When planning a trip to an exotic destination, many people pick India due to its rich cultures, wealth of dining options and must-see destinations like the Taj Mahal. Of course, India is a huge country. Mumbai is a totally different experience than, say, Kerala.
And the western state of Goa, which still features relics of Portuguese colonization, might offer the most unique experiences of all.
Goa is a tropical paradise with pristine beaches, mountains and an amazing wildlife sanctuary. Skip the car rental and bus trips if you visit Goa and experience the area as it’s meant to be experienced: On two wheels.
“If you ask me to name the best part of Goa, it’s not the beaches, parties or hippies,” travel blogger Christine Kaaloa writes at GrrrlTraveler.com. “The best part of Goa was the simple fact that I could see half of it, from the vantage point of a rented scooter!”
We recommend you do the same. Here are some great resources for putting together an unforgettable motorbike tour of Goa’s sights.
North Goa is ideal for beach bums who want to spend their vacation soaking up the surf and sand. Anna at Global-Gallivanting.com shares some of her insights into what she believes are the best beaches in the area: On Morjim Beach, she says, you may see some cows basking in the sand alongside sunbathers. Ashwen and Mandrem are not too far away, and all are renowned for their cleanliness. Prepare to see lots of yogis and Russian tourists sprawled out on the sand if you do go. For North Goa hotels << click here.
Querim Beach, much better known as Keri Beach, features a Hindu temple in the distance that’s electric pink. Anna calls it “perhaps the last secret beach paradise in North Goa,” noting that it’s beloved for its “beautiful stretch of soft, golden sand, shaded with tall casuarina trees and calm seas that are lovely for swimming.” If you’re on a budget, you can hang out and spend some time in a shack. Anna points out that you’re somewhat detached from the party culture here though.
You can hang glide at Kalacha Beach (or you can watch others do it). With jagged cliffs acting as a type of barrier, you won’t see as many tourists here compared to other beaches in North Goa.
Vagator, a seaside village, is great for foodies because it boasts a selection of restaurants right near the beaches. Here, too, you’ll find plenty of cliffs and jutting rocks, so definitely be careful if you plan to swim. Just above the northern coast of the village is a Ganesh shrine right on the beach, and further south you’ll find Ozran Beach, with its own Shiva statue.
Shri Shantadurga Temple
In Dhargal, the Shri Shantadurga Temple is close to Panaji and Mapusa and is an easy ride by motorbike. Dating back to 1550 CE, Kevin Standage(kevinstandagephotography.wordpress.com), who runs his own travel photography blog, found that the temple wasn’t a huge tourist destination, though. “People were just going about their daily routine without much of a second glance that I was exploring the complex,” he observed, “and I don’t think this place gets many outside visitors.”
If you’re eager to see a true Indian milestone, Se Cathedral, the biggest church in the entire country, is a good place to start. The building, one of the clearest signs of Portugal’s former influence in this region, includes six altars and eight chapels all in honor of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. India at a Glance(indiaataglance.com) notes that the best time to visit here is between November and February, when the weather is most pleasant. The cathedral is open between 07:30 until 18:00 daily.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
History and architecture fans must see the Basilica of Bom Jesus, a tomb in which the body of St. Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, is buried. As Nikita Sawant of TravelGuru.com mentions, this structure was erected in the late 1590s CE and is “one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in India.” Sawant suggests stopping by the Basilica on 3 December if you are around. This is when the Feast of St. Francis Xavier is celebrated, and you can possibly see the body of the man himself (this only happens once every decade, though).
Annabel Langley at holiday company Thomson’s blog(thomson.co.uk) wrote a captivating piece that compares North Goa to South Goa, but she also calls attention to North Goa’s Arpora market. Known as the Saturday Night Market, this area only sees the best action after the sun goes down. While you can visit during the daytime, come back at night when the most vendors are selling food and souvenirs.
It doesn’t all have to be churches, temples and other impressive buildings in North Goa. When it gets dark, this area comes to life with beach parties that will blow you away. TripiGator(tripigator.com) highlights 10 other clubs and bars that are worth visiting, but few are as visually impressive as the UV Bar in Dmello Vaddo of Anjuna. With techno every Wednesday and live music throughout the week, UV Bar brings in a crowd even during monsoon season.
Thalassa(thalassagoa.com), a Greek restaurant in Vagator, is owned by Mariketty Grana, who is originally from Corfu. Located right near Ozran Beach, the menu includes lamb chops, gyros, horiatiki, stuffed squid and tzatziki.
Magic Park(magicpark.info), in Arambol, is captivating not only for its plants and other greenery but for the fact that it doubles as a spiritual center and yoga space. You can find healthy vegan food here.
Need more options? Try a seafood spot in Calangute called Souza Lobo(souzalobo.com). One of the most established spots in all of Calangute, most diners think that the king fish steak, baked crab and grilled red snapper are the tastiest dishes on the menu.
Or, party the night away at Curlie’s in Anjuna. This nightclub has daytime hours and outside dining that allow you to look at nautical views and even try some freshly caught fish dinners.
You should also make time to eat at a restaurant called Britto’s, where there are plenty of spirits and other beverages on hand as well as succulent seafood.
If renting a hotel seems pricy, why not sleep on the beach? You can at Soneca Cola Beach in South Goa, Wayne Dunlap of Plan Your Escape(unhooknow.blogspot.com) writes. The beach features handmade tents that, as Dunlap says, “were what the rulers of India used on their excursions.” That’s right, you can sleep like royalty.
Of course, these tents are anything but primitive: You also get access to your own bathroom, which comes complete with a shower and a toilet. Each bathing space is furnished with Maharajas relics.
