The above photo very much define the majority of taste of vacation in Goa. Although it is much more than that.
This was my 3rd trip to Goa, but my first blog on it. Although this blog will just another drop in travel blogs on Goa, but will try to pour in my all three travel experiences, to make it as comprehensive & detail, to help future visitors to Goa.
The first one was with my office team, with base at Varca Beach resort. If you have money, this is one of the best bets to stay in. Second trip base was in Dona Paulo, heart of Goa government, thus very neat & clean by Indian standards. Stayed there in IOCL guest house, “just awesome”: two wors to describe it. Third trip base was in Calangute beach, one of the busiest beach of Goa.
How to reach Goa?
Goa is well connected by Rail, road & air with all major cities. Budget way of reaching Goa is by road (bus) or by rail. Konkan railways is one of the most scenic rail routes of India. Goa is overnight journey (12-15 hrs) from major cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mangalore.
How to explore Goa?
If you want to explore Goa at its maximum, rented bikes are the best way to do it. All major beaches have rented bike shop & so availability of bike won’t be a problem (DL is must). Bikes from 100cc to 500cc are available. Avenger (200cc), a cruise bike, seems to be the most popular rented bike, which costs Rs 300 per day. It’s mileage can be 20-30 kms/liter. Acitva (125cc) costs Rs 200 per day. These price are as on 18-20th August-2012 & may vary depending upon seasonal demand.
Calangute beach, Baga beach, Anjuna beach, Panaji are dotted with rented bike shops.
Facilities in Goa:
– All big mobile operators are present.
– Panaji, Madgaon, Vasco, Marmagoa are biggest cities of Goa with all required facilities. Dabolim is the name of airport, Vasco & Madgaon are biggest railway junctions connecting Goa with rest of India
– Panaji is major bus stop for all long route buses. Situated close to Mandovi river bridge, bus stop also connects to all places of goa by small rickety buses. But local buses frequency can be very erradic.
Where to stay in Goa?
There are options n options. Options of all kinds depending upon budget & needs. From cheap shacks to luxury 5 star resorts. Home stay options to hotels. During peak season, one can find anywhere & everywhere in Goa. In off season, Calangute, Baga beach, Anjuna beach are the ones that are open. We stayed in a 3BHK-home stay 300 mtrs from Calangute beach (Rs 1400 per day -Aug’12). In my first visit to Goa (July-2007), I stayed at Varca Beast resort (Rs 4000 for two people). Second visit, I stayed in IOCL guest house free of cost (Dona Paulo).
In peak season, prices are very high & during off season prices are least.
What to do in Goa?
Goa is more about partying, chilaxing. If you are for like Indian cultural tour or religious tour or meditation tour, Goa certainly is not the place. For Indians, Goa is the best place to break shackles of traditions & break sef imposed boundaries. If your taste is:
– Drink, eat, read n chilax: Just grab a seat in one of the many sea beach shacks.
– Explore places: Get a rented bike n helmet & fill in ur petrol to expore 100 kms of coastline.
– Historical tour: Centuries old churches & forts will keep you busy for couple of days
– Sea food: Goa makes sure, you are spoilt of choices.
– Getting Tattoos (temporary, permanent)
In short, whether it is famiy, friends, honeymooners or GF-BF combo, Goa is one of the best place to go in India.
Tourists Season in Goa:
Tourist season is function of weather patterns. Winter months (Nov to Feb) are peak times & expect everything overrated during this period. February to June are too hot to visit Goa & June to October are monsoon months. During monsoon more than 50% of hotes & restaurants gets closed & is cheapest time to visit Goa. Infact many beaches like Anjuna, Vagator, Candolim, Varca etc. gets drowned in Sea during monsoon.
Best time to visit depends upon taste. Having visited during Jan & August, I found Goa beautiful both times. Jan is golden & August it’s green.
Places to Explore:
Unofficially Goa has been divided in two tourists zone: North Goa & South Goa. Anything north of Panaji is North Goa & South of Panaji is South Goa. North Goa is more popular among tourists, with hotels remaining open during off season as well. In South Goa, besides major beaches like Colva, many hotels n resturants remain closed during off season.
North Goa: Calangute Beach, Fort Aguada, Chapora Fort, Chapora River, Morjim Beach, Candolim Beach, Baga Beach, Anjuna Beach
South Goa: Colva beach, Varca Beach, Palolem Beach, Benaulim beach
Panaji : Dona Paulo, Velha Goa, Mandovi River, Miramar Beach
East Goa: Dudhsagar falls, Mahaveer Jain Wildlife sanctuary
Goa as base: Gokarna (100 Kms), Dandeli (100 Kms), Terekhol Fort (50 Kms) [all from Panaji]
How to plan travel in Goa?
