Though Goa is the smallest state, it is the favorite destination of a large percentage of international and domestic tourists of India.
What makes Goa unique and attractive for holidaymakers?
The biggest reason is the easy going attitude of Goa. No one is in a hurry, no one minds what you wear or do and they all love music, dance and partying. Getting smiles from strangers is not uncommon here, at the same time being checked by a stranger for not following civic rules (like walking on the road instead of the footpath or littering) is also not uncommon.
Goa offers a unique potpourri of rich ancient and medieval history, beautiful beaches, lip smacking uncommon dishes, vibrant wild and marine life and happening party and shopping destinations.
Here is a list of top 10 tourist attractions in Goa.
In this list of “what to do in Goa”, I have divided the must-visit places into categories and explained each category in detail. Also provided are google map lists of best places to go for each category.
1. Beaches in Goa
Not a surprise that this is the first in my list, but why?
There are many reasons to it. First the laid back and fun loving attitude of Goa that lets you enjoy the beach.
Most of the North Goa beaches are vibrating with life, while most of South Goa beaches offer you peace and solitude and fine white sand that feel heavenly beneath your feet.
Beaches like Calangute, Baga, Candolim, Anjuna, Arambol, Miramar and Vagator are in North Goa. Calangute and Baga beaches are one of the best beaches of Goa. Fun Holdiays Goa apartments are walking distance from Calangute Beach.
At North Goa beaches you can enjoy water sports like water scooter, parasailing, banana boat ride and many more. There are many operators here which offer sports for novices as well as pros.
You can also enjoy delicacies at the beach shacks. Beach shacks are thatched or cemented restaurants on the beach offering great sea view and breeze, lip smacking food, mostly sea food and Goan delicacies, many a times with great music. Most of these places put chairs on the beach which become a great experience specially at night.
You will find abundant shops and vendors around selling clothes, jewelry, offering relaxing massages and making chic tattoos.
And of course the good old way to enjoy the beach by taking a dip in the sea, making sand castles and selfies with sunset, for lifelong memories.
Here is a my list on google maps, of the 6 best beaches of Goa.
2. Food in Goa
Good times come with good food and Goa has ample culinary options.
Goan cuisine is famous for its intoxicating blend of Indian spices with Portuguese preparations. There is a predominance of seafood in in Goan cuisine. Goan sweets like Bebinca, Dodol and Serradura are absolutely delectable and can be carried home as gifts or souvenirs for friends. Here is a link to my list of 10 yummy seafood places in Goa, on Google Maps .
Along with Goan you also have lip smacking options for other Indian cuisines- you have good places with options like Punjabi, Bengali, South Indian. Here is my list of top 10 restaurants in Goa offering Goan and other Indian food, on Google maps.
There are many places offering international cuisine- Chinese, American, Greek, Japanese, German, French, Thai, South East Asian, Italian, Mexican -you name it and they have it. My list of 10 best joints offering international cuisine in Goa, on Google maps .
Many cafes and bakerys in Goa offer great breakfast and dessert options. Here is my list of 10 must-try Cafes in Goa, on Google maps .
A unique type of restaurants in Goa are its Beach Shacks. These are laid back restaurants on the beach. The yum food that you enjoy with the breeze and view of the sea and fine sand beneath your feet is “Goaaah”. Beach shacks or sundowners are restaurants where you can sit peacefully, enjoy a drink, finger-licking food, good music and watch the sun go down into the water. While beach shacks are on the beach, sundowners can be facing any creek, river or lake too. Here is my list of sundowners/ beach shacks in Goa, on google maps.
Vegetarians do not despair, most of these places offer vegetarian options and there are some chains of pure veg places too like Kailash Parbat, Dosa Plaza, Navtara etc.
3. Churches of Goa
Goa, was a Hindu predominant place ruled by Hindu Maharajas and Maratha Peshwas till Muslim rulers invaded it, like the rest of India. Then came the Portuguese in 1510 AD. Unlike the British, that colonised the rest of India, the Portuguese converted Hindus and built Churches, Cathedrals and Chapels all over Goa, the most majestic ones in the then capital, Old Goa.
Basilica of Bom Jesus, the church with the mummified body of St.Francis Xavier, is also in Old Goa.
These churches are not only a symbol of Goa’s history, their beauty has made them a hot favorite for movie shoots also. When you visit them, you’ll recollect many Hindi movies shot in various churches. For example- when you see Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim, you’ll immediately remember the scene from the 90’s movie Josh or the more recent Ashiqui 2. The Se Cathedral in Old Goa will remind you of Singham.
Though centuries old now, most of these parish are still practicing and apart from a visit you can attend masses also here. Here is the link to my post on the 6 best churches to visit in Goa and a link to this list of 6 best churches of Goa on google maps.
4. Nightlife in Goa
Goa’s night life doesn’t need introduction. Nightclubs, casinos, night markets, all night party cruises, beach parties, restaurants with music, performances and dance floors- Goa has it all. Casinos floating on the Mandovi river are a specialty of Goa and attract a lot of crowd. Travelling alone or as a couple or as family with kids- Goa has a happening place for all to enjoy the vibrance of Goan nights.
I love the night markets but my favorites are these places popularly known as “Sundowners”. These places have mesmerizing water view where you can watch the sun go down, they have amazing music, food and drinks. Most of them have dance floors and even performances.
