From beach bums and adventurers to party animals, hippies, yoga enthusiasts, foodies and history and architecture buffs, Goa has welcomed and embraced one and all. This smallest state of India has something for every type of visitor. We picked out the coolest neighbourhoods where you will get a little bit of everything Goa has to offer.
Nestled on the Mandovi River, Panjim, or Panaji, is home to stunning colonial structures alongside modern houses. The famous Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church (known for its Portuguese Baroque style), the Kala Academy (cultural academy) and Fontainhas (Goa’s Latin Quarter) are all located in this neighbourhood. Beyond the historical and cultural attractions, there are several pristine beaches within easy reach that add to its charm, including Miramar, Dona Paula and Bambolim. While you’re out exploring this neighbourhood, make sure to visit the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, which is located approximately four miles away from Panjim. It is home to several resident and migratory birds, making it a bird lover’s paradise.
Also known as Goa’s Latin Quarter, Fontainhas is a true piece of Portuguese history. It has maintained its colonial character, with narrow cobbled streets lined with houses and cottages painted in pastels and fluorescents that are perfect for exploring. One of the prime attractions is the Chapel of St. Sebastian, which dates back to the 19th century and stands out with its pristine white facade, which is starkly juxtaposed with the colourful neighbourhood. If art is your muse, look no further than the Gitanjali Gallery, which houses an impressive collection of Scandinavian art from the 1950s to the 1990s, along with contemporary art by local and international artists. Also, make sure to visit one of the many restaurants, such as Viva Panjim and Verandah restaurant, to relish in some authentic Goan cuisine, as well as Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro, which is the oldest bakery in the neighbourhood.
Located in the North Goa district, Old Goa, otherwise known as Velha Goa, is a historic neighbourhood that is high up on most travellers’ lists, especially those with an avid interest in history and architecture. It was established in the 15th century and served as the Portuguese Indian capital from the 16th century until the 18th century when it was abandoned due to malaria and cholera outbreaks in the area. Vestiges of the bygone era are still evident throughout the streets of Old Goa and have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Se Cathedral and Church of St. Francis of Assisi. There are other historical buildings to explore, some of which have been converted into museums.
Serving as the cultural capital of Goa, Margao is one of the well-developed neighbourhoods that remains relatively untouched by tourism. There are colonial-era buildings, temples and churches to explore. Also, within just a few miles from Margao lie serene and unspoilt beaches, like Colva, Benaulim and Majorda, where you can kick back and relax, as well as engage in water sports, such as speed boat rides, parasailing, jet skiing, banana rides and snorkelling.
Anjuna is synonymous with beach and trance parties. It exudes a laid-back and bohemian feel and has aptly earned the title of ‘hippie haven’. Beach bums and party lovers frequent this neighbourhood to relax and soak up the sun and salt at the beach during the day and revel in the psychedelic trance music parties that happens as the sun goes down. Beyond the beach and trance, Anjuna also draws crowds with its flea market that is held on Wednesday and that is perfect for authentic souvenir shopping.
Brimming with hotels, restaurants and popular beaches (Baga, Calangute and Candolim) in its vicinity, Arpora is the neighbourhood where you can enjoy resort living by the beach. In addition, locals and tourists are drawn to Arpora because of its Saturday Night Market, which is a flea market that is held every Saturday from 6 pm until late in the night. This market is a one-stop shop, where you’ll find clothes, souvenirs, accessories, home decor items, bags, shoes and much more. Throw in live music and street food stalls for the perfect night out on the town.
Untouched by commercialization, as yet, Arambol has evolved into a beach destination. In the past few years, it’s been on the radar of international tourists, thanks to its laid-back vibe and drum circle that sees the coming together of travellers and locals every evening at the beach to make music, play drums and dance. Also, it is brimming with huts on the beach, shacks, guesthouses, restaurants, shops and yoga and wellness centres. The surrounding jungle, lake and lagoon add to its eclectic appeal.