the beach and will have to walk through the lanes where you will find all sort of stuff being sold.
Baga and Calangute are undoubtedly the most commercialized beaches that you can find in Goa. Located in North Goa, Baga and Calangute are situated on the same stretch of coastline and you can literally jog between them (well assuming that you are fit enough to do a jog of around 5 kms). Ask anyone who has visited Goa and they will mention about Baga and Calangute as a “must visit”. Calangute beach is centred between Baga beach to the North and Candolim beach to the South. As you move towards Caladolim , the places gets more relaxed and you will start finding good restaurants lined up. You can spend couple of hours in Calangute beach and can have your lunch here. One of the good options would be to have lunch at the shacks or the beach front restaurants. Else, you can also explore the restaurants that are lined up on the road leading to the beach. Try to have your lunch by 3PM and head towards Baga beach, which would be your next destination for the day.
When you are moving towards Baga from Calangute, you will start feeling a bit cramped up for space as the road leading to Baga from Calangute is packed with party zones. You will find traffic and do not be surprised to find traffic jams at this stretch. Baga beach is one of the liveliest beaches in Goa and you will find many shacks playing loud music late into the night. The beach is one of the hubs for water sports in Goa and you will find a very young crowd here (especially around the Tito’s club lane). You will be reaching Baga beach by around 4 PM and this is an ideal time to have some fun at the beach.
Baga has loads of water sports activities ranging from – para-sailing and Jet Ski. You can also hire foam boards on which you can ride the waves. You will find many sellers on Baga beach. When I mean many I mean a LOT. You will also find masseurs, hotel touts, gymnasts and more sellers – selling anything from fruit to pens, shells, DVDs, clothes, fake jewellery … the list just goes on and on. A word of caution, if you are not genuinely interested in buying something, do not encourage them by looking at their stuff or by promising to buy another day. The discussion sometimes does not go down well. If you decide to buy something, do not hesitate to negotiate on the price. The initial price that they quote is usually steep and way above the fair value of the product. The sea here is pretty safe for a swim, but keep yourself away from the Jet skis that keep whizzing past you. Ensure that you do not venture deep into the sea and get in the way of one of these machines.
You can spend around an hour or so on the beach and then move to one of the shacks to have a drink or snack and enjoy the sunset. You can move into one of the shacks at around 6PM and can plan to chill out the rest of the day – you should be pretty tired by now after a fully packed day. Baga has many well know beach shacks and they serve great book and cocktails. I will recommend you Andrew’s beach bar or Britto’s.
- Britto’s : Britto’s shack is at the farthest end of Baga beach and is one of the most sort after shacks in Baga. The entire place is usually buzzing with activity from morning till midnight and it is usually very tough to find a table. They usually recommend the sea food platter and my friends who had it could not stop speaking about it (unfortunately, I do not eat sea food). I personally loved the Roast chicken and the chicken in white wine sauce. There are some very good desserts also that you can check out – we liked the Blueberry cheesecake and Mango Mousse that we had ordered.
- Andrew’s beach bar: Another great place to hang out is the Andrew’s beach cafe. This cafe is also located on Baga beach and is open until late midnight. I loved their Chicken Satay and will recommend it any day.
You can either plan to have your dinner and call it a day by returning to your resort by around 11PM or if you are the party kind, party late into the night. Baga has some of the very well know clubs to party in Goa. Two clubs which are famous for their parties – Titos and Mambo’s are in Baga.
- Titos: Titos is one of the legendary party zones in Goa. It was started way back in 1970’s and revolutionized and redefined the partying culture in Goa. Over the years, Titos has become one of the most sort after clubs to visit in Goa. Today, Titos boasts of an indoor night club, a multi cuisine restaurant called “Brass” and the popular beach pub – “Mambo’s”
- Mambo’s: It is an open air pub situated on Baga beach and is very close to Titos. It is one of the most happening places in North Goa and is also know as Cafe Mambo. It is usually open from 9PM and the party goes on well past midnight. It is a great place to chill out with your friends and the in-house DJ’s play all sort of music. Friday’s are usually the happening nights, with theme based parties along with music played by prominent Indian and International DJ’s.
Note: If you are staying in South Goa and are travelling as a family, I will recommend you to end your day at around 7PM or max by 8PM and start driving back to your resort in South Goa. The drive back will easily take around 2 hours and that would mean that you would be driving through outskirts in complete darkness. We had a scary situation when we lost our way and were roaming for a good 30mins on roads which were narrow, pitch dark and with no soul to ask for guidance. Our GPS lead us to a road which was non existent and we somehow managed to get back to our resort by around 11PM.
Baga and Calangute are still the most sort out beaches in Goa and you can find everything that you can ask for – cafe bars, pubs, tatoo shops and an excellent selection of restaurant shacks with sunbeds, wi-fi and attentive service. You might find much more serene and beautiful beaches located in south Goa, but do not miss the atmosphere that Baga and Calangute can offer you. A trip to Goa would be incomplete without visiting these two famous beaches 🙂
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