What to Expect from Goa
Featured destinations: Goa
Published 21 June 2017
Goa is known for a lot of things, from its hippy hedonistic culture in the 60s to all-inclusive package holidays.
But don’t let that put you off. I recently travelled to Goa for a 10-day holiday and didn’t really know what to expect. But I came back full of enthusiasm and love for the place. There are so many things going for this charming, raw and sunny destination that it makes it the perfect winter sun destination. Here’s why:
Wherever we went the locals were friendly, charming and helpful. They went out of their way to help us, whether it was to cross a busy road, or to offer us directions, and they wanted nothing in return. In Goa they value their tourist industry and it really shows from the kindness shown by various people during our trip.Spices for sale in a Goa Market image: Lucy Tolley
Indian food in India; what more can you ask for? Admittedly I did opt for the slightly more continental breakfast of jam and toast as curry in the morning perhaps isn’t my thing. But there was no shortage of incredible authentic homemade curries, naans, bhaajis, pakoras and other dishes and snacks to choose from. But never fear; for those who aren’t curry fans, there was an abundance of other foods to choose from, with all of the western favourites, but it would be sacrilege not to try traditional local Goan curry.
Sunset in Goa
Provided you go to Goa between October and February, you are pretty much guaranteed sun. We literally didn’t have a single cloud in the sky whilst we were there and it was glorious. If you push into February/March it does become quite a bit hotter, but from November to January there is a lovely sea breeze which takes the edge off the sun’s heat. But be careful: our pale winter skin isn’t well equipped for that sort of intense sun, so take ample sun cream with high factor to avoid the burn!
Goa is cheap. The accommodation is cheap; the food is cheap; the beer is cheap; the transport is cheap. It’s all so reasonably priced that you can have a fantastic holiday on merely a shoestring. Better yet, there’s something for everyone, whatever the budget: there are plush 5-star resorts for those who fancy a little luxury, there are lovely traditional Portuguese homesteads, and there are little wooden beach huts.
Palolem Beach image: Lucy Tolley
Although their sands are not as white as in southeast Asia, Goa’s beaches have a charm all of their own.
For the best beaches head to south Goa. Palolem has a lovely beach with water so calm, it’s perfect for swimming and paddle boarding. While it can get quite busy, there is always an air of chill and calm which probably originates from the backpacker vibes of the area.
Cows on the beach in Agonda image: Lucy Tolley
Rated the best beach in India, Agonda has long golden sands and tall palm trees and is very clean. In the evening everyone comes out to the beach, including the resident herd of cows, to admire the incredible sunsets across the water. Beware of the sea though; the tide can be very strong.
Turtle nursery, Goa image: Lucy Tolley
Not only is Agonda a scenic paradise, it is also home to a turtle nursey. Here, tourism and nature work side by side, and during turtle egg laying season volunteers collect the eggs immediately after they are laid and take them to the turtle nursery. Here they are protected and incubated before the baby turtles are assisted back to the water when they hatch.
Yoga on the beach
Goa is the place for Yoga. There are yoga centres, retreats, beach yoga…you name it, Goa has it. Even if you don’t partake you will come home feeling more relaxed as the chilled vibes seem to radiate about the place.
Lucy in the Western Ghats image: Lucy Tolley
The Western Ghats
If you want a little more adventure than sunbathing and eating curries, you’ll be glad to know that Goa has a little secret: its neighbouring state Karnataka has the Western Ghats mountain range running straight through it.
The mountains run parallel to the west coast of India through various states and are one of India’s best kept secrets. The scenery is incredible; drive up the windy roads, brave the hairpin bends and the hair-raising local driving methods. It makes for an interesting journey, but it’s worth it.
The Western Ghats image: Lucy Tolley
To top it off, the Western Ghats is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight hottest hotspots for biodiversity in the world. There are vast open lava fields situated in between the dense rainforests and open grassland hills, while rivers snake their way through. Talking of snakes, there is no shortage of those about either, with an estimated 20 species living in this mountain range.
Dog on the beach in Goa
It well known that there are a lot of stray street dogs in India, and Goa is no different. However, these street dogs are mostly really healthy happy little guys. There are various active animal charities that go round and carry out basic health checks, castrating and spaying the dogs to regulate their breeding. The locals seem pretty happy to have the pups about, and a lot of restaurants have an adopted dog that they care for.
Heart-breakingly, having travelled around parts of Asia and Africa, I’ve seen unhealthy, starving stray dogs and cats all too often, so it’s positive to see healthy attitudes and active charity work being undertaken to tackle the problem.
Goa is a diverse, vibrant and charming destination. If you are looking for more than just a beach holiday – check it out!
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