Popular Places to visit in Goa, India

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Planning a trip to Goa? Or wondering just what it is about Goa, India that makes everyone fall in love with the place? Well, there’s a lot to Goa that you must know.

A Goa trip is not just about the best beaches in Goa or lazing around in the traditional susegaat style, and eating xacuti and choriz pav and drinking beer. There are so many popular things to do in Goa, that if you look for a list of top 10 places to visit in Goa, you’ll find almost every list to be different. Mine is too!

With a little help from my friends, I’ve put together this list of famous must-visit places in Goa.

Why put together a list of best places to visit in Goa? Well, I’ve been visiting Goa for holidays since I was a kid. It’s easy to catch a flight or train from Mumbai to Goa for a weekend away. Of course back then we could only afford buses, and over the years we graduated to trains and flights.

And over the years, Goa has changed a lot too. It used to be open roads, vast reaches of coconut trees, beautiful beaches and lovely food. Well, it’s still all of that, with a bit of mass tourism thrown in now. I mean the crowd in North Goa in summer nowadays are just crazy!

But Goa still retains some of her old charm, and there are still many places to visit in Goa that have not been ruined by over-tourism. So if you’re still planning on coming to stay in Goa, here are some Goan destinations that you must visit. See my other list if you’d rather visit secret and offbeat locations in Goa.

Popular beaches and destinations in Goa

1. Butterfly Beach

The first time I went to Butterfly Beach was in 2011 on a guided tour. Since we took a boat from Panjim to get there, some of the tourists were under the impression that it was a faraway Butterfly Island. When in fact, Butterfly Beach is just a secluded cresent-shaped beach on the South coast of Goa. It lies 15 minutes North of Palolem Beach and 30 minutes South of Kakolem Beach and so can be accessed via both by boat.

Butterfly Beach with the jungle behind - TheWingedFork
Butterfly Beach with the jungle behind

The name butterfly beach obviously comes from the number of butterflies that are known to inhabit the beach. We didn’t see any though. We did like the clear water for swimming and the odd crabs that were around. Snorkelling here means you will see a few fish and sea cucumbers. But the beach is great for just plain ‘ol swimming too. Post which you can enjoy lunch on the shore.

The fact that you cannot drive here keeps the beach clean and away from the crowds. But if you are the adventurous type, you can get here by hiking through the nearby jungle for about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Dolphin watching near butterfly beach - Pic by my aunt Marthie - TheWingedFork
Dolphin watching near butterfly beach – Pic by my aunt Marthie

On the way back, we did dolphin watching in the same trip. Didn’t really expect to see them, but we turned out to be lucky. Yippee Yay! Wish we had better cameras though.

2. San Jacinto Island

St Jacinto, Vasco-da-gama - Pic by Stuti from Me and My Suitcase
St Jacinto, Vasco-da-Gama – Pic by Stuti from Me and My Suitcase

Stuti from Me and My Suitcase says there’s a lot to see in Goa but its hidden gems are intriguing. Vasco-da-gama, the commercial city of the state is not very famous for tourism but it does have some fascinating points.

When you are on the way to Vasco from Cortalim Junction, you will see an island know as St Jacinto aka San Jacinto island, connected to the mainland by the Silver Gate Bridge.

It is a beautiful little island considered as the most exotic part of South Goa for its lush green forest, houses constructed in old style on the south western coast and a beautiful old church which stands out and can be seen even from far away.

The island has got its own charm, looks pure, serene and by being here you can feel the tranquility of mother nature. This beauty is incredibly maintained because of its people who had vowed way back in 1927 not to ever sell or give their island on lease or even to the government for construction of any kind.

The island also has an old spring which serves for drinking water to the locals, a light house which gives a perfect view and a hilly terrain in the interiors which attracts a lot of hikers to indulge in a little adventure. This beauty on the Panaji-Vasco highway is a must visit.

3. Church of St. Augustine in Velha, Old Goa

St Augustine's Tower in Velha, Old Goa - Pic by Olivier from TheWingedFork
St Augustine’s Tower in Velha, Old Goa – Pic by Olivier from TheWingedFork

My brother Aaron talks about the Augustine tower. In the Velha region of Old Goa on Holy Hill (Monte Santo) and just off the banks of the river Mandovi sit the ruins of the tower of St. Augustine’s monastery and those of the once enormous church of Nossa Senhora de Graca (Our Lady of Grace).

