The mention of Goa conjures up images of rave parties on the beach and flower children. But there is more to the region than sea, sand, and psychedelia. Whether you're after adrenalin-pumping water sports, Portuguese settlements, religious shrines, or flea markets, Goa is undoubtedly a front-line tourist destination.
On the one hand the region attracts hippies. On the other, it is a sanctified spot studded with temples and churches. There are primarily two kinds of visitors - foreigners and flower children. For the uninitiated, Goa has been on the hippie circuit since the 1960s, when Anjuna beach was a venue for partygoers and druggies.
The state is a rich blend of Portuguese and Indian influences. The Portuguese reached here in 1498 and stayed for nearly 500 years. Hindu garden shrines stand astride holy crosses, and the local curry [Vindaloo] is made with pork. There are dainty villas bearing European coats of arms. The Goa carnival is an integral part of the Portuguese heritage, and the streets come alive with festivities for three days in mid-February.
Visitors can spend months exploring the region but if you need to trim it down into a few, pleasant adventures, focus your attention on Goa's beach face. Excellent diving spots can be reached via a boat ride. The beaches have all the requisite distractions; visitors can buy inexpensive beer at shacks, try seafood delicacies at a bistro where lobster is served under the rustle of a coconut tree, indulge in aqua sports, go fishing with native fishermen, sharpen their bargaining prowess at flea markets, and party at night-long raves.
Anjuna is the most celebrated of Goa's many beaches. It is renowned for its raves. Fort Aguada and a sprawling resort dominate Aguada beach. Baga beach is a 30-km fishing beach that is fairly crowded with international visitors. Some of the best windsurfing, fishing, crabbing, and clamming can be found here. It also has the best restaurants, ranging from beach shacks to lavish restaurants and terrace cafés. For those anxious to escape the swelling crowds-especially during the peak tourist season-the state has an often-overlooked asset: a number of isolated beaches. These beaches are secluded, and offer both hardcore adventure options and decadent sun bathing.
Whether you visit Goa during the Carnival or on New Year Eve, be sure to live the local motto: "sossegarde" i.e. "Take it easy."