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India is, as anyone who has ever been there will confirm, not an easy country to visit. Your trip will always depend on many factors, of course. When you travel in a group, you will certainly have a different experience than a woman traveling by herself.

In the south you will have a different experience than in the north, during the monsoon a different experience than in the dry season and so on. But still: Guys, India is a crazy place! Because of that, many first-time travelers decide to make a detour to Goa either at the end or at the beginning of their India trip, where you are shielded from the usual hustle and bustle, the madness of India, the poverty, the traffic, the honking and all the other aspects that make India so hard to digest (literally).

Goa in Southern India – a legendary dream destination by the sea

Horizontally growing palm tree in South Goa, India

I would recommend to visit Goa rather at the beginning of your trip, because then you can adjust to India slowly and gently and dampen the inevitable culture shock.

South Goa is a little more quiet

Palm trees, endless beaches, friendly locals and cheap beer: India’s smallest state on the west coast has always been a destination of longing for many westerners: it was the final destination of the famous “Hippie Trail”, where in the seventies young people from all over the world met in their VW buses, did yoga, tried all kinds of substances and lived a simple life by the beach.

Palm trees and boats in South Goa, India

This vibe has now almost completely disappeared: Goa is now mainly a party spot for young Indians who want to escape the craziness of their mega-cities and forget the daily routine for a few days. The hot spots for (party) tourists are mainly in North Goa.

South Goa is a bit quieter (if you are looking for a party, you will surely find one anyway), with long, clean beaches and very cheap accommodation. The season in Goa is from December to May. Travelling outside of this period is not recommended because the restaurants and bungalows are being dismantled, the waves are very high – and it’s raining!

To get the most out of your trip to Goa, I have put together 6 tips for you to help you prepare.

Cow on the beach in South Goa, India

1. Location is everything!

That applies to all trips around the world? Yes, of course, but in Goa even more than anywhere else! Goa features a coast of over 100 km and places of interest are scattered far and wide. Unlike in Bali, for example, you can’t decide spontaneously where you want to stay, but have to plan ahead a little.

A scooter is essential – but be sure to get a helmet. Accidents with cows are very common and put you in a very dangerous situation. So please drive carefully.

I have experienced that accommodation in India seems to be lacking in quality, compared to other countries in Southeast Asia – so make sure you check the room before you move in. In South Goa I would recommend to stay in Palolem (the busiest place), Patnem (the one with the best beach) or Agonda (the most chilled out). You can also easily travel back and forth between these three places by scooter.

Our bungalow by the sea, South Goa
Our bungalow in South Goa

2. Enjoy the wonderful, clean, and dreamy beaches of South India

Surprisingly – considering the rest of India – the beaches of Goa are very clean and tidy. The water is hardly polluted (unlike the rainy season in Bali, when you have to wade through bouts of plastic in the water to surf), clear and has a very pleasant temperature.

Views of the sea and the south Goa coast

The picture-perfect beach of South Goa is most definitely Palolem Beach – which is understandably busy. On the wide, white beach are hawkers, massage people, dogs, cows, sunbeds, restaurants, bars and shops. You can find everything you have (n)ever searched for. The beach section lined by coconut palms is beautiful – especially in the evening when the restaurants put their tables out – but during the day it is really, really busy.

View of Palolem Beach in South Goa
Palolem Beach

Patnem Beach (my personal favorite) is almost as beautiful – less wide, less palm trees though – but much quieter. There are sun loungers, which belong to the respective beach restaurants, where you can drink a chilled coconut and look at the waves. The water is just as clean – but the place itself feels a bit more chilled out. Not a real insider tip, but here you can spend a very relaxed day at the beach.

Sunset at Patnem Beach in South Goa
Sunset at Patnem Beach

Agonda Beach is a beach for purists. The wide, white sandy beach is completely empty – restaurants and bars are not allowed to place sunbeds or stalls on the sand – and you can walk for miles without being disturbed. If you like sunbathing, you might not find this beach very suitable as there is no shade and there are only a few places where you can buy a drink. Perfect for sunset, but probably too hot during the day.

