Goa as a place is full of character. It can be throbbing with music one moment and poignantly serene the next moment. It is like light reflected on a drop of water, shinning with many colours.

Much has already been said about this captivating place of sun, sand and surf. What more could I possibly say to add to its glory? As I mulled over this, it struck me that even now a lot of people are confused as to which part of Goa they should head to – North or South.

An ideal trip would be one which includes a stay at both North and South. For such a trip anything between 5 nights to a week would suffice. But if time and budget are a constraint, you will be better off if you plan ahead.

To begin with, Goa with its numerous beaches has something for everyone. However, it is important to figure out what you are expecting from the trip beforehand. If you are a party and action loving person, North Goa is the place to be. On the other hand, if you want tranquility away from the maddening crowds, head straight to the picturesque South Goa.

Now let’s look at both these parts of Goa at some length.

Lighthouse at Fort Aguada

North Goa
Calangute, Candolim, Baga and Vagator are the must visit beaches in North Goa. If you love water sports, staying close to Baga or Calangute makes sense. Both the beaches are speckled with many budget friendly shacks which come for as low as Rs. 500 during the off season.

Get up early in the morning and hit the beach to try your luck at jet skiing, para sailing, kayaking, boat rides, etc. It is best to start early for a number of reasons. Firstly, the rates for the rides are not fixed and we were quoted different prices on different days. By starting early, you get to recce the rates a bit and strike a good bargain. Also as the day proceeds, the rates become more and more steeper.

When I went for jet skiing, the life guard offered me to ride the boat by myself for an extra 200Rs. Don’t be fooled by this ruse, as he will only allow you to hold the steering of the boat and not ride it.

While in Goa water sports seems to be the thing to do. However, I would highly recommend you to try your hands at go karting. You can have a taste of go karting on the way to Fort Chapora and it is the best that I have experienced till date.

If you are not a sports lover, don’t fret. Baga beach is also frequented by temporary tattoo artists, masseurs and sea shell trinket sellers.

North Goa is famous for its pulsating nightlife. Right from Club Tito’s to CafĂ© Mambo, North Goa is abuzz with activity. What’s amazing is that even the small timers, hidden in the lanes behind Calangute come alive with music in the evening.

If you like alfresco arrangements try one of the shacks on the beaches or the Calangute Towers, which is located on the main road behind Calangute Beach. They play awesome live music on the weekends.
While in Goa don’t forget to try some of the mouth watering delicacies like King Prawns, Chicken Xacuti, Grilled Pomfrets, Prawn Vindaloo, Sea Food platters, etc.

You can also take a short river cruise at river Mandovi, Panjim. The area is also famous for its casinos.
A Chapel at Old Goa

Sight Seeing
Very close to Calangute is Fort Aguada with the lighthouse. Visit it on a sunny day to click some great snaps. Another place that is a must visit is Fort Chapora of Dil Chahta Hai fame. The fort being at a little height, it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes for the short trek.

The drive down to the Fort  was truly memorable with yellow fields soaked in sunlight strewn on both sides. The sight that awaited us at the top is one of the best things that I have seen in my life. The sunset seen from the fort was breathtaking and definitely not something you would want to miss. In fact, we liked the place so much that we decided to revisit it again the next day.

North Goa is also close to old Goa which the home to Basilica Bom Jesus, Church of St Francis of Assisi and the museum within it. Both these places are marvels of Portuguese architecture. A word of caution though that old Goa doesn’t have good eateries and it is better to eat in advance.

View of Vagator Beach

Tourists at Calanguate Beach

South Goa
South Goa is an ideal destination for couples and those who want an idyllic and laid back trip. The most popular beaches of South Goa are Palolem, Agonda, Varca and Cola beach. Go for long walks along the coastline, read a book, watch the sun set and spend some time in the company of silence.

The beautiful Palolem beach surrounded by coconut trees is a great place to spend half a day. It offers a number of competitively priced water sports. However, do not venture too far into the water as the beaches in South Goa are not safe for swimming.

If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, then book a sea facing cottage at H2O Agonda. These spacious and tastefully done cottages are the kind of places which are in itself complete. You just arrive and spend all your time enjoying the beauty around you.

The place has a live bar and also a beach restaurant which provides good food. Another good news is that they are soon starting a spa in their premises.

There are a lot of other budget-friendly cottages available at Palolem beach. You can also explore a variety of cuisines in the restaurant lined close to the beach.

Entrance of the Plantation

Visitors taking the Plantation tour
Close to Palolem, about 9km south is Cotiago Wildlife Sanctuary. Don’t expect to bump into its more exotic residents (including gaurs, sambars, leopards and spotted deer), but you can easily spot plumed birds, frogs, snakes and monkeys at the scenic santuacry. Set off early morning for the best sighting prospects from one of the sanctuary’s two forest watchtowers, 6km and 9km from the entrance.

Although I wanted to visit the sanctuary I couldn’t manage the time. In its place, I chose the Tropical Spice Plantation. I will talk about it in detail in the next segment.

A tourist enjoying the elephant bath

Sunset at the beach restaurant of H2O Agonda

Sight Seeing
Besides spending time in the beautiful beaches , you could also visit Fort Cabo Da Rama. While the drive to the spot is through hilly lanes and fields of rice, the fort itself is not much to look forward to. The fort is not well maintained and is quite deserted. However, if you have the time and want to ride around in a scooty this could be a good place to head to.

On the way to South Goa, we also stopped over at Tropical Spice Plantation. I thought this would be a good opportunity to see some of the plants and trees inside the plantation. The tour of the plantation was slightly disappointing as I was expecting a much longer trek. Also I was already familiar with most of the plants as they are commonly found in my hometown.

The tour was however, compensated by the tasty traditional Goan lunch at the plantation. You can also try elephant rides, horse rides and elephant bath at the plantation.

In conclusion, I would say that both North and South Goa has its own charms. What are you looking for? 

Note: This article was first published on The Thumprint Mag

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