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Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda.
Goa is more than beaches and trance parties. A kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, seafood and spirituality, there’s nowhere in India quite like it.
Goa’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of golden-sand beaches. This shimmering strand stretches along the Arabian Sea from the tip to the toe of the state, and each of the various beaches have developed their own personalities and reputations since the hippie days of the sixties. They cater to every tropical whim: choose from backpacker Arambol or bolder, brasher Baga; from the palm-fringed sands of Palolem to hippie market bliss at Anjuna or lovely, laid-back Mandrem; from expansive groomed sands in front of fancy five-star resorts or hidden crescent coves, where the only footprints will be the scuttling crabs’ and your own.
Want to top up your Zen as well as your tan? Welcome to winter in Goa where yoga is king and the crop of spiritual activities grows more bountiful each year: sunrise t’ai chi sessions, reiki healing courses, meditation, and just about every other form of spiritual exploration, are all practised freely. Many travellers come here for a serious yoga experience and you’ll find everything from drop-in classes to teaching training courses and spiritual retreats.
The Spice of Life
Food is enjoyed fully in Goa, as it is throughout India. The scents, spices and flavours of Goa’s cuisine will surprise and tantalise even seasoned travellers: whether it’s a classic fish curry rice, a morning bhali-pau (bread roll dipped in curry), a piquant vindaloo, with its infusions of wine vinegar and garlic, or a spicy xacuti sauce, the Indo-Portuguese influence is a treat for the tastebuds. While you’re here, visit a back-country spice farm to learn why the Portuguese were so excited about Goa.
Goa stands out in India for its Portuguese colonial architecture and heritage. The Portuguese arrived in Goa in 1510, lured by the exotic East and the promise of lucrative spice routes. Their indelible mark is still evident in the state’s baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, crumbling forts, colourful Catholic ceremonies, mournful fado music and the stunning cathedrals of Old Goa.