Goa stands out among India’s crowded urban hotspots, with golden sand beaches, tangled palm trees reaching for the sky, and a laid-back ambiance. Even a brief visit to this tropical haven feels like a vacation within a holiday. Goa’s natural beauty and peacefulness will revive you, and its busy calendar of events and activities will keep you busy during your free time.
Tourists flock to Goa for popular beach destinations such as Colva Beach and Palolem Beach. But beaches are only the beginning of what makes Goa one of India’s most popular tourist destinations. Unique Portuguese-influenced food, mediaeval cathedrals and temples, vivid wildlife, and fascinating spice plantations are among the attractions. You’ll wish you had a few extra days to explore Goa no matter how long you stay.
For additional information on how to plan your vacation to India, see our list of the top tourist sites in Goa.
Beaches in Demand
Beaches are a big draw in Goa, which helps to explain why it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Palolem Beach, a crescent-shaped length of white sand overlooking the Arabian Sea in south Goa, is visited by nearly every visitor who visits the area. While simply sitting and taking in the scenery is a wonderful way to enjoy this beautiful location, Palolem Beach also offers a range of activities to keep you busy. Kayaking, yoga classes, dolphin-spotting expeditions, and swimming are among the activities available.
Palolem’s rustic coco huts, which are built at the start of the high season, can be rented for the night.
Colva Beach is another well-known beach in Goa, particularly among Indian visitors. It boasts swaying palms and a long stretch of bronze sand where herds of cows sunbathe alongside people on occasion. You can rent Jet Skis, take a thrilling banana boat ride, and parasail over the beach for a bird’s-eye perspective.
Homestays in the region will provide you with an authentic local experience as well as easy access to Colva Beach.
Beaches Off the Beaten Path
While Goa’s major beaches are known for their beautiful scenery, they can grow crowded during high season, leaving some visitors wishing for a more peaceful natural escape. Fortunately, Goa has a plethora of lesser-known beach attractions and activities that will keep you away from the throng while still offering you with beautiful sand and surf.
Butterfly Beach is one of Goa’s best-kept secrets. A curved stretch of sand is flanked by boulders, forming a postcard-worthy cove alive with butterflies and blossoms. It’s also a great spot to spot dolphins off in the distance.
To get to Butterfly Beach, you’ll need to take a boat journey from Palolem Beach or Agonda Beach, or do a strenuous forest climb – but the challenges help to thin out the people. It’s possible that you’ll be the only one in the flat.
Utorda Beach, while more developed than Butterfly Beach, is another beautiful escape from Goa’s more congested beaches. It has crystal-clear water, fine sand, and a few modest beach shacks. If you look intently when wading in the water, you might notice some little starfish.
Tanshikar’s Spice Farm in Action
For millennia, South India has been known for its wealth of spices such as black pepper, cardamom, and cloves. These natural flavourings were, in fact, a major draw for Portuguese traders who arrived in Goa hundreds of years ago.
Tanshikar’s Working Spice Farm & Ecological Rest House offers visitors a glimpse into the local spice scene. This agritourism destination grows seven different spices using organic agricultural methods: pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, and chile.
Tours of the farm, frequently given by the owner, will provide you with an in-depth study of these flavor-packed crops as well as an opportunity to observe some of the other items grown on the property, such as betelnut, coffee beans, pineapple, and banana. Tanshikar’s also raises bees and makes its own organic honey.
Tanshikar’s offers a variety of activities in addition to spice farm visits. Guests can also participate in a vegetarian cooking lesson, explore a bubbling lake, climb to the Mainapi Waterfall, and learn to teach yoga. It’s a place where everyone can have a good time.
Netravali is located near Smriti Yoga in Sanguem, Goa.
In Goa, food is a key draw. This region of India boasts a distinct cuisine that combines Portuguese and Goan flavours, distinguishing it from the rest of the country’s cuisine. Expect hot tastes, fresh-caught fish, and lots of coconut.
Vindaloo, a super-hot beef stew prepared with palm vinegar and dried red chilli peppers, is a must-try for everyone visiting Goa. The delectable vindaloo at Hospedaria Venite in Panaji, Goa’s capital, impresses visitors. Dominick, a Benaulim Beach institution, is another favourite for vindaloo, and it also has front-row seats to spectacular sunsets.
Xacuti, a thick curry with poppy seeds, chile, and coconut, is another Goan specialty. It’s available at Souza Lobo, a coastal restaurant in Calangute, and Fat Fish, a popular Baga eatery.
