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Introducing Calangute & Baga

Depending on your definition of ‘fun in the sun’, the twin resorts of Calangute and Baga – once the habitat of naked, revelling hippies and nowadays package-holiday central – can prove holiday heaven or the Bosch-like depths of Hell.

Calangute was, long ago, the place to which well-heeled Goan townsfolk would retreat to escape the oppressive heat of the pre-monsoon hinterlands, and later became Goa’s first heady ‘60s hippie-hangout hot spot. Meanwhile Baga, to the north, remained a sleepy fishing village until well into the 1980s, until it was seized by package-holiday developers. These days, though, Calangute and Baga’s wide, continuous strip of sand sees relentless action. It’s crowded with beach shacks, bars, water-sports operators, hawkers, sunbathers, and revellers of both the domestic and foreign varieties.

Calangute is divided into two basic areas, with very different characters. Its main northern beach area is very much bucket-and-spade territory, and the road leading to it is a tumult of tacky souvenirs, cheap eats, dingy local bars, soft-serve ice creams, and milling crowds of coach-tour visitors. Here you’ll find touts vying for water-sports custom, and plenty of domestic-tourist-orientated seaside fun. Don’t expect any kind of R&R but it’s certainly an experience, if only for a pint-sized dose.

Rather more sophisticated, Calangute’s southern beach is, in contrast, more relaxed and upscale. Its sands are quieter (though by no means deserted), its restaurants are fancier, and its pace altogether more relaxed. The south’s the place for sundowners, shopping and sumptuous dinners, away from the tourist tat a tad further north.

To the north, Baga is also not the ideal place to come for tropical tranquillity. Though wide and roomy, Baga’s beach consists of jostling shacks, peppered with water sports and boat-trip touts, and row upon row of sun-beds. The crowd here is young and excitable, the music loud, and the atmosphere runs from cheerful to chaotic. This is the place for drinking and dancing, with clubs open until 4am – very unusual these days in Goa. Meanwhile, to escape the Baga beat, head north across the Baga river to some budget accommodation bargains clinging to the coast.

If you’re coming to Goa seeking spiritual solitude and swathes of quiet tropical sand, you’ll find quite the reverse here, with Calangute’s main beach drag being India’s modern ‘Kiss Me Quick’ capital, closer to Blackpool than Blissed-Out. But if you’re looking for Ibiza-style action, dance-around-your-handbag clubbing, exquisite cuisine and nonstop shops (with the occasional holy cow or temple elephant thrown in to remind you where you really are) you simply couldn’t hope for better.