Everyone knows that Goa is the party capital of the country. But apart from having some of the most amazing beaches and islands, Goa has so much more to offer. Our guide to experiencing Goa will reveal the fascinating history of the city and its amazing offbeat experiences amongst other things. You might know Goa for its vibrant nightlife, its beaches or the Portuguese heritage, but what you may not know is this:
Goa is also believed to be the first land in India that was occupied by one of the earliest forms of human life. In fact, there are still rock art engravings which share evidence to the same. Isn’t that fantastic? The party capital of India has an interesting history that goes much beyond colonization. So here’s a bit more about the city’s history and where its culture finds its roots..
History And Culture Of Goa
Goa is hands down the best place in India to discover what our species was like long before. After all, Dabolim, amongst other places in Goa, displays evidence that our prehistoric Stone Age ancestors once inhabited the land. You can find a number of rock art engravings of different creatures in Kajur. Fast forward to the 3rd century BCE, where the land was ruled by Ashoka the Great of Magadha. All of Goa fell under the Maurya Dynasty during that period. This was the reason why Buddhism became prominent in the region.
Goa was very different before it became a place that attracted a massive number of people from foreign lands. If anything, it’s a place that was ruled by a number of emperors hailing from different dynasties and descendents, from the Bhojas and Chutu Dynasty to the Chalukyas. But all of that started to slowly change after the Portuguese colonized the state and took power in 1510. The colorful buildings and intricate details of churches that we all find fascinating are traces of Portuguese architecture in Goa. The Altinho Hill in the Panaji area is one of the places to witness the beautiful Portuguese heritage.
While other colonial empires in India, like the British, treated their Indian strongholds as colonies, Goa and Portugal still maintain a strong relationship. The likes of Goa, Daman and Diu were treated as overseas territories of Portugal, thus conferring the population of Goa with Portuguese citizenship. This is a right that citizens of Goa and their descendants (born before 1961) can still claim.
In terms of the culture of Goa, what we tend to forget is that despite being pocket-sized, Goa is still a state, a state that has seen a lot of trends and fads come and pass it by and yet all these different times find their home in Goa. In Old Goa and the southern part of Goa, you’re likely to find a lot of temples that have been around for centuries. Then there’s Panjim and the northern parts of Goa, where you can easily spot the Portuguese connection, and find yourself witnessing a lot of beautiful Portuguese churches and a lot of Portuguese houses.
Goa was at the periphery of the Hippie Revolution in the 1970s, as hippies from across the world found their home in this unpretentious, accommodating and perhaps even a little tipsy state. Today, despite being a popular tourist destination, you can still find remnants of the times gone by. Especially in North Goa, you can see that it’s still home to some of the coolest rave parties in the country (looking at you, Shiva Valley) and the hippie flea market in Anjuna.
Food In India
If you love seafood, welcome to heaven. The staple diet of Goa is seafood and rice and a lot of the food has coconut as one of the main ingredients. So if you like these three, you’re sorted. The food in Goa has amazing variety, you can find Portuguese-style cuisine, cuisine that’s influenced from the Konkan region and the more commonly found fast food that you find across the country.
Some of the more popular dishes you must try in Goa, are the Sorpotel, fried pork fat that is cooked in a meat gravy. A dish that is the equivalent of wine, in the way that the older it gets the better it tastes, is the pork vindaloo. The dish consists of pork, cooked in garlic, onions, spices, occasionally potatoes and primarily vinegar. The more the dish marinates the better the taste of the meat. For the vegetarians, finding veg food in Goa is surprisingly not hard at all. You’re sure to find what you want here!
How To Get To Goa
Getting To Goa By Air
Goa has both a domestic and an international airport and is well connected to most major cities by air. However, the one challenge with flying into Goa is that the airport is situated in the middle of nowhere. That combined with exorbitant taxi fares mean that you’re going to shell out a significant sum of money to get to and from the airport.
Getting To Goa By Train
Goa is extremely well connected by train, especially to most places in South India and the major cities in the North. There are a lot of overnight and day train options from Mumbai (the closest metro to Goa). We recommend taking the train or driving to Goa, as the railway stations are in convenient locations of the state.
Getting To Goa By Road
Driving down to Goa from Mumbai has always been the ultimate road trip for most people from Mumbai. However, if the trains are sold out and the flights don’t make sense anymore and you don’t have a car, we recommend taking an overnight bus. The bus journey to Goa is quite economical and a relatively comfortable ride.
Best Time To Travel To Goa
The best time to visit is anytime between October and April – the weather is really pleasant around this time and there’s a lot of outdoor events from November onwards. While the summers in Goa can be hot, it’s not that unbearable. There won’t be as much activity as compared to the winter though.
It’s proper off-season during the monsoons, but unlike other places in the country, Goa is green and beautiful during the monsoons. A word of caution though: rains can play spoilsport to your sightseeing plans.
Getting Around Goa
Cabs are ridiculously overpriced in Goa, there’s a reason why Ola and Uber are not allowed in the entire state. That’s due to the taxi union that has strong armed all independent cab drivers into falling in line. If you can drive a car or ride a scooter in Goa, that’s the best way of getting from one place to another and is much more economical due to the relatively relaxed fuel prices.