Sarah Robinson, also at Thomson’s blog, writes a lot about the beaches in South Goa, too. She notes that you shouldn’t miss the Dona Sylvia Beach Resort in Cavelossim Beach for a five-star, picture-perfect experience. The beach here looks like something out of a vacation guide brochure, with its gorgeous sands and translucent water.
Bollywood stars prefer Dona Paula Beach nearby, enough so that the name is taken from one such actor who supposedly loved this particular beach almost obsessively. Anyone who travels with a big appetite should make their way to Majorda Beach, where bakers prepare and sell their breads to sunbathers all day long.
Writer Abhishek of Thrillophilia.com mentions some other great beaches in the area, including Betalbatim Beach. “The golden sands blend well with the swaying coconut palms on the fringes,” Abhishek notes.
If that dreamy description isn’t enough, dolphins sometimes poke their gray bottlenoses up through the deep ocean blue. Rent a personal watercraft here, eat at the Monsoon Bar or Fisherman’s Shack, and then spend a night at A’s Holiday Beach Resort.
Agonda Beach is a good hour and a half away from the Dabolim Goa International Airport and has hordes of tourists. Athletic types will love the windsurfing here, and party people can appreciate the abundance of beach shacks and bars.
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
South Goa has a lot of parks and wildlife reserves, but Anuradha Goyal of Inditales.com calls the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary a “walker’s paradise” on her blog. Hop off your bike and take a stroll down the trail to check out flowers, water and trees. The butterfly park and Bela Lake should not be skipped, either. Goyal notes that you can even stay here overnight, so bring a tent if you like.
FashionLivre.com says Margao features an inventory of “all types of foods; raw, cooked, ready to eat and ready to make.” You can pick up a rainbow of fabrics and hats, handbags, jewelry, shoes and sunglasses from the different vendors that sell here regularly. All items are of great quality and make for good presents to bring back to your loved ones.
House of Braganza
For a step back through time, make sure you head through Chandor to see the House of Braganza. With Portuguese-style design work, the whole home is filled with ancient artifacts and is open to tours. Impressions of a Gypsy Mind(travelyarn.blogspot.com), a travel blog, wrote a great post that has many captivating and gorgeous pictures of the Braganza House, including shrines to St. Francis Xavier.
Start your morning at the Blue Lagoon(bluelagooncola.com) in Benaulim because it offers great continental breakfasts.
Colva is home to an establishment called Kentuckee(kentuckeeseafood.com), which Travelyaari(blog.travelyaari.com) writes “probably serves the best food in Colva.” However, make sure you carve out some time in your schedule when dining here; Travelyaari says it takes a bit longer to get your dishes delivered to your table.
For vegans and vegetarians, Agonda’s Blue Planet(blueplanet-cafe.com) is a great option.
Another beloved restaurant in South Goa is Matsya Freestyle Kitchen in Pernem. Gome Galily, the establishment’s head chef, is from Israel. He has experience learning his craft and working in Monaco and Bangkok, cooking for private clients and alongside big names in the culinary world.
Tripzuki’s Matthew Parker explains what eating at Matsya is like: “The food he [Galily] delivers to the table in Goa is the kind that’s savoured long after the meal is over, with the pleasure heightened by virtue of not knowing what’s coming your way, since there’s no menu.”
Renting a Motorbike
- Rent a Bike — Rent a Bike serves most of Goa, so you can pay for a motorbike and then ride to the Dabolim Goa International Airport, Margao, Vasco de Gama, Panaji, Benaulim or Arpora. All bikes are two-wheelers, and you can rent them online by inputting the pickup date and return date.
- Classic Bike Adventure India — You can rent a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet from Classic Bike Adventure India. Every bike has left-side gear shifting and electric starters. You receive unlimited mileage when you rent, and you can also take advantage of Classic Bike’s 24-hour customer service hotline and its free tour kit.
- Arambol Goa — If you plan on seeing Arambol, stop in at Arambol Goa to pick up a motorbike for your travels. Motorcycles are available in 350cc for moderate trips and 500cc for thrill-seekers.
- Go Holiday Homes — While Go Holiday Homes mostly offers cars for traveling through Goa, you can also find a few motorbikes so that you can feel the wind through your hair as you take in the beauty of this state.
- AdMo-Tours — Although based in California, AdMo-Tours seeks to “provide motorcycle and dirt bike enthusiasts with all the information necessary to plan a great ride or vacation” anywhere across the world. AdMo does note that its motorbike availability is limited in Goa, but its fleet includes the Honda Karizma 220, the Royal Enfield 500cc Bullet E-Start, and the standard Enfield Bullet. You get the bike for a whole week and can enjoy unlimited mileage, maps and theft insurance.
Other Things to Know
- Travel resource Jewel in the Crown Holidays notes that you should plan your trip anytime between October until May. The days will be sunny and warm, but not too humid. It’s best to avoid visiting during the months of June through September, Goa’s monsoon season.
- You may need some vaccinations before your vacation, so make sure to book an appointment with your doctor well before your flight so that you’re prepared. To keep healthy, choose bottled water over tap water and make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.
- Before you go, make sure that you have a passport that is good for at least 180 days. You’ll also need a visa. This allows travel to be as smooth as possible and prevents you from possibly getting stuck in India.
- To be on the safe side, always leave five or 10 percent as a tip because your bill will note likely have a service charge. Also, on a note of etiquette, swimsuits are fine for the beach, but when visiting old churches, temples or shrines, avoid showing too much skin.
Swaminathan, ruben alexander, wonker, Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay, Molesworth II, Mikhail, Esteves, justorace