The best, and most popular, time to visit Goa is during the cooler months of November to March, when the weather is wonderful, rain is a distant memory, and the seas are calm and clear. Arriving in October, at the very start of the tourist season, you’ll find beaches luxuriously empty, but many facilities, such as shops, restaurants, beach shacks and beach-hut operations, aren’t yet up and running. As March stretches into April and May, the weather grows hot and humid, and swimming becomes trickier due to rougher seas. Beaches slowly empty of tourists but, much like October, this means that facilities aren’t as extensive, businesses slowly shutting up shop to await the return of tourists the following November.
Many Goans, however, feel that the monsoon, which douses Goa between June and the end of September, is when the state is at its very best. Parties and celebrations are held to welcome the rains, and the countryside turns lush and green almost overnight. Swimming in the sea generally is off-limits during monsoon, since tides are strong, and most tourist facilities are closed, meaning that if you visit at this time you’ll have the place to yourself for bargain-basement prices.
Without doubt the peak season for visitors to Goa is over the short Christmas and New Year period, when prices are hiked phenomenally and many places are booked solid a year in advance. Yet this is a great time to be in Goa: the weather is glorious, the atmosphere is suitably festive, the tinsel is liberally festooned, and fireworks grace the evening sky. Though Goa’s frenetic party scene of years gone by has now slowed to a trickle, this is when all the best parties are held, and music festivals grace the northern coast’s clubs and beaches. Don’t expect peace and quiet, but for gleeful Christmas spirit under the tropical sun it surely can’t be beaten.Festivals & Events
Goa's Christian heritage is reflected in the number of feast days and festivals that follow the religious calendar. Panaji (Panjim), in particular, has a bumper crop of nonreligious festivals.
Feast of Three Kings (6 Jan; Chandor) At churches local boys re-enact the story of the three kings bearing gifts for Christ.
Pop, Beat & Jazz Music Festival (Feb; Panaji)
Shigmotsav (Shigmo) of Holi (Feb/Mar; statewide) This is Goa's version of the Hindu spring festival Holi. Coloured water and powders are thrown around at everyone and anyone and parades are held in the main towns.
Sabado Gordo (Fat Saturday; Feb/Mar; Panaji) Part of the statewide Carnival, this festival is held on the Saturday before Lent. It's celebrated by a procession of floats and raucous street partying.
Carnival (Mar; statewide) A three-day party heralding the arrival of spring.
Procession of All Saints (Mar/Apr; Old Goa) On the fifth Monday in Lent, this is the only procession of its sort outside Rome. Thirty statues of saints are brought out from storage and paraded around Old Goa's neighbouring villages.
Feast of Our Lady of Miracles (Apr; Mapusa) A Hindu and Christian feast day held 16 days after Easter.
Beach Bonanza (May; Calangute, Colva & Miramar) Several food and entertainment festivals, known as 'Beach Bonanzas', are held at various beach towns.
Igitun Chalne (May; Bicholim) Held at Sirigao Temple in Bicholim province, this fire-walking festival is one of Goa's most distinctive events. The high point is when devotees of the goddess Lairaya walk across burning coals to prove their devotion.
Feast of St Anthony (13 Jun; statewide) It is said that if the monsoon has not arrived by the time of this feast day, a statue of the saint should be lowered into the family well to hasten the arrival of the rain.
Feast of St John (24 Jun; statewide) A thanksgiving for the arrival of the monsoon.
Feast of St Peter & St Paul (29 Jun; statewide) Another monsoon celebration, this time by the fishing community, particularly in the region of Bardez, between Panaji and Mapusa. Dance, drama and music performances are held on makeshift stages floating on the river.
Feast of St Lawrence (Aug; statewide) The end of the monsoon is marked by this festival, as well as the reopening of the Mandovi to river traffic.
Fama de Menino Jesus (2nd Mon in Oct; Colva) Colva's biggest feast day, this festival is when the Menino Jesus (a statue of the infant Jesus said to perform miracles) is paraded.
Goa Heritage Festival (Nov; Panaji) A two-day cultural event held at Campal, featuring music, dancing and traditional food.
Tiatr Festival (Nov; Panaji) Another drama-arts programme held as a competition at the Kala Academy.
International Film Festival of India(IFFI; www.iffi.nic.in; normally for 10 days from the last week of Nov; Panaji) Based in Goa since 2004, this is the largest film festival in India and features numerous exciting art-house films from across the world.
Konkani Drama Festival (Nov/Dec; Panaji) A programme of Konkani music, dance and theatre held at the Kala Academy – it's a competition, with prizes awarded to the best performing group at the end.
Feast of St Francis Xavier (3 Dec; Old Goa) Old Goa's biggest bash, this feast is preceded by a 10-day Novena. There are lots of festivities and huge crowds during this period, especially for the Exposition of St Francis Xavier's body, which is held once every 10 years.
Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec; Margao & Panaji) A large fair and a church service is held at the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panaji. Around the same time, Margao celebrates with a large fair.