While the state bus transit network in Goa is steadily improving, it’s not there yet. But if you do have a lot of time on your hands and can’t drive or ride a vehicle it’s definitely not as bad an option as you would initially think.
Breaking Stereotypes About Goa
“Goa is a party destination or a vacation destination.”
To be fair, this stereotype holds true to an extent. Goa is indeed one of the most happening cities when it comes to nightlife, along with being the favorite Indian destination to unwind. But at the same time, there’s so much more to Goa.
Goa has a lot of history and is extremely rich when it comes to the cultural side of things, beautiful churches, uncompromising forts and bustling markets. The more you explore Goa the more layers you discover to this amazing state and the worlds that not only live but thrive in this beautiful sunshine state.
For The Nightlife
The stretches of Calangute and Baga beaches have a lot of shacks that are popular with Indian tourists. Some of the more popular ones are the legendary Tito’s and St. Anthony’s which is known for its karaoke scene. Head to Shiva Valley on a Tuesday night for a crazy night of dancing to trance.
Anjuna and Vagator beaches are more popular when it comes to the rave scene while Arambol up north is becoming a hotspot both for the spiritual seekers and the trance enthusiasts.
If you’re in South Goa, away from the party scene and craving some adventure, head to Leopard Valley on a Friday night. Here’s where you can enjoy a crazy party with pyrotechnique and laser shows, somewhere around a jungle.
For The Culture
Panjim is primarily where you should be based out of as it’s quite central to both the North and South. Explore the sleepy town and the churches around Panjim. This town also has an interesting street, the 18th June Road, a revolutionary road that hosted the meeting to end the Portuguese rule in India. Today it’s an interesting shopping street that goes right through the heart of the city.
The Best Beaches In Goa
Anjuna and Vagator for its parties (North Goa)
Calangute and Baga for the nightlife (Central/North Goa)
Arambol and Morjim for the hippy vibe (North Goa)
Palolem, Colva, Patnem and Agonda to vacation and unwind (South Goa)
For The Adventure Seekers
Apart from all the watersports that are possible in Goa, you can also visit the Dudhsagar Falls in South Goa or the Chapora Fort near Anjuna for a moderate level hike.
What Should I Avoid In Goa?
Littering – Well, this applies for everywhere you go, but we’d like to reinforce this message. Do not litter!
Overdrinking – Granted that Goa has cheap alcohol and it’s the place where you come to party. But that doesn’t mean you should drink irresponsibly – especially if you’re driving.
Carrying Cash – It’s not the best idea to carry a lot of cash or even keeping it in your hotel room. We recommend that you resort to online payment methods as they’re safer.
Staring – Common courtesy, but has to be said. It’s NOT okay to stare at the other tourists.
How Do I Plan A 3 Day Trip To Goa?
Here’s an itinerary for your three-day trip to Goa.
For Day 1, explore the beaches in North Goa – Anjuna and Vagator Beach. The evenings you can party away at Vagator or you can enjoy the nightlife at Baga.
For Day 2, you can get away from mainstream Goa and explore Divar Island. Here’s where you can experience Goan cuisine and if you’re not driving, sample some Urak (the milder version of feni). You can then travel to Panjim and explore the city proper.
For Day 3, visit the many beaches in South Goa (Palolem or Agonda). If you’re a nature lover, we recommend visiting Galgibaga Beach in the winter months as it’s the time when Olive Ridley turtles lay eggs there!
How Much Should I Budget For Goa Trip?
A three-day trip to Goa would cost you about ₹5,000-7,000 including train travel expenses. This is a low-budget expense.
Are There Sharks In Goa?
While there are sharks in the Arabian Sea, you need not fear a shark attack while swimming off the many beaches in Goa. Sharks are found in deep waters, and as long as you’re a good swimmer, you should be safe.
Can We Sleep On Beach In Goa?
There’s no law saying that you can’t sleep on the beach in Goa. But at the same time, we recommend that you don’t do it. Sleeping on the beach is quite unsafe as you may get robbed and you might even get nipped by the crabs!
Is Food Costly In Goa?
No, food is not costly in Goa. We suggest eating from the local shops and eateries as opposed to the beach shacks as they’d be unnecessarily overpriced.
Is Goa Costly?
A trip to Goa wouldn’t be overly expensive, but during the peak season, the prices do increase considerably.
Which Month Is Best For Goa Trip?
The winter months of November to February are the best months to visit Goa. This is when the weather is quite pleasant. At the same time, avoid visiting Goa around Christmas/New Year as it’s peak season and thus it’ll be more crowded and expensive.
What Should I Wear In Goa?
Being a beach destination, you can wear bikinis/bodysuits and sarongs at the beach. Men can wear tank tops and shorts. While exploring the state, light cotton shirts, tank tops and shorts would keep you comfortable in the heat. Make sure that you do have a hat and a pair of sunglasses!
Is Alcohol Cheap In Goa?
Yes! Alcohol is considerably cheaper in Goa thanks to low taxation and no excise duties at all!
Is Goa Safe At Night?
Goa is generally a safe location for tourists at night, but for good measure, avoid secluded places. We also advise you to not get into arguments with locals, especially if they’re drunk.