Variously known as “Pearl of the Orient” and a “Tourist Paradise”, the state of Goa had been the meeting point of races, religions and cultures of East and West over the centuries. The vast green expanse of the Sahyadri mountain range ensures that Goa has an abundance of water. The sea and rivers abound in seafood – prawns, mackerels, sardines, crabs and lobsters are the most popular with the locals and the visitors.
Goa’s biggest draw is undoubtedly its virtually uninterrupted string of golden-sand beaches. This shimmering strand of sand stretches along the Arabian Sea from the tip to the toe of the state, and each of the various beaches have developed their own personalities and reputations since the hippie days of the sixties. They cater to every tropical whim: choose from backpacker Arambol or bolder, brasher Baga; from the palm-fringed sands of Palolem to hippie market bliss at Anjuna or lovely, laid-back Mandrem; from expansive groomed sands in front of fancy five-star resorts or hidden crescent coves, where the only footprints will be the scuttling crabs and your own.
Goa’s popularity is a result of its diversity, both natural and cultural. The coastal areas are tourist hotspots, the beaches in the North feature more tourist activity due to the wide variety of water sports, beach shacks, eateries, clubs and pubs lined along the sea while white sand beaches, serene atmosphere, greenery and a country surrounding highlight the attractiveness of the South.
Old Goa is a sightseer’s paradise with magnificent Portuguese churches and historical places such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus and The Churches and Convents of Old Goa which are both UNESCO World Heritage sites. Annual music festivals are held during the winters and feature some of the world’s best DJ line-ups. The Goa Carnival is another annual festival of dance, music, fun and food.
Owing to the numerous licenses given out by the state government to promote tourism, a number of casinos also operate in Goa adding another pull for tourists. Goa was the first state in India to legalize gambling and only two other states have similar provision – Sikkim and Daman.
Besides the natural beauty, the fabulous beaches and sunshine, travellers to Goa love the laid-back, peaceful, warm and friendly nature of the Goan people. After all, more than anywhere else on planet earth, this is a place where people really know how to relax.