3. Stretch, relax, yoga!

India as the birthplace of Yoga is of course a dream destination for all yogis and yoginis. Scattered all over India you can find countless yoga schools, yoga teacher trainings and further education courses in yoga, massage, meditation and so on.

If Rishikesh (the “yoga capital” of India) in the north by the holy river Ganges is too cold for you and if you fear culture shock too much, you should unroll your mat in Goa. Many yoga schools are located directly by the sea, e.g. the famous Kranti Yoga with its shala opening up to the sea, where classes are held from morning to night. The classes are very popular – especially in the high season.

Otherwise, many hostels and bungalow complexes offer their own courses. You can find almost every style, from Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin to the classic Ashtanga/Mysore. From dynamic, more fitness-oriented classes to more meditative/relaxed classes, you will surely find a class which suits you.

4. Try the local specialty: Goa Fish Curry!

Indian food absolutely delicious and rightfully popular with international travelers in Goa. Unfortunately, however, you have to search a bit for South Indian food, because many restaurants mainly offer the more famous North Indian food. This is what you also know from most Indian restaurants in Europe: Paneer, naan bread, rich creamy curries and tandoori dishes. Although this is undoubtedly very tasty, I recommend to try the South Indian cuisine which is more coastal, full of fresh fish, veggies and coconut products.

Influenced by its proximity to the coast, you will come across mainly dishes with fish, seafood, coconuts, fresh vegetables and a generous pinch of chili. Absolutely delicious! If you are still a bit scared of spiciness, you can sit with your feet in the sand in one of the many beach restaurants in the evenings and try grilled fish, prawns, squid or other seafood where you can adjust the fire.

5. Watch the sunset on the beach

The sunsets in Goa are breathtaking! The sky shimmers in all shades from soft orange to fiery red, from purple to midnight blue. Many restaurants offer a happy hour at this time and place chairs or beanbags on the beach. Cows and dogs run across the sand, people play Badminton or Frisbee, others get their selfie stick out – a perfect, imperfect sunset in South Asia.

Dreamlike sunset in South Goa, India

6. Discover the area with a scooter

Since you have certainly rented a scooter (with a helmet!), you are independent and can explore the area to your hearts content. While the above mentioned beaches are great for relaxing, you might still long to see something different after a few days. A trip along the coast alone is worth it. In the towns and villages you can still marvel at the Portuguese-style architecture (Goa was a Portuguese colony, so most Goans are Christians). The colourful churches are fabulous to look at (and take a photo of).

If you are not too keen on sightseeing, you can simply visit another beach. Cola Beach might be worth considering the arduous and dangerous journey over steep gravel roads. There you can find a freshwater lagoon that stretches almost to the sea and borders an often virtually deserted beach. However, the way to get there is not for inexperienced scooter drivers.

The Cola Beach Resort on Cola Beach in South Goa, India
The Cola Beach Resort on Cola Beach

From Palolem Beach you can also rent boats to see dolphins and get to other small beaches. As often in India, you are not alone there, but have to share the beauty of nature with many other tourists and their cameras. Therefore, I would rather recommend to explore the coast on your own. By doing so, you actually have a chance to find almost empty beaches.

Rock and boat tour at Palolem Beach, South Goa
Boat tour at Palolem Beach

About the author

Guest author

If she’s not doing yoga or racing around Indonesia on a motorcycle, Lisa will be found close to a turquoise beach, preferably a glass of red wine in her hand and sand between her toes. Having lived in Southeast Asia for more than 4 years, she’s fallen deeply for this part of the world – if only there was more ‘real’ Pizza around! You can follow her travels and hunt for Pizza on Instagram: @lisa_asia

Have you ever been to Goa? Maybe even in the south? What were your impressions?