things to do in Goa

Things To Do In Goa

 

That feeling of driving a scooter as the wind rushes through your hair. Enjoying the sumptuous Goan curries at quaint restaurants.  The charming Portuguese churches that dot the Latin Quarter. Getting chatty with the locals who drive the most amazing vintage cars.  Some crowded and some quiet beaches. The gypsy lifestyle.  Old forts that overlook the Arabian Sea.  Streets laden with coconut palms – Goa is everything you need to refresh and recharge.  So what are the best things to do in Goa?

If this is your first time in Goa, you can be assured that we’ll help you get the best Goan experience.  Stay a while and discover Goa.

 

Where to stay

When it comes to accommodation in Goa, there is no dearth of options.  You can choose from family-run homestays, boutique hotels or luxury resorts.  Goa has something to offer for everyone.  Here are some of my personal favourites.

Caravela Homestay – We stayed here for a couple of nights and loved every bit of it.  It’s not a fancy place but the fact that it is near to major landmarks of Panjim makes it a great choice.  The rooms are neat and I loved the collection of books in the lounge.  The homestay has a small bistro alongside which serves amazing all-day breakfast.  All in all, a great place to stay in Fontainhas.

Another lovely stay option in Fontainhas is Panjim Inn.  It is a 180-year old Portuguese mansion converted into a boutique hotel.  The charming red building is set at the heart of the Latin Quarter in Fontainhas.  I particularly loved their in-house restaurant – Verandah.  Stop by for some local delicacies and soak in the views down the street.

You could also choose to stay at the family-run home-stays.  I prefer home-stays to hotels because it gives a deep understanding of the Goan culture and the chance to make life-long friendships.

I love Cancio’s House which is a family run boutique guesthouse.  It is run by the Amaral family in the grounds of their 500-year-old home.  This place is in the quintessential Goan village of Aldona and is sure to leave you craving for more. If you’d like an authentic Goan experience, this is where you should be staying.

 

Where to east authentic Goan food

 

If you want to sample the real taste of Goa, ditch the big names and restaurant chains.  Head to small, obscure, family-run restaurants instead.

Viva Panjim, Fontainhas

Viva Panjim is set out at the heart of Fontainhas in an old Portuguese house.  This quaint eatery serves great Goan food at reasonable price.  I love their Goan vegetable curry, mushroom vindaloo and the nutty Goan rice.  If you happen to visit Viva Panjim, do try the mushroom vindaloo. It is one of the best dishes I’ve tasted in recent times. On a side note – it is very spicy, be warned!

Mum’s Kitchen, Miramar Road

Located on Miramar Road, this place is yet another Goan gem.  Mum’s Kitchen has a great collection of wines and traditional food recipes on their menu.  No wonder it is the local favourite for fine dining.  The vegetarian options on the menu are extensive – which is an added bonus.  I love the Bebinca (a traditional Goan dessert) which is served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Mr Baker 1922

Head to Mr Baker if you want to sample local snacks and desserts.  Again, a family-run setup that serves fresh quick-bites. Also, a great place to have the traditional Bebinca.

The Verandah Restaurant, Panjim

This alfresco restaurant overlooking the by-lanes of Fontainhas is located in Panjim Inn.  The restaurant has a vintage vibe and is sure to transport you to the bygone Latin era.  The menu is non-vegetarian but I am sure you can talk to the chef who will be happy to cook vegetarian alternatives.

 Venite, Panjim

Yet another quaint restaurant in Fontainhas.  It is almost possible not to notice this little joint. With the balconies overlooking the streets, the place is quite compact and cozy. Venite has been around since 1955 so I do not have to say much about the quality. Do visit for the vintage vibes and great food. Venite has decent vegetarian options as well – the vegetable vindaloo is my favourite.

best time to visit Goa

Places to visit in Goa

Fontainhas

Fontainhas is a friendly neighbourhood set at the heart of Panjim.  Known for its colourful houses and narrow streets, Fontainhas is charming and vintage.  You almost feel as if you’ve stepped into a Latin era. No wonder, Fontainhas is also called the Latin Quarter.

Key Places to Visit in Fontainhas

  • 31’st January Road
  • Panjim Inn
  • Chapel of St.Sebastian
  • Wishing Well
  • Geetanjali Gallery for Art
  • Altinho Hill
  • Church Square
  • Panjim Church
  • 18th June Road

I wanted to add a small note about Altinho Hill here.  It is a luxurious residential area that has the most elegant Latinesque buildings I’ve ever seen.  Head up the steps around the corner from Panjim Church and at the top is Sunaparanta – Goan Centre of Arts.  This is a must visit place if you are an Art and Photography Enthusiast.  The gallery is beautiful and also houses some amazing books by great photographers.  This is also a great place to pick up some trinkets and souvenirs.

