The Portuguese were among the first Europeans to arrive in Goa, located on the Arabian Sea on India’s west coast. The trading colony became a permanent settlement and introduced Roman Catholicism to the region during Portuguese rule that lasted almost 500 years, ending only in 1961 when the Indian army invaded Goa and annexed it — more than a decade after British rule of India had ceased. Now an Indian state, Goa has long attracted European tourists because of its more liberal attitudes. Large numbers of hippies in the 1960s paved the way for fun-loving tourists on a budget.
What We Love
The Beaches: Goa has a year-round beach culture that attracts British and other Europeans in the winter when it is cold and dreary back home and Indians in the summer months that coincide with the monsoon season.
Food Legacies: As a result of its lengthy Portuguese occupation, the state developed a cuisine characterized by two distinct styles — Goan Indian and Goan Catholic — which cater to indigenous and imported culinary preferences (though curries and rice are staples of both).
Best Known For
Impressive Churches: Roman Catholicism left its spiritual mark here — over a quarter of Goa's residents label themselves Catholics — as well as several notable churches worth visiting. These include the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which dates to 1605 and holds the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, and the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, built in 1619 in neighboring Panaji and outlined in glowing lights at night.
Unhurried Relaxation: Many people think Goa is best for simply taking a deep breath and unwinding — whether that means finding a quiet beach and enjoying a good book, renting snorkel gear and spying on tropical fish, or taking a yoga class.
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Who It's Best For
Historical Design Buffs: Goa may have a reputation as hippie-trippy, but anyone with an interest in architecture will find many treasures to admire — from grand mansions built by the Portuguese to traditional Indian homes and temples.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Summer Heat Can Be Oppressive: Goa is quite hot and humid in summer, so if you visit from June to August, plan to divide your time between early-morning sightseeing and relaxing at or near the beach.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.