Goa is well known for its vibrant beaches amongst travelers all across the globe. But, vacationing in Goa is not only about beaches. India’s smallest state packs an assortment of things to explore and enjoy. The best places to visit in Goa comprises a fine mix of charming beaches, ancient forts, colonial Portuguese edifices and natural marvels.
From my experience of Goa trips, I have come across two types of travelers. Some are totally enamoured by the laid back vibes of the beaches here and happily spend most part of their vacay touring their favourite beaches umpteen times.
On the other hand, some travelers want to explore even the offbeat spots, besides the most popular places. I can safely say that I belong to this segment.
This itinerary is exactly what I followed during my first Goan vacation. Go through the post for a rundown of the 12 best places to visit in Goa in three days.
A Quick Glance Through
- How To Reach Goa
- List of Best Places To Visit
- Other Interesting Spots to Visit
- Where To Stay
How To Reach Goa
Goa is easily accessible by train from other parts of the country. Margao, also referred to as Madgaon, is the closest railway station to reach South Goa.
Madgaon Railway Station is around 36 km away from Panaji, the capital of Goa. The nearest railway station to North Goa is in Thivim which is about 24 km from Panaji.
Dabolim Airport, located about 30 km from Panaji is the closest domestic as well as international airport.
Terminal 1 is for domestic flights and terminal 2 for international flights. It has direct flights from cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Dabolim Airport is well linked to international locations like Muscat, Sharjah and Moscow.
If you can’t find a direct flight to Goa, then the next best option is to arrive in Mumbai. There are a plethora of options for reaching Goa from Mumbai. Regular buses including private and state transport buses ply from Mumbai.
List of Best Places To Visit in Goa
Scroll down to know what each of these places has to offer to make your vacation unforgettable.
Day 1 – North Goa Beaches
North Goa has a wealth of magnificent beaches. A vast expanse of gleaming sand dotted with beautiful shacks, it is a beach lovers’ paradise.
1. Baga Beach
Baga is one of the most touristy beaches in North Goa. Along with the adjacent Calangute beach, they are often referred to as sister beaches. Baga and Calangute are right next to each other and you can go walking from one beach to the other.
It is visited by almost all who holiday in this coastal state. In addition to golden sand and the vast blue sea, they offer great opportunities to indulge in a lot of thrilling watersports. There are numerous shacks on the beach where you can relax and feast on your favourite seafood.
The bustling little lane leading to Baga beach hosts some of the popular Goan clubs including Tito’s and Cafe Mambo. Hordes of party lovers visit here to enjoy Goa’s nightlife.
2. Candolim Beach
I happened to discover Candolim beach during the Aguada Fort visit. It’s almost impossible to miss breathtaking views of the serene Candolim beach while you amble through the ruins of the fort.
Relatively less crowded, Candolim beach is one of the best places to visit in Goa. It is dotted with an array of shacks and restaurants, offering lip-smacking seafood dishes.
There are plenty of choices for water activities at this beach such as parasailing, jet skiing, bump ride, banana ride. Charges are nearly in the same range as Baga and Calangute.
Candolim beach is contiguous with another peaceful beach, known as Sinquerim Beach. This is exactly where Aguada Fort is located. It is a Portuguese Fort which was built nearly 400-year ago to defend against powerful forces like the Marathas.
Tip: It is recommended to rent a bike for the local commute as local buses are usually crowded. Autos and cabs charge on a per-trip basis and the rates are not fixed.
3. Vagator Beach
Blessed with picture-perfect environs and a gorgeous beachfront, Vagator beach is located to the north of Calangute. If you are heading to Vagator from Calangute beach, it is a 25-minute ride by a bike.
The scenic backdrop provided by wonderfully placed cliffs add to its charm. It is segregated into two beaches – Big Vagator and Little Vagator, also called Ozran Beach.
Big Vagator is more popular with family travelers whereas Little Vagator hosts mainly backpacking tourists.
Vagator is unarguably one of the best places to visit in Goa for those who want to relax and rejuvenate. Besides its clean and beautiful shoreline, the beach also offers spectacular views of sunset through rocky cliffs.
I managed to squeeze all three beaches of North Goa in a day as they are fairly close to each other. I would recommend going to Vagator and skip Candolim if you don’t have enough time to explore all three beaches in a day.
Day 2 – Culture Tour
On the day 2, you can experience the cultural richness of the state. At the first glance, it appears too many places to cover in a span of one day. But it is not. I booked a full-day tour that took me through all these spots.
4. Dona Paula
Nestled at the confluence of the Mandovi and the Zuari rivers, Dona Paula village is one of the best places to visit in Goa. It is home to some of the famous tourist attractions that include the whitewashed Dauna Paula sculpture, the scenic Dona Paula beach and jetty.
It is equally popular as a photography spot since the beach offers stunning views of the Arabian Sea. This village is named after a Portuguese woman named ‘Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior’ who was the daughter of a Portuguese viceroy.
