South Goa holidays belt out a beach tune, with culture-stuffed towns piping up to provide backing vocals.
South Goa’s like a tailor-made suit for chill-seekers – a perfect fit. Peaceful struts of sand are its major calling card, and the easygoing vibe’s copy and pasted across the entire region. Conjure up an image of wind-tickled palms, dozy fishing villages and a shoreline that looks spotless enough to eat your dinner off.
The architecture here has visitors doing a bit of a double-take, with European leftovers cropping up all over the place. Most of them went up when Portuguese sailors chucked an anchor overboard, and decided to set up shop here in the 16th century. The crumbs of centuries-old fortresses are scattered along the brink of the Arabian Sea, and colonial manor houses are ten-a-penny in Cavelossim and Chandor.
We’ve saved the best 'til last by holding back South Goa’s beaches. The coastline’s painted with more than 15 miles of eggshell-white sand, which puts it among India’s top contenders in the fly and flop category. And unlike the party atmosphere you’ll see in its northern counterpart, things stay strictly within the laidback bracket. Friendly sand-side bars stay arm’s length from each other, so the waterfront doesn’t feel cluttered.
Things to See and Do in South Goa
Long and lean
South Goa’s beaches go on for almost the whole coastline – that’s about 60 kilometres of powdery, flat, sun-bleached beaches. Legend has it that the Hindu god, Vishnu, shot an arrow that landed on Arossim Beach, where it pushed back the sea to reveal all those miles of sand. This sandy spine has been a honeypot to holidaymakers ever since the Seventies, when it was a go-to spot for hippies.
The big beach
Colva is a bit of a magnet to both tourists and residents. Beach shacks have sprung up all over the place, windsurfers pepper the choppy water, and the sands are pitted with more footprints every year. It’s one of the most popular of all South Goa’s beaches – although it rarely reaches European levels of shoulder-to-shoulder cosiness.
The secret beach
Cavelossim is a real get-away-from-it-all beach. The unspoiled sands are home to a handful of beach shacks, where the chefs prepare the catch of the day. It does rouse itself some evenings to host spur-of-the-moment beach parties, but they’re still pretty laid-back affairs. The loudest noises you’ll hear are the snap, crackle and pop of a bonfire, the patter of hand drums, and the odd firework.
Colva is the place you’ll find postcards and other seaside knick-knacks that can be hard to get hold of in South Goa. Hawkers do sell this stuff on the beach, but you’ll find more choice in town, where market stalls edge the streets every day.
If you want to shop like a local, try haggling at a market. Around here, Margao is the biggie. The town has a permanent covered market that’s open all day, every day. Try it bright and early in the morning when chefs are out scouting for the best pickings. Plus, there are alleys of shimmering scarves, piles of spices, and stalls looped with flower garlands.
Julia Roberts is just one of the celebs who’s been spotted browsing Margao’s Big G store. It’s seven tiers of silk bed sheets, filigree jewellery, and traditional dresses - it’s a bit like an Indian Selfridges. When you’re done splashing your cash there, head across the road to big names like Levi’s, Woodland and Nike.
Laid-back nights are a given in South Goa. Evenings revolve around cool bottles of Kingfisher, platters of seafood, and sunset views. It’s a case of pick a beach, any beach – although smaller places like Arossim Beach and Benaulim have more of a chilled out vibe. You won’t stumble across a club here – tunes are more likely to come from a man strumming his battered guitar.
Cavelossim is usually pretty peaceful, but its beach parties have a real kick to them. They’re weekly happenings that can end up involving fireworks, fire dancers, and giant bonfires. And a bit further north is Majorda, where plenty of shacks keep their doors open right into the early hours.
Goan sausage pulao
Goan sausage is South Goa’s speciality. It’s a mash-up of Portuguese-style cured sausage and Indian masala spices. This dish uses them in a sort of paella made with basmati rice and crunchy peppers.
You’ll probably trip over jaggery in every market you come across. Sold in big, wax-like blocks, it’s a concentrate of sugar cane that’s melted down to help sweeten up dishes. Culturally, it’s pretty important – Hindus like to offer it to their deities at religious events. Plus, it’s good for you – when pure and unrefined, it’s chock-full of mineral salts.
Frothy Feni is South Goa’s 500-year-old firewater. It’s strong stuff, so try it in cocktails or with lemonade. It’s a real home-grown liquor, too, so don’t go for the unofficial stuff – stick to local brands like Cashyo and Big Boss.
This curry is sour, creamy, and bitter all at once, thanks to the combo of raw mango, coconut milk, and fenugreek leaf. To some Goans a dish isn’t complete until you’ve added fish to it, so mackerel can be thrown in to the mix, too.
Things don’t get more tropical than this. Just grab a coconut, lop the top off, stick a straw in, and off you go. When it’s dry, get a spoon and scoop out the creamy coconut flesh. Healthy and delicious, there’s nothing better for beating the heat.
Places To Stay In South Goa View all places to stay »
Cavelossim's on the southwest coast of Goa – that’s Goa of the long-reaching beaches and dramatic sunsets fame. There was a reason hippies gravitated to this patch of the map in the Seventies – there’s a laid-back vibe that encourages visitors to get busy doing nothing. Cavelossim's got the same vibe, and it’s managed to strike a happy medium between popular but not too popular.
Things To Do View all »