Things To Do in and Around Arambol Beach
Arambol is more a state of being that an actual place. Yes, geographically its plucky little sprawl curves some 5 kilometers along Goa’s shoreline but beyond that, Arambol inhabits an infinite space inside the hearts and minds of anybody who has ever fallen in love with it. I was born a long way away from Armabol and it took me 33 years to finally make my way there. Nevertheless, when I first arrived, I had the feeling that somehow, I’d been there all of my life…
Arambol is the hippy, new age and alternative centre of India and therefore of the whole world. Like most of Goa, it has attracted beatniks, Psychonauts, and truth-seekers ever since the original hippies “discovered” its paradise back in the 1960’s. Since then, Arambol has blossomed from a sleepy village into a living, breathing festival and the village has now changed forever.
Continually, it has expanded and evolved to encompass the influences of all who came here to spend the last 40 winters here. Consequently, there are in so many ways, no longer any true “natives” of Arambol. Instead, members of the tribe of Arambol are not made, they are born as something about the place changes you forever. Just like Michelangelo chiseled away at a lump of Marble until he found his David waiting inside it, Arambol purges and refines us until we stand before it as newly revealed beings.
How is this I hear you say? Well in Arambol all are free to be themselves as fully as their self-manifests itself from one moment to the next. There is no judgment and there are no limitations allowing you to become exactly who you are supposed to be.
Well, this is all good and well but what is there for a traveler to actually do in Arambol you may well wonder? Quite a lot actually…
Shop til you stop
Whilst shopping culture may seem to be the very antithesis of the “back to nature” new age spirit, the truth is that consumerism is well entrenched in the hippy tradition. After all, incense sticks and lava lamps don’t buy themselves, do they? The wares on sale in Arambol range from weird & wonderful clothes, jewelry, Hindu religious icon’s right onto psychedelic bed sheets. You could quite easily find a whole new wardrobe and deck out your entire house simply by walking the 1km drag along the main road. There are also goods to suit all budgets; Indian style shirts can be haggled down to below $1 whereas more high end, locally made, ethically sourced stuff may venture into western prices.
Food in India is legendarily good and best of all, is famously cheap. This is partially because the government suppresses the price of staples such as rice, wheat, and vegetables to ensure that the millions living in poverty can afford to eat. Consequently, throughout the country, you can dine like a gluttonous king for only a handful of dollars a day but do spare a thought and some change for those less fortunate. In Goa, you will find Indian classics such as Tikka Masala as well as local specialties such as freshly caught curried fish & the south Indian Idli rice cakes. In Arambol though, the cuisine goes up another notch and you can even find raw vegan cafes and experimental world cuisine. L’Madesoile cafe does the best Shakshuka outside of Israel and Rejoice Inn does the best Thali platter I’ve found in all of India.
You know I once scanned the town notice board and worked out that, during polite hours, there is a Yoga lesson going on somewhere in Arambol at all times 7 days a week! There are casual drop-in sessions, intensive classes, and even teacher training courses to stretch into. You can also find absolutely any Yoga style from Hatha (aka normal)) to Tantric, Partner Yoga and right on to some pretty hardcore Ashtanga stuff which will leave your abs feeling truly crunched. If you’ve never tried Yoga before then that’s fine, many people here try it for the first time at one of the many beginner classes on offer. In case you’re dismissive of Yoga as some Hippy fad, well don’t be. Rather look at it as a full body workout that strengthens rather than strains and also keeps the brain stimulated.
I can tell you from my own experience that Meditation is life changing. The insanely simple techniques improve concentration, reduce stress and even substitute for sleep. It really should be taught to children at school as an invaluable life skill but instead, we have them memorising dead Kings and Presidents. Once again, you don’t need to have tried it before or to book ahead, just check the notice boards and find time and place that suits your routine. You can do it on the beach or on some rooftop with a stunning view over the ocean (which you won’t see as your eyes will be closed). Only by turning off your mind, do you turn yourself on.
The drum circle
One of the absolute fixtures of Arambol is the drum circle. The nightly gathering on Arambol beach has now been beating out its own rhythm for over a decade. The drum circle kind of does what it says on the tin, its a circle of musicians jamming with a load of drums. However, the appeal here is not so much the music, rather it’s just an excuse for a gathering. People come here to meet others, to shop for boutique items or to check out the singing Hare Krsna’s. Even on evenings when the drum musicians don’t even bother to turn up, the drum circle is still the place to be at sunset!
Have you ever been to a sober rave before?! No, I bet you haven’t. Ecstatic dance is a twice-weekly event taking place at The Source where DJ’s play mid-afternoon electronic sets to a completely straight and sober audience. This is the perfect place to practice losing your inhibitions and to see how it actually feels to dance without the Dutch courage of alcohol. Be warned though, Ecstatic Dance may change the way you party forever.
Temples and Churches
The Indians certainly are a religious (or at least superstitious) people and there is all manner of Gods on offer in the country vying for your devotion. The town of Arambol has several beautiful Hindu temples and Ghats which liven up with music and free food during festivals. The pretty, white St Carmel on the Mount Church is the towns colonial centerpiece and the road between … and Arambol houses the striking … Masjid Mosque. Indian culture is open and inclusive so you can feel free to venture inside any of these houses of worship for a look around and a quiet moment of tranquility.
