Guests often ask me what they should do while on holiday in Goa and I always answer the same thing “Nothing at all”. I believe that one should de-stress, relax and just soak up the amazing atmosphere. If you want more then just beach photographs here are some things you my consider.
Spiced Up Old Goa (any day)
Most people want to do something while on holiday so this all day excursion might be the answer. Starting immediately after breakfast but not before, and returning between 5 – 8pm.
We will arrange the taxi to take you to the historical 15th century city of Old Goa or Velha Goa, which was abandoned in the 18th century due to the plague. Your trip will start at the Basilica of Bom Jesus that is a UNESCO world heritage site and also holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. At over 400 years old this is one of the oldest churches in India also the best examples of Baroque architecture in India.
As you are in the area you may also want to cross over the road to the Church of Francis of Assisi which is also a beautiful building in its own right.
You will then spend some time trying to distinguish your taxi driver’s white car and brown face from the hundreds of other white cars and brown faces. If successful your next stop is the Tropical Spice Plantation in Ponda.
There are a number of spice plantations in Goa (400 per person for Spice Plantation) that are open to tourists, and it’s worth giving you skin a break from the blistering sun on the beach.
The Tours of the grounds of the spice plantations last about an hour, during which time an informative guide will show you various fruits, spices and herbs cultivated around the farm. Visitors will learn about spices such as cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric and chilli, as well as native Goan fruits such as the jackfruit, mango, banana, pineapple and breadfruit.
The tour usually culminates with a demonstration of areca/betel nut harvesting, where the harvesters climb among the tree tops, cutting down the nuts with a machete.
A filling vegetarian thali-style lunch or dinner is served at the end of the tour (included in the tour price), and visitors are given a opportunity to purchase the fresh spices as souvenirs that will sit at the back of a kitchen cupboard behind the packaged ready meals.
If you can handle more of the taxi drivers driving I would recommend going a little further to the stunning 400-year-old Shri Mangesh temple, which is 15 minutes from the Spice Plantation. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is outstanding with its simple and elegant structure. It is considered to be the most beautiful among the temples in Goa and among one of the most important places to visit in Goa. A wonderful seven-storeyed lamp tower or deepstambha stands in the temple complex. The temple also has a beautiful water body, which many believe is the oldest part of the temple.
Back to the taxi for the return journey that will take you past Panaji which is definitely worth a visit if just to get re-hydrated with a cocktail or two (please see last page for information).
Saturday Night Bazaar (evening)
A newer alternative to the sweltering Wednesday flea market, that isn’t what it used to be, so a better option and makes the most of the pleasant Goan evenings.
This large market is located near the Baga River and is on during the peak season months and is squarely aimed at extracting your cash through a variety of archetypical Indian stalls selling spices, teas, Kashmiri carpets and silver jewellery .
Nowadays things are far more mainstream and the merchandise comes from all over India: sculptures and jewellery courtesy of the Tibetan and Kashmiri traders; colourful Gujarati tribal women selling T-shirts; richly colourful saris, bags and bedspreads from Rajasthan; sacks of spices from Kerala; and the hard-to-miss tribal girls from Karnataka pleading passers-by to ‘come look in my shop.’ Weaving in among this syrupy blend of stalls are the remaining hippies, backpackers, weekenders from Mumbai, and bus- and taxi-loads of package tourists from Russia and Europe.
You might still find Westerners trading goods and services (tattoos, piercings and the like) but it’s much more a souvenir market. Despite changes over the years, the market shows no sign of waning in popularity, so dive in and enjoy the ride. The best time to visit is early evening The first market of the season is around mid-November, continuing till the end of April.
Goa Collective Bazaar (friday after 6pm)
This is our favourite market and not to be missed mainly because it’s on everyone’s social calendar so you are going for the atmosphere rather than to buy anything. You will find designers who convene from all over the world to sell their unique creations, many of which may be found only here.
This market also has a large food area with stalls featuring cuisines from across the globe also a centre stage that hosts live concerts featuring Rock to Indian Classical. Further up the hill, is “The Boutique House Bar” that serves delightful cocktails (try the fresh strawberry Daiquiri) while DJ’s play late into the night.
