Goa

A well known tourist destination which needs no introduction- a state in the western India which stretches along the coastline of the Arabian Sea. A place which thrives purely on tourism especially for its food and its beaches. A place where anyone and everyone can relax and one where no one will be ever disappointed. For me this has been my favourite place for a quick get away. One which I have planned practically every year. I have had trips whereby I went to see the tourist spots, some were for food, some for relaxation while others were either family outings or bachelorette party. I could never really understand why I keep going back was it for its beaches or for food or for the friendly Goan vibes.

WHERE TO STAY IN NORTH GOA

Goa is split into the north and the south. I always opted for the north as I found the south to be very lonely at nights. Saying that I feel south Goa would be a good option if you want some quiet time. I prefer to stay in the Candolim area (north of Goa)and have tried quite a few hotels in that vicinity. I prefer Candolim as the beaches are not as crowded as compared to Baga and Calangute. Every single place has popular hotels to stay in so I would go by personal choice. However Goa is busy throughout the season so it’s better to visit with your hotel rooms booked or you might struggle finding a decent place.

WHEN TO VISIT GOA

Since Goa is known for its beaches and nightlife it’s said to be busy 365 days. For me personally I have visited Goa in every season. I have planned a visit in January, March, June and October so I have basically have seen Goa in every season. 

During the summer which is usually from March to May the temperature is high. From June to September it is the rainy season so you can enjoy the lush greenery. I personally feel the best time to visit would be from November to February as the weather is cool and comfortable. However overall everything is more expensive from November to February.

My itinerary was always based on the weather as each season adds its own beauty to the place.For example during my June visit as it was raining I went looking for restaurants which are known for good food. So i personally feel decide on why your visiting Goa and then plan your month of visit.

TRAVELING IN GOA

There are various ways to get to Goa- train, bus and plane depending on where you are coming from. After reaching Goa there are government run taxis which will take you to your hotels. We always hire car to and from the airport to our hotels. The same is applied should you use bus or train options- cars are available outside. Since its a tourist destination things are very well organised. 

To get around Goa there are car and bike options. Hotels usually can arrange one for you (though most of the time cost at the hotels might be little higher). Alternatively if you can walk around you will come across many signs for bike hire. Google maps will help you reach most of your destination or just ask and you will get help. 

My personal favourite has always been bike. I have tried car driving by myself and with a driver also. But I feel Goa is best seen on bike.

THINGS TO DO IN NORTH GOA

FORT AGUADA

On Sinquerim beach overseeing the Arabian Sea is this well preserved seventeenth century Portuguese fort. It is said that the fort was built in 1612 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas from vessels coming from Europe at that time. The fort is split into two sections at that time the upper was the water station and the lower was a safe berth for Portuguese ships. I was told it was also used as a prison during Salazar administration.The view is awesome from here. The road leading up to the fort has always been busy as its a popular tourist spot. I would recommend going early morning or late evening as it can be too crowded or too sunny as well.  I have tried options and I preferred the morning as evening the place is very deserted and dark if you are on the bike.

CALUNGATE BEACH

The largest beach in the North of Goa. Another very popular hence crowded beach which is liked by many tourists. Swimming is prohibited from June to September as the sea is rough here. Again there are many beach activities here to spend the whole day. For me since its crowded I never spent much time on this beach but I did find some nice restaurants nearby to give me a reason to visit the beach. I have seen many tourist do some street shopping here too.

BAGA BEACH

This beach is one of the busiest beach in North of Goa and can be found 2 kms from Calungute. The beach is named after Baga creek. It is one of the popular place where many tourists chose to stay. I have never stayed here as I found it be too crowded. There are rows of shacks and some popular restaurant which made me want to visit the place during my initial visits to Goa. Due to the popularity of the place there are many beach activities as well such as parasailing, banana rides, dolphin cruises which one can try. I had tried parasailing for the first time here.

CANDOLIM BEACH

Starting from Fort Aguada and ending at Calunguate and 15 km from Panjim,it is the longest beach in North Goa. I maybe a little bias when saying this but for me this happens to be my favourite beach in North Goa. I have enjoyed early morning and late evening walks on the beach without encountering crowds. I have not come across any beach activities, like in Baga and Calungute during my visits on but I could be wrong.

