Holidays in Goa
Seductively laid-back, Goa is India-meets-Portugal, a recipe of whitewashed churches, fish curry, markets, yoga, a colonial state capital and the Arabian Sea. The white sands, crystal-clear waters and swaying palm trees make the region very enchanting. A colourful and welcoming place, this distinctive west coast state is known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’. It revels in its party-paradise reputation during its countless festivals, not to mention the bars and clubs that throb with music after sunset.
Goa enjoys a hot subtropical climate with a monsoon season and dry season.
The only airport in Goa state is Goa International Airport (or Dabolim Airport).It’s about 40km south of Calangute and Arpora, and 28km south of Dona Paula.
Dive into the blue Arabian Sea, a melting pot of cultures, and the experience of a lifetime when you book a Thomas Cook holiday to Goa.
Central Goa is home to Dona Paula, a bustling suburb and former village that has its own intriguing romantic legend. Come here for sports and adventure – it’s home to its own Watersports Centre. Further north is Calangute’s buzzing resort centre and large beach; this is the perfect place to party and shop, and for being at the heart of the action. Close to Calangute’s bustling beach is fishing village Arpora, which has a rather more tranquil vibe. Here you can explore everything Goa has to offer, and indulge in its famous weekend market.
Goa’s history, heritage and natural beauty are celebrated at every turn. Head to Old Goa for its museums and stunning 16th-century ruins, and to the lush and peaceful Mollem National Park within the Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. Under Goa’s tropical sun, the beaches are irresistible, and dotted with bars and restaurants. There’s no need to pack your swimming costume, as North Goa has some great-value swimwear shops. Shopping in Goa is an attraction in itself, with boutiques and bazaars to suit every budget. Bring home some beautiful handmade textiles, local spices – and some swimwear for your next trip.
One of the top things to do in Goa is eat. Thanks to its Hindu origins and Portuguese influences, Goa’s cuisine is an irresistible blend of tropical and spicy flavours - vegetarians and seafood lovers are well catered-for here. Try a richly flavoured prawn or fish curry with rice, or a fiery vindalho (vindaloo). Wash it down with a cool Kingfisher beer, Himalaya water, or a yoghurt-based lassi. With beach shacks and gourmet restaurants alike serving food from practically any country you can name, there’s something to suit every palate and budget.
Laid-back and relaxed days turn into energy-filled nights as the sun sets. Long known for its party atmosphere, Goa is packed with clubs and bars pumping out an eclectic range of sounds. Club Tito’s, Café Mambo and SinQ are among the must-visit places in Goa for a night of clubbing, playing everything from house and trance to hip-hop and dubstep. For a more laid-back atmosphere try a lounge like Café la Musica, or The Sol. After-hours activities in Goa include visiting its elegant casinos, such as the Casino Palms on Baga beach, or the casino ships on the Mandovi River.
Rich in culture and natural beauty, Goa has an array of adventures and cultural gems. Take a drive on the wild side and go freshwater crocodile-spotting in Cumbarjua, and you’ll catch these creatures lurking in the lush wetlands, home to a variety of marine life and birds. Go sightseeing in Calangute’s UNESCO-listed Old Goa; the magnificent ruins of this 16th-century capital of Portuguese India include the Church of St. Catejan, and the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Visit the Kerkar Art Complex in Calangute to enjoy an evening performance, or simply wander around its small gallery.
Happy campers: Camp on secluded Khola Beach, an idyllic hideaway at Goa’s southern tip.
Foodies: Enjoy Goa’s famous Hindu and Portuguese-fusion cuisine – the fish curry is a must.
Language: The languages spoken in Goa are Konkati, English, Marathi and Hindi.
Currency: The currency used in India is the India Rupee (INR). You are only allowed to purchase INR on arrival in India.
Local time: India is 5.5 hours ahead of GMT/UK time.
Fly to: The only airport in Goa state is Goa International Airport (or Dabolim Airport).It’s about 40km south of Calangute and Arpora, and 28km south of Dona Paula.
Flight time from UK: 9-9.5 hours
Tourist Information: Further India tourist information can be found here.
Visa & Health: Before you travel, click here for recommendations and advice on visas and health for your holiday to Goa.
Temperature: 25-30 (°C)
Swimsuit weather is the standard no matter what time of the year you visit Goa. Temperatures very rarely drop below 25 in the peak of winter, and highs of 34 aren’t uncommon during the summer. Goa experiences heavy rainfall during the monsoon season between June and September, but practically no rain at all through the rest of the year.
By bike/scooter: Zip around Goa on a bike or scooter, just like the locals do. Bikes are available to hire nearly everywhere you look.
By car/jeep: Cars and jeeps can be hired by the day for bigger parties.
By taxi: Taxis can be expensive, but at least in Panaji you can get a fixed-rate service – most drivers in Goa don’t use a meter.
Private driver: If you’re thinking of having a full day out in Goa by car, book yourself a private driver.
Religious festivals: Goa’s Christian and Hindu heritage is reflected in the festivals, and Panaji especially plays host to a fabulous array of religious and non-religious events.
Heritage Festival: Check out the Goa Heritage Festival in November: two days of food, music and festivities celebrating the region’s history.
Big feast: In December, Old Goa bursts into life during the big Feast of St Francis Xavier.
Holi: Experience Shigmotsav, Goa’s take on colourful Hindu festival Holi in February/March, and don’t miss the vibrant Sabado Gordo (Fat Saturday) festival, held before Lent as part of Goa’s Carnival celebrations.