Tourists looking for fresh seafood in Goa are spoiled for choice. On Utorda Beach, Zeebop serves delectable fish curry, prawn stew, and spicy red-sauced mackerel.
At Copperleaf, you can’t go wrong with dinner. Long after you’ve finished eating, you’ll be thinking about the fish thali at the posh restaurant in Porvorim.
Bom Jesus Basilica
While many visitors come to Goa for the beaches, many more see it as a pilgrimage to key religious places such as the Basilica de Bom Jesus.
The bones of St. This Old Goa monument, which goes back to the late 16th century, is home to Francis Xavier.With his buddy St. The “Apostle of the Indies,” Ignatius Loyola, co-founded the Society of Jesus religious organisation and oversaw a large mission in India. The basilica has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.
With exquisite carvings, the modest yet imposing structure is a combination of Doric, Corinthian, and Baroque architecture. The edifice was interestingly stripped of its lime plaster in the mid-20th century, making it Goa’s only church without it. Monsoons have subsequently battered the Basilica de Bom Jesus.
You can tour the church on your own or pay a nominal price to employ one of the independent guides stationed near the entrance. Large ornate screens may be found within, as well as the body of the resident saint in a casket formerly adorned in precious stones. It’s a captivating location that will take you back in time.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated every year in late November and early December. Francis Xavier draws large people to this church. It begins with a nine-day novena with open-air masses and ends on December 3 with the primary festival.
Address: Bainguinim, Goa, Old Goa Road
In Goa, water activities extend beyond the beach. Dudhsagar Falls, a stunning four-tiered cascade that rises 310 metres above the ground, is also located in the state. It’s one of India’s tallest waterfalls, and it’s always a popular day trip destination in Goa and Karnataka.
To go to the falls, you’ll need to take a taxi or rail to the settlement of Colem. You might catch a view of Dudhsagar Falls depending on whatever railway route you pick. Then you’ll board a shared vehicle for a ride through the jungle, passing via Devil’s Canyon. After around 45 minutes, you’ll scramble over some boulders to reach the falls.
After the monsoon, when the water is rushing, is the perfect time to see Dudhsagar Falls. Tourists who want to go swimming can hire a life jacket from the attraction’s sellers.
Hot tip: Only 300 jeeps are allowed to enter Dudhsagar Falls each day, despite tour companies’ requests for more capacity during peak season. If you want to go, make reservations in advance or expect to wait in long lineups.
There are many marketplaces in Goa, but none compare to the energy and variety of merchandise found at Anjuna Market. Every Wednesday for the past 50 years, hundreds of sellers set up shop on Anjuna Beach to lure free-spirited vacationers with hippy-inspired goods and souvenirs.
Ornate fabrics, woven bikinis, deity sculptures, dreamcatchers, hammocks, magnets, snappy slogan t-shirts, beaded jewellery, toys — you name it, you’ll definitely find everything here.
Even if you don’t want to shop, you should make it a point to see Anjuna Market for the scenery. The flea market is a whirlwind of bright products, hard-bargaining salespeople, enormous sacks of fresh spices, and street food abounding. Anjuna Market is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Goa for a variety of reasons.
Address: Anjuna, Goa, 10 St. Michael’s Vaddo South
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church
Travel to Panaji, a laid-back city in Goa, to see the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, another historic church.
The spotless white chapel, which dates from the early 17th century, is perched atop a zigzagging staircase that resembles a wedding cake’s layers. The perfect symmetry of Portuguese Baroque architecture is stunning. Twinkle lights transform the chapel into something out of a fairy tale at night.
The interior of the church is vibrant and colourful, despite its lack of grandeur. Visitors can see the spectacular main altar (dedicated to Mary, Jesus’ mother) and gilded pillars with elaborate decorations. Around the holidays, blue and white blossoming vines cover areas of the vaulted ceiling.
The Festival of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on Dec. This church celebrates the number 8 as a major feast. Come see it all lit up like a rainbow.
Address: Altinho, Panaji, Goa, Rua Emdio Garcia
House of Braganza
At Braganza House, a historical mansion that faces the village square in Chandor, see what houses were like in Goa during the 17th century. It’s separated into an east and west wing, both of which are open to the public to explore at their leisure.
