Anjuna & North Goa
In North Goa, Panaji, also know as Panjim, is a quiet achiever offering a glimpse into small town life for those who decide to hang their hat here for a spell. From here you can explore the still-Portuguese flavoured town of Old Goa, with its World Heritage listed churches and convents.
Palolem & South Goa
Panaji & Central Goa
Slung along the banks of the wide Mandovi River, Panaji (also still widely known by its former Portuguese name Panjim), Goa’s small and spritely state capital since 1843, boasts its own laid-back brand of originality.
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.
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.
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.
The capital of Salcete province, Margao (also known as Madgaon) is, along with coastal Vasco da Gama, the main population centre of South Goa and is a happy, bustling market town of a manageable size for getting things done.
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.
Vagator & Chapora
Dramatic red stone cliffs, dense green jungle and a crumbling 17th-century Portuguese fort provide Vagator and its diminutive village neighbour Chapora with one of the prettiest settings on the North Goan coast.
The market town of Mapusa (pronounced ‘Mapsa’) is the largest town in northern Goa, and is most often visited for its busy Friday market, which attracts scores of buyers and sellers from neighbouring towns and villages, and a healthy intake of tourists from the northern beaches.
If it’s a beach paradise you’re after, you’ll probably be disappointed with what’s awaiting you in Colva. A large concrete roundabout marks the end of the beach road and the entrance to the beach, filled with day-trippers, package tourists and listless hawkers.
Bogmalo to Betalbatim
The northern section of South Goa’s coastline extends from Bogmalo, just a few kilometres south of Dabolim Airport, down to Mobor, perched on the headland above the mouth of the Sal River.
Arambol (also known as Harmal) first emerged in the 1960s as a mellow paradise for long-haired long-stayers. Today, things are still decidedly cheap and cheerful, with much of the village’s budget accommodation arranged in simple little huts along the cliff sides.
Varca, Cavelossim & Mobor
Heading south from Benaulim, you’ll travel a road lined with beautiful Portuguese relics, paddy fields, whitewashed churches and farmland, encountering first the town of Varca – a sleepy village outside which several five-star resorts have sprung up.