Back in November, I spent two weeks exploring some of the many beaches of Goa, a state in the south of India, with my friend Alan. Goa is India’s smallest state and retains much of its colonial culture and architecture from when it was colonised by the Portuguese for more than 400 years. The Portuguese influence was quite interesting to see and some parts of Goan towns and cities (particularly the cities Panjim and Margao) made me feel like I could have been in Europe.
Made famous by the hippies of the 1960s, I found Goa to be beautiful and relaxing, and left feeling completely recharged, with my recently-quit 9-5 office job a distant memory. We spent nearly all of our time in Goa hanging out on the beach and doing a lot of eating and drinking…
Beach 1: Arambol
Straight from the airport, we headed to Arambol, which is a beach town in far north Goa. Jet lagged, we wandered towards the beach after a quick nap, and found a beautiful and very long stretch of sand dotted with colourful beach shacks. These beach shacks were owned by local Goan families, and most were bars or food stops. Arambol cuisine was probably the best that we found in Goa, and you could spend months trying out all the restaurants as there are hundreds of them lining the beach and cliffs. We grabbed a cold drink from one of the shacks and soaked up the laid-back atmosphere of Arambol. We stayed here for about 2 days before heading onto Palolem in the south.
Also during our time in Arambol, we paid a visit to a Baba (guru/teacher) who resided in the jungle behind the cliffs and apparently welcomed tourists to go and meditate with him. It turned out to be quite an experience- you can read my post about the Baba here.
Beach 2: Palolem
Easily my favourite place we visited in Goa, Palolem may be one of the top beaches I’ve ever visited. Alan and I rented a beach hut for 5 nights here, which was of questionable cleanliness but was right on the beach so we couldn’t complain too much. The top end of Palolem beach provided a stunning sunset which we watched most nights and the sea here was the clearest we found in Goa, and perfect for swimming.
At the top end of the beach is a river, where a dozen or so boatmen will be waiting to take you on a boat ride around the backwaters. We decided to do this one day, and for an extremely reasonable price, were taken through the mangroves, where we could see monkeys playing and dozens of eagles swarmed over our head during feeding time.
We visited Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary during our stay in Palolem- we went for a hike through a safari where I’m quite certain we should have been in a vehicle. We did see a fair few monkeys, but leopards apparently reside in the sanctuary too and we were pretty nervous that we would run into one. Luckily, we made it out without being mauled by a leopard, but it was definitely the most nerve-wracking hike I’ve done. We also hired a taxi for a day who took us to some churches and temples, as well as a crocodile spotting tour.
Beach 3: Vagator
From Palolem, we headed to Vagator for 3 nights, where we stayed in a hostel called Bunkker. This hostel was set out with rooms inside containment tanks, which I really enjoyed. There was also a dog that lived here who I completely fell in love with after she followed us to the beach on the first day.
Vagator is split into two beaches by a headland; as you face the sea, Big Vagator is to the right and Little Vagator to the left. I personally preferred Little Vagator as I thought it was prettier and had a much more laid-back vibe, as opposed to Big Vagator where you can do things like rent jet skis.
Vagator is home to Chapora Fort, which was built by the Portuguese in 1617. The fort is situated high up on the cliffs, so provides a great view of the beaches below.
Beach 4: Anjuna
From Vagator, we made the short journey to Anjuna, where we stayed in a really nice hostel called Funky Monkey Hostel. Anjuna is pretty well known for its flea market, which takes place every Wednesday and sells a whole host of goods from clothing and jewellery to musical instruments and home decor. The market was originally created a few decades ago by foreign hippies who were trying to fund their stay in Goa by selling their crafts and skills. However, it has since become a huge market selling products from all over India: spices from Kerala, colourful saris from Rajasthan and so much more.
Beach 5: Baga
Anjuna beach was pretty, but there wasn’t a lot to do there, so we headed to Baga beach some days during our time in Anjuna. Baga is a very long and lively strip of beach, with water sports and countless bars as far as the eye can see, and a strong Mediterranean influence. We affectionately nicknamed it “Bagaluf” due to its more upbeat vibe than the other beaches we’d seen so far in Goa. We had some good evenings here and also went parasailing!