Goa is a remarkably affordable holiday destination, complete with luxurious beaches, delicious food and stunning landscapes. It is a region of India where attitudes and dress codes are relaxed and visitors to this scenic region are guaranteed to find a wealth of memorable experiences.
7 Fun Things to do in Goa Beyond the Beaches
1) Join in the celebrations at the Goa Carnival
One of the most famous attractions is the Goa Carnival. This joyful, musical celebration starts on the three days before Lent in February.
On Fat Saturday, the huge parade is led by King Momo with dancers, musicians and no end of costumes, not to mention a feast of food and drink. The Carnival ends with the red and black dance, where the dancers wear red tops and black skirts or trousers for a vibrant, visual display.
This event brings people together from across the globe, with some hotels even arranging special celebratory events to coincide with this colourful and lively Carnival.
2) Shop at the Aropra Market
Around New Year and April, the height of the tourist season in Goa, the Saturday night market in Arpora is a must for tourists and locals alike. The market’s opening hours are between 4pm and 11pm. The stalls sell a vast selection of attractive items, from local souvenirs to luxury goods. There are also numerous food stalls, with tempting scents to whet your appetite, along with displays of talent and entertainment to capture your attention. Do be prepared to haggle, as it’s all part of the fun.
3) Explore the City of Panjim
Something not to be missed during your journey around Goa is a trip to Panjim, the capital city. This small city is well worth exploring on foot. The sights and architecture have a strong Portuguese influence, such as the Panjim church, with its unmistakable zig zagging flights of step up to the striking white building. Behind this is the Fontainhas, with its Mediterranean feel and brightly coloured houses.
If you walk down the enigmatically named 31st January Street, you can find one of the oldest bakeries in the city and savour some of its delectable treats. There are numerous shops and art galleries to enjoy, as well as the unique and colourful mermaid statue in the Mermaid Garden. If you are visiting in the evening, a good place to dine is the Hotel Venite. You can’t miss it, thanks to its characterful sea sell covered doorway. Here you can sample the local tipple feni, although you may opt to dilute it due to its very distinctive taste and aroma.
4) Relax on the Beach
Goa is rightly famous for its stunning beaches. The Mandrem beach is one of Goa’s best kept secrets, with the ultimate air of peace and relaxation. You can even join in with a yoga class at the nearby Ashiyana retreat centre and unwind in the stunning sandy surroundings.
If you prefer action, then Anjuna beach may be more to your tastes. Once a hippy hangout, this touch of paradise now features a lively beach flea market on Wednesdays. When the sun dips below the horizon, head for one of the many shacks on the beach to dance away to psychedelic trance music.
And if you want to dive into some water sports, then make your way to Baga beach. It is famous for its wind surfing and even hosts the national championships. The area is also renowned for its dolphin cruises that let you get up close and personal with the aquamarine life. So whatever your idea of the perfect day at the beach is, Goa has the right stretch of sea and sand for you.
5) Visit Dudhsagar Falls
These are the highest falls in Goa and one of the highest in the world. The Dudhsagar falls are famous, not only for their height, but for the white foam filled cascades of water that characterise it. The native name for the falls actually means ‘sea of milk’.
Legend has it that a local princess bathed in the waters and, at the end of her swim, enjoyed sweetened milk from a golden jug. One day she noticed that a prince was spying on her, so poured the milk in front of herself to protect her modesty. As a tribute to her virtue, the waterfall continued to flow as sugared milk, creating the charming white streams that can be marvelled there today.
The site can be reached by train or by foot. The journey itself offers wonderful views of the falls and the natural beauty that surrounds it. As well as the spectacular waterfall, there are several pools that can be swum in. No matter what the story behind them is, the sight is truly impressive and well deserving of a place on this list.
6) Watch the Animals at the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
Witness the incredible Indian wildlife at the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to leopards, Malayan giant squirrels and majestic elephants. It is advised that visitors stay here a few days to increase their chances of seeing the wildlife. This also gives you the opportunity to visit the hauntingly strange Devil’s canyon and take part in the night trail, which is a wonderfully magical experience for all animal lovers.
The sanctuary is conveniently placed close to the famous Dudsagar falls. While in the area, make sure you also pay a visit to the ancient 13th century Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla.
7) Indulge in Goa’s Flavours
No visitor should resist savouring the incredible flavour pallets that Goa has to offer. The cuisine is a fusion of native, Portuguese and Arabic influences. There are many delicious treats to sample. One not to be missed is the local delicacy of fish curry rice.
You can even take it one step further and learn how to cook up these culinary masterpieces for yourself. A choice of cooking classes are available at the Siolim cooking school, located at the Heritage Hotel Siolim House. One of theses classes encourages you to not only select the dishes you are going to prepare, but go out and source the ingredients yourself from the local markets. You learn the best way to select the produce, as well as all the rituals and tips to recreate the taste bud tantalising food of Goa once you return home.
Of course, Goa has far more to offer its visitors, and sometimes that treasure you find for yourself is the best one of all, so explore and discover your very own adventure.