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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Goa

Written by Joni Sweet
Aug 26, 2020

With golden-sand beaches, tangled palm trees touching the sky, and a relaxed atmosphere, Goa stands in stark contrast from the other bustling urban destinations in India. Even just a short visit to this beach paradise feels like a vacation within a vacation. The beauty and serenity of Goa will rejuvenate you, while its robust calendar of events and activities give you plenty of things do to during your free time.

Popular coastal hot spots, like Colva Beach and Palolem Beach, draw tourists to Goa from around the world. But beaches are just the beginning of what makes Goa one of the most beloved places to visit in India. The destination also has unique Portuguese-influenced cuisine, historical churches and temples, vibrant wildlife, and fascinating spice farms. No matter how long you spend in Goa, you'll wish you had a few extra days to explore.

For more ideas to help plan your trip to India, see our list of the top-rated tourist attractions in Goa.

1. Popular Beaches

Palolem Beach

Beaches play a starring role among the attractions in Goa, contributing to why it's one of the best places to visit in India.

Nearly every tourist who visits the area spends a day at Palolem Beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of white sand that overlooks the Arabian Sea in south Goa. While simply hanging out and soaking up the scenery is a perfect way to enjoy this beautiful area, Palolem Beach also offers an array of activities to fill your time. Choose from kayaking, yoga classes, dolphin-sightseeing trips, and swimming. You can also spend the night in one of Palolem's rustic coco huts, which are erected at the start of the high season.

Colva Beach is another one of the most famous beaches in Goa, especially among Indian tourists. It has swaying palms and a broad stretch of bronze sand, where you'll occasionally see herds of cows sunbathing next to tourists. You can rent Jet Skis, hop on a thrilling banana boat ride, and get a bird's-eye view of the beach on a parasailing adventure.

Homestay accommodations in the area will give you an authentic local-style experience — plus easy access to Colva Beach.

2. Beaches Off the Beaten Path

Sunset at Utorda Beach

While known for their spectacular scenery, the popular beaches in Goa tend to get crowded during high season, leaving some travelers eager for a quieter natural escape. Fortunately, Goa brims with undiscovered beach attractions that give you some distance from the throngs of tourists while still treating you to glorious sand and surf.

One of the best hidden gems in Goa is Butterfly Beach. It has a curving expanse of sand flanked by boulders that create a postcard-worthy cove, brimming with butterflies and blossoms. It's also a great spot to watch dolphins swim in the distance.

You'll need to embark on a boat ride from Palolem Beach or Agonda Beach, or tackle a challenging forest hike, to reach Butterfly Beach — but the obstacles to getting here help to thin out the crowds. You might even have the place to yourself.

While more developed than Butterfly Beach, Utorda Beach is another stunning getaway from the more crowded beaches around Goa. It features clean, blue water; silky sand; and a few small beach shacks. Look closely as you wade in the water, and you may spot some small starfish.

3. Tanshikar's Working Spice Farm

Nutmeg, mace, and curry leaf, Tanshikar Spice Farm, Goa | solarisgirl / photo modified

South India has been known for its abundance of spices, like black pepper, cardamom, and cloves, for centuries. In fact, these natural flavorings were a major appeal for Portuguese traders who came to Goa hundreds of years ago.

Tourists can see what the local spice scene is all about by touring Tanshikar's Working Spice Farm & Ecological Rest House. This agritourism attraction grows seven different spices: pepper, vanilla, nutmeg, turmeric, cardamom, and chili, using totally organic farming methods.

Tours of the farm, often led by its owner, will give you an in-depth understanding of these flavor-charged crops and a chance to see some of the other products, like betelnut, coffee beans, pineapple, and banana, grown on the premises. Tanshikar's also keeps bees and produces its own all-natural honey.

Spice farm tours aren't the only fun thing to do at Tanshikar's. Guests can also take a vegetarian cooking class, visit a bubbly lake, trek to Mainapi Waterfall, and train to become a yoga teacher. It's an attraction that has something for everyone.

Address: Netravali, near Smriti Yoga, Sanguem, Goa

Official site: http://www.tanshikarspicefarm.com/

4. Portuguese-Indian Restaurants

Goan coconut fish curry

Food is a major attraction in Goa. This part of India has a distinctive cuisine that blends Portuguese and Goan flavors, setting it apart from all the other food around India. Expect fiery flavors, fresh-caught seafood, and an abundance of coconut in the dishes.

You can't leave Goa without trying its signature dish, vindaloo, a super-hot meat curry made with palm vinegar and dried red chili peppers. Hospedaria Venite in the capital of Goa, Panaji, wows tourists with its mouthwatering vindaloo. Dominick, a Benaulim Beach mainstay, is another favorite spot for vindaloo — plus it offers front-row seats for world-class sunsets.

Another Goan specialty is xacuti, a rich curry with poppy seeds, chili, and coconut. Try it at Souza Lobo, a beachfront restaurant in Calangute, or Fat Fish, a well-trafficked spot in Baga.

Tourists hankering for some fresh seafood are spoiled for choice around Goa. Zeebop, on Utorda Beach, offers delightful fish curry, prawn stew, and mackerel doused with spicy red sauce.

You also can't go wrong with dinner at Copperleaf. The upscale restaurant in Porvorim has a fish thali that you'll be dreaming about long after you've finished.

5. Basilica de Bom Jesus

Basilica de Bom Jesus

While many tourists visit Goa for the beaches, countless others consider the trip to be a pilgrimage to important religious sites, like the Basilica de Bom Jesus.