Augustinian friars initiated construction of this once stupendous structure after their arrival in 1587. Construction of the monastery and the church was completed between 1597 and 1602 giving the Nossa Senhora de Graca the reputation of being one of the 3 greatest Augustinian churches of the Iberian world, the other 2 being the Basilica of Escoral in Spain and St. Vincente de Fora in Lisbon.

My sis Abby at St. Augustine's Tower - Pic by Olivier from TheWingedFork
My sis Abby at St. Augustine’s Tower – Pic by Olivier from TheWingedFork

The tower was one of 4 original towers that stood at this site. Measuring 46 meters this once colossal structure served as a Belfry. Excavations reveal that the church comprised of 8 chapels and 4 altars amongst the many other cells connected to it and a convent.

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The church had an enormous barrel vault (collapsed 1842) which covered its now exposed nave. The sheer weight of the enormous vault is believed to have quickened the collapse of the church post abandonment in 1835.

The bell which once adorned the now dilapidated tower was moved to the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim in 1871 where it is to this day. In 1931 half the tower collapsed and subsequently more sections in 1938.

St Augustine's Tower in Velha, Old Goa - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
St Augustine’s Tower in Velha, Old Goa

There is another myth or legend associated with St. Augustine’s Tower and the relics of Ketevan the Martyr, the Queen of the Georgian kingdom of Kakheti.

After the death of her husband, she became regent and made her still young son the king. As regent, she was tasked with the duty of being an emissary to Iran. To prevent Kakheti from being attacked she allowed herself to be taken hostage. Queen Ketevan was eventually tortured and killed at Shiraz in Iran in 1624 for refusing to give up her Christian faith.

The Augustinian missionaries took her remains back to Georgia but also secretly brought some of her parts and interred them in the monastery here in Goa. So goes the story of the Queen who lies in two places now. There have been attempts to locate her remains, but so far all that has been found are records documenting them.

These beautiful ruins escaped me on previous visits to Old Goa but I would definitely recommend visiting St Augustine’s tower if you are in and around Old Goa. I most definitely would. Again. I love historic Goa as much as I love exploring forts in historic Jaipur or hidden caves in Mallorca.

4. Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes

Rita's Gourmet cooking classes - Pic by Rita from Rita’s Gourmet, Goa
Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes – Pic by Rita’s Gourmet, Goa

Another novel way to experience Goa is by attending the fun and educational Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes. Rita shares her decades of knowledge about Goan and local Indian cuisine with every eager student and traveller. The most famous class is the One day Cooking Class with Local Farmer’s Market Tour (Five Hours)

Rita's Gourmet cooking classes - Pic by Rita from Rita’s Gourmet, Goa
Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes – Pic by Rita from Rita’s Gourmet, Goa

I asked Rita what she thought was the essence of Goan food, and this is her reply:

Goan food is full of flavour, aromas, presentation & taste well backed by years of culinary history. Goan food compliments with the suave people of Goa who love their food, feni and festivities along with a good Susegado life.

If you’re looking for a different experience of Goa that will give you both memories to remember and a dash of Goan cooking skills, join Rita’s Gourmet cooking classes in Goa!

5. Calangute Beach

By Priyadarshini from Glorious Sunrise

Boats at Calangute Beach - Pic by Lian Chang - Source Wikipedia CC BY 2.0
Boats at Calangute Beach
Pic by Lian Chang from Wikimedia CC By SA 2.0

It is known that Goa is popular for its beaches, but travelers say that Calangute beach is among the best beaches in this coastal state. Calangute is in the northern part of Goa and is a charming town with friendly locals. Apart form its world-famous beach, this town has many other attractions for tourists including Saint Alex church, Casino Palms and Tibetan Market.

Calangute beach is quite a beautiful and long stretch along the Arabian Sea covering about 6 kilometers. It is a favorite for tourists as well as locals and is fondly called as the ‘Queen of beaches’. For this reason this beach is packed in May and from December to January. So, if you do not go well with crowds, try to book your vacation for non peak season to enjoy this beach’s exquisite beauty.

Parasailing, water skiing, water mobiling are some of the popular water activities to do at Calangute beach apart from swimming. With numerous palm trees around the beach, it would be easy to just plop down and relax on the beach for the whole day too. Of course, this spot has a throbbing nightlife and great spots to grab some delicious food.

6. Mapusa Market in Mapusa, Bardez

By Abby from TheWingedFork

The best local Goan market to shop at for anything and everything, the Mapusa market is held every day within the Municipal Market quarters. It’s probably also the largest Goan market out there. One can find food and clothing, but not shelter. The sun beats down hot on your head as you shop here, so if you want shelter, you need to either wear your cap or get your umbrella along.

