The Indian state of Goa has become a firm favourite with UK holidaymakers in recent years, particularly for its stunning beaches, dramatic architecture and carefree spirit.Located on the country’s south west coast, it is synonymous with partying and beach holidays, but also has an array of other sights and experiences for travellers.
Portuguese traders first landed on the shores of Goa in the 1500s and the area existed as a Portuguese colony for centuries, until it was annexed as part of India in 1961.Goa has more than 20 delightful stretches of white sand beach down its 101km long coastline, some of which are crowded year round with holidaymakers, while others present secluded palm-fringed paradises for those seeking a quieter break.
Every type of traveller and size of wallet is catered for and accommodation along the coast ranges from five star hotels to palm-leaf shacks. Goa is now India’s richest state and has seen a huge influx from neighbouring areas in recent years.
Calangute and Baga in northern Goa are heavily developed resorts and full of the usual tourist amenities, the south offers simpler and more peaceful resorts like Colva and Benaulim, while partygoers head to Anjuna, Vagator, and Chapora. Goa was famous as the hangout for hippy travellers and the psychedelic generation during the 1960s and 1970s and it still attracts similar visitors as well as more conventional tourists, luxury travellers and backpackers, and there are a number of popular yoga resorts in the north of the state.The Portuguese influence is widespread and food in Goa is a delicious blend of meat and fish cooked with Indian spices in a way unique to the region.
Alcohol is freely available in the state and Goa produces large quantities of rice and coconuts, which feature in many of the dishes.The ruins of the former Portuguese capital at Old Goa are a key tourist attraction, with an exotic mix of European and Indian architecture and a number of quaint churches and cathedrals.
The influence of early Portuguese merchants can also be seen at the ruins of Fort Aguada in north Goa and the Bom Jesus Basilica, which houses the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier.Goa has a number of charming market towns, as well as the bustling state capital Panaji. Vasco-de-Gama, the largest town in the state, has some interesting colonial and native architecture, while the town of Anjuna has a popular weekly flea market.
Other towns of interest include Margao, Marmagao, and Mapusa. The state is dotted with ornate and colourful Hindu temples and holds a number of lavish annual Hindu and Christian celebrations. As India’s smallest state, Goa represents a manageable slice of the vast country and has just 1.4 million inhabitants. Inland visitors can walk in the Western Ghats range of mountains, a world biodiversity hotspot, visit numerous estuaries and river valleys, and a number of small islands. Its tropical jungles in the east of the state are home to bright birds, wild boars and the region has a large snake population. The Salim Ali Bird sanctuary is particularly interesting, with its exotic mynas and parrots.
Visitors to Goa generally arrive by air or travel to the state from the Indian capital Mumbai. The Konkan Railway line, built during the 1990s, runs parallel to the coast between Mumbai and Goa. Once in the state, public transport largely consists of buses, unmetered taxis, auto rickshaws and the state’s unique yellow-and-black motorcycle taxis.
Goa’s official language is Konkani, but many Indians speak English and travellers will not struggle to get around the more heavily populated areas. The country has a warm and humid climate for most of the year, with temperatures hottest in May and a cooler spell between December and February. The annual monsoon season starts in early June and runs to late September.
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