VAGATAR BEACH

Vagatar beach which was initially well known as the beach where western backpackers would go. But it’s now changing and attracting the Indian crowds well. On facing the sea to the right is the North Vagatar beach and to the left is Ozran beach. From between the rocks the sunset view is said to be amazing. Unfortunately due to the area being isolated I Have never exprienced this.

CHAPORA FORT

Fort was built by Muslim ruler Adil Shah called Shahpura which the Portuguese later altered to Chapora. Since the fort sits in a prominent position, the view from the top is fantastic where you can see Vagatar beach in the south, Chapora river across the north and Arabian Sea in the west.

ANJUNA BEACH

Anjuna I have been told is popular for its flea market which is held every Wednesday (during the day) and every Saturday (during the night). Unfortunately I haven’t seen the flea market but have only been to the beach. I did find the beach to be small so didn’t spend much time there.

THINGS TO DO IN PANJIM

MIRAMAR

In Goa’s capital, Panjim, is Miramar. There are not much beach activities to do here like Baga beach however there are shacks selling local fashion, jewellery and food along the beach. It’s one of the two beaches in Panjim.

DONA PAULO

The name is from a historical figure Da. Paula Amaral Antonia de Souto-Maior. She was a women of charity and had helped the villagers hence they decided to name it after her. It is said to be the most expensive residential location in Goa. One of the attraction is the whitewashed statue perched on the rocks near the ferry jetty. 

OUR LADY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHURCH

In the city’s main square on top of the hill is this beautiful white and blue painted church. From the top of the church to the southeast is the city’s municipal garden. Dedicated to Mother Mary is the main altar which is elegantly decorated. There are also two also gold plated and decorated alterations- to the left Jesus’s Crucifixion and on the right Our Lady of the Rosary. The second largest bell in Goa also resides inside the church. Every year on the 8th of December the church is colourfully illuminated to celebrate the festival which is accompanied by fairs as well.

FONTAINHAS

If you need a break from the beach side of Goa then head to the old Latin quarter in Panjim where you are welcomed with narrow lanes of colourful Portuguese villas. Your eyes will be witnessing the heritage homes and buildings which date back to the Portuguese era. To truly enjoy the place I would recommend leaving your vehicle behind and enjoying it on foot. The sheer silence and the endless photography made me secretly wish I was owing one of those villas.

GOA CARNIVAL

After the end of the Portuguese rule, Timoteo Fernandes in 1965 resurrected it after the famed Rio carnival.Although smaller than the Rio carnival it is said to be the largest carnival in India. The Carnival usually starts off on Saturday and concludes on Tuesday just before Ash Wednesday and the first day of the Catholic season of Lent. Hence it is usually in the month of February or March. We had planned one of our Goa trips to especially see this. It was really interesting. There would be people contesting in groups from different villages each with a particular theme. I personally loved the Goan dances performed by the local villagers. It is advisable to reach there early in order to get nice view. It usually gets very crowded and goes on till late. Note the traffic is usually closed in this area.

THINGS TO DO IN OLD PANJIM

BASILICA OF BOM JESUS

It is part of the churches and convents of Goa UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon entering you witness beautiful woodwork with a brief introduction of the place in rock carving for visitors to read. Marble inlaid with precious stones and elaborate gilded altars still makes the church interior to be very simple and beautiful.The church also holds the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier. The sacred body is preserved without any chemical formulas and its bought down once in every 4 years.

Some of the other things which I haven’t done yet and want to do is visit Dudhsagar Waterfall and explore South Goa. When I do get a chance to do them, I will definitely update this blog.

OUR ITINERARY FOR NORTH GOA

DAY 1

Recommend doing Fort Aguada, Vagatar beach, Anjuna Beach, Chapora beach. You can chose the order of doing it as per your preference.

Day 2

Explore Baga beach, Calungute beach and Candolim beach. Since all are in the same lane you can spend the whole day here either street shopping , enjoying beach activities or enjoying walk along the beach.

DAY 3

Spend the whole day in Panjim. Visit the Our Lady of Immaculate Conceptual church, Fonatainhas, Miramar, Dona Paulo beach and Basilica of Bom Jesus.

