India has long been a favourite among holidaymakers across the globe and Goa in particular has captured the popular imagination. The country’s smallest state, this west coast idyll offers sun, sand, culture and sumptuous cuisine. It is not just tourists from Europe, America and other far-flung destinations who are making the trip there either. Increasingly, middle-class Indians are flocking to Goa’s beaches and coconut groves to lap up the relaxed atmosphere on offer in the state.
Prepare to be amazed if you’re travelling to open your mind and are planning 2014 last minute holidays in an impulsive burst to do it. While there, you can luxuriate on beautiful white sands and swim in sparkling warm waters. You’ll also get to experience the mixture of cultures on offer in Goa. A Portuguese outpost in India for almost half a century, it still displays many symbols of colonial rule and its food combines Lisbon flavours with typical Goan delights such as coconut milk and chilli.
The weather, scenery and culture are no doubt what first attracted hippies to Goa in the 1960s, and this alternative, laidback culture remains very much in evidence along many of its beaches. To experience this side of the state, make your way to the north. There, you’ll get to see where the ‘Goa Freaks’, who were the first European hippies to arrive in the state, first settled.
Beaches such as Anjuna still attract free thinkers who want some space and time to reflect and relax.
For something a little edgier, head to Chapora and Vagator. These destinations have plenty of cafes filled with people smoking and chatting.
Some Quiet Time
Once you’ve had enough of these pulsating hippie spots, you can head to altogether quieter destinations along the coast. In the north of the state, Keri remains almost empty, meaning you can enjoy virtual isolation on this long beach.
Meanwhile, a half-hour drive from the main tourist hub lie Morjim and Ashvem. If you time your visit right, you can even check out the protected Olive Ridley turtles as they plod up the beach to perform their annual egg-laying ritual.
Of course, Goa isn’t all just about beaches and hippy havens. You can also explore beautifully scented spice plantations, stroll along the banks of wildlife-filled rivers, witness the majesty of gushing waterfalls and explore crumbling cathedrals. If you get the chance, you should also make a trip to the colourful Mapusa market in the Bardez district of North Goa.
Once you’ve spent a week or two in this dreamy vacation spot, you’ll understand exactly why European hippies decided to call the place home all those years ago.
Daya Desai is a life coach who loves to explore India. He is currently working on an autobiography of his travels round the country.