After monsoon, winter is knocking on the door making incredible India to unfold its vibrant feathers to let everyone embrace her. In run up to the New Year’s celebration, amidst the carols of Christmas, Goa would again be the most sought after travel destination. Undoubtedly, Goa achieves its glory in December when Christmas and New Year pull the string and bring Goa back from slumber of Monsoon.
For me it is not only a travel destination, but a state of mind which embraces you tightly and then enriches you lavishly. My tryst with Goa started in 2007 and since then, I have been to Goa for three times. Every time, I sensed an unprecedented nostalgia of yestercentury in the air romancing with laid back lifestyle of Goa. Goa has many facets but my favorite is the one where life rocks slowly on armchair, relaxes amidst coconut trees, strolls through dropping palm trees and sips tea with European sophistication and sometime roams around in the streets filled with old world charm. Other facet of Goa is noisy, hippie, vibrant, clamorous, youthful and synonymous with fun, music and dance. No matter what is your preference, Goa is there to spell bound you its youthful whims & laid back tantrums and you come back with handful of life-lasting memories.
Goa’s charm lies in its multi hued life style which is a mélange of many cultures assimilated during many centuries which make it a different and distinct travel place. Goa is a true melting pot of various cultures for in last 2000 years, from being a part of Mauryan Empire in 3rd century BC, it has seen a golden period of Hindu Rulers of Satvahanas and Chalukyas, atrocities of Muslim Ruler, Maratha invasions, landing of trade ships from across globe, and then Colonization by Portugal for 350 odd years followed by arrivals of Hippies in 70s and now a fast paced world of 21st century. It celebrates its diversity like no other state in India.
Goa was the Jewel of Portugal’s vast empire and over the centuries earned many sobriquets such as Pearl of Orient, Oriental Paradise, Lisbon of East, Rome of east etc. With its towering churches, convents, cathedrals, chapels, and elegant Fontainhas, this place is a nostalgic reminiscence of the grandeur and magnanimity it achieved during the reign of Portugal.
As winter is coming, Goa is set to offer awesome reasons to celebrate life during Christmas and New Year. Let me list down 10 amazing facts on Goa which you must know as first time traveler to Goa:
- Goa is best traveled on bike or open car/jeep. You may also opt for two wheeler taxi here which is unique to Goa and not found anywhere in India. These are known as pilots and can be found around all major tourist attraction.
- Being on the western coast of India, Goa offers best views of Sunset. Golden hour shots are full of colors and warmth.
- Goa has two parts – North Goa and South Goa. North is for clamorous nightlife and crowded beaches whereas south is for tranquil coast line and solitudinous stay.
- Under Portugal’s influence, Goa has adopted some of their way and have taken the tradition of siesta little seriously. Goa slumbers into a siesta everyday from 1 pm to 4PM. Can we call it Indian Land of Siesta!!
- Goa is the only place in India where Casinos are legal. One can cruise on Mandovi river and gamble in floating casinos.
- Calangute Beach is the longest and most visited beach in North Goa which is also knows as queen of beaches. The best way to enjoy beach life in Goa is to stay closer to beaches. For Calangute and Bagha Beach one such stay option is Neelam The Grand Goa.
- It has highest density of bars in India – 7000 bars. Club Tito’s and Café Mambo’s are most famous for vibrant nightlife. For party animals, however, I would suggest Club Cubana which position itself as the night club in the sky. It is located on a hill and rated as the best place to hangout post 10 PM.
- Walking tour through Old Goa and Fontainhas – Old Goa or Velh Goa along Mandovi River is full of heritage, historic places, palatial churches, museums and European architecture and all these has made it UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rich Portuguese heritage can be seen in Chapel of St Sebastian, Se Cathedral, Convent of St. Francis Assisi, Chapel of St. Catherine, Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Church of St. Caetano, Latin Quarters known as Fontainhas are must visit places. Basilica of Bom Jesus is famous for non-decomposing body of St Francis Xavier who is regarded as the patron saint of Goa.
- One of the primary reasons for world tourists to visit Goa is because of its music festivals. Festivals and music concerts with an eclectic mix of the different forms of music make Goa a Land of Music Festivals. Sunburn and Supersonic have enthralled visitors for years and this year Time Out 72 Music Fest will be held.
- Goa has many firsts to its name – First English Medium School, First Medical College, First Printing Press.
- Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, an estuarine mangrove habitat, on the Island of Chorao on Mandovi River is a must go place for bird lovers. It can be reached via boat ride and must be visited early in the morning.
- Countryside of the Goa must be explored for its takes you through verdant fields of Western Ghats. Rural roads through drooping trees take you to humble villages. Still far from everyday modernity, these small villages give you real pulse of true Goan way of life.
Nestled between Arabain See and verdant western ghat, Goa has Sea shore, Spice farms, Old churches, azure beaches, vibrant night life, enthralling waterfalls. All in all, its soul soothing air is filled with solace and peace which brings you closer to yourself. In my view it should be declared as the land of good times.
First time traveler to Goa – How to reach Goa
For first timers, I strongly recommend train journey to experience breathtakingly picturesque Konkan Railway which runs parallel to Arabian Sea cutting through western ghat and boasts of 2000 bridges and 91 tunnels.
First time traveler to Goa – Where to Stay
For me, Goa is all about experiential vacation and to enjoy best of both world – Laid Back and Clamorous. So for, the first time travelers, I suggest to book a relax stay in North Goa near Calangute or Bagha Beach such as Neelam the Grand Goa. Calangute has everything to make your first Goan Experience memorable.
First time traveler to Goa – Best Time to Visit
Peak tourist season:
December and January: To see Goa Carnival and celebrate Christmas and New Year.
(Another season is Monsoon during July and August to enjoy its natural beauty at peak.)
Quick Reference – For a brief history on Goa, click here –