People generally don’t picture India as a tropical beach destination, but Goa offers a slice of peaceful seaside paradise that is far removed from the chaos and overcrowding you’ll find in New Delhi or Mumbai.
India’s smallest state, Goa offers a great introduction to India where you can get a relaxing taste of the country’s culture, wildlife, and natural beauty without having to navigate your way through crowds and confusion.
The entire state’s population is about one tenth of what you’ll encounter in India’s major cities, though Goa is still well set up for tourism, offering visitors easy transportation and a wide variety of accommodation options.
Hotels in Goa range from affordable basic backpacker hostels to luxury 5-star resorts. Wherever you decide to set yourself up, you’ll find yourself on or near the 100-kilometre coastline that stretches along the Arabian Sea, offering up dozens of picture perfect beaches.
This handy guide to Goa’s top experiences will also allow you to discover why you’ll want to add this coastal gem to your next Indian itinerary.
Reasons to Visit India’s Tropical Beachside Getaway (Goa)
Much of Goa’s forests and wilderness areas are protected through sanctuaries and national parks. In the state’s east, you find the Western Ghats; lush rolling green hills with rich tropical biodiversity. Reserves contain hundreds of animal species, many of which are endangered and uniquely Indian.
The largest protected wildlife area is Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. Here you’ll not only find Bengal tigers roaming beside black panthers, but the area is also home to one of India’s largest waterfalls, Dudhsagar Falls. The four-tiered waterfall is reached by an adventurous jeep ride followed by a swim in the refreshing waterhole beneath the falls.
Visit Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary for the chance to see flying squirrels, Malabar crested eagles, pangolins, and towering trees that offer a dense jungle experience.
Birdwatchers will want to check out Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Named for India’s top ornithologist, the sanctuary offers an estuarine mangrove habitat which is home to several species of herons, bitterns, kingfishers, shorebirds, and ducks.
Other reserves are home to giant great Indian hornbills with their beautiful yellow bill casques, adorable looking lorises, and graceful spotted axis deer. Rare sightings include giant gaur, hyenas, cobras, and sloth bears.
Goa is more than just the hippie backpacker destination with energetic nightlife most people associate it with. Click To Tweet
Beaches in Goa are simply stunning, offering both touristy beaches like Anjuna, which is close to restaurants and markets, as well as more secluded gems.
Visit Palolem Beach to share the sand with cattle and take advantage of great live music after the sun goes down. A bit quieter option is the less crowded Patnem Beach which is often preferred by families and romantic couples,where you’ll often see a game of beach cricket being played.
For pure isolation, be sure to check out the somewhat hidden Butterfly beach which is accessible via short speedboat ride from Palolem Beach or a hike through the jungle. It offers more of a natural beach free from beachside shacks or hotels, allowing you to experience a bit more nature and wildlife that includes frequent dolphin sightings.
Benaulim and Candolim offer a better atmosphere for older individuals who’d rather visit art galleries and enjoy dolphin watching cruises as opposed to hitting the party scene.
You’ll find more of the luxury hotels along Varca, Cavelossim, and Morbor beaches. These beaches seem to be quieter, less polluted, and are more picturesque.
Pro tip: Goa is quite liberal re swim attire, allowing you to wear modern bikinis without feeling disrespectful. Click To Tweet
The Ultimate Yoga & Wellness Retreat
While you’ll easily find relaxation on any of Goa’s beaches, the area’s world class yoga and wellness retreats take things to the next level.
Yoga classes are flexible and cater to all skill levels. Local Indian yogis are trained in many styles of yoga including Ashtanga, Hatha, and Bikram yoga.
You’ll find it easy to dine on organic vegetarian Indian cuisine, where vegan and gluten-free options are commonplace. Take part in cleansing and detoxing programs or attend healthy cooking classes that offer valuable nutrition information.
Enjoy a range of massages by trained masseuses that specialize in massages such as Thai, reiki, and shiatsu. Focus on holistic wellness and learn about naturopathy and ayurveda medicine which combine yoga, acupuncture, and herbal medicine to encourage health and wellbeing.
Enjoy yoga and wellness sessions by day where you’ll take in ocean views beneath swaying palms or attend a full moon or candlelight meditation held after the sun goes down.
Food and Drink
When it comes to food and drink, you’re bound to run into feni, a pungent alcoholic spirit crafted from cashew fruit or toddy palms.
A journey beyond the touristy beach hubs allows your taste buds to try more authentic native dishes like delicious fish curry and rava fried fish with its ginger, garlic, and red chili flavor.
Coconut milk and jaggery (a thick brown sugar-like substance sourced from palm tree sap) is used to create the traditional Indo-Portuguese layered dessert known as Bebinca.
See where most of your favorite spices come from by touring the Sahakari Spice Farm. Taste spices like ginger, nutmeg, and turmeric along with enjoying fresh fruit like pineapples and papaya that grow on the farm as well.
A mix of cultures and religions live alongside one another harmoniously, making Goa a place where you can see a Catholic Church standing near a Hindu temple or Islamic mosque.
Religious sites include Hindu temples such as Mangeshi and Mahadeva as well as the World Heritage-listed Jesuit church known as Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Witness the colorful Portuguese homes of the Latin Quarter or tour opulent mansions like Menezes Braganca House in southern Goa. You’ll encounter several historical forts like the restored and well maintained Reis Magos Fort which overlooks the Mandovi River
Take in Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and Shigmo as well as the large float parades during the Goa Carnival. When it comes to music, aside from the party beats that play along the beach, you will often run into a fair amount of Jazz.
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