Anjuna & North Goa
Tucked between the Terekhol and Mandovi Rivers, North Goa encompasses the relentless action of and Baga, the happy hippieness of Arambol and Anjuna, the laid-back beaches of Aswem and Mandrem, and the luxury of boutique heritage hotels. It was not, however, always this way.
Panaji & Central Goa
However much you do like to be beside the seaside, the attractions of central Goa are as quintessentially Goan as a dip in the Arabian Sea. What hedonism is to the north and relaxation is to the south, culture, scenery and history are to this central portion of the state, eased in between the Mandovi and Zuari Rivers.
Picture the scene. It’s 1760, and you’re lucky enough (and pious enough, given the dark penchants of the Inquisition) to be living in the most glorious city in all of Asia – the Rome of the East – filled with ornate cathedrals soaring at heights unimaginable to most people on the subcontinent. Then, suddenly, disaster strikes.
Well, we suppose we knew it had to happen eventually, and happen it has. We hereby (with a sniffle) officially declare Palolem…100% mainstream. Palolem’s long and stunning crescent beach was, as recently as 15 years ago, another of Goa’s undiscovered, unlittered gems, with few tourists and even fewer facilities to offer them.
In the middle of Mumbai Harbour, 9km northeast of the Gateway of India, the rock-cut temples on Elephanta Island (Indian/foreigner Rs 10/250; caves 9am-5.30pm Tue-Sun) are a spectacle worth crossing the waters for. Home to a labyrinth of cave-temples carved into the basalt rock of the island, the artwork represents some of the most impressive temple carving in all India.
Candolim, Sinquerim & Fort Aguada
Candolim’s long, narrow, busy beach, which curves round to join smaller Sinquerim Beach to the south, is largely the preserve of slow-basting package tourists from the UK, Russia and Scandinavia, and is fringed with an unabating line of beach shacks, all offering sun beds and shade in exchange for your custom.
Dear old Anjuna, that stalwart on India’s hippy scene, still drags out the sarongs and sandalwood each Wednesday for its famous – and once infamous – flea market. Though it continues to pull in droves of backpackers, midrange tourists are increasingly making their way here for a dose of hippie-chic without the beach-hut rusticity of Arambol further up the coast.