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Goa - India

Renowned for a certain insouciance, India’s smallest state has come a long way since its hippy-trail days. Fleur Rollet-Manus explores its culture, yoga and legendary cuisine

Travel Time 12hrs 30min

Why go?

With its palm-fringed beaches, fresh seafood and penchant for peri peri, Goa’s laid-back allure has been attracting foreign visitors since the 1960s, when it became a haven for hippies. Conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and only returned to Indian rule in 1961, Goa’s European past shows in its whitewashed churches, sherbet-coloured houses and taste for an afternoon siesta. About the size of Devon, India’s smallest state has over 125km of coastline and a tropical climate that sees many gravitate to the south for sun, sea and spirituality. The festive season is a great time to arrive, with over a third of Goans identifying as Christian. Expect tinsel, midnight Mass and roasted chestnuts for sale next to trays of chamuça (samosa).

What to do

Rising from a lush jungle of tangled mangroves is the former capital Old Goa, where relics of the Portuguese empire are pristinely preserved. Be sure to visit the striking Sé Cathedral. The largest church in Asia; it dates back to 1640 and houses a museum detailing Goa’s rich heritage. Also worth a visit is St Cajetan’s Church, reminiscent of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Cultural appetite sated, it’s time to make a beeline for the coast. Beaches in the north are more developed than the sleepier south – head here for a true taste of easygoing Goa. Anjuna Beach has managed to retain its status as the original hippy hangout, largely due to its Wednesday Flea Market (open from 8am), which was founded by those on the hippy trail looking to fund an extended stay. Now, you’re less likely to see sawn- off Levis and instead bright saris, spices and intricately woven bedspreads strewn out across palm leaves. Goa’s best boutiques flaunt their wares at Arpora’s Saturday Night Market from 4pm: think shell art, Goan lace and carved masks. Snack on patoleo, turmeric-stuffed leaves with rice, dal and coconut, as you browse. The birthplace of yoga has no shortage of ashrams. Find zen at The Mandala which offers ashtanga drop-in classes (£6pp). Hardcore yogis will want to enrol in a week-long course at Swan Yoga Retreat for expert tuition in technique. Chakras aligned, head to the hidden coves of Cola, whose virgin beaches are the best-kept secret in the region.

Where to stay

Cut off from the mainland by a saltwater creek and only accessible via bamboo bridge, Elsewhere beach resort is an idyllic retreat in the north. Submerge yourself in Goa’s colonial history and spend the night at Fort Tiracol – a former Portuguese fortress perched on a cliff with kaleidoscopic Arabian Sea views and seven homely rooms. Further south, nestled on Galgibaga Beach is the eco-retreat La Mangrove with its four dreamy, boho-luxe tepees.

Where to eat and drink

The vinegar-laced vindaloo, inspired by the region’s Portuguese roots, originated in Goa. Serving up the best garlic-pork take is Venite 00 91 832 242 5537 in Panaji, where the walls are covered with the scrawls and (occasional) words of wisdom from former diners. Fish and rice dishes fragrant with coconut are staples here, with meaty chunks of Goan sausage (similar to chorizo) creeping into many dishes. Zeebop on Kenilworth Beach has a balchao (dried salt fish) curry with legendary status, which pairs well with papads (a pastry parcel filled with prawns, garlic and chillies). Try the stuffed crab at The Fisherman’s Wharf – the rustic riverside shack has a devoted local following and is packed at weekends. The region produces its own punchy spirit made from coconut and cashew sap called feni. Try it at The Oak Barrel 00 91 832 246 4330 in Miramar. Order the Taverna, a heady concoction mixed with Cointreau, orange, lemon and cranberry.

Time running out?

Tour Netravali’s family-run Tanshikar Spice Farm, then feast on organic veg served in traditional mud pots, peppered with spices plucked straight from the farm.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the Indian rupee (INR). Time is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from London is around 11.5 hours. The taxi ride from the airport to the city centre takes 30 minutes.

Getting There

Air India offers flights between London Heathrow and Goa, with one stop in New Delhi.
Jet Airways flies to Goa Airport from London Heathrow and Manchester via Bombay.


Goa Tourism is the official tourist board and provides essential travel tips, plus a wealth of accommodation, restaurant and tour-operator recommendations.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

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