North Goa holidays put a traditional spin on your classic beach break. Standout sands hold hands with fizzing marketplaces, thatched-roof bars and Portuguese architecture.
North Goa’s got more variety than a Christmas selection box, with everything from roomy beaches to historic sites in its repertoire. You’ll find European-style churches and a Portuguese fortress in slow-paced Candolim, and buzzy nightlife and around-the-world dining in neighbouring Calangute. Arpora, meanwhile, is a more timid character, but gets a throng of visitors to its famous Saturday Night Market.
The seafront scenery’s the most extravagant feather in North Goa’s cap. You’d need a set of binoculars to see from one end of the beach to the other, and it’s polka-dotted with every-colour sunloungers and thatched-roof beach bars. Watersports are a worthy runner-up to lounging on the sand, with jet-skiing and parasailing among the most popular picks.
Shopping and sipping
Calangute and Baga have forged a reputation with younger crowds in India as the place to be for retail therapy and burning the midnight oil. Bustling marketplaces carry more clout than the hotchpotch of permanent shops, and rummagers are rewarded with good quality textiles, ornaments and clothes. And when evening comes calling, the pinky-red sunset’s replaced by a tint of neon from the gaggle of bars and clubs.
Things to See and Do in North Goa
North Goa’s main tanning drag ticks all the major boxes. The sand’s sofa-soft from start to finish, and comes with a mix of lively and laidback portions to suit your taste. Plus, from the Baga River at the top end, to the Sinquerim Fort at the base, the waterfront rolls out for more than four and a half miles. In plain terms, it’d take an hour and a half to schlep between the two.
The big beach
Calangute Beach is like royalty in these parts, and even has the nickname the ‘Queen of Beaches’. It’s one of the longest ribbons of sand in the entire region, and big portions of the biscuit-tinted shoreline are laced with loungers, parasols and high-spec watersports equipment. And when the daylight starts to wane, the freshly bronzed crowds hit the sea-facing bars in their droves.
The secret beach
At the foot of North Goa’s strung-out strip of sand is Sinquerim Beach. This portion of sunbathing territory’s much quieter than its neighbours a little further along, with snack shacks and palm trees providing a toned-down backdrop. One of its major calling cards is a 17th-century fort which pokes out from the sandy seafront.
The Saturday Night Bazaar in Arpora’s a godsend for bargain hunters. Lamp-lit stalls form mini shopping streets, which are brimming with everything from local snacks to spices and shoes. Live musicians and fire dancers keep the atmosphere buzzing, too.
You’ll recognise a bunch of names at the Caculo Mall, which is half an hour’s drive from Candolim. Oakley, Nike, Ray-Ban and Levi’s are among the brands on show, and the shopping centre’s got a bowling alley, a haunted house and a 7D movie theatre in its back pocket, too.
Swanky fashion buys are on the cards if you head to Calangute’s Siolim Road. It’s a who’s who of top Indian designers around here, with boutique shops selling made-to-measure outfits in traditional and international styles.
Gather up your gear after a sunbathing sesh on Candolim Beach, and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to post-tanning bevvies. Thatched-roof shacks are posted right along the sand, serving chilled bottles of the local beer and cocktails in every colour in the palette.
Titos Lane, in Baga, has a big reputation with partygoers. It’s the place to be for the best drinks deals and clubs that stay open from dusk ‘til dawn. The clutch of open-sided beach bars nearby do a solid job for early evening tipples, too.
Crab xec xec
The locals know their way around a seafood dish, and this one’s a real fave. Flaky crab meat’s served in a coconut, coriander and spice-scented curry, with the claws placed on top.
You’ve got North Goa’s Portuguese forebears to thank for this grilled chicken dish. The meat’s cooked on the bone with a mix of green chillies, peppercorns, garlic and ginger.
This dish is like the regional take on sweet and sour. Shark meat’s served in a tangy sauce made from red chillies, peppercorns and tamarind, with a dollop of white rice on the side.
These look like little diamond-shaped biscuits, and are often served at Christmas in North Goa. The recipe blends chickpeas, coconut paste, sugar and ghee, so the taste is super sweet.
Picture a teacake without the chocolate, and you’ve got an idea of what sanna look like. They’re fluffy little cakes made from coconut, sugar and rice flour.
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