One of my favorite places in the world is Goa – for me, the perfect holiday destination. My family has a house there, and it is fun visiting Goa; it just has to be on my itinerary at least once a year!
The word Goa echoes the sound of crashing sea waves, mouth watering sea food sizzling in the pan, ringing of church bells and the chatter of care free parties. India’s smallest state, Goa, is bordered by the Arabian Sea offering it a balmy weather. Well, it can get hot and humid in summers and the monsoons provide a much needed respite. This small piece of land located in the Western Ghats region of Western India is one of the most popular tourist destinations for domestic and foreign tourists alike. Every year, hordes of travelers flock to Goa to have a great time. Its shimmering beaches and the party culture gives you a great chance to put aside your worries and let your hair down.
Swaying palms, white, glistening sand and sparkling waters welcome you to Goa. You can indulge in a plethora of activities in Goa. Here are some of the activities you can do:
- Wanna do some budget shopping? Mapusa is the biggest town in Goa and is known for its Friday market. It’s a good place to pick up the usual range of ethnic stuff and the like, at prices far lower than in the beach resorts. The market attracts score of buyers from the northern beaches.
- Panjim is the capital of Goa. Hundreds of years back when Panjim was a laid back, fishing village, the sailors from Lisbon made it their first port of call. Its highly picturesque church – the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the city’s spiritual core. Built in 1619, it looks over a municipal garden. It has a gleaming white entrance which is gold-plated, floral and multicolored on the inside. A must visit destination for all tourists.
- What would Goa, the perfect holiday destination be without its perfect beaches? And without some frolic in the waters? Make an adventure trip to South Goa with a day filled with snorkeling, swimming and relaxing on the beach. Sail the Arabian Sea to Monkey Island and enjoy galores of water fun. Monkey Island, a pristine location was featured in the movie ‘Bourne Supremacy’. Explore the vibrant variety of fishes and coral reefs that adorn the underwater. If you are lucky, you may also see some dolphins jumping out of the water. And while you do all this, you can enjoy a lovely barbeque meal. It’s a seafood lover’s paradise.
- Owing to its location in the Western Ghats, Goa enjoys a huge variety of tropical flora and fauna. The Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary which is about 9 kilometers to the south of Palolem is an ecological hot-spot. Get a chance to watch wild deer, various monkeys, leopards and spotted deer in their natural habitat. Listen to the call of the wild as plumed birds, snakes and monkeys pave your way in the jungle. It’s a heaven for the animal lover in you.
- Goa is the perfect place for a few drinks with its range of cafes and pubs to chill out at. Enjoy a glass of cold beer or some feni (a local drink made from coconut or cashew nuts) at the pub “Pub” in Mapusa watching the milling market crowds. Hotel Mandovi perched on the banks of Mandovi river offers an open air, multi-cuisine restaurant and is the best place to relax with a couple of drinks as you watch the passenger ferries and huge casino boats from the waterside. The food is simply amazing and so is the ambience.
- Do not miss discovering Goa’s historic Portuguese influence. It’s sure to quench your thirst for great medieval architecture. Learn about Goa’s colonial history as you visit some of the region’s most Portuguese-influenced sites including the Se Cathedral and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Basilica of Bom Jesus. Visit Fontainhas, the heavily Portuguese-influenced Latin Quarter in the city of Panaji. Spend some mesmerizing time appreciating the beautiful view of the Arabian Sea from the Dona Paula jetty.
- The Mango Tree Bar and Café at Vagator and Chapora is a popular for breakfast couple with reggae music and at times a raucous bar scene. Casa Bela in Mapusa is heavily reminiscent of the mahagony –clad era and is great place to escape the town babble. Sip on some beer and pick your food from a decent menu to wash down the drinks.
- The pub Jerry John Jonesius at Calangute and Baga is a cool place to hang out. Enjoy a long glass of feni at this bar that has a great local feel to it. Kingfisher and King’s beer are the hot favourites or you can order Indian-made-foreign-liquor which are pretty economical and taste great with a soft, sweet and bubbly mixer.
- Shopping in Goa can be a real fun experience. From hippie clothing to junk jewelry and gothic accessories, from shell and bamboo work to terracotta and brassware, from feni and bebinca to cashewnuts and Goan sausages, you will find it all here. Grab some cool clothing and produce or browse through a collection of antiques, souvenirs and textiles at the Mapusa Market. The liveliest of all markets in Goa is the Anjuna Flea Market. Flocked by Indians as well as foreigners, Anjuna Flea Market offers an abundance of local handicrafts, spices, clothes, footwear, beach wear, artificial jewellery and accessories. Put your bargaining skills to test at various stall and you might just grab a great deal. Friends swear by it!
- Unleash the shopaholic in you at the Calangute Market. The bazaar is lined up with numerous stalls and shacks and is shopper’s paradise. Make the most of your beach holiday as you buy sarongs and trinkets made of sea shells. You can also enjoy fried prawns and beer at one of the stalls or at Britto’s at Baga Beach. Also, check out metal, leather and clay items, accessories, textiles and carpets at the Calangute Market Square.
- The Night Bazaar held from November to April on the banks of river Baga is a place you can’t miss. Situated at the most happening nightlife spot in Goa, this market is lined with stalls selling a wide range of souvenirs and gift items. You can treat your taste buds at various eating joints that offer lip smacking delicacies of various cuisines. What’s more, there is also live music performed by local bands to add to all the merry making.
- The night life in Goa is probably its most exciting part. Zanzibar on Baga beach is the quintessential night life place. The service is excellent and you will surely enjoy its music that rocks as the night gets closer. Great continental food and refreshing cocktails will make your night come alive.
- With a beautiful view of the waters and charming sunsets, the Montego Bay on the shore of Morjim is a perfect party place. This pub offers some beautifully blended cocktails accompanied by awesome food. Shake a leg at Tito’s which is a highly popular and trendy night club located on the Tito’s road in Baga. Let loose the party animal in you and swoon to the pulsating music. Mambos in North Goa, Kamaki on Tito’s road and Primrose in Vagator are some other places for the creatures of the night.
Poker in Goa:
- Last but not the least, a very special mention for my poker lover friends: there are 5 boat casinos on the river Mandovi, three of which offer world-class facilities and games for live poker. The best action though is found at the Deltin Royale Poker Room run by my friends Rajeev Kanjani, Amin Rozani and Sameer Rattonsey. Highly recommended to all my fellow poker lovers (another article on the Goa Poker Scene to follow later) this is a class act in this part of Asia. A must-play venue with state-of-the-art infrastructure, great ambience and the best action.
Well, along with its wild side, Goa is also a quaint place with its lush paddy fields, laid back small town life and beautiful temples. The interiors of Goa are refreshing with its greenery, small cozy houses and cashew nut plantations. So next time you are wondering where to go on a holiday, choose Goa. It has something for everyone. And a lot for me!