Pic: Baga Beach, North Goa
There is a lot that you can do in Goa. It doesn’t matter, whether you are a party animal or adventure seeker, a vagabond or history-geek, a trekker or photographer, a brooder or solitude craver, be rest assured, that you will find a place to your liking. There is something for everyone here.
But don’t make the mistake of carrying, an unrealistically long bucket list, because you won’t be able to cover everything in a single visit. There is always a next time and Goa is the kind of place you want to keep coming back to. Trust me.
In Chapter 2 of “The Goa Diary”, I will be covering some of the places, I had visited in North and South Goa, which might be of interest to you
I have provided links (easily identifiable by their font colour) in this article, which will provide you further information about these places, in case you want to delve a bit deeper.
So, let’s get started.
Goa is home to more than 50 beaches (click link to get the list). The exact number is not very clear hence, I will stick to an approximate number. These beaches are divided among the 2 districts of Goa:
The North Goa Beaches – which are more crowded
The South Goa Beaches – which are mostly secluded
Depending on your preferences, you can pick and choose, the ones you want to visit. We had decided to spend the first four days in North Goa and the remaining three days in South Goa. This gave us enough time to explore some of the most famous beaches of the place.
In North Goa, the beaches we visited were Baga, Calangute, Candolim and Anjuna.
Baga – I am sure everyone has heard of this beach. It is perhaps the most famous of all the beaches in North Goa. Also, the most crowded and commercialized. There are many restaurants on the beach, where you can grab a drink and watch the sunset. The famous Tito’s nightclub and Britto’s bar and restaurant, are in close proximity to Baga. You will find people of all age groups on this beach. It’s a big party which happens every evening here. Loud music, great food, drinks, ambience – you have it all. If you are a nocturnal party animal, then this is the place to come to.
Pic: Water sports at Baga beach
This beach is also famous for its water sports, which includes parasailing, banana rides and dolphin cruises. There are number of small shops in the tiny lanes leading to the beach, from where you could grab your souvenirs. We had made a couple of visits to this beach, since we were staying in a resort just a mile away.
Pic: Sunset at Baga Beach
Due to the overcrowding though, the beach tends to become dirty. The other problem, I felt is the parking during evenings. Due to the massive crowds, parking could be a problem close to the beach, although you do get a paid parking service here. If you are staying close by, I would suggest, that you walk, to get here.
If you didn’t drive to Goa, like I had, and have rented a two-wheeler, then you wouldn’t be hassled much. By the way for bachelors and couples, renting a two-wheeler is the best option to travel around Goa.
Calangute – We visited Calangute beach early in the morning on the second day in Goa. This beach is the largest in North Goa and is generally crowded during the season time (Oct-April). It offers water sports activities. There is paid parking available, in the lanes leading to the beach and these lanes are slightly wider than those in Baga.
Pic: At Calangute beach – waiting for the waves.
Pic: At Calangute – ready to build a sandcastle.
Candolim – I found this beach to be the best in North Goa. It’s perhaps the most organized, with wide roads leading to the beach and provides proper parking facilities, inside a gated space. If you are planning to get yourself drenched, then this is a good beach to come to. I was told by a tattoo artist, who made a temporary Spiderman tattoo on my son’s arm, that the waves here are ideal for surfing.
Pic: Euphoria at one end in Candolim
There are several nice restaurants and shops near Candolim. The beach has also hosted a number of editions of the world famous Sunburn Music Festival.
Pic: Calmness at the other end in Candolim
The above beaches are part of a contiguous stretch, which starts from Sinquerim (a less crowded beach in North Goa, which I didn’t visit) and ends at Baga.
Anjuna – We visited Anjuna beach at night. It is located around five kilometres from Baga and is famous for its trance parties. It hosts a flea market, every Wednesday and Saturday, where you can purchase a range of products. We had come here for dinner, to one of the shacks, on the beach. I hadn’t experienced a candle-light dinner, on a beach, with the waves kissing my feet. So, this experience was on my bucket list. Since, Anjuna was expected to be less crowded than Baga, I chose Anjuna for the experience. It made more sense for me with a four-year-old around.
Pic: Watching the waves at night is so magical.
Pic: Chilling by the sea after a hearty meal.