Simonia Stores at Mapusa - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Simonia Stores at Mapusa
Simonia Stores at Mapusa - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Simonia Stores at Mapusa

I’ve been going there on holiday since I was 12. My parents pick up all the items they want to bring home to Bombay from here – cashews, wine, doce, bibique, jaggery, kokum, sausages and more. First stop Simonia’s for the sweets.

They’d also buy the fare for lunch and breakfast sometimes. Because dinners in Goa were always had at one of the many local restaurants. Of course, there were days we stayed in too. But why stay indoors when you have local Goan cuisine and culture at your fingertips?

Lady selling kokum and tamarind in Mapusa market - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Lady selling kokum and tamarind in Mapusa market

Anyways, at Mapusa market you literally can buy everything. There’s a section for veggies, fruits and flowers. There’s a bit for chicken, meat and fish. Even dried fish and prawns. There’s a section where you find t-shirts, shorts, nightgowns, dresses, caps, belts, undies, bras, wholesale cloth by the metres, carpets, and almost everything else. Don’t forget to bargain here! You’ll find pottery, cutlery and plastic items. You’ll find almost cashewnuts in almost every flavor from the local growers. Tamarind balls, jaggery pyramids, kokum, dried chillies, and spices and more.

Goan sausages sold at Mapusa market by aunties with baskets - Pic source Wikimedia
Sausages in Mapusa Market
Pic by Frederick Noronha from Wikimedia CC By SA 4.0

We buy both regular and choriz sausages from the aunties sitting with their baskets on the floor. They are homemade and taste better than the ones in the stores. Tangier and spicier!

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To experience shopping like a local, this is the place to be. I also find the products in Mapusa market to be cheaper than those in Madgaon (Margao market) and still of quite good quality. 😉

7. Budbudyache Taley aka Netravali Bubbling Lake

By Abby from TheWingedFork

Netravali Bubbling Lake or Budbudyache Taley - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Netravali Bubbling Lake or Budbudyache Taley

There’s a lake that’s really a pond and bubbles year long. If you’ve visited more than once you probably know what I’m talking about. The mysterious Netravali Lake or Budbudyache Taley in Netravali, Vichumdrem keeps bubbling all day and night.

No one knows where the bubbles in this pond that’s called a lake come from. Scientists have tried testing them under the aegis of the government. They wanted to see if the bubbles were cause by methane gas. But that has been proven wrong given that a few varieties of tiny fish live in this pond.

The bubbles also respond to some sounds. Clap your hands and the bubbles rise faster through the clear water to break at the surface. The lake or really pond is a centre of religious significance to the locals along with the neighbouring Gopinath Temple.

The lake can be accessed all days of the week from 8 am to 8 pm. And a tidbit to leave you with – ‘budbud’ means bubbles in the Konkani language. Hence the name of the lake, Budbudyache Taley or Bubbling Lake.Don’t expect to spend more than 10 to 15 minutes here though.

The lake is quite close to a number of spice farms. So if you’re in the area visit the Tansikhar Spice Farm, Kushavati Spice farm or any of the others.

8. Arvalem Caves aka Pandava Caves aka Harvalem Caves

Cave_dwellings_at_Harvalem in Goa- Wiki
Arvalem Caves
Pic by Somnathk from Wikimedia CC By SA 4.0

Near the Bicholim Taluka and Arvalem Falls are the Arvalem Caves. They can easily be reached via a short drive from the Arvalem Falls and are open from 9 am to 5 pm with a break from 1 pm to 2 pm.

The caves were dug out of a single laterite rock in the 6th century by Buddhist monks but may also have Brahmin origins due to the presence of the four shivlings. Locals believe that the caves were earlier occupied by the 5 Pandava brothers during their exile – namely, Sahadev, Bhim, Yuddhistir, Arjun, and Nakul.

The Shivlings in the caves that have been carved out of granite are similar to those at Elephanta caves and Ellora caves. There isn’t much more to see, but the caves stand testimony to the enduring works of man.

If you’re looking for these caves, you might have to look out with the alternate names, Harvalem Caves or Pandava Caves.

9. Baga Beach

This beach in North Goa is a hot spot for local and international tourists. The flatter banks make it a tad safer for swimming. At the Northern end there are backwaters that are calmer too.