5. Shopping in Goa
You can’t have a good time without shopping. You must shop to take a piece of Goa back home for you or your friends. Goa has shopping malls but the uniqueness of Goa is in its street shopping experiences. Since Goa has many foreigners who have either settled down here or lived here for a long time, you will find many things of national and international taste at places from flea markets to boutiques. Throw in vibrant lights, merry crowd, food and music and you get Goa’s Saturday Night Markets.
6. Forts, Caves and Ruins in Goa
History of Goa is unique. Goan heritage has everything- from caves, to forts, to temples, to churches and heritage houses.
There have been discoveries of some remains of prehistoric men and their tools as well. Goa also has a long Hindu past. In fact, Goa is believed to have been created when Lord Parashuram, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, shot an arrow from the Sahyadris into the Arabian sea. The Goan landscape provides a intriguing mix of excavated Hindu Idols, 12th century Tambdi Surla temple, Aravalem caves that are believed to be made by Buddhist monks or Pandavas from the Mahabharata and even some remains of forts built by the Marathas.
Then came the Portuguese and an era of forts which were so strong, many of them are still standing. Some forts like the Ries Magos Fort have been restored while others like Chapora Fort and Aguada Fort are great for the picturesque views and history- sometimes happy, sometimes gory. Somehow, these ruins look very beautiful during the monsoons with greenery all over and around it.
7. Museums at Goa
Apart from history, Goa offers a lot else that will tinkle your brains. There is an Archaeological Survey of India Museum showcasing Goa’s history. Goa also has a modern art museum- Museum of Goa, that exhibits works of contemporary art, not just paintings but also photographs and art using material that others find mundane.
Goa Science Center,Panjim has a planetarium, a Fun Science Section for the kids and a Mirrors Section which is fun for kids and adults all the same. They have displays, interactive exhibits and games about oceans, wind, electricity and a lot more.
Goa is also the headquarter of the aviation wing of the Indian Navy. Indian Navy hosts a museum on Indian Naval Aviation, close to the airport which showcases their historical aircraft, the equipment they use, history of the base among other things.
There are other note-worthy museums which give you a glimpse of Goan architecture, Goan Culture and lifestyle etc.
8. Adventure in Goa
If you are one of those who crave for an adrenaline rush, Goa offers many adventure sports for you.
During season (November to April) you will find many operators conducting various water sports that require no training, like parasailing, water scooter rides, banana boat rides etc. Other popular sports in Goa that require minimal training are Kayaking, Scuba diving, White water rafting, snorkeling.
To enjoy aerial view of Goa – go for a hot air balloon ride.
There are some operators who offer you trails for hiking, cycling or walking. Hiking and White water rafting are specially engaging during monsoons.
9. Cruises of Goa
Goa is not just about the sea. It also has many rivers. Little wonder then, that fishing and boating are an integral part of Goan life. There are many cruises in Goa that tourists should experience. You can soak-in evening views of Panjim from a cruise on the Mandovi river, you can enjoy a cruise along the backwaters of Mandovi river or the Nerul creek which is much closer to Fun Holidays Goa or take a cruise to visit a spice plantation or Old Goa. You even have day trips where you can fish from your boat. A unique cruise of Goa are its floating casinos on Mandovi river. Then of course, there are Goa’s famous ferries that are used by the locals to cross rivers. If you are visiting Dr Salim Ali bird Sancuarty you need to take the ferry to reach there.
There are some cruises on the sea as well. You have dolphin cruises where they take you out in the sea to spot dolphins or the ones where they take you out for snorkeling.
A new, much awaited addition to the list is the newly started Mumbai-Goa luxury cruise.
10. Nature and Wildlife in Goa
Goa is situated on the rich western Ghats, has the Arbian Sea to one side and is criss-crossed by wide rivers and narrow tributaries. Little known to many, Goa is abundant with natural beauty other than the sea and diverse wildlife. Dudhsagar falls in Goa, is counted among one of the most beautiful water falls in India. During monsoon, other smaller falls of Goa also become very beautiful and attract many tourists.
Goa also has 4 wildlife sanctuaries- Mhadhei, Bondla, Bhagwan Mahavir and Cotigao. These sanctuaries are home to a vast variety of animals, birds and plants.
Since Goa has a long coastline, tourists also love watching the marine life that it displays like dolphins, sea birds, Olive Ridley turtles. There are operators who conduct snorkeling and scuba diving here to show more about the aquatic life of the coastline of Goa.
Goa is also home to many local and migratory birds. Among other spots where amateur and professional bird watchers find treasure, Goa also has a bird sanctuary named after India’s famous ornithologist Dr Salim Ali.
Goa was one of the first spots where Europeans landed when they came looking for India for her Spices. Goa has many spice plantations that give you a tour of their spice gardens, educating you about many spices, their origin and their uses. They combine the experience with delicious lunch, made and served in the traditional way. You can also buy genuine spices from these places.
To Sum Up……
Goa spoils you for choices. Frankly, Goa has too much to offer to fit in any one list but I hope this list made from my personal experiences, helps you plan your Goa darshan. I have tried to be as objective and concise as possible. This list touches briefly upon almost everything that I love Goa for, but leaves the scope for you to explore and add a lot lot more. The best way to discover Goa is to come here and explore. At Fun Holidays Goa, we also provide you with local contacts and information to leave you with more time to enjoy your holiday.
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I will be back soon with more on gourmet meals in Goa. Till then Dream, Explore and Be Amazed !!!