Goa has long been India's good-time Riviera, renowned for its sun-kissed beaches, vibrant markets and an energetic nightlife unrivalled anywhere on the subcontinent. This tiny state is blessed with almost year-round sunshine and a coastline graced with long sandy beaches. Each of these many beaches has its own character – some are crowded, others are almost deserted; some have white sands, others are dark brown. Each beach is worthy of exploration if you want to enjoy the total Goan experience.
Several operators offer packages that take you to different beaches each day, but for a more rewarding hike it is hard to beat a self-guided tour. The 120 km (75 mi) coastline is interrupted only by the seven rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea. With judicious use of taxis and local fishermen, who run unofficial ferry services, it is possible to sample all that this amazing coast has to offer. Starting at the ruggedly beautiful Harmal Beach in the north and journeying to the wonderfully secluded Palolem Beach in the south, you are taken on an odyssey of high contrast.
Near the capital, Panaji, the noise of the water gives way to the hubbub of people, as the town seems to spill over into the sea. Venturing south again takes you to Colva, the most popular beach in southern Goa, and it is easy to see why. Golden sands are lapped by the azure sea, while traders, fishermen and visitors give the whole area a wonderful market feel.
The crowds thin out once again as you head towards the silver sands of Palolem Beach. Also known as Paradise Beach, it is framed by the hills of the Western Ghats and lined with cute bamboo huts. It is a perfect spot to unwind.
WHEN TO GO
Anytime except the rainy season, which usually lasts from June to August.
TIME IT TAKES
Five to seven days
Canacona Island - a ferry ride from Palolem Beach.
The view over the Arabian Sea from Harmal Beach.
Chapora Fort - a 500-year-old Portuguese fort, near Varca Beach.
Albuquerque Mansion – near Anjuna Beach.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The coast of Goa can get maddeningly busy at times. If it all gets too much for you, remember that the further you go from Panaji the quieter it will be.