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.
A series of rusty cliffs and headlands bursting out of thickets of greenery help to give Vagator and charming Chapora one of the prettiest settings on the north Goan coast. It’s this back drop, rather than the beaches (which are largely forgettable) that have made these two little villages the centre for the wild, outdoor parties that made Goa (in) famous.
Greetings from Morjim, where the Arabian Sea meets the Baltic: for reasons perhaps known best to itself, the tiny village has become the destination of choice for young, long-staying Russians, along with big groups of domestic tourists, and receives only a (albeit slowly growing) trickle of visitors from other beaches.
Along the Mandovi River
If you’re looking to truly lose the crowds, the road that hugs the northern bank of the broad Mandovi River, just across the slow-moving waters from state capital Panaji (Panjim), is the place to do it. It hosts a crop of unexplored delights, between Fort Aguada, where the river meets the sea, and the riverside village of Naroa in Bicholim taluka (district) to the east.
Naroa & Shri Saptakoteshwara Temple
For the most scenic entry to the little village of Naroa, clinging to the banks of the Mandovi, venture here by ferry from picturesque Divar Island. Just 2km from the ferry point, the Shri Saptakoteshwara Temple is tiny, tucked away in a narrow emerald-green valley and undisturbed by anything apart from a few mopeds and the occasional tour bus.
A wide stretch of beach growing busier year by year (making it hard to know exactly where the beaches of neighbours Mandrem and Morjim begin and end), the lovely Aswem sands are, like Mandrem, growing in popularity annually, with an ever-increasing, ever-changing parade of beach-hut accommodation and beach-shack restaurants springing up each season.
East of Naroa and about 35km from Panaji, glistening Mayem Lake is a pleasant sort of place that’s popular among local picnickers, while the GTDC’s North Goa bus tour also sets down daily for lunch here. Despite the occasional midday rush, the lake’s a quiet spot, offering a lovely bit of R&R, and makes a great place to munch your own packed lunch.
Continuing east from the coast along the course of the Mandovi River, you’ll reach the busy village of Betim, which hugs tight to its banks, looking out to Panaji on the other side. Here, you can take a cooking course courtesy of Holiday on the Menu and fill up on petrol or snacks for your onward travels. The village can also be reached by passenger ferry from Panaji.