Members of the Pereira-Braganza family live in the east wing. It has a large ballroom with a beautiful marble floor, as well as a modest chapel with one of St. Francis Xavier’s fingernails on display. Antiques and exotic items abound in this section of Braganza House.
Braganza House’s original splendour is preserved on the western side. The Menezes-Braganças own the museum-like area, which includes a large library with 5,000 leather-bound books from journalist Luis de Menezes Braganza’s private collection, which was instrumental in the Goan independence campaign. Visitors can also witness stunning Belgian glass chandeliers, old family portraits, and Chinese ceramics.
Address: Culsabhatt, Chandor, Goa, Guddi-Chandor Road
Mahadev Temple, located 12 kilometres north of Molem, allows visitors to observe a temple that dates back to the 12th century. Its secluded location aided it in surviving centuries of Portuguese and Muslim colonial conquests. The black basalt temple, which was built to worship Lord Shiva, is said to be home to a resident king cobra, according to legend. Step inside to admire the intricate carvings of master carvers, including the ceiling’s lotus blossom.
Palácio do Deão
If you thought Braganza House was exciting, wait until you visit Palácio do Deo. Quepem’s 200-plus-year-old palace has been restored to its former splendour. Its architecture is a mix of Indian and Portuguese. Tourists are welcome to see the historic residence, which includes a game room and a library with rare books.
There are also wide tropical gardens on the property, which make for a relaxing afternoon. Make a reservation for afternoon tea on the terrace in advance.
Address: Quepem, Goa, opposite Holy Cross Church
Mangeshi Temple, a wonderful spiritual destination that has been existing for around 450 years, showcases Goa’s distinct culture and heritage. The pastel blue, gold, and white temple has a seven-story tower dedicated to Manguesh, one of Shiva’s many incarnations. The temple structures surround a sacred pool of water, which is regarded to be the religious site’s most historic feature.
Every day, worshippers perform pujas (worship rites) in the temple, which you can observe. If you visit on a Monday, you can see the Manguesh idol being carried out in a procession with music in the late afternoon or early evening.
Mangeshi Village, Mardol, Goa, Dinanath Mangeshkar Road
Put on your most comfy walking shoes and proceed to Panjim for a stroll through Fontainhas, Asia’s only Latin neighbourhood. The UNESCO-recognized Heritage Zone, which was once the Portuguese government’s headquarters in Goa, has colonial mansions and cottages with pastel and neon façades. Every year following the monsoon season, each of the houses is given a fresh coat of paint to ensure that they remain vivid for tourists. The district’s famous Fountain of Phoenix is a must-see.
You may either explore the region on your own or join a walking tour for a more in-depth look at the neighborhood’s history. In any case, wandering the small cobblestone alleyways and taking photos in front of the candy-colored buildings will work up an appetite. Refuel at one of the neighborhood’s decades-old cafés or bakeries. Confeitaria 31 de Janeiro, a bakery close to Mary Immaculate School, is well-known for its delicious Goan cakes and sweets.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Goa. The black leopard, Bengal tiger, Malabar giant squirrel, wild boar, slender loris, Indian rock python, and ruby-throated yellow bulbul (Goa’s state bird) live in the state’s largest protected wildlife region, which encompasses 240 square kilometres and also includes Molem National Park.
Using a travel company to hire a guide and visiting the sanctuary early in the morning or late in the evening boosts your chances of seeing these animals. The natural wonders of Dudhsagar Falls and Devil’s Canyon can be seen during the day. The Tambdi Surla Temple, which has survived since the 12th century due to its remote location in the forest, is well worth seeing. The Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma are intricately carved into the edifice.
Reis Magos Fort
Reis Magos Fort was built in 1493 as a fortification building to safeguard the area’s then-capital, Goa Velha. The fort is now a popular tourist destination in Goa for those wishing to get away from the beaches and learn more about the state’s rich history.
Not only has the location served as a military outpost, but it has also served as a hospital and a jail. Cannons, a modest museum exhibit on the fort’s history, and breathtaking views of the Mandovi River await visitors.
After your visit, visit Reis Magos Church, the town’s other major attraction. The beautiful white church is one of just a few in Goa that hosts Feast of the Three Kings processions and re-enactments (Epiphany). An magnificent multi-colored wood relief depicting the Three Wise Men delivering presents to the Baby Jesus may be found inside the edifice.
Address: Bardez, Verem, Goa, Nerul-Reis Margos Road, next Three Kings Church