India’s sunshine state has long been a paradise for hippie travellers, loving its famed golden-sandy beaches and laid-back vibes. Goa today combines bygone Portuguese-era influences and modern Indian culture, quite unlike anywhere else in the country.
Blessed with a stretch of stunning coastline peppered with forgotten ramparts, abandoned forts and fringed by villages that still retain their rustic charm, there’s more to the tiny state of Goa than meets the eye. You can get lost in the iconic Latin Quarter of Panjim, kayak in the mangrove-lined creeks or stroll around in Goa's colourful culture hotspots, but Goa's sultry beaches are the real showstoppers here.
Calangute and Baga Beach
Flocked to by many holidaymakers, Calangute, known as the 'Queen of Beaches', and the adjacent Baga Beach, form the beating heart of Goa’s bustling beach scene. Soak up some sun on the endless loungers or indulge in a variety of water sports, such as parasailing, and jet-ski rides. By night, the many food and drink shacks lining the beaches transform them into a shoreline party scene. For those inclined to party hard, a short walk from Baga is the famous Tito’s Lane, the hub of Goa’s celebrated nightlife.
Just a short drive from the beaches, Old Goa’s Colonial-era monuments and Fontainhas’ colourful Latin Quarters prove to be a fascinating cultural excursion, both of which are World Heritage sites.
On Wednesdays, visit the nearby Anjuna Flea Market, a creation of the early hippies that is now a vibrant market for everything, from cheap trinkets to quirky fashion. The Saturday Night Market at Arpora is also a great place for an evening's entertainment, packed with energy and an eclectic collection of wares.
After the word got out about north Goa’s dreamy shores, the hippies quietly moved up the coast. Arambol offers a glimpse of the original bohemian spirit, as the locals have helped preserve the authentic Goan culture and village atmosphere. Lush green forest and gentle hills with splendid views border Arambol’s exquisite coast. The long sandy stretch is relatively quiet, often filled with small groups of people joyously singing to the tunes of a banjo or the beat of a drum. True to its image as a burgeoning hippie idyll, many alternative healing therapy sessions, crystal shops, meditation and yoga retreats can be found here.
Away from the beach, explore the colourful Hindu temples of the villages nearby, spend a quiet afternoon under the shade of trees or take a refreshing dip in the freshwater lake, Sweet Water Lake.
The charming palm-fringed Palolem Beach fits somewhere between the extravagance of Baga and the eccentricity of Arambol. While the beaches of north Goa are always bustling and vibrant, south Goan beaches are much more relaxed. With its beautiful bay and shallow waters conducive to long swims, Palolem is the star of the south, striking a good balance between providing adequate amenities and retaining its natural charm. Make this your base to explore pretty but undeveloped beaches nearby.
The quiet Patnem Beach is easily accessible on foot from Palolem, while the secluded cove of Butterfly Beach can only be accessed by boat. There’s also a good chance of sighting dolphin pods during the boat rides.
When a change of scenery is needed, escape to the waterfalls in the jungles of Netravali or spend a morning bird watching in Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary.
Goa boasts some of the world's most beautiful beaches and there is something for every type of holidaymaker - with party beaches to laid-back hippy vibes. The Goan culture is fascinating and there is plenty to keep you entertained for when you want to escape the scorching sun for an afternoon or two. It really is a destination that has everything.
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