Paradise Found: Where to go in Goa, India

A Note From Greg: Ahh, Goa. Paradise on the Western side of India. Carrie and I spent a week there, just relaxing by the ocean and taking it all in. I would love to be back there right now… so instead, here is the next best thing. A new post by my friend Alice all about Goa.

Sitting smack-bang in the middle of India’s picturesque west coast is Goa, a small slice of untouched paradise, complete with white sandy beaches, an array of fun water sports and a throbbing nightlife. A trip to Goa promises sun, sand and serenity (with loads of shopping thrown in there as well).

A Goa Sunset - taken by my wife Carrie
A Goa Sunset – taken by my wife Carrie

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A former Portuguese colony, Goa is totally different to the clichéd catalogue India – instead you’ll find a unique mix of religions, cultures and customs. Famous for its pristine beaches and relaxed lifestyle, Goa is a great budget-friendly option amongst tourists and locals alike. So if India is on your list of holidays in 2013, then it goes without saying that a stopover in Goa is a must. But the question is, just where exactly do you go?

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Arambol

To the far north, you’ll find Arambol – previously a local hippie haven; now a tranquil beach town. The beaches are postcard-perfect, the town a welcoming mix of locals and tourists, and the lifestyle as low-key as you’d imagine. Pass the days indulging in fresh seafood, watching countless sunsets and getting lost amongst the village stalls.

The coastal view of Arambol, Goa, India
The coastal view of Arambol, Goa, India

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Calangute

About an hour’s drive away from Arambol lies Calangute, the region’s largest town. A popular tourist spot, Calangute is packed with beach parties, colourful markets and overflowing restaurants – if you’re looking for action, this is the place for you. The self-proclaimed capital of ‘New India’, Calangute and the neighboring Baga Beach are a world away from traditional towns – there’s no doubt you’ll find all your usual creature comforts here.

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Panaji

The state’s capital, Panaji (or Panjim in English) is a cultural hotspot brimming with creativity. Spice plantations sit next to ancient temples, the old city museums are rich with history and heritage, and across the river, secluded islands are filled with thick grass and natural wildlife. The Portuguese Baroque Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church is a definite must-see, as are the array of palaces, temples and mosques scattered throughout the town.

When in India...eat as the Indians do. Like this delicious Thali
When in India…eat as the Indians do. Like this delicious Thali

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Madgaon

The second largest city in Goa, Madgaon is just south of the Panaji peninsula. A central transport hub connecting Goa to the rest of India, Madgaon is often just a stopover for many tourists. However, if you’re looking for something other than beaches, consider staying a bit longer to see how the real Goans live. Grab a bike and take in the Portuguese influence and history as you cycle through the sites.

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Palolem

Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa, Palolem is a remote paradise thick with coconut palms, hammocks and huts. This southern-most beach has something for everyone – try fishing, dolphin watching or kayaking if you’ve had your fill of sunbaking, or tackle hiking through the wilderness (or the shopping centers) depending on what you’re up for.

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So whatever your version of paradise is, Goa is sure to have something for you. From beaches and bars to history and heritage, this tiny Indian hotspot should
be high on every traveller’s wanderlust wishlist.