This Old Goa attraction dates back to the late 16th century and contains the remains of the St. Francis Xavier. The "Apostle of the Indies" co-founded the Society of Jesus religious order with friend St. Ignatius Loyola and spearheaded an extensive mission in India. The basilica has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.

The modest yet imposing structure is a mix of Doric, Corinthian, and Baroque style with intricate carvings. Interestingly, the building was stripped of its lime plaster in the mid-20th century, making it the only church in Goa without plaster. The Basilica de Bom Jesus has since become worn by monsoons.

You can tour the church on your own, or hire one of the independent guides near the entrance for a small fee. Inside, you can see huge ornamental screens, along with the body of the resident saint in a casket that was once covered in precious stones. It's a compelling place that will transport you back in time.

Every year, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier draws big crowds to this church in late November and early December. It kicks off with a nine-day novena and open-air masses before concluding with the major holiday on Dec. 3.

Address: Old Goa Road, Bainguinim, Goa

6. Dudhsagar Falls

Dudhsagar Falls

Aquatic adventures go beyond the beach in Goa. The state is also home to Dudhsagar Falls, a spectacular four-tiered waterfall that towers some 310 meters above the earth. It's one of India's tallest waterfalls and a perpetually popular attraction for day trips around Goa and Karnataka.

To reach the falls, you'll need to make your way to the village of Colem by taxi or train. Depending on which train route you take, you may get a glimpse of Dudhsagar Falls along the way. Then, you'll hop aboard a shared jeep through the jungle, passing Devil's Canyon along the way. Around 45 minutes later, you'll scurry over some boulders to finally reach the falls.

The best time to visit Dudhsagar Falls is right after the monsoon, when the water is gushing. Tourists who wish to take a dip can rent a life jacket from vendors at the attraction.

Hot tip: Only 300 jeeps are allowed to enter Dudhsagar Falls every day. Make reservations in advance, or prepare to wait in long lines if you wish to visit.

7. Anjuna Market

Anjuna Market

Goa is home to a ton of markets, but none offer the liveliness or selection of products found at Anjuna Market. For roughly 50 years, hundreds of vendors have been setting up shop on Anjuna Beach every Wednesday to tempt free-spirited travelers with hippy-inspired trinkets and souvenirs.

Ornate textiles, woven bikinis, sculptures of deities, dreamcatchers, hammocks, magnets, t-shirts with sassy slogans, beaded jewelry, toys — you name it, you can probably buy it here.

But even if you don't want to shop, you should still make a point to visit Anjuna Market for the sightseeing. The flea market is a swirling array of colorful wares, salespeople driving hard bargains, big bags of fresh spices, and street food galore. The vibe alone is one of the reasons why Anjuna Market is one of the top places to visit in Goa.

Address: 10, St. Michael's Vaddo South, Anjuna, Goa

8. Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Make your way to the laid-back city of Panaji to visit another one of Goa's historic churches: The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

The pristine white church, which dates back to the early 17th century, stands atop a zig-zagging staircase that resembles the tiers of a wedding cake. Its perfectly symmetrical Portuguese Baroque architecture is a sight to behold. At night, twinkle lights make the church look like something out of a fairy tale.

While not ornate, the church's interior boasts bright, colorful decorations. Tourists can see the elegant main altar (dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus) and gilded pillars with elaborate carvings. Vines of blue and white blossoms often adorn parts of the vaulted ceiling around various holidays.

Dec. 8 marks the Festival of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, a major holiday at this church. Swing by to see it decked out in tons of colorful lights.

Address: Rua Emídio Garcia, Altinho, Panaji, Goa

9. Braganza House

Braganza House

See what houses in Goa looked like during the 17th century at Braganza House, a historical mansion that flanks the village square in Chandor. It's divided into an east and west wing, both of which are available for tourists to poke around at their leisure.

The east wing is home to members of the Pereira-Braganza family. It boats a massive ballroom with an impressive marble floor, along with a small chapel that contains one of St. Francis Xavier's fingernails. This part of Braganza House also brims with antiques and international artifacts.

The western side preserves the original grandeur of Braganza House. Owned by the Menezes-Braganças, the museum-like space features an expansive library with 5,000 leather-bound books from the private collection of journalist Luis de Menezes Braganza, who played an important role in the Goan independence movement. Tourists can also see breathtaking Belgian glass chandeliers, antique portraits of the family, and Chinese porcelain.

Address: Guddi-Chandor Road, Culsabhatt, Chandor, Goa

10. Mahadev Temple

Mahadev Temple

Located just 12 kilometers north of Molem, Mahadev Temple gives tourists a chance to see a structure that has been standing since the 12th century. Its remote location helped it survive centuries of conquests by the Portuguese and Muslim colonialists. Legend has it that the black basalt temple, which was built to honor Lord Shiva, has a resident king cobra. Step inside to see the detailed work of artisan carvers, including the lotus flower on the ceiling.

11. Palácio do Deão

If Braganza House got you excited, just wait until you see Palácio do Deão. The 200-plus-year-old palace in Quepem has been restored to its original glory. It features a blend of Indian and Portuguese architecture. Tourists are welcome to explore the heritage home, including its game room and library filled with rare tomes.

The property also features sweeping tropical gardens that make for a pleasant place to spend the afternoon. Consider making reservations in advance for afternoon tea on the terrace.

Address: Opposite Holy Cross Church, Quepem, Goa

Official site: http://www.palaciododeao.com/

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