You can see fishing boats lined along the shore, children frolicking in the water, and adults getting their sun tans here. The numerous restaurants also offer sunbeds for visitors to lounge. At the end of the beach, the hawkers sell their trinkets and bhel or other Indian snacks, while the restaurants offer a respite from the heat with their chilled beers and local flavours.

Rainy day at Baga Beach in Goa - Pic by TheWingedFork
Rainy day at Baga Beach in Goa

I’ve never thought of taking pictures here, because it’s where we’ve been going almost every year for a holiday since we were kids. But this time I promised myself, take pictures, come rain or shine.

And “it came rain”, haha! But got them pics anyway. Here’s mom and dad at the windy Baga beach.

My parents at Baga Beach in North Goa - Pic by TheWingedFork
My parents at Baga Beach in North Goa

10. Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim, Goa - Pic by DFon from Goa
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Panjim, Goa

Built as a small chapel in 1541, the church was converted to current size in 1609. The church overlooks the passing traffic in the busy city of Panjim, Goa’s capital city.

The bell in this church once adorned the Augustinian ruins of the Nossa Senhora da Graça or Our Lady of Grace that’s located in Old Goa, and is the second oldest bell in Goa.

The baroque facade is painted white to represent Virgin Mary’s purity, while golden alters with Saints Peter and Paul on either side of the Virgin adorn the interior.

The church doesn’t have to much to offer, but does provide a bit of peace and quiet in this noisy centre of Goa.

11. Ponda Street Market

Quite close to the daily municipal market that sees vegetable, food, fish and meat vendors, there is the street market that fills Upper Bazaar Street or Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Locals from neighbouring areas come here with their produce, making it the perfect spot to get fresh fruits, vegetables, and more.

Snacks and Sweets at Ponda Market - Pic by TheWingedFork
Snacks and Sweets at Ponda Market

The streets are also lined with vendors selling household goods and cheap items of clothing. We stopped by here to get our favourite ginger covered malvani khaja that my Goan friend says is called kaduo buduo. See those things hanging in the packets? Yep, that’s them! Yummy!

12. Candolim Beach

My parents and sis at Candolim Beach in North Goa, India
My parents and sis at Candolim Beach in North Goa, India
Looking to the North of Candolim Beach in North Goa, India
Looking to the North of Candolim

Located in the North of Goa, Candolim Beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. Although it’s not as crowded as Calangute Beach, you’ll find throngs of Indian tourists there most of the time. The once quiet beach access has over time turned into a busy promenade filled with stores, hawkers and restaurants.

Facing South at Candolim Beach in Goa, India

You can still find just enough space to swim here. But don’t be surprised when you find Indian tourists going into the water fully clothed; or if you find both men and women staring at your swimwear. It’s an everyday occurrence here. Take it with a pinch of salt. Well, most of the time! There are some times when you just can’t.

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Anyways, there are also options for boat rides and other watersports on this beach. You won’t have to look for them. The sales guys will come up to you offering different rates, sometimes all of them at once. Noisy!

Sunset at Candolim Beach in North Goa, India
Sunset at Candolim Beach

This pic of the sunset at Candolim Beach was taken by my sis Sarah. She loves taking pics of sunsets and animals and nature as you’ll find from all her other posts.

If you want to know the secret and hidden places of Goa, see my other list here!

The best places to stay in Goa

Wondering where to stay in Goa? We’ve got some tried and tested list of beach resorts in Goa from my friends and myself. Here’s a summary of the budget-friendly choices!

Lazy Frog Resort on Carmona Beach

By Bradley from Dream Big, Travel Far

Lazy Frog near Carmona Beach - Photo Credit Lazy Frog
Lazy Frog near Carmona Beach – Photo Credit Lazy Frog

As budget backpackers, we always try to find the highest quality accommodation on a budget, and honestly think Lazy Frog Resort is your best bet in Goa.

Rooms at the Lazy Frog - Photo Credit Lazy Frog
Rooms at the Lazy Frog Resort – Photo Credit Lazy Frog

It is incredibly modern and clean, and they even have a pool, considering the cheap accommodation in Goa. The on-site restaurant is affordable and serves wonderful Indian cuisine. If you find yourself in Goa looking for short-term affordable accommodation, stop here!

Lazy Frog is in Orlim Rd, Carmona, Goa 403717, India
Phone: +91 70661 53390
Email: lazyfroggoa@gmail.com

Sea Star Resort at Agonda Beach

By Jenny from TraveLynn Family

Sea Star Resort – Pic by Jenny from TraveLynn Family
Enjoying the Sea Star Resort – Pic by Jenny from TraveLynn Family

Situated in South Goa, Agonda Beach is a far cry from the concrete jungles and party beaches elsewhere in Goa.

