I’ve posted before about how much I love India, but Goa was my first love. I went on a cheap package holiday back in 1998 and returned several times before we got into the swing of independent travel.
If you’ve always dreamed of India but find the idea of tackling this huge and fascinating country with a backpack a bit daunting, maybe you should visit Goa, it may be the place for you.
There are loads of Goa holidays you can book from the UK, flights, hotel and airport transfers included. A trip like that could be just what you need to wet your India appetite and launch you on to the bigger adventures.
Why Visit Goa? Here’s Why.
1. It’s India.
My husband’s grandmother grew up in Calcutta, she says Goa isn’t really India. She’s a wonderful lady and I respect her immensely, but I disagree!
It’s India, it’s just easier. Goa gives you a dose of Indian culture without having to work too hard for it. It’s true that you could be anywhere in the world if you never leave your hotel, but you could say that about anywhere. There are some fabulous hotels in Goa catering to every western need. Step outside them, explore a bit and you’ll get a taste of what the subcontinent has to offer. Exploring is easy, hire a tuk tuk ( motor rickshaw) or a taxi and off you go.
There are cows on the street, there are women in traditional costumes from all over India, there are Hindu temples to visit and wonderful markets with snake charmers, sometimes there are elephants, it feels like India.
2. The Portugese Connection.
Back in 1510 the Portugese took Goa as their own and set it up as an important control centre for the spice trade. You can still see the Portugese influence today.
A visit to the remains of the city of Old Goa or Velha Goa, ( a Unesco World Heritage Site) is well worth it for the Basilica of Bom Jesus housing the mummified body of St Francis Xavier. They get him out every year, in December, for local Christians to pay their respects. One lady took her adoration a little too far, biting off the Saint’s toe as a souvenir, so the story goes
The Portugese abandoned the city in the 1700 after problems with disease and the river silting up but plenty of buildings are still standing. Old Goa is an easy day trip by taxi or rickshaw from the northern beaches of Goa.
3. The Food.
Indian food is probably my favourite in the world, South Indian food in particular for its light vegetarian dishes.
Goan food is unique and is superb!
There are a few Goan specialities that you just have to try. Goan curry dishes include Xacuti, Balchao and Vindaloo , they all have a Portugese influence. The vin of vindaloo was originally wine, now vinegar, it’s not the fiery concoction served in UK Indian restaurants, give it a try, it’s delicious. There is plenty of fish and seafood which can be simply prepared if you’re not a curry lover.
I found this wonderful site if you’d like to try some authentic Goan Recipes at home.
4. The Markets.
North Goa has my favourite market in the world, Anjuna Market. It is held behind Anjuna beach every Wednesday and it is vast. It dies off a bit in the off season ( after Christmas), but even then it is still an exciting place to visit. There are so many things to buy and to look at, if you’re new to this part of the world you won’t believe your eyes.
Snake charmers, acrobats, wandering holy men and performers jostle with hippies and hardened Kashmiri salesmen. It’s fabulous.
We’ve stayed in Anjuna town twice, as package tourists and as backpackers, it’s one of our favourite places to stay and the market is a big part of that.
5. The Beaches.
I have never been to South Goa, I always went to the North, but now, with children, priorities are changing. The beaches of North Goa were fine for us, we loved the old hippie vibe, the busy markets and the trance music of Anjuna, Arambol and Vagator beaches.
I hear the south has nicer beaches for children, cleaner water and better sand. Agonda and Palolem in the south, are good.
We’ll be back to visit Goa next year as part of a bigger tour of India and we can’t wait! It’s most certainly the easiest part of India to visit with children, I’d say Kerala would be second. Goa has loads to offer, we’ve taken day trips to waterfalls, wildlife reserves and stunning Hindu temples as well as spending time just relaxing, enjoying the Goan sunsets with a Kingfisher beer and fabulous food.