Goa, the former Portuguese colony on India’s southwest coast, has long been our principal recommendation for anyone considering a beach holiday to India or a few days at the end of their India tour. And its glorious, golden-sand beaches, lapped by the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, are only one of many reasons.
Quite simply: Goa is like nowhere else in the country. Different cultural norms apply here. You can sunbathe, enjoy the beach, relax in regular swimwear, and drink alcohol in cafés and bars without attracting disapproval, as you might in more conservative parts of India.
This cultural tolerance is a legacy of 451 years of Portuguese rule, and a deeply embedded holiday culture dating back to World War II, when British troops stationed across the border first started travelling to the then colony for a spot of R&R. The advent of charter flights back in the late 1980s later gave rise to a choice of beachside hotels, cafés and restaurants unrivalled in India.
Towering above the palm canopy in the centre of the state on the banks of the Mandovi River, the Baroque basilicas and cathedrals of Old Goa offer a memorable a day away the beach, especially when combined with the pretty backstreets and old-world cafés of the modern capital, Panjim. You can explore lesser visited beaches and coves in the south, savour the distinct atmosphere of the Goan-Catholic heartland, and visit local markets, with their photogenic displays of flowers, fresh tropical fruit and vegetables grown in the Goan interior.
We have our favourite hotels in Goa but the resorts themselves vary widely in character and it’s important to pick your accommodation carefully. Our consultants have scoured the state for its most appealing properties, ranging from boutique heritage stays to international-style five-stars in the dunes, and will be able to advise you on which beach and hotel combination would best suit you requirements, whether yoga and holistic therapies are your thing or you want just to flop under the palms on a tranquil stretch of soft sand.
Best time to visit Goa
November to March is the best time to visit Goa. Rainstorms are rare throughout this period, and cloudless, blue skies the norm, with maximum daytime temperatures in the low 30s centigrade. The only noticeable differences in the weather are slight fluctuations in humidity levels.
In December and January, the nights may be cool and you’ll need to switch off your fan or a/c during the night, and possibly even put a blanket over your bedsheet. The sea is blissfully warm year round.
From the end of March, the temperature gauge starts creeping up and by the middle of April the beaches are all but deserted again. The arrival of the monsoon in early June can be spectacular, as violent thunder storms sweep across the region off the Arabia Sea, bending the palm trees and soaking the paddy fields.
Christmas and New Year is by far the busiest period in Goa and if you plan to travel to the region at this time, we suggest you make your travel arrangements as far in advance as possible, as rooms in all the best hotels tend to be in short supply.