There are many folklores associated with this place. It is said that she ended her life after not being allowed to marry the person she loved. Earlier known as Oddavell village, the village was renamed in her memory.
Our tour guide took a lot of pride in telling us the popularity of this location with Bollywood. ‘Ek Duje Ke Liye’ and ‘Singham’ are some of the popular Hindi movies shot here.
5. Basilica Of Bom Jesus
Our next stop was The Basilica of Bom Jesus, an architectural marvel of Goa. It is one of the oldest churches in the state and a World Heritage Site.
The mortal remains of a venerated Catholic priest, St. Francis Xavier, are preserved here. It is built in Baroque style architecture which was once popular throughout Europe.
6. Se Cathedral
Se Cathedral is located right opposite to Basilica of Bom Jesus. It took almost 100 years to build this church back in 1562. Se Cathedral is acclaimed as the largest church not only in India but in the whole of Asia.
Well known for its Portuguese-Gothic architecture, this church is one of the best places to visit in Goa. A large bell, referred to as Golden Bell, is a must-see attraction in the church precincts.
7. Shri Shantadurga Temple
Dedicated to Goddess Shantadurga, Shri Shantadurga Temple is situated in Kavalem village, almost 30 km away from Panaji. It houses idols of Goddess Durga, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.
Legend has it that Goddess Shantadurga stopped a battle between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu by mediating between the two. The temple exhibits a distinctive style of Indian architecture with an influence of Gothic architecture.
Adorned with brightly painted buildings and villas, the Fontainhas area is famed for its Portuguese legacy. It is known to be India’s only Latin Quarter.
Small winding lanes, colourful houses with tiled roofs, Fontainhas has well-preserved its historic charm. A stroll through this heritage locality of Panaji gives opportunities to experience the Portuguese influence on Goan culture.
9. Mandovi River Cruise
An hour-long cruise ride on the river Mandovi was the last activity for the day. The ride is accompanied with a lot of music and folk-dance performances.
From the cruise, you can get a panoramic view of the Mandovi river and the picturesque surroundings. It attracts a large number of frolicking tourists. If you are averse to be in a crowded place, then you can skip this.
Day 3 – South Goa Beaches
South Goa boasts an array of tranquil beaches that serve as a perfect spot to laze under the sun and enjoy a peaceful beach vacay.
10. Palolem Beach
Surrounded by swaying palm and pine trees, Palolem Beach is one of the best places to visit in Goa. The sapphire blue sea against the backdrop of towering trees is a sight to behold.
It is an excellent beach for swimming and sunbathing. Dolphin spotting is another popular activity here.
Palolem is much less crowded compared to the beaches in North Goa. So, it is a must-visit for those looking for peace and quiet. The beach is just about 4 km away from Canacona Railway station.
11. Colva Beach
A little over an hour ride from Palolem takes you to the peaceful Colva Beach. Rent a bike or car whatever works for you. Watersports and beach shacks are plentiful at the beach.
It is popular as a sunset beach in south Goa. In the evening it gets a bit crowded with tourists who visit to enjoy a captivating sunset at the beach.
12. Benaulim Beach
From Colva beach, it is about 30-35 minutes’ walk to Benaulim. If you have a bike, it wouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
It is a clean and tranquil beach that is frequented by locals more than tourists. You can see umpteen fishing boats docked near the beach. A lot of restaurants on the beach offer fresh and delectable seafood.
Benaulim is one of the best places to visit in Goa for those looking to escape the chaos of crowded beaches.
Other Interesting Spots to Visit
In addition to all the best places to visit in Goa, you can also explore off the beaten track destinations on an extended vacation. Dudhsagar falls and Divar Island are worth a visit.
Dudhsagar waterfall, located some 60 km from Panaji, is one of India’s highest waterfalls. The white foamy waters of the falls create an illusion of milk streams gushing down the rock.
Divar Island is situated on the Mandovi River nearly 10 km away from Panaji. It is accessible by ferry from Old Goa. Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the island offers plenty of natural beauty and peace.
Aside from these, Goa hosts some of the noted wildlife sanctuaries in India. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary are wildlife explorers’ haven.
Where To Stay
Accommodation booking is one of the most important parts of travel planning. But, Goa has never disappointed me even when I have booked my tickets at the last moment and arrived in Goa without prior hotel booking.
Goa offers numerous choices to travelers matching their budget. North Goa is packed with budget hotels, besides the luxury ones. CSM Beach resort and Keys Select Ronil Resort are some of the good options near Baga Beach.
South Goa is teeming with upmarket resorts and hotels. ITC Grand Goa, Taj Exotica Resort and The Leela are great choices for a luxurious sojourn in Goa.
Over To You Now…
From this list of best places to visit in Goa, which all spots have you been to? Tell us in the comment section below.
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