3.5 kms from Anjuna beach is Chapora Fort. It is the place, where a famous scene in the Hindi movie “Dil Chahta Hain” was shot. I had been to Chapora fort, during a previous visit to Goa, hence I gave it a miss, this time around.
Pic: the famous scene from the movie “Dil Chahta hain” at Chapora fort.
Pic credit: cocktailzindagi.com
You could also visit Vagator beach, which is another famous beach in North Goa. It is 3.5 kms from Anjuna beach. There are a lot of Western backpackers who come to Vagator and it is known for its rave culture.
The South Goa beaches in comparison to North Goa, offer seclusion and serenity. Something, that we were desperately craving for, after the frenzy of North Goa. Yes, we enjoyed the partying and merry making, but now we wanted some peace. The South Goa beaches gave us just that. Since, the beaches here are less crowded, they are much cleaner. If you are travelling with family and small kids, these beaches would be more suited to your needs.
We spent three days in South Goa and stayed in Mayfair Hideaway Spa Resort located in Betul Salcete, which is an isolated corner of South Goa. The closest beaches from our resort, were Cavelossim and Mobor and these were the beaches, we visited in this part of town.
Cavelossim – This beach is known for its white sands and contrasting black lava rocks. It is a beautiful, peaceful and calm beach. You can spend hours here without being disturbed by anyone. All you need is a nice mat and shade. If you are interested in meditation or yoga, overlooking the sea, then this is the beach to come to.
Pic: Entry to Cavelossim beach
My wife, son and I spent an hour on this beach, collecting seashells, which are in plenty, before we decided to get drenched in the sparkling white waters. If you are interested, you could go for dolphin sighting trips from this beach.
Pic: Cavelossim – You and I, on this beautiful day!
The landscapes around this beach are also quite stunning. It is clean, green and surrounded by paddy fields. Luxury hotel brands like Radisson and Leela have set up their Goa hotels, near Cavelossim. There are many good restaurants close to the beach which play great music and serve even better food. The one that I would suggest everyone to try, is Robin’s Ark.
Pic: the white sands and sparkling waters of Cavelossim
Mobor – Mobor beach is just an extension of Cavelossim and is located around 3.5 kms from Cavelossim. It is a 15-minute stroll from Cavelossim to Mobor, if you don’t mind walking. We went to Mobor in the afternoon and found it quite secluded and calm. There are number of shacks here, which serve tasty food.
Pic: Mobor beach in the afternoon
The more famous beaches in South Goa, which we chose not to visit, are Colva, Benaulim and Varca. Colva which is the most famous of the South Goa beaches is located at around 15 kms from Cavelossim. These beaches are more crowded in comparison to Cavelossim and Mobor. On the southern end of the coastline, you have Palolem and Polem beaches, which are also quite serene and peaceful. In my next visit, I would like to explore these beaches.
One beach, which we did see, but did not visit, was Betul beach. The reason – Our resort which was located at the intersection of the Sal river and the Arabian Sea, provided a stunning view of this meeting point and a portion of the Betul beach, from its infinity pool. This view was simply stunning, especially during sunset and daybreak.
Pic: Daybreak at Mayfair resort
Pic: Another view of the meeting point of the Sal river and Arabian Sea.
Churches and Forts:
If you a history geek and have a fascination for architecture, then you should spend a day in Panjim (also called Panaji). The Portuguese influence on Goa, especially on its architecture, is clearly visible in this part of the town. A shining example of this, are the churches of Panjim, the most famous of these are:
Basilica of Bom Jesus – This church was built in 1605 AD. I had a special interest in seeing the place, because it houses the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of my school – St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, Kolkata. His mummified body is kept inside a casket which tourists can see from afar. But the next public viewing of his body will be in 2024. Public viewing happens every ten years and gains a lot of attention worldwide because the saint is believed to have had miraculous healing powers. The church is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a classic example of Baroque and Portuguese colonial architecture.
Pic: Basilica of Bom Jesus
Pic: the casket which holds the mummified body of St. Francis Xavier.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church – The beautiful white fascade of this church, will be familiar to some, because many Bollywood movie scenes have been shot here. It is once again, a classic example of the Portuguese Baroque style architecture. It was first built in 1541 as a chapel and then later replaced with a much larger church in the 1600’s, as part of Portuguese Goa’s religious expansion.
