7 reasons Goa is still India's hippest beach destination
Geographically speaking, Goa is India's smallest state. Spiritually, culturally and historically, it's an intoxicating stretch unlike anything on the subcontinent; unlike anywhere else in the world for that matter.
Goa may no longer be the essential stop on the global hippie trail it once was, and other destinations give it a run for its money when it comes to the nightlife, but the big plus is that Goa today not only attracts all types of visitors from all over the world, and has the facilities to keep all ages and tastes happy.
Travel to Goa today and you'll find those world famous stretches of sand rippling along its 105 km long coastline. Book your great value Goan break with all inclusive guru First Choice*, and you can choose from a variety of resorts with everything from family friendly beaches to little coves, perfect for some serious chill out time.
Swirl in the exotic fusion that forges out of the history between India and Portugal (Goa spent 400 years as a Portuguese colony) and its heritage becomes beguiling too. Here are my seven reasons that Goa is still India's hippest beach destination.
1. Glorious golden beaches
What could be more tempting on holiday than a palm fringed white sand beach that stretches off into the distance as you gaze out over the Arabian Sea? Or how about a beach cocktail bar idling behind you just waiting for your order as you watch the swollen sun burn down into the water?
Welcome to Goa where there really is a beach for everyone. A resort, too, as these range from little more than tiny villages, through to bustling hubs with all the frills. If you prefer busy resorts and being with plenty of other holidaymakers head for Calangute in the north.
If you want to channel that sixties' hippie vibe steer towards Anjuna or its similarly chilled sibling Mandrem. To get away from it all Agonda appeals as it's relatively untouched by development and is home to nesting turtles.
In the far south*, Palolem used to be off the tourist circuit, but despite a growth in visitors and facilities it still has a laid back vibe.
2. It's still a great place to chill out
Ok, so it's not nearly the hippie haunt it once was, but there is respite from the modern world and a chance to explore your spirituality. We're talking yoga and tai chi on the beach along with the rising sun to help ease you into the day, or more intensive Reiki and meditation courses.
These days the great thing about Goa is that you have so many options. Just curious? Then pop along for a yoga or tai chi session and try it for yourself. Or you can go for a full-blown spiritual retreat, which aims to really help you recharge your batteries and open your mind.
You can even stay on and learn how to be a practitioner or teacher yourself. A good starting point lies in the far north of Goa* at Arambol, where you'll see adverts and signs for all sorts of holistic therapies.
3. Goa has the best curries in India
There, I've said it. I really think it does, not because you can't get great curries all over India, but because the curries here can range from the traditional, through to those benefiting more from the calming influence of Portuguese cuisine.
You can still blow your head off with a vindaloo in Goa (it originated here after all), but there are also more gently spiced curries awash with delicious coconut milk. The most famous Goan dish is the ubiquitous fish curry, which you will find in myriad permutations, all using fresh local spices.
Then, of course, there are those spicy Portuguese chourico sausages and the delicious little custard tarts that are the rich dessert legacy of Portuguese colonial rule.
A new wave of restaurants are currently exploring the cuisines of the world in Goa as the state makes sure it stays fresh. Eateries range from tiny beach shacks, through to grand temples to fine dining.
One of the hottest of this avant garde is Le Detour* in Anjuna. The young chef here fuses a range of European influences with local ingredients.
4. Heaps of history
Goa is awash with fascinating layers of history. Even before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, it had been the Kingdom of the Kadamba Dynasty for centuries.
To delve into the heart of the Portuguese legacy, make for the colonial capital of Old Goa, which well deserves its place on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Visit the Basilica of Bom Jesus and you're in esteemed company as it harbours the remains of St. Francis Xavier, renowned as the Protector of Goa.
There are plenty of churches to explore, many still popular today with the country's Christian population. For a view of the current capital of Panaji, head for the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception - it's well worth hiking up the 100 steps to gaze down over the city.
5. Nefarious nightlife
There are still relaxed hippie-like bars, especially around the beaches of the far north. The new soundtrack for Goan nightlife, though, is electronic dance music.
Most popular at the moment is trance, though cheesy house is also very popular in the resort bars and clubs. For an unpretentious party head for Calangute's Baga* district.
Still the hottest action in Goa, though, remains the epic trance parties that burst alive in Anjuna from October through to April. The latest craze at Palolem is for 'silent discos' where you're armed with headphones. What's Up Goa is an irreverent website with plenty of party inspiration.
6. Bizarre bazaars
You might not imagine Goa is a superb shopping destination, but we're not talking about big international brand stores. The local action is firmly in the bazaar, a real riot of colour and life.
You can find everything and anything on sale here. Many towns have one of some description so ask on arrival for the insider tips on where it is and when is best to go.
If you prefer your nightlife more retail therapy than dance until dawn, make for the Anjuna Flea Market, though it sports some decent bars if you want to mix the two. Goa's bazaars and markets are up there with the most fun and engaging in India.
7. The unbeatable collage of cultures
A collage of cultures is at the heart of Goa's appeal. The tangible Portuguese influence here is not something the locals try to suppress or forget - they celebrate the Portuguese heritage and it swirls in a unique dynamic not found elsewhere in the country.
You'll find it when you least expect, wandering down a street where at one end you savour the energy of indigenous music before the mournful notes of fado take hold at the other.
This cultural contrast is nowhere more dramatically on show that in the capital Panaji. There are lots influences from other parts of the country too, which all help make India's smallest state retain the title as its hippest beach destination.
Does Goa sound like your kind of beautiful beach break destination? Check out the latest deals on all inclusive holidays to Goa from First Choice, which depart from London Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. Remember, you can also find out more about the weather in Goa, and see when we think is the very best time to go for fantastic beachy conditions.
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