About GoaPerhaps the most tempting feature of holidaying in Goa is her easy charm, laidback tempo, warm and welcoming locals – and, of course, balmy beaches. Goa also packs quite a punch, with an astonishing array of choices for vacationers, all in one tiny place.
From tip to toe, Goa has 100 km of coastline. Her beaches are legendary, and the prospect of sunny stretches of golden sand draws more than 2 million tourists to this state every year. But there’s a lot more to Goa than sun worshipping.
For 500 years, Goa was a Portuguese territory and its European legacy is woven into the weft and weave of this small state. Thus, villas with verandahs, picket fences and gabled roofs covered in bougainvillea dot the landscape everywhere and the abundance of churches with magnificent architecture, stained glass and frescoes are a treat to explore. These elements set against a canvas of swaying palm trees, lush paddy fields and winding country roads makes travelling across Goa a quaint and pleasurable experience.
But it’s not all about beaches and heritage. Goa is blessed with natural reserves and rivers, and there are plenty of opportunities for birdwatching, and encounters with crocodiles, dolphins and elephants in the backwaters. These activities are more recent additions to the itineraries of tour operators, who also organise all sorts of cruises along the state’s abundant waterways. Diving is a newer sport and is fast catching on.
And, finally, the cuisine. Goa is noted for her irresistible, spicy and tangy cuisine, and there are plenty of eateries in all shapes and sizes that serve up authentic Goan meals. Avoid the ‘multi-cuisine’ menu and choose dishes suffixed with exotic terms such as ambotik, recheado and cafreal. Many swear that the staple in Goa, fish curry and rice, tastes better when accompanied by feni, the local brew!
Before we dive in, here’s a roadmap that will help you decide exactly where you want to head. Goa is divided into two districts – North Goa and South Goa – by the Zuari River. This is a useful classification for vacationers as the North and South offer slightly different experiences. North Goa has traditionally been a magnet for backpackers from all over the world, inexorably drawn to her beaches. It was therefore the northern stretch of Goa – from Arambol to Baga, Vagator, Anjuna, Calangute to Candolim – that put this pleasure dome on the international tourist map.
Off the radar of tourists for a long time, South Goa is now fast developing and attracting a mix of holidaymakers. Sans the bustle, it is a great place to enjoy some solitude while being only a short commute from the North. Which part of Goa should you choose? Well, if you have, say, a week to spend here, could you try both!
Where You Are
In a coastal wonderland sought after by foreign and domestic tourists alike. More specifically, Goa is located on India’s western coastline and an ideal place to visit any time of the year.
Tiracol Fort, Fontainhas, Reis Magos Fort, Backwater Cruises, Dolphin Spotting, Dudhsagar Waterfall (monsoon)
Two-Wheelers : All you need is a two-wheeler to get around. The most popular way to commute, scooters and motorcycles are available for hire everywhere and come pretty cheap. But don’t forget to carry your driver’s licence. Here’s a tip: Hiring two-wheelers is against the law and you will be advised to tell the traffic police, should they flag you down, that you’ve ‘borrowed the bike from a friend’.
Motorcycle Taxis : If you plan to, say, spend long hours at the beach or are headed to a specific destination for the better part of the day, you may not want to hire a two-wheeler. No worries. There are motorcycle taxis that will take you wherever you want. An authorised means of transport, these are nothing but morotcycles driven by a ‘pilot’. Remember, only one pillion rider at a time. Motorcycle taxis are easily recognised by their yellow mudguards and number plates.
Ferries : Goa boasts many rivers and estuaries, and ferries will get you from one shore to the other. While the larger barges take cars to the other side, all of them take at least a two-wheeler, apart from locals, tourists, livestock and coconuts!
Trains : There are passenger trains aplenty passing through Goa. So if you need to get from North to South Goa in a hurry, check train timetables, buy a ticket and just hop on.
Autoriskshaws : These black-and-yellow three-wheelers are essentially a motorcycle with a couple of seats mounted at the back. They are a common sight in smaller towns and rural areas. An authorised means of transport, they usually ignore the meter. Make sure the price is right before you climb aboard.
Buses : There is no dearth of buses, both private and state-run, criss-crossing the state. If you’re planning to board a bus in Goa, brace yourself for a colourful experience!