Feeling tense? Well, unwind with a message! What kind of massage? Any kind you like. In Arambol, you will find barbers dolling out brutal head and neck massages, Tibetan exiles performing traditional full body massages and the famous Ayurvedic massage which Hindu culture claims can heal all manner of ailments. You can even get a Thai massage if you’re so inclined but please don’t expect the happy ending because Arambol isn’t that kind of place. Its also a great place to learn the technique of massage as intensive, 1 – 3-day courses in all disciplines are both frequent & affordable. The best bit of learning massage is that you can then ask the beautiful things you find up and down Arambol beach to let you practice on them!
If Goa is famous for one thing then surely it is trance music parties. The genre pretty much began life here as the original hippy DJ’s moved from playing psychedelic rock music to extended loops which then morphed into “Goan trance”. The parties are absolutely legendary; many of them take place right on the beach and rage from dusk until daybreak. A Goan trance party absolutely has to be experienced and can feel like revisiting some ancient, tribal, custom; quite simply, the experience can be truly transcendental. The big parties are not actually on Arambol beach but rather in and around Anjuna, a 13km ride away. However, you will definitely want to return to Arambol the day after the party as its just a much nicer place to deal with a comedown.
In case you get sick of seeing the same style of necklaces on sale at (most but not all) of the shops, then why not prove you can do better and make your own jewelry? Whether you want to fashion macrame bracelets from rope or design chic, silver, and gemstone pieces, there are artisan mentors offering workshops in the guild across Arambol. A number of travellers who first dabbled in design here have now made full-time careers from it and have established successful shops in the town.
Rent a Bike
(or Scooter) and tour the towns. Arambol is perpetually buzzing with scooters & bikes and traffic can get a bit intense sometimes. Getting hold of your own scooter or a Royal Enfield bike is the definitive way to get out of town and explore the quiet roads, villages, and backwaters around the area. You can even follow the coastal road and stop off for chai or lunch at the other resorts peppering the coast (though none rival Arambol!). If you cross the bridge towards Mapsua, then you can seek out the tiny village of Alona which is a gorgeous example of colonial architecture immersed in the wild jungle which is well off the tourist radar. If you’ve never ridden before, don’t practice in the town center, it’s far too busy with other road users, pedestrians and stray dogs and accidents will happen. Rather, find somebody to take you a short way out of town and practice on one of the many quiet roads.
When the Portuguese colonised Goa (yep, the British never made it here) what is now Old Goa was their headquarters. The town is packed with atmospheric colonial-era buildings, monasteries, and chvrches. You can also learn all about the area’s history in the Old Goa museum and you can learn all about the darker side of the state’s history in the inquisition dungeon. The legacy of the zealous Portuguese overlords drive to push Christianity is still felt throughout the state today and Goa still has Catholic Churches in every town and village.
In case all of this yoga and meditation is too mellow, you can still get your adrenaline fix without even leaving Arambol. The hills that rise up from the shore collect some great winds making them a great place for paragliding over the ocean. Tandem flights are available for first-timers.
Whilst the rave scene rages down in Anjuna, Arambol stages an embarrassment of live music performances each and every night. Here you will find acoustic artists strumming cover favourites, touring Afro-beat groups, experimental hang-drum pioneers and traditional Indian music with a modern twist. Most are informal and free although the more established venues such as Ash do generally charge $3 or so. My personal pick is to seek out the supremely talented Jyoti Ram who adds live sitar to electronic loops and even performs the occasional magic trick. He is a something of an Arambol staple doing residencies here most winters and if you hang around a few weeks, he will rock up somewhere in town.
Fall in Love
You can do this absolutely anywhere in the world right right? So why do I add this to a list exclusively about Arambol you ask? Well firstly, because more or less everybody in Arambol is gorgeous from the hot little Yogini’s to the Israeli squaddies (and me of course), so you may well feel like you’re already half in love with everybody around you. Much more than this though, people arrive in Arambol with open hearts and as every fairytale ever tells us, in order to let love in one firstly needs to open one’s heart (though in some cases, Cupid is not above a wee bit of breaking and entering).
A ridiculous amount of relationships begin life here and then the happy-ever-afters return year after year eventually coming with little Arambolini children. If you end up in Arambol then its quite possible that you were called here. If so, then its likely that your soulmate, wherever in the world they may be, has also heeded that call. So get cracking.
Where To Stay In Arambol
Things have come a long way since Arambols innocent hippy hey-day and there is now, accommodation on offer to suit all travel styles and all budgets. Beach shacks can be picked up from as little as 300rps per night. Rooms in guest houses can range from 500rps to 1000rps and potentially more.
There are also some guest houses that feel more like western hotels usually identified by signs in Cyrillic alphabet.
If you fancy a bit of luxury you can rent a villa and there are some good ones on Air B n B.
However, if you are staying long-term (1 month +) the most economical option is to rent a house away from the beach and main drag as these can usually be obtained for $200 per month or less.
Why Arambol is My Favourite Place In The World
Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time (too much time) on the road, jumping on and off buses, planes and the occasional mule. I’ve been to nearly 40 countries and countless cities, some of the great ones and some you probably never heard of.
But Arambol is my favourite place of all.
Considering that Arambol is, strictly speaking, a humble little village with an inflated transient population, you may wonder how I can compare it to London, New York and the great cities of the world. Well, I will tell you how. Because you can find museums and mighty architecture absolutely anywhere in Europe. You can find history and ruins elsewhere in India & throughout pretty much all of Asia for that…
Arambol is my favourite place in the world is because it is so much more than sights to see. It does not cause you to look skywards in awe at the scale of tall buildings and does want you to stare at some masterpiece hung on a gallery wall. Neither does it ask you to look back in time over the remnants of some lost civilisation. Instead, Arambol invites you only to look within yourself and assures you that whatever you find in there, is uniquely and eternally yours. For that reason, it is like nowhere else on earth.