From meeting fellow travelers who have also been to India I have found their opinions to be just like ‘Marmite’ they either love it or hate it. I am very much in love with this magical place and I would confidently say that it’s my favorite country I have ever travelled around.
Goa may be one of the smallest provinces in India, but that certainly does not mean that it has the least to offer. I ended up spending triple the amount of time that I was intending to there as I found it to be a truly awesome place. Whether it’s relaxing on a secluded paradise beach, partying your socks off with fellow backpackers and young Indians or exploring ruined Portuguese forts and the charming city of Panaji Goa has something to suite everyone’s tastes. In my case I liked to do a bit of everything and mix it all up a little.
In this article I will give you a small breakdown of each of the areas I visited during my holiday in Goa, trying to give you a few handy hints along the way:
This was the place where I kicked off my Goa adventure and after getting off a 14 hour overnight bus from Cochin in Kerela I was very pleased with what I saw. A beautiful stretch of golden sand with stunning turquoise water. I suppose it looks very Thai island esque, however the elements of India are still firmly there.
Although the town of Palolem is very small there are enough amenities to keep you there without it feeling like it is too overrun and touristic.
When you first arrive in Goa it is very easy to find reasonable priced accommodation as there are plenty of chilled out beach hut resorts all along the main beach, haggle your heart out for the price though as this really is the Indian way for EVERYTHING!
Palolem is very relaxed and there is nothing more relaxing than to try out some yoga. When exploring the area on mopeds we came across this amazing little yoga school about a 15 minute walk out of the town centre. It was set in a small wooden cottage in a small jungle where you truly are at one with nature. The owner Swami was so friendly and for someone like me who was trying out yoga for the first time he was very patient (especially when I was falling about all over the place!)
Literally the next bay north of Palolem is the even more relaxing and quiet Agonda beach. There really isn’t a lot to do here except to chill and soak up the rays. Something I would strongly recommend to do while you are in this area is to hire out mopeds and ride out to the Cape Rama fort. It’s a couple of hours drive but when bike rental and petrol are so cheap there really are no excuses! The scenery is stunning, you barely meet any other vehicles and it makes for a great half day excursion. The fort itself is still very intact and has been taken over by cows, as has much of India! Also while you are in Agonda look out (or up rather) for the bat alley on the path that runs along the back of the beach. I have never seen so many bats in one place and at one time!
Further north up the coast is Panaji, Goa’s capital town. It’s very quaint, charming and unlike any of the other Indian state capitals as it seems to have escaped that crazy ‘I might get run over today’ vibe. Whilst eating in a restaurant here one night a cow just strolled in and lay down on the middle of the floor and no one seemed to care, this is just one of my many random Indian experiences!
Panaji provides a nice break from the beach and enough aimless wandering to keep you entertained for a couple of days. The old town is dotted with lots of elegant reminisces of the former Portuguese occupation and at times you may feel like you are in Europe.
If you are looking for some local culinary delights you will have to check out Sher-e-Punjab. This place is full of locals, is cheap and serves up some amazing fish/ meat and vegetarian curries. Also some of the best roti and naan bread I ate in my whole time in India! Don’t get drawn into one of the more touristy places as you end up paying triple the price and are left thoroughly disappointed.
Anjuna, in the far north, was the last place I went in Goa and it has a completely different vibe to the beaches in the south. It has a much busier party vibe. I had some fun times there as there is a wide variety of bars and clubs to tickle your fancy. Just ask around and you will easily find out where the big club nights are on. Don’t ever buy club tickets from randoms who approach you claiming to be club promoters; we were unfortunately caught out in this scam. You can easily get them from hotel owners or just on the door when you arrive.
One place I would definitely recommend to stay in Anjuna is Asterisk its one of the only official youth hostels in the whole of India. It’s a great social place to meet people and the owners were really friendly and helpful.
Whilst in the whole Goa area I would recommend trying the local spirit called fenny (It’s made from cashew nuts, apparently!) and mix it with some sprite, you can find it in all the local shops and the locals will tell you it will ‘give you good crazy time’
I wish I had some more time to explore Goa as there is still a lot more I wanted to see and do there. But as I’m sure you all know that is one of the down sides to backpacking there truly is never enough time to see everything!
This is a guest post from my buddy Luke who is currently on a year out from teaching in Egypt – he’ll be contributing a bit over the next few months!