We were visiting Goa with kids (aged 2 and 4) and loved the huts at Sea Star Resort. The real treat here is falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the ocean. Bliss.

Sea Star Agonda Resort
Agonda Beach North side
Dhawalkhajan, Agonda 403702, Goa, India
Phone: +91 99233 32896
Email: info@seastar-agonda.com

Maaria Riose – Melody of the Sea in Dabolim

Mariaa Riose - Photo Credit Mariaa Riose
Mariaa Riose – Photo Credit Mariaa Riose

On our last night in Goa, mum and I stayed at this affordable boutique hotel close to the airport. Translating to ‘Melody of the Sea’, Mariaa Riose is a 7-minute drive from the airport and a 10-minute drive from Bogmalo beach.

Deluxe room at the Mariaa Riose - Pic by Abby from TheWingedFork
Deluxe room at the Mariaa Riose

The deluxe rooms were pretty spacious with two sofa chairs, a small fridge, safety deposit box, and other amenities. But they did require a climb to get to. But their mattresses were beyond awesome!

Maaria Riose
1/6B, Gallint, Opposite 1st Navy gate, Alto Dabolim, Goa 403801, India
Phone: +91 832 253 8666
Email: hotelmariaariose@gmail.com

Cinnamon Agonda on Agonda Beach Road

Spacious rooms at Cinnamon Agonda - Photo Credit Cinnamon Agonda
Spacious rooms at Cinnamon Agonda – Photo Credit Cinnamon Agonda

In South Goa, where there are lesser parties and more peace and quiet, you’ll find the Cinnamon Agonda resort and others. Mom and I spent a few nights here enjoying the open-air showers but contending with the mosquitoes in the balconies.

With the beach a short 5 minutes away, it was a pleasant place to stay.If you’re wondering, rooms 101 to 103 are closest to the open bar.

Cinnamon Agonda
Agonda Beach Rd, Canacona, Goa 403702, India
Phone: +91 91588 06297
Email: info@cinnamonagonda.com

Colonia Santa Maria in Cobravaddo, North Goa

The pool at Colonia Santa Maria - Photo Credit CSM
The pool at Colonia Santa Maria – Photo Credit CSM

These colonial-style villas are halfway between Calangute and Baga beaches. We stayed here over 20 years ago, but they’ve grown better since then. Clean and spacious, the bungalows are fully equipped.

Plus, there is a pool to lounge at and the sea a short walk away. It’s like staying in Goa of old.

Colonia Santa Maria
CSM road, Khobravaddo, Calangute Goa 403516, India
Phone: +91 832 227 6107
Email: reservations@csmgoa.com

Fernandes Wooden Cottages in Palolem, South Goa

View from the upper floor balcony of our shack at Palolem Beach, Goa - TheWingedFork
View from the upper floor balcony of our shack at Palolem Beach, Goa

Fernandes Wooden Cottages consist of eco-friendly cottages in South Goa, you know where I shared that secret with you, at Palolem Beach.

Sash Fernandes and his staff are very helpful and can arrange vehicles for trips to other parts of Goa. You can ping him for more info at info@fernandeswoodencottages.com or Whatsapp him at +91-7875232056

Fernandes Wooden Cottages
Palolem Beach, Canacona Goa 403702, India
Phone: +91-7875232056
Email: info@fernandeswoodencottages.com

Talpona Paradise Beach House

A quaint house on a quiet beach, where you can walk out for a swim night or day. This old Talpona Beach, South Goa that’s been converted into a rental is perfect for those looking for solitude and open eaches that others don’t visit.

The green house on Talpona Beach that we stayed at
The green house on Talpona Beach that we stayed at

We chose the smaller 55 sqm green villa with the 2 rooms, a living room, a bathroom, and a small kitchen that’s equipped with a fridge, gas stove, cooking utensils, plates, cutlery, and more.

View of Talpona beach from the green house yard
View of Talpona beach from the yard of the green house

There’s a larger more modern white house nearby also for rent. Either way, for those seeking solitude this out-of-the-way rental is perfect.

Talpona Paradise Beach House
Talpona Beach House #190, Canacona, Goa 403702, India
Phone: Guy Weisman +91-7066129588
Deepak +91-9923562203
Email: Guy_weisman@hotmail.com

What do you love about Goa that’s unique? Which are your favorite places in Goa? Comment and let us know!

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