It’s a large space that will be overrun by 9pm so I would recommend getting there before 7pm so you at least get a chance to see the merchandise before you get trampled underfoot. The party atmosphere is slightly muted by the ridiculously overpriced priced drinks.
Mapusa Market (friday before 5pm)
This is a great place to get up close and personal with the locals and for the proper experience you should take the bus that can be flagged down from almost anywhere and it will cost you the princely sum of 20 Rupees. The Market goes about its business daily except Sunday’s, but it really gets going on Friday mornings. It’s a raucous affair that attracts vendors and shoppers from all over Goa, with an entirely different vibe to other markets. Here you’ll find locals haggling for clothing and produce, and you can also hunt out antiques, souvenirs and textiles. In the centre of the market close to the covered flower sellers is a vendor selling fresh Sugar Cane juice, it not how it sounds and a must have for your visit here.
So significant is this market locally that the town’s name is derived from the Konkani words map (meaning ‘measure’) and sa (meaning ‘fill up’), in reference to the trade in spices, vegetables and fruit that occurs here daily. The market winds up by dusk and Mapusa quickly gets back to normal.
Grand Hyatt Liquid Brunch (sunday from 10am)
On the weekends, many restaurants and hotels offer brunch packages and my pick of them is the Grand Hyatt on Sunday in Bambolim.
Leave Casa Da Praia at 10.30am and you’ll arrive at the hotel within 30 minutes which should give you enough time to secure the best sunbathing spot around the generous pool.
All packages include the use of the indoor pool, gym, jacuzzi and steam room also the Grand Hyatt offers a 50% discount on most of the treatments in the luxurious Spa but plan this correctly so you are seated for lunch at 1pm.
I would recommend a few laps of the pool to work up an appetite before the doors are opened to the restaurant. It’s a buffet style brunch with a wide selection of food from around the world accompanied with champagne glass that never seems to empty due to the amazing staff that seem intent on having you stretchered out.
Last orders are at 4pm whence you’ll have to find a way of getting back to your sunbed for a snooze.
The Grand Hyatt is located on the banks of the Zuari River at the delta so it feels like a beachfront property. A walk along the water’s edge is also interesting as it’s one of the only places where one is still able to find the shell type objects that Goans used to use as glass for their windows.
Anjuna Market (wednesday before 5pm)
It’s not what it used to be and only worth going a visit if bored or you have booked lunch at Pisco by the beach. These days the market is one tenth of its previous incarnation.
Anjuna’s weekly Wednesday flea market was always a part of the Goan experience as is a day on the beach and was conceived and created over three decades ago by hippies smoking jumbo joints, convening to compare experiences on the heady Indian circuit and selling pairs of Levi jeans or handmade jewellery to help fund the rest of their stay.
Candolim Beach Walk (any day)
A walk along the beach, when you first arrive, is a good idea to get your bearings.
Candolim beach is relatively quiet compared to its sister beaches of Calangute and Baga to the north but busier then Sinquerim beach to the south.
Due to the soft sand and the turbulent waters here in Goa the water bed is continually being churned up so visibility underwater is very poor and the water always appears murky.
Hawkers selling mostly cheap clothes along with masseurs offering massages make the beach a lively spot. A polite but firm no will always work but if you want to get fancy then offer the words “Nahi Chahiye” which is a polite way of saying “I don’t want it” in Hindi. I have observed that when they hear Hindi they, possible, assume you live in India and realise that there is no point.
There are a plethora of beach shacks providing plenty of food and cold drink choices along with rickety sun beds and the odd rustic “loo”. The food is generally good however grilled food is probably best.
The walk south to Sinquerim beach and then on to lands’ end is about 30 minutes. The more adventurous among you could continue up and over the slightly rugged terrain along a small footpath for another 30 minutes to get to the, 16-century, Fort Aguda and the lighthouse within.
Sinquerim beach is popular for most forms of water sport activities including Para sailing and jet bikes but also the best spot for seeing dolphins with most of the boat trips spending time in this area.