RESTAURANTS IN AND AROUND GOA

TUSCANY GARDEN

Visited this restaurant in my June 2019 visit. Situated in the main road leading towards Fort Aguada next to the old Kingfisher Villa. The entrance itself makes you feel like you have entered a garden and the menu reminds of you being in Italy. It has won awards in the past and they don’t hesitate to mention it in their menus. We chose to sit outside as we loved the ambience outside compared to inside. I would definitely recommend this restaurant. However if you are in Goa for Goan cuisine then this is not the restaurant for you. On the other hand, it can be a welcome break from the Goan cuisine.

THALASSA

You will definitely need a google map to reach this restaurant which is near Siolim. I visited this restaurant in June 2019 and on arrival the view and the whole ambience was great. We went during the day as we wanted to enjoy the river view but i think it will look just as great at dinner. I had Greek food after a very longtime so I truly enjoyed my meal. Great food, awesome ambience and friendly staff definitely makes a great restaurant and proved why Thalassa is so popular in Goa.

BANYAN TREE

This is a pan Asian cuisine located on the main road towards Fort Agoada inside Hotel Vivanta Taj premises. We were here in June 2019 and the whole experience was very special. Food was tasty and well presented and had great ambience. But for me being in Goa the beach view would have been more preferable instead of the closed cosy environment. 

POUSADA BY THE BEACH

For me this was a hidden gem which we found in our 2019 visit. This is located near Calungate beach google it as its well hidden. It’s a family run restaurant and the humbleness in the family was reflected throughout our time there. There was honesty in the food served and warmth by each and every family member involved in the running of the restaurant. I personally felt the presentation could have been little better but this can be easily forgiven. In our trip we were trying seafood so we opted for chicken as a break but I feel seafood would have been equally nice. I would definitely recommend this restaurant and would visit again for sure. Note we were told they are not operational after 7 pm so better check should you plan dinner here. Only after my visit when I went to check up on the place did I come to know that there were Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities who have mentioned how much they loved the hospitality of the owner. 

THE OLEGARIO

Located inside Santana Beach Resort in Candolim. We had not planned this hotel but ended up here as our flight landed late and there were none open nearby. It was over the weekend hence were lucky to get the live music during diner and smiling friendly staff, however it wasn’t my personal favourite and doubt I would visit again.

FISHERMANS COVE

Very popular casual food joint in Candolim area and its  right on the main road so one does miss the beach view here. This was one place which we always stopped by (mostly for lunch) on our every visit. Again I have always ordered Goan cuisine here and the reason I always went back to this restaurant was for the friendly staff. I must admit I wasn’t overly impressed with my last visit in 2019 though as the food standard had dropped.

BRITO’S

A very old and popular shack like restaurant near Baga beach. I had visited this place twice, once in 2012 and once in 2014. Both times I was happy with the whole casual atmosphere. Since it is located on a popular beach at times you might find it busy and hard to get a table. Whenever I have food here I enjoyed it. My choice being Goan cuisine on both occasions .They do however also offer multi-cuisine in order to cater to the diverse crowd which visits Baga beach.

RITZ CLASSIC

This is a very old restaurant in Panjim. They still have their old ways of serving. I had tried this restaurant in my 2012 and 2016 visit and ordered their famous fish thali. At that time I really liked the food and loved the way they would happily serve their customers. Most of the people who were sitting next to us were ordering the same fish thalis so I guess they are popular for the same. Not sure how it is now as I haven’t visited it for a while. However my friends have mentioned good things about the place on their recent visits.

CALAMARI

This is one of my favourite restaurants in Candolim Beach. It has good food, is right on the beach and has a friendly staff. I have always enjoyed my meals at the restaurant. However I have to admit the food menu kept changing every time I visited and the wait staff were also different so I am assuming its run by a different team every year (not sure). Since the restaurant is right on the beach they are non operational certain times. I would advise calling and going.

THE STONE HOUSE

I have tried this restaurant only once in 2016 and felt the live Goan music added to the ambience considering the fact that it is located on the main road in Candolim. Food is not that bad. Again this is another restaurant which is not operational throughout the year.