Below plan is based if one stays in Panaji or any where in North Goa.
Day 1/2: Explore North Goa beaches. Morjim beach, Anjuna Beach, Vagator beach, Candolim Beach, Baga beach, Calangute beach, Fort Aguada, Chapora fort. Fort Aguada, Chapora Fort (famousy known as DCH point among younsters), Calangute Beach, Morjim Beach are must visit places.
– Calangute Beach is most popular among all these & remain hyper active even late night. It is even open during off season as well & has very good eating options as well. Lobo restaurant & Sea Queen restaurant on Calangute are good places to eat. Besides this, there are few more beach shacks which remain open during off season as well. Om restaurant, Kajal restaurant,Spicy restaurant near Baga circle, remain open late in night. All basic necesseties (except petrol pump…4KM from Calangute enroute to Panaji) like ATM, hotels, restaurants,rented bike shop, medicine shop etc. are availabe in Calangute Beach. This is one of the best place to stay, if crowd is not a problem.
– Baga beach (must visit): Another popular beach, 2 km from Calangute, which remain open late night even during off season. Beach donot get drowned in peak monsoon as well & so many of hotels n restaurants do remain open in off season. Calangute to Baga beach are dotted with hotels, restaurants, Home stays, rented bike shops n all tourist feeding infrastructure. Baga beach bosts of Tito’s, one of the most popular restaurant cum staying option cum partying place cum pub of Goa. It is one of the place for who’s who. It’s disco is only for couples. Baga beach has quite good number of shacks, which remain open in off season as well.
– Fort Aguada (must visit): One of the oldest fort in Goa built in 16th Century. The sea facing granite stone fort sits on a hill top & is a good spot as a sunset viewpoint. Often confused as DCH point, but it is not. Getting to seashore by hiking through vegetation, beside light house, can be rewarding in terms of peace & views. It has few snacking options only. No entry fee, no parking fee.
– Fort Chapora (must visit): Resembling like Fort Aguada, this granite fort also sits on a hill top, overlooking Arabian sea & Chapora River. This place became famous because of Bollywood Movie Dil Chahta Hai & among young Indian Hippies, it is popuarly known as DCH point. Personally, I like place better than Fort Aguada, because is slightly less crowded & has got superb 360 degree view. Again this has great sunset views. The place has hardly any shops for snacks or water, so do carry your own. Fort Chapora is some 15 Kms from Calangute.
– Morjim Beach (must visit): Morjim beach sits on conjunction of River Chapora & Arabian sea. The beach can be seen from Chapora fort. Very few people visit this beach & so it has hardly any tourist infrastructure (just saw only 2 resorts). Since few people visit, it is relatively clean beach & a driving beach. Yes, one can drive in this beach, as it has hard sand, which can sustain weight of vehicles. Driving in the waves can be fun (but beware, salty water is very very bad of health of vehicle). As river Chapora gets drained here, it is beautiful to see transition of strong wave to calm waves at the same place. But other side is, river brings with it lots of human waste n pollution, which gets deposited on beach.Distance & this pollution could be other reason why few people visit this place. Nevertheless, it is one of the place to have solitary time.
Terekhol Fort: This fort is the first thing as one crosses Goa to Maharastra. Although, I have not been there, it is said to be very beautiful fort overseeing Arabian Sea. One has to cross Terekhol River to reach this place, which can be done by free ferry service. There is hardly any tourist infrastructure there.
Candolim Beach: This beach gets almost drowned in Monsoon & has a fort. Most of the area is occupied by Taj Vivanta hotel. Besides beach, there is nothing much. In off season, it has deserted looks.
Anjuna & Vagator beach: Again very popular among tourist, but it seems beach gets drowned in Monsoon. It has got decent tourist infrastructure like Hotels, restaurants n bike renting facility. Anjuna beach is famous for its Wednesday market. Enroute to Anjuna has got many posh restaurants & high end staying options, Taj Vivanta & Kingfisher to name a few. We had lunch in Tin-Tin restaurant, which serve American food plus some live English Music. Fisherman’s Cove on Calangute to Anjuna is a very good place to have food & drinks.
Day 3: Panaji, Miramar Beach, Dona Paulo, Velha Goa, Mandovi River cruise.
Panaji: Capital of Goa & situated on junction of Mandovi River & Arabnian sea, this is one of the neatest cities in India. Home to high end hotels & restaurants, besides housing colonial style roads, houses & shops. The road running parallel to Sea & river, has got few museums & children parks. It is heaven for shopalcoholics.
