Sea, spices, forts, lush greenery, gorgeous rivers, waterfalls, golden beaches, flea markets and a postcard-pretty old town…Goa has many charms. It is a place which seduces irrespective of the season, budget and tastes and there is something about Goa, which makes its visitors keep coming back. The locals call it the Goan Saudade and literally meaning, ‘a feeling of nostalgic longing‘, Goa‘s varied attractions create intense wanderlust cravings. This tiny state is jam-packed with attractions and whether you are a fun loving tourist who just wants to party all night, a part of a corporate group seeking some R&R or a family looking for some fun activities together, Goa does not let you down. From glitzy nightclubs, plush bars, glittering casino, water sports, bird watching opportunities, cooking classes, organic restaurants, yoga workshops, youth hostels, museums, city walks, beach camps to luxury rentals, the array of travel style option in Goa is mindboggling.
My trysts with Goa has continued for more than a decade and I enjoy exploring its dense green heart. The sea also draws me like a magnet there and that is why my choice of stay has always been close to the Goan beaches. While in my teeny bopper days, shoestring budget made me choose basic beach huts, in later years, I indulged in luxury villas close to the sea. Needless to say, my Goan activities had also changed with time and on my last few visits, I experienced the joy of slow traveling there. That gave me a lot of time to think, remember and I finally managed to sum up my
favourite things to do in Goa. These have been hand picked from my more than a decade-long Goan travel experience and I loved repeating them every time I go to Goa.
- Get a healthy dose of vitamin sea – A Goa experience is incomplete without mention of the alluring Arabian Sea. Irrespective of the season, the sea never fails to seduce. As a wild, young thing I had reveled in the water sports offered at Calangute beach. Those have fun as long they lasted and on my last visit, I discovered a wonderful restaurant right on the Anjuna beach. Complete with romantic candlelight dinner, soft music playing in the background and waves gently lapping close by, it was an unforgettable experience.
- Be a beach bum – Goan beaches are as varied as the activities hosted by them. While some are (in)famous for their secret rave parties, many beaches cater to families. My favourite beaches in Goa are the tranquil Candolim, platinum blonde Palolem, gentle Agonda and the peaceful Cola beach. It comes with a lot of seclusions, emerald green coconut palms and a sweet water lagoon where the river meets the sea.
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- Go turtle watching – The long coastline of Goa is teeming with many aquatic animals and the Olive Ridley turtles love nesting in its golden sands. Agonda, Galgibaga, Morjim and Ashvem have been marked by conservationists as turtle nesting sites and it is possible to watch the hatchlings there. The nesting season starts in January when turtles come ashore to lay eggs and end around April when the babies head back to the sea. Conservationists monitor them the whole time and try catching this natural spectacle the next time you are in Goa.
- Be a horse whisperer – In the sleepy village of Tilamol, near Quepem in South Goa, there exists a haven for nature and animal lovers. Pala Farms with endless lush greenery, swaying coconuts, and a gentle stream is one of Goa‘s best-kept secrets. Lovingly nurtured by the owners Monique and her husband Nazir, Pala Farms offers a room with an attached outdoor bathroom meant for those seeking a place where you can enjoy nature in the company of friendly dogs and horses. It is a good option especially for kids who would love to learn about horses and horse riding. But be warned, Monique possesses fierce mother like affection for her horses and insists that the riders first develop a bond with them before riding. Go there for real “shanti” in the midst of nature. All you have to do is arrive at Tilamol, give Monique a call for a ride to the farm in her red pickup truck.
- Indulge in some Goan food – For a food lover like me, this one is unmissable. Though the fiery Goan curries make my stomach run, I love the cuisine‘s clean vegetarian palate. Goa is abundant with vegetables, cashew nuts, and coconuts and they are generously used in the vegetarian dishes along with the signature spices. A day trip to a Spice Farm is one of the best ways to learn about the Goan flora and eat some really good vegetarian food of the state. For fish and seafood eaters, I recommend the small, but absolutely value for money Fishland restaurant in Panjim.
- Photo walk the Fountainhas – Also known as the Latin Quarter of Goa, Fountainhas is colourful to the boot. It is a well preserved Portuguese old town and colours simply pop there. Old houses with red tiled roofs and intricately wrought iron latticework dot the narrow lanes. Teal, red, yellow, turquoise, orange..they come in rainbow hues and make excellent photos. To learn about the history, opt for one of the Fountainhas heritage walks or simply wander along the colourful lanes. Both are equally fun.
- Head up the hill in Altinho – After a sweaty post Fountainhas walk, head past Altinho, go up a banyan tree shaded stepped street and make a beeline for Alfresco Cafe. It is housed in a gorgeous 200 hundred years old Portuguese building, which also has the exciting Sunaparanta-Goa Center for Arts. Open air amphitheater, lively art salons, and beautiful exhibitions are the main attractions of Cafe Alfresco along with awesome hilltop sunset views.
More about Mario Miranda and Reis Magos Fort: Forts, Shopping and Fonseca
- Pay a tribute to Mario Miranda – Remember the busty big eyed bimbette Ms. Fonseca and Ms. Nimbupani cartoons? They are Mario Miranda‘s most famous creations and his list of lovable illustrated characters do not end there. An Indian artist, illustrator and cartoonist par excellence I came across his cartoon strips on Times of India newspaper when they were taking the country by storm. My most vivid childhood memories are of following his Ms. Fonseca and Ms. Nimbupani cartoon series and his illustrations charmed me with their childlike depiction of India. The preserved Reis Magos Fort now houses a permanent exhibition of this famous Goan‘s work and you can easily spend a day there.
- Fort up on Goan history – Goa‘s strategic location and spice wealth have drawn invaders throughout history. It had been an invaluable gem to whoever owned it and that is why Goa‘s local rulers and foreign conquerors have tried to protect this treasure fiercely. They had built numerous forts all across Goa and many of them survive until today. The Aguada, Reis Magos, Terekhol, Sinquerim and Aldona forts are my personal favourites.
I can ramble endlessly about my favourite things to do in Goa, but often traveling is much more than rushing to explore. One of the most relaxing ways of enjoying a place is to slow down, unwind and stay at a comfortable place where you can let your hair down.
TRAVEL TIP – For this, I would suggest using the Goa Villa, a villa rental company. It offers villas catering to all budgets in popular destinations across Goa. Their USP is close proximity to the beach because what is Goa without a daily dose of vitamin sea. For a one of a kind, luxurious Goan stay, you may consider one of these villas in Candolim. With your own pool, the sun, palm trees and close proximity to the sea, life is a beach there (literally).
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