Great places to see in Goa – Chapel of St.Sebastian

 

Carrying on, the walk will lead to the Bishop’s Palace (Built-in 1886) – the house of Archbishop of Goa. Do not miss the ‘Stations of the Cross’ as you walk towards the Palace. The hill is beautiful and talks a lot about the Goa’s colonial past.

Old Goa

Old Goa, also known as Velha (Old) Goa, is the most impressive place to see the Portuguese legacy. Almost every site in Old Goa is part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

The road leading to Velha Goa from Panjim is like a something from a beautiful dream, with the Mandovi river flowing alongside and the road passing through stunning everyday scenes. This is the opportunity to soak in the grandeur of Old Goa as you walk past the towering chapels and majestic convents.  The famous sites are usually crowded, so I strongly suggest that you plan your visit for a weekday morning.

The head towards the Holy Hill named Monte Santo.  There are Augustine’s Ruins, Santa Monica Convent and Our Lady of Rosary Church tucked in right at end of the convent.  This particular church is well hidden and so avoids the crowds found elsewhere.  I remember when I visited this church, there was not a single person that I needed to share it with. The amazing view of the Mandovi river from this church is an added bonus.

Key places to visit in old Goa

  • Basilica of Bom Jesus
  • Se Cathedral
  • Archaeological Museum
  • Augustine’s Ruins
  • Santa Monica Convent
  • Our Lady of Rosary Church

 

Dona Paula

Dona Paula is a quaint fishing hamlet around 6KM from Panjim.  Though the place is gaining momentum it still has a laid-back charm all of its own.  Dona Paula is the perfect place for a relaxed, slow evening.  Long drives, beautiful views and a stunning sunset.

On a side note, you can stop by at Miramar Beach before heading to Dona Paula.  Miramar is 6KM from Panjim and is a quiet beach.

Goa beach suggestions

There is no dearth of beaches in Goa! My top 3 (in no specific order) would be Anjuna, Vagator and Sinqerim in North Goa.

Anjuna and Vagator have become more popular recently.  Both beaches have a good choice of cheap accommodation and beach shacks.

Vagator’s beaches are rocky with amazing scenery from every angle.  The Chapora Fort (700m from Vagator) is a great vantage point from which to see the area in its full glory.  Anjuna’s beach is sandier and better for swimming. Anjuna is also well known for its trance parties and flea markets.

Sinquerim is the home to two Taj hotels making it a great choice for a luxury stay.  The beach is beautiful, has great shacks with good food and beer.  While at Sinquerim, do visit Aguada Fort and the Lighthouse. It is a short uphill ride and the views of the Arabian Sea from the fort is mind-blowing.

 

Goa Beach - Palolem Beach,

Goa Beach – Palolem Beach,

 

Divar Island

This inland island is a short ferry ride away from Panjim, and it makes for a great day trip.  The village here has old mud houses, whitewashed churches and elegant Portuguese villas.  Divar Island itself is both tranquil and picturesque.  The stunning countryside will take you back in time to experience what life was like years ago.

Divar is the second largest island of the seven islands situated in the Mandovi River.  The largest of the seven is Charao Island – which can also be a fun day trip from Old Goa / Panaji.

The best way to explore Divar Island is by a scooter/bicycle. At Divar drive up the hill for amazing views of Old Goa and Mandovi River. There is also a chapel built on the site of an old temple as a last point on the hill.  You can fish in the backwaters, go cycling and soak in the quintessential charm.

Note – The ferry to and from Ribandar / Divar Island leaves every hour. You can take your two-wheeler, cars and cycles on the ferry.

Palolem Beach, Goa, India

 

 River Cruises and Floating Casinos in Mandovi River

The floating casinos in Goa are boats anchored in Mandovi River.  There are several casinos but the most famous ones are Deltin Royale and Casino Pride.  The casinos also have good restaurants, music and a sundeck bar – which is a nice place to watch the sunset.

If you don’t fancy casinos you could go on a river cruise along the Mandovi River.  The boat leaves from Santa Monica Boat Jetty or the Panaji Jetty.  You can do a one-hour cruise or a two-hour dinner cruise, get your timing right and you’re going to get amazing sunset views.

 Goa famous places Aguada Fort Lighthouse

Aguada Fort Light House

 

How to get around

Automatic bikes/scooters: This is the best way to explore every nook and corner of Goa!  Ask your hosts to get you a good deal – It does not cost more than 300 INR a day for short-term rentals.  You could definitely bargain if you plan to rent for a longer duration.  Do remember to ensure that you’re fully covered by your insurance for medical costs in the case of an accident.

Self-drive cars: This is a convenient option especially on rainy days or when you need to cover a long distance, like from north to south Goa. Again, talking to your host could get you good deals, but you can also check out Zoom Car and Myles Car for rentals.

Taxi: Ask your host to arrange a local driver for you, travelling with the locals has its own advantages – you may chance upon hidden gems you’d never find yourself.

That’s it – everything you need to know about visiting Goa in one place. I hope you have an amazing time.