The Best Places To Visit in Goa
Tiny little Goa is India’s smallest state and in my opinion, it’s also the best. It is certainly the most popular with tourists and receives over 2 million visitors each year.
It’s very easy to see why.
There is a hell of a lot to do in Goa and it’s no surprise that travelers routinely end of staying for months on end long after their Visas have expired in some cases. But in this post, I will cut through all the chafe and give you my insider rundown on the very best places to visit in Goa to make your visit totally unforgettable.
1. Old Goa
Not many people appreciate that Goa was a Portuguese colony for 400 years – they were in India before the British and left after them. Goa did not join with the rest of India following independence in 1948 but was formally annexed by the Indian army in 1967.
Old Goa is the former Portuguese capital. It was once considered to be one of the great cities of the world and rivaled Lisbon itself I’m terms of its wealth, culture and beauty.
Most of Old Goa has been lost to the ravages of time but thankfully, a lot has survived. The Dom Jesus Basilica is perhaps the grandest Christian temple in the whole of Asia. Then there are the ruins of the old Church of St Augustine. which blend into the Goan jungle like a level from Tomb Raider.
Old Goa can easily be explored in a day or even in half a day. The issue is getting there as it is about 20km away from the beaches. You can book a private or a bus tour from any travel agent in pretty much any resort which will leave in the morning and drop you back home after dark. Alternatively, you can ride yourself by Scooter. The ride takes about 90 minutes from Arambol and 1 hour from Anjuna. Do note that it means using some very busy highways; drive safely, cover your face with a dusk mask, bring water and spare petrol.
2. Arpora Saturday Night Market
Arpora’s Saturday Night Market is a staple of Goan traveler culture and is where Goa’s boutique designers rock up to sell their wares. At Arpora Night market, you can find the same incense sticks, mini-gods and tie-dyed shirts you can find at any beach, but there is also so much more to see here. Arpora Night Market is where Goan based designers peddle their amazing wares so you can barter for designer, one of a kind, ultra cool items. However, do note that some of the prices charged here would not be out of place even in the boutiques of Europe.
The market is absolutely buzzing from about 7 pm until midnight. Even if you don’t fancy shopping, it’s still the place to come to hang out and meet people. There is an awesome food section where you can buy weird and wonderful twists on Indian classics as well as world street food. Best of all, there are 2 dance floors where you can buy a cold beer and dance until the wee hours to a mix of techno, house, and Psytrance.
Arpora is situated near to Anjuna and Vagator. You can take a taxi (500 rps per way) a Moto-taxi (400rps per way) or ride yourself. If you ride yourself, note that Police checkpoints are often operating around the area particularly near the bridge from Arambol. Therefore, wear your helmet, have your papers and don’t be visibly inebriated.
3. Queri Beach
Queri Beach (also Keri, Kerim, and Querim Beach) is located about 10km north of Arambol. It is near the northernmost point of Goa and for now, remains amongst the least developed parts of Goa.
It is basically a pristine, untouched, peaceful beach. You can come here to sunbathe, swim or you can climb over the rocks into the “other” beach for some proper solitude and an Instagram shoot. You may even spot some blacktail monkeys hanging around, one of the few places in Goa I have ever seen them. There are also one of two shacks selling food and drinks so you won’t starve man can enjoy a cold juice.
The best way to get here is by either Scooter or Taxi from Arambol or Mandrem. Follow the signs along the road and be ready for to be stopped by the Police asking for helmets and papers.
4. Arambol Drum Circle
Arambol Drum Circle happens pretty much every night during the season down on Arambol beach. It is basically an impromptu little gathering where a bunch of percussion musicians come together to drum for around 2 hours near sundown.
The sound they make is not exactly remarkable but it is the place to be each night and forms the communities gathering point. You can come here to meet, flirt or just to dance. You will also find hippy artisans selling their handmade wares and stray beach dogs chasing one another.
My tip is to roll a smoke, buy a beer at the supermarket and stroll on down the beach – just follow the sound.
5. Shiva Valley Trance Party
Shiva Valley is a beach shack/bar/restaurant located on Anjuna Beach. Each Tuesday night during high season it throws a legendary Goan Psytrance party which rages on from abou8 pmpm until well after daybreak.
The crowd at Shiva Valley is a combination of ravers, drunk Indians and amphetamine fuelled Russians. The DJ’s at Shiva Valley are a mix of locals as well as world-class DJ’s and producers. The last few seasons have seen Eat Static, Avalon and Tristan all play sets. Note that big-name headliners tend to turn up to play unannounced. This is a definitive Goan experience and is surely amongst the best Things to do in Goa.
Do take care at Trance parties. There are narcotic substances changing hands, the odd bit of shattered glass on the floor and a few lairy people kicking around. Go in a group and look after one another and you will have a mind blowing time.
Admittance is 500 rps for men or free for women. Alternatively, if you get to the beach early enough then you’re in for free.
(If you are interested in Psytrance then be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Ozora Festival!)
