10 reasons to visit Goa, India’s capital of coastal cool

Tamara Hinson
Get all the winter sun you need in Goa: Getty

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Craving some winter sun? There’s never been a better time to check out Goa (aka India’s capital of coastal cool), thanks to a spate of recent hotel openings and Virgin Atlantic’s relaunched London to Mumbai flights, which take to the skies at the end of October 2019.

Here are 10 reasons to visit...

There are fantastic new hotels popping up

You’ll find the Hilton Goa Resort, which opens in December 2019, perched above the banks of the Nerul River, making it the perfect base if you’re keen to explore beyond Goa’s beaches. We’re also rather smitten with Postcard Resorts’ recently opened Goa hotels – you’ll find the brand’s three heritage properties well away from the beach, in Moira, Velha and Cuelim.

For sheer opulence, it’s got to be the Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, close to the ramparts of a 16th-century fort; while guests at Cabo Serai, which opened in mid-2019 in south Goa, can stay in luxurious tents or beautiful cottages. For travellers tempted by the self-catering route, consider Ama Stays & Trails’ two new boutique villas in Candolim.

Ama Stays & Trails has two new boutique villas (Ama Stays & Trails)

There’s a whole other world beyond the beach

A growing number of tourists are realising there’s so much more to Goa than golden beaches, whether it’s Goa’s Unesco-listed churches and convents (the late-Renaissance Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier, is a favourite) or the colourful chaos of Panaji, the region’s capital. And it’s easier than ever to explore this side of Goa, thanks to tours like the ones offered by b:live, which specialises in e-bike tours of lesser-known destinations such as Divar Island.

The church of Bom Jesus in Old Goa (Getty)

It’s shaping up to be India’s adventure capital

In August 2018, India unveiled its second bungee jumping site – 55 metres above the shimmering Mayem Lake in north Goa. And there’s no end to the ways in which adrenaline junkies can get their fix. Fancy a spot of parasailing? The best spots are Bogmalo, Calangute, Colva, Majorda and Anjuna. It’s now possible to try flyboarding at Baina Beach, while Majorda and Candolim are two fantastic destinations for windsurfing and kitesurfing. And for further proof that Goa isn’t just about the beach, head to Upper Sauri Canyon – a popular canyoning spot.

Cycling is the new SUP

Keen to burn off that biryani? It’s never been easier to explore inland Goa by bike. Several hotels have joined forces with bike-based tour operators: one example is the Hilton Goa Resort, which has linked up with Goa-based bike tour operator b:live to offer guests tours of nearby sights, such as the pretty village of Saipem.

It’s now even easier to get there

If you’re heading to Goa from the UK, the quickest route is via Mumbai, and in late October, Virgin Atlantic launched new flights from London. From there it’s just a short hop, and you’ll have a number of brilliant budget airlines to choose from. If you’ve got time to spare, consider taking the train. The journey takes 14 hours but you’ll pass through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes, including the Western Ghats and mountainous Konkan region. Tour operator Goa Experience can also book direct flights.

Explore Goa’s many beautiful sights by bike (Getty)

The beaches are looking better than ever

Goa’s litter problem has been widely reported in the past, but the situation’s improving, thanks to regular organised beach clean-ups alongside innovative schemes such as the one recently organised by Drishti Marine, a private beach management agency. The organisation set up a pop-up waste bar, allowing visitors to pick up a free beer or cocktail in exchange for 10 bottle caps, 20 cigarette butts or five used plastic straws. The cleaner, clearer waters have transformed it into one of India’s top diving destinations, and popular spots include Baga Beach, with its rich selection of marine life, and the waters surrounding Grande Island, where you’ll find the submerged wreck of SS Rita, a British cargo ship.

Goa’s beaches have undergone a big clean-up in recent years (Getty/iStockphoto)

It’s an important time to show your support

The collapse of Thomas Cook has hit Goa hard – it was one of the tour operator’s most popular long-haul destinations. On the plus side, it’s a great time to show your support for the region, because the holiday firm’s collapse means this year’s peak season (from November to February) will inevitably be slightly quieter, meaning fewer crowds and more choice when it comes to accommodation.

You’ll never go hungry

Washing down ocean-fresh plates of calamari with cheap bottles of Kingfisher is all well and good, but Goa’s culinary scene is evolving at lightning speed. Take Ashvem Beach’s La Plage restaurant, where you can dine on traditional Goan cuisine with a French twist, or the delicious Burmese cuisine on offer at Bomra’s in Candolim. And then there’s Arpora’s Royal Enfield Garage Cafe Goa, which is a restaurant and live music venue as well as a motorcycle hire and repair shop. Head here to gorge on a mix of deliciously diverse cuisine (you’ll find everything from hearty burgers to seafood spring rolls), surrounded by rare Enfield motorcycles.

Goa has plenty to offer foodies (Getty/iStockphoto)

Winter sun

Desperate to get away from England’s cloud-filled skies? Goa’s the perfect antidote. Visit Goa in peak season (between November and February) and you can look forward to 11 hours of sunshine a day, minimal rain and temperatures of around 30C. Monsoon season in Goa lasts between June and September, although don’t let that put you off. Although the sea is colder and rougher, showers are short and sharp, and Goa is at its greenest during the monsoon period, making it a brilliant time to explore places such as Mollem National Park, on the state’s eastern border.

It’s one of India’s most wallet-friendly destinations

Sure, you can come to Goa and spend thousands of pounds on a night in a suite at a five-star hotel beloved by Bollywood types, but you can also base yourself at one of Goa’s brilliant homestays, or book a hut on the beach for just a few pounds a night. Take Agonda Beach’s Om Sai Beach Huts, for example – their nightly rates start from just £18 per hut. Food and drink is wonderfully cheap, too. Top of your list should be Panjim’s Bay 15, a laidback beachfront restaurant famous for its chicken xacuti (a type of curry popular in Goa). You’ll pay around £15 for a meal for two, including drinks.

Travel essentials

For more information on booking a holiday to Goa, visit goaexperience.co.uk

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