Miramar Beach: Popular among among the localites, this somewhat dirty beach, sits on junction of Mandovi river & Arabian Sea. It is site of evening Indian snacking action. Water is too dirty to take a bath here.
Dona Paulo: Close to Governer house, this Arabian sea facing view point is not a sea beach & is popular among localites because of its proximity to Panaji. Some water sports activites has started here, but not worth spending on. This place has got few eating options.
Velha Goa/Old Goa (must visit): As the name suggests, it is the oldest part of Goa. Situated 10 Kms from Panaji & 10 kms upstream of Mandovi river, Velha Goa once rivaled Lisbon (capital of Portugal). It houses 16th century big churches & gets very busy on prayer days. Road to Panaji to Velha Goa is also a scenic package in itself, with once side of road running parallel to voluminous Mandovi river & other side dotted with colonial style houses. NH-4A bisects Velha Goa & so be careful of fast highway traffic. It has got numerous eating + guiding option.
Mandovi River cruise (must visit, if 1st time): Near the main river bridge, on Panaji, is action place for cruise boats n ships. It gets very crowded in evening & it is advisabe to book your tickets before hand. Cost may vary depending on quality of ship. Idea is to spend couple of hour in River Mandovi, as ship goes till mouth of the river. Again best time to get into this cruise ship is sunset time & no wonder that is most crowded time. Food n drinks inside ship is over rated & also beware of touts. Royal casino is most costliest among all these & not sure how it is?
Day 4/5: South Goa: Margagoa, Madgaon, Vasco-Da-Gama, Benaulim beach, Colva beach, Varca beach, Palolem beach, Agonda beach, Cabo-De-Rama fort
South Goa is mirror image of North Goa, with exception being it is longer & less crowded compared to North Goa. Mirror image because it aso houses beaches & few forts. The long coastline of South Goa boasts of many 5 star hotels like Inter Continental, Taj, Leela & so on. Many of these resorts have their own private beach. South Goa also boasts of biggest cities of Goa: Madgaon, Marmagao & Vasco-Dagama. Marmagao is one of the largest ports of India. There are many few other small beaches, but with minimum tourist infrastructure & gets drowned in monsoon season.
Colva beach has got some water sports options during peak season & is a white sand beach. It has few options to stay right on beach.
Day 6: Dudhsagar Falls (must visit): The fall is the 2nd highest waterfall in India. Situated on Karnataka-Goa border, 100 Kms from Panaji, it is at its best in Monsoon season. It can get off in peak monsoon by road. Best way is to go Castle Rock station & do some trekking to reach the falls. Trekking is the best way to get some photogenic views of falls & is strongy recommended during monsoon season, when it is at its best. But it is important to go in a group & be well informed about the place. Situated in Western ghat jungles, mobile network, finding food & water can be a problem.
Other near by places to explore from Goa are Gokarna & Dandeli forests. Gokarna is a temple town & carry tag of cheap Goa. Nevertheless, it is a sexy place to visit.
Dandeli: Situated 50Kms further east of Dudhsagar falls, in state of Karnataka, it famous for Wildlife & river rafting. Off from many tourist map, it can be very reaxing place to visit.
In short, Goa is perfect place for a relaxing vacation. It is a place where, group of bachelors guys envy couples & boys in couple would envy bachelors 😉 . For Indians at least, it is a must visit place, at least once in lifetime.
SOUVENIRS from Goa:
– In you/your friends/family do experiment booz: Feni can be a good option. Available in Coconut & Cashewnut flavour, Feni is the local drink of Goa.
– Handicrafts from Anjuna beach market. But do bargain.
– For Indian families, cashewnut can be a good option.
– For hippies, Goa is flooded with “rock” type cloths.
– Lastly for self, Tattoo can a good option.
Lastly few cautions:
– Avoid swimming in sea during Monsoon season (June-September).
– Donot drink & drive.
– Wear helmet & drive. Cops can catch, especially in Panaji. Also it is for your own safety. Roads are narrow & driving with caution is best option.
– Make sure to check all necessary papers in rented Bike.
– Taking drugs is illegal. Think twice before you take.
– Touts are in plenty, better to avoid them
– Get permanent tattoo in a safe place. Do not compromise on hygiene.
– Lastly please donot trash. All beaches & forts are littered with broken booz bottles & littered with plastic bottles & chip packets. Please be an explorative & not an exploitive tourist. If cannot be one, better stay indoors.
WISH YOU A HAPPY & SAFE VACATION. PLEASE DONOT LITTER.