Monday, October 21, 2013

Off the beaten track in Goa

The sun is shining on South Goa's beautiful coastline

Goa is a popular tourist destination with plenty of five-star hotels, expensive cocktails, and wild nightlife to keep most visitors happy. However, most stunning Goan attractions are just a short walk off the beaten track, if you’re willing to investigate that little bit further.

It’s not hard to find magical beauty spots in Goa, but it’s sometimes difficult to fight your way through the crowds to enjoy them! The good news is that although tourism to Goa has increased in recent years, fuelled by an increase in tour operators and online travel agents, package holiday-makers are mostly restricted to built-up resorts and well-known stretches of coastline. Therefore it’s relatively easy to find yourself somewhere beautiful and unspoilt.

Anjuna was the legendary hippy hangout of the 1960s and 1970s, but is now a quiet, clean resort with a relaxed vibe. It really comes alive on Wednesdays, when hundreds flock to the famous flea market. Here you’ll find jewellery, curios, musical instruments, tie-dye t-shirts and traditional Rajasthani clothing, trance music and all flavours of people. It used to be that a full moon meant parties on the beach, but these days the authorities have clamped down and you’re more likely to find people enjoying the evening in a friendly beach-front bar.

Some of the local villages like Vagator have stunning beaches – Chapora Fort near Vagator is renowned for its sunset views. These places get pretty busy with tour groups during the day, so you might struggle to get a good spot. For a more unspoiled and peaceful experience, check out the beach at Mandrem, where you can stay in a cool and beautiful coconut grove.

Inland, you can head to the Chapora river, where there’s a Zen-like retreat, or the fishing village Britona, with its 17th-century guesthouse.    
Dudhsagar Waterfalls, Mollem National Park, Goa, India

For unparalleled lushness and beauty, you should head West. The Western Ghats are a chain of hills extending over 1,600km alongside the border with Karnataka. This part of Goa has been designated one of the world’s 18 bio-diversity hotspots and it’s easy to see why. Tropical rainforest, grasslands and scrub are home to a rich collection of flora and fauna, including the Indian flying fox and the fruit bat.

A definite highlight to any trip to the Western Ghats is Dudhsagar Falls. At 2,000 feet, this spectacular waterfall is the highest in India, and is named ‘sea of milk’ for the white foam created by the force of the water as it falls. You can swim in the beautiful freshwater pool at the bottom, and if you’re feeling generous, share your lunch with one of the monkeys who live in the area!

About the Author:Emma Norton is currently travelling round Asia, paying for her travel with the occasional blog and part-time job, and delaying her return to reality for as long as possible!

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