Walk north for 50 minutes and you’ll reach Calangute Beach, which is unmistakeable because of the hundreds of domestic tourist who will have congregated there. This is the first ever glimpse of the sea & sand for some people so it can be entertaining. You probably won’t want to spend much time here as it’s quite busy also you still have another 30 minutes to walk before you get to Baga Beach, which is the destination for the Goa party scene.
At Baga or Calangute leave the beach to experience the stallholders selling everything along the side of the road. After the beach walk you won’t want to walk far so take a Tuk Tuk back to Casa Da Praia for a cooling dip in our pool.
Ashwem (any day)
Lazy days are what Goa’s all about and Ashwem Beach is just what the doctor ordered, but it’s going to take 40-minutes to get there.
Ashwem Beach (also known as Ashvem Beach) is located in the north of Goa on the stretch of beach that begins on the bank of the River Chapora in the south and continues almost right along to the Sequerim beach on the bank of the River Terekhol in the north. The Aswem Beach is found side by side with two other famous beaches of Goa – the Morjim Beach to the south and the Mandrem Beach to the north.
Considered one of Goa’s most up-and-coming areas, Ashvem Beach offers the perfect mix of a gorgeous sandy beach with fabulous spots to dine, stay and party in. “Boutique” is the choice of luxury here, and Ashvem offers a selection of delightful stylish beach bars and some charming chic eats.
Ashwem Beach has a completely different vibe from Candolim Beach and I would recommend going early and spending the best part of the day there. Head for one of two restaurants, La Plage or Thalassa Beach Club, both are on the beach front and have equally good food.
Walk south along the beach for 30-minutes and you’ll come to an outcrop of, tidal igneous, rock where you’ll find many rock pools containing all manner of wee beasties.
The beach here is much wider and even when the tide is out the gradient is much kinder for small children and surfers alike.
Sunset Vagator (any afternoon/evening)
The sunsets in Goa are amazing and my favourite place to see one is the red cliffs of Small Vagator (Ozran). While in the area you could first go to Chapora Fort, which lies but 15-minutes to the north. I think it’s best to leave Candolim after lunch at 2.30pm and take a 40-minutes taxi ride to get to the Fort.
Today Chapora Fort is a crumble of picturesque ruin with only the outer walls remaining, though you can still pick out the mouths of two escape tunnels. The main reason to make the climb up the hill is for the sensational views out along the coast from atop the fort walls. A brim with nostalgia take a short drive to Small Vagator to one of the many new swanky clubs/bars where one should easily be able to get a front row seat for the setting of the sun. If you, like me, can’t handle the loud music for very long or, like me, are too old for night clubs then head to Assagao for dinner at Sublime or Village 36 or one of the many new establishments that have opened up in the area.
Take the bus from in front of the Candolim Deck (opp side of road) to the Ferry.
Take the in 15 min Betim Ferry across the Mandovi River to Panjim.
Walk 10 min to the Market (fruit/general)
Walk 10 mins to 18th June Road (main road in Panjim) and visit the Bombay Bazaar
The Latin Quarter is now teaming with new fancy schmancy restaurants and bars that you must visit
Get a feel for the capital including its busy local market and then have a meal at the Out Post where you’ll find the best cocktails in Goa. The Whiskey Sour is my favourite and I don’t even like whiskey.
One of India’s most relaxed state capitals, Panaji (Panjim) crowds around the peninsula overlooking the broad Mandovi River, where cruise boats and floating casinos ply the waters, and advertising signs cast neon reflections in the night.
A glorious whitewashed church lords over the animated city centre, a broad leafy boulevard skirts around the river, and grand colonial-era buildings rub shoulders with arty boutiques, old-school bookshops and backstreet bars.
But it’s the tangle of narrow streets in the old Latin Quarter that really steal the show. Nowhere is the Portuguese influence felt more strongly than here, where the late afternoon sun lights up yellow houses with purple doors, and around each corner you’ll find restored ochre-coloured mansions with terracotta-tiled roofs, wrought iron balconies and arched oyster-shell windows.