- 2 Weeks
The northern beaches encompass a little of everything that's great about Goa – fine beaches, forts, rivers, lively resorts, yoga and nightlife.
Start by taking the shortcut across the Mandovi River by vehicle ferry from Panaji to Betim and pay a visit to refurbished Reis Magos Fort before taking in the views from hilltop Fort Aguada. The beaches of Candolim, Calangute and Baga make up Goa's busiest resort strip so there's always plenty to do here, from water sports to nightclubs and beach shacks to fine dining.
Head north of the Baga River to Anjuna, where the hippie trance days all began. It's a good place to join a yoga class, party at one of the beachfront clubs or browse the Wednesday flea market. Nearby, Vagator and Chapora are easy-going villages with a relaxed party vibe: climb Chapora Fort for great sunset views or dine on the clifftop at Thalassa. Across the Chapora River is Russian-flavoured Morjim, mellow Aswem and Mandrem, with upmarket hut villages, a lovely clean beach and good yoga retreats. Then it's on to Arambol, a popular backpacker beach with a Bob Marley vibe and paragliding from the northern headland.
- 2 Weeks
South Goa is as much about lazing on the beaches as the north, but there are some interesting inland adventures here and much less of a party vibe.
Start in busy Margao, where you can browse the market and grab a bite to eat at Longhuino's. The beach at Colva is just 6km west of Margao and stretches up and down the coast. If you're into scuba diving, head north to Bogmalo, via pretty Majorda and Utorda beaches, or make your way south to Benaulim (visit Goa Chitra museum here) through five-star territory at Varca and Cavelossim to the lovely spit of land at Mobor where the coast meets the Sal River.
Follow the coastal road through bucolic Betul to lovely Agonda, calling in at Cabo da Rama and secluded Cola Beach. The final coastal stretch leads to Goa's little paradise beach at Palolem, great for swimming, yoga, cooking courses and beach huts. Patnem is a little more peaceful. Intrepid travellers should hire a bike and explore further south to Galgibag and Talpona, or all the way to Polem beach.
An Inland Adventure
- 5 Days
Take a few days to get away from the beach and explore inland Goa off the beaten track.
From Panaji, start out early to Colem for Dudhsagar Falls. On the way back stop at Tambdi Surla for Shri Mahadeva Temple or visit one of the spice farms around Molem or Ponda. Another excellent self-drive day trip from Panaji is to take a picturesque circuit from Old Goa, to serene Divar Island (via a ferry), catch another ferry to Naroa, where you can take in Mayem Lake, Corjuem Fort and Aldona. Return to Panaji via Torda, visiting the Houses of Goa Museum.
Head south to Margao, from where you can explore the villages of Chandor, with one of Goa’s grandest Portuguese mansions, Loutolim and the ancient Rivona Buddhist caves and prehistoric Usgalimal rock carvings.
Return to Margao and then continue on to Palolem or Patnem, from where you can head inland through forest and farmland to the Netravali Protected Area to discover the mysterious bubble lake, the Tanshikar Spice Farm and jungle treks to remote waterfalls.
Goa's Greatest Hits
- 2 weeks
If you have a two-week holiday in Goa you'll probably spend it at one or two beach locations, but if you want to explore the best of the whole state, consider this path.
Start in the capital, Panaji, preferably staying in the Fontainhas area, cruising on the Mandovi River and spending a morning exploring the churches of Old Goa and the region's spice farms. Next head up to the beaches of North Goa: depending on your taste you could base yourself at busy Baga, backpacker-friendly Anjuna or Vagator or further north at the mellow yoga-friendly beach strip between Aswem and Arambol. Wherever you stay, most beaches are close enough to easily explore by motorbike or taxi. Spend a week here checking out the party scene (Anjuna, Vagator and Morjim), markets (Saturday night bazaars near Baga, Wednesday market at Anjuna, Friday market at Baga), water sports (surfing at Aswem), yoga (everywhere) or just chilling at beach shacks and backstreet cafes.
Next, head to the deep south of Goa, taking the highway all the way to beautiful Palolem. From here you can explore the surrounding beaches of Patnem, Agonda, Cola and Talpona. This is a place for lazing on the beach and staying in Goa's best beach huts.