Pic: Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church.
The streets of Panjim are worth taking a stroll around because of its immaculate architecture, restaurants and beautiful roads. However, when visiting these places, be careful not to park your vehicle in no parking zones. You might end up paying heavy fines and wasting time on it. There are designated parking zones and I would suggest investing your time in finding those.
Panjim is also famous for its casinos and cruises which you could try. These are near the Panjim bridge on the river Mandovi. You could check out packages in Casino Pride Goa, if you are interested. It offers you a floating casino on the river.
Fort Aguada – This fort was constructed by the Portuguese in 1612, to guard against the Dutch and Marathas. It is in North Goa, 11 kms from Baga beach, located on a hilltop, near the Sinquerim beach, overlooking the Arabian Sea. The view of the Arabian Sea from this vantage point, is simply stunning. There is a lighthouse within the Fort and a freshwater spring which provides the water supply. The fort got its name from this, since Aguada means water.
Pic: the lighthouse at Fort Aguada
The place is generally crowded during season time, and you might have to spend 10 minutes in a que to get into the fort. But it is worth it. There are shops selling refreshments outside the gates of the fort and they come in handy after a stint under the sun. A nice glass of lemon soda is just what you will need to reinvigorate yourself.
Pic: view of the Arabian Sea from Fort Aguada.
The food in Goa, in general, is of very good quality. Especially, the sea food. There are some fabulous dining options available in Goa, serving all kinds of cuisines – local, domestic and international. You wouldn’t need my help in figuring out where you should eat. Google will do a great job of it. Moreover, both Zomato and Swiggy, does food delivery in Goa, so that’s an added advantage, in case you are feeling too lazy to head out from your hotel or resort.
Of the restaurants that we tried; I’d like to pick one which clearly stood out for me and is not that well known:
If you are driving from North to South Goa, then just after you cross Panjim, in a place called Nuvem, there is this little gem of a restaurant called – The Station.
Pic: The Station, Goa – An old Portuguese villa converted into a restaurant.
I discovered this place by accident, since we didn’t have any specific place in mind for lunch. Hence, we just stopped at our convenience. But then, we were in for a pleasant surprise. This is a 100+ year-old Portuguese villa, that has been converted to a restaurant, which has been functional for the last 3 years. The décor is quite unique. The restaurant is spacious yet cosy and very well lit.
Pic: The inner decor and lighting
Pic: restaurant area – The Station Goa.
The menu is extensive, and includes American, Mexican, Italian and Goan cuisines. So, burgers, pastas and lasagnes are all on the menu. But I was looking for something simple and local. So, out came a Goan fish Thali and boy, was it good!
Pic: Authentic Goan Fish Thali.
I really loved this place – the ambience, service and food, all were good. The prices were also reasonable, costing me just Rs 280 for a Fish Thali and a Veg Thali. If you happen to pass by Majorda or Nuvem, do stop here for lunch or dinner.
Other honourable mentions are:
Fat Fish – on the Calangute-Arpora road (North Goa) – famous for its seafood.
Robin’s Ark – near Cavelossim beach (South Goa) – highly rated.
Nautica (Mayfair Hideaway Spa resort) – Betul (South Goa) – the buffets are elaborate and food is delicious.
I’d like to sum up this section of the chapter by saying that, if you are in Goa, you must try the local cuisine. Both vegetarians and non-vegetarians have options to choose from. My wife was very happy with the Veg Xacuti that she tried, although she is generally not very adventurous with food. I believe to understand the people of a certain place, you must try out their food, because eating together is one of the great joys of life. Goa did not disappoint us one bit in this regard. I am in love with Goan cuisine and will try making some of them at home.
I would like to end this chapter by repeating what I had said in the beginning, that there is a lot to do in Goa. You will be left with a few things, that you might have wanted to do, but couldn’t. Hence, a visit to the Dudhsagar falls, an island visit, a cruise on the Mandovi river, scuba-diving and parasailing are pending. But then, I didn’t come here hoping to tick all the boxes. There is always a next time.
In the final chapter of “The Goa Diary”, I will be sharing some of my personal experiences and stories. I hope you will find that interesting. Do look out for that piece. It will be published soon.
Thanks for reading.
Kavita Joshi Krishnan