MARTIN’S CORNER IN SOUTH GOA

I have tried this restaurant twice once in 2012 and another time in 2016. I loved the food and the ambience and had I stayed in South Goa would have visited it on my every visit.

GEORGE RESTAUARANT

This is a very old restaurant which still has managed to maintain its charm. It sits opposite the Our Lady of Immaculate Conceptual church. We ordered the traditional Goan cuisine and weren’t disappointed. Back in 2012 when I visited it was a very simple restaurant with great food. 

Other restaurants which plan to try in my next visit

  • Bomra
  • Antares in Vagatar
  • Fisherman’s Wharf in South Goa
  • Go with the flow
  • Lazy Goose

GOAN CUISINE TO TRY

Although I have had many visits to Goa and am still exploring the whole cuisine below are some of the food I have tried. Each restaurant I felt have their own preparation style and although it’s called the same it tasted different in each place.

  • Fish recheado- popular Goan dish made by stuffing a fresh fish with masala paste. It is spicy and tangy and shallow fried.
  • Vindaloo- Popular curry dish which is mostly enjoyed with pork. Since I dont eat pork I have tried this with the chicken option. It is considered to be a spicy and fiery dish however I personally didn’t find it spicy as such.
  • Chicken Xacuti- Popular dish in Goa which is a mixture of complex spices, including white poppy seeds, sliced/grated coconut and large dried chilies. 
  • Chicken Cafreal- A spicy chicken preparation dish, one of my favourite. This is made up of green chillies, cinnamon, pepper, chilli, mace, clove powder and lime juice or vinegar. This is mostly enjoyed with potato wedges. I have also enjoyed this with crab.
  • Prawn balchao- Another fiery dish of Goa. It is prepared in a spicy and tangy tomato-chilli sauce. It’s mostly cooked with seafood and I have always loved it with prawns.
  • Goan fish curry- cooked with mellow tomatoes, sweet onions, species with vinegar and fiery chillies. This is also the staple food of the people of Goa which is served mostly with rice.
  • Goan prawn curry- similar to fish curry but with prawn this usually tastes different.
  • Goan feni- Popular spirit produced in Goa. Two popular kind are cashew feni and toddy palm feni. It is said the Feni consumed in South Goa has a higher alcohol content as compared to North Goa. I personally didn’t enjoy it much.
  • Bebinca- traditional Indo-Portuguese dessert. It’s a pudding which comes in seven layers with ingredients including plain flour,sugar, ghee,egg yolk and coconut milk.

THINGS TO NOTE IN GOA

  • Goa is changing (at least from my last 8 years experience) I have noticed many outsiders (be in waiters or car drivers) have entered Goa. I have always loved Goa for the whole Goan feel everywhere you went but my last visit in 2019 I felt it was missing it. Our driver told us that the locals are very frustrated as now there are many unwanted competition from outsiders. The cars on hire for example. The drivers are not the local Goans and many don’t have proper background checks. So I would suggest if you plan to hire cars on rent then please do some background checks.
  • I did read somewhere also that its better to hire the yellow plate license car/bike. I noticed the white plate number plate were stopped most of the time by the traffic cops for checking paperwork. 
  • Helmets are mandatory on bike rides. Although you will find many riding without one things are getting more strict now. Panjim always had compulsory rule of helmet but in my last visit I noticed it in North Goa as well.
  • Be careful of sunburn and sunstroke.Taking necessary precautions – a hat and sunscreen is highly advisable.
  • During rainy seasons (from June- September) most of the shack restaurants are closed
  • Nudity on the beach is not allowed and even punishable under the law.
  • There are many rave parties in Goa and hence drugs are circulated.However it’s against the law to possess and be consuming it.
  • Drinking on the beach is banned.
  • Be careful of your personal belongings, especially when you are on the beach enjoying its activities. It is advisable to leave your personal belongings in the hotel locker.
  • Come with hotel bookings to avoid getting disappointed and compromising on cheap hotels. 

Since Goa is one of my favourite places for a quick get away I will be constantly updating this page after my visits. As I mentioned earlier I have many restaurants still to try and have still to explore South Goa.