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Goa is, undoubtedly, India’s top beach destination. But there’s so much more to explore here than just sun, sea and sand. From wildlife safaris to quaint Portuguese neighbourhoods, here’s how you can break up your five-day trip to make sure you get to see the very best of Goa, even during a short vacation.
Start your vacation by familiarising yourself with the history and culture of Goa. One of the best ways to do so is by visiting the churches and museums of Old Goa, or Velha Goa. This historical city served as the capital of the Portuguese colony from the 16th to the 18th century, before it was abandoned due to a plague epidemic. The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which holds the mortal remains of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa, is the most famous among the many churches in the area. The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Se Cathedral and the Chapel of Saint Catherine are some other prominent churches here. Culture enthusiasts should also visit the Museum of Christian Art and the Archaeological Museum while in Old Goa.
Museum of Christian Art, Convent of Santa Monica, Velha Goa, Goa, India, +91 8322 2852 99
Besides its sunny beaches, North Goa also has a buzzing nightlife, some great flea markets and important architectural landmarks. Calangute and Baga beaches are mostly overcrowded, so Mandrem, Aswem and Morjim are much better options. If you’re into water sports, visit Sinquerim and Candolim beaches. Aguada Fort and Chapora Fort are the two important architectural spots and both are close to Candolim and Vagator beaches respectively. If you reach here on a Wednesday, do head to the famous Wednesday market on Anjuna Beach. At night, you can either visit one of the many great bars in North Goa or try your luck at Casino Palms in Calangute.
On the third day, explore a very different side of Goa by visiting Fontainhas, the old Latin Quarter in Panaji, the state’s capital city. The picturesque neighbourhood looks more like a European town with its winding lanes adorned with quaint houses built in a Portuguese architectural style. Fontainhas is said to have been loosely modelled upon the district of Bairro Alto in Lisbon. Art aficionados should definitely drop by Gallery Gitanjali, which hosts a veritable collection of contemporary artworks by both local and foreign artists. The Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts is another must-visit art gallery here. If you want to buy traditional hand-painted azulejos, then you can stop by the beautiful curio shop, Velha Goa. In the evening, grab a drink and try some authentic Goan cuisine at The Verandah.
The Verandah, Panjim Inn, Fontainhas, Panaji, Goa, India, +91 8322 2211 22
On the penultimate day of your vacation, choose an outdoor activity that lets you discover more of what Goa has to offer, apart from its wonderful beaches. You can take an open jeep safari at the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary where you’ll spot wildlife like elephants and Indian gaurs and a variety of avian fauna. Another great option is to go kayaking and enjoy the serenity of Goa’s rivers surrounded by lush green forests. You can also take a crocodile tour in the swampy mangroves of Cumbharjua Canals or even a fun dolphin watching tour.
Let the last day of your Goa trip be all about unwinding at the gorgeous beaches in South Goa. The beaches here are less crowded and less commercial than those in the northern parts of the state. This makes South Goa an ideal place to relax and rejuvenate before heading back from your vacation. Agonda and Patnem beaches are probably the least touristy of them all. The other popular beaches here are Colva, Palolem, Benaulim and Majorda. Palolem also hosts a silent party every weekend. For dinner and drinks, head to Cafe Del Mar, which has an all-night music bar.
Cafe Del Mar, Palolem Beach Road, Goa, India, +91 9823 3139 81