Panjim (Panji/Panagee) is Goa’s State Capital and is that rarest of rare things – a clean and tidy Indian city!
Panjim is noted for its elegant Portuguese style administrative buildings and the opulent villas of the old Goan families.
There are also a few interesting, modern art galleries and a gold market. There is also a cinema here showing a mix of Bollywood hits and Hollywood releases. If you do fancy the cinema, check in advance what language the feature is been shown in as they do have an annoying tendency to dub things into Hindi.
A half day or even a one nights stay in Panjim is the perfect antidote to Goa’s beach shacks and hippy vibes.
7. Boat Trip On Chapora River
The state of Goa is absolutely beautiful. It is a cocktail of green jungle, idyllic beaches, and sleepy lagoons. One of the very best ways to appreciate this is with a boat trip up the Chapora river from the sea along and up into the Delta. You get to ride in the boat, spot birds or even dolphins, and take a swim the river!
Trips are best organized from Morjim. I recommend using the French/Indian enterprise Konkan Explorers. They have 2 vessels and can also offer Kayaking trips. The best bit about Konkan is that they specialize in dealing with inexperienced swimmers so if you are unsure in the water, they will take care of you!
8. Ecstatic Dance
Ecstatic Dance in Arambol is a twice weekly, mid-afternoon sober rave. An assortment of DJ’s and live musicians play at each session laying down hypnotic grooves for you to sway away the day to. Alcohol is not permitted and other substances strongly advised against (though there is nothing to really stop you bringing either) as the emphasis here is to try to entrance purely on dance!
As well as being a lot of fun, Ecstatic Dance is great for personal development as it encourages us to lose our inhibitions. Once you realize you can dance in front of people, and have fun, whilst stone cold sober, then there is nothing you cant do!
It takes place at The Source or Organic Vibes In Arambol. Dates and time vary but you can easily check on the Ecstatic Dance Arambol Facebook page.
9. Agonda Beach
South Goa is a lot less popular than the North but there are still some lovely beaches worth checking out. Agonda is my personal favourite although nearby Palolem is also popular.
Agonda and Palolem do both tend to cater to more mature, and wealthier tourists, so it is far less hedonistic and more pricy than Arambol, Anjuna & Baga. If you want a nice beach, some comfy digs, fine food and a bit of tranquility, then this may be just the place for you.
If you are coming directly here from the airport then cabs can be arranged outside for around 4000 rps. Alternatively, you can get the bus to Palolem and them onwards – the journey will probably cost you under 200 rps but may take some time.
If you are headed down from the Northern beaches then you will need to go through Mapusa and then Palolem. A taxi or private tourist bus will definitely be your best bet.
10. Nesting Turtles At Morjim
Each year, Morjim Beach in North Goa sees the returning home and nesting of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles – the smallest species of Sea Turtles in the world. They return to shore between November & April to lay eggs. The eggs hatch and then the cute little baby turtles instinctively make their way towards the sea!
During the ’90s, the Morjim Sea Turtles were seriously threatened by tourist activity forcing the local government to take action.
Development in Morjim has now been scaled back, parties banned from the beach and slowly the turtles are recovering. You can come here to watch their migration if you are lucky enough although the beach may be sealed off to make sure you don’t get too close. Please respect the conservation efforts and be very mindful of these beautiful animals.
11. A Goa Yoga Class
India is, of course, the home of Yoga and Goa is the hippy Mecca of the world. Therefore, in Goa, there are Yoga classes taking place pretty much every hour of every day so you have no excuse whatsoever not to get involved.
You can either take a full-blown Yoga teacher course (they usually last a few weeks) or you simply do the odd drop-in session.
There are quite honestly too many places offering Yoga for me to list. You can either join Facebook groups such as “Yoga Goa” or you can check notice boards once you get to town.
12. Bike Ride Along Goa’s Back Roads
One of the absolute best things to do in Goa is to simply hire a scooter and head off into the backwaters for an afternoons ride. Goa is a tropical paradise and getting away from the built-up beaches is the best way to see this yourself.
The Chapora delta is stunning to ride along as is the area east of Mapusa around Ancona. Roads are long and quiet and once you get into the jungles, you can ride for miles and miles without seeing anybody. There are endless little villages, temples, and shrines to spot and you may even pass the odd monkey.
There isn’t really a set route to recommend here as it depends where you start from. Simply get on your bike and drive. Just be sure to make sure the bike is in working order, you have enough petrol and bring plenty of water.
Baga and Calangute are Goa’s answer to Benidorm and the epicenter of Goa’s mainstream, packaged tourism. If all this talk of Ecstatic Dance and drum circles seems a bit too hippyish for you, then get on down to Baga and Calangute for a more straitlaced experience.
The beach at Baga is well renewed for Water-sports and there is a weekly market which rivals Anjuna’s flea market.
Along Baga road, there are plenty of nice hotels and guesthouses as well family orientated restaurants.
There are also loads of bars and clubs playing house, Bollywood and mainstream music. So if you fancy a boozy night out, then Baga and Calangute have just what you are looking for.