A guide to the three individual regions of Goa and their attractions. From beaches in North Goa and history in Central Goa to chilled vibes in South Goa.
Goa can easily be divided into three individual districts or regions, that of North Goa, Central Goa and South Goa. For many, when deciding where to stay during their Goa holidays, it will often come down to a question of the North or the South, primarily due to the fantastic range of beaches, though Central Goa also holds its own unique range of attractions. Fortunately, we have a number of superb properties spread across all three regions, so your choice of where to stay will simply come down to what sort of holiday in Goa you’re in search of. With that in mind, we’ve put together a basic guide to North, Central and South Goa.
Located to the north of the Mandovi River and comprising a beautiful and vibrant coastline stretching to the border with neighbouring Maharashtra, North Goa is a haven of beaches, shacks and bars. While it may not reflect the hustle bustle vibes of much of India, as far as things go in the state, a faster pace of life awaits those visiting the north during their holidays in Goa. This characteristic ensures a vibrant and infectious atmosphere resonates throughout North Goa, encountered across its exciting beaches, energetic nightlife, bustling markets and quirky yoga retreats.
Sinquerim was the first resort in the whole of Goa to be developed solely for tourism. This is where some of the biggest and best hotels can be found; meanwhile the resort’s beach still manages to retain a relatively peaceful vibe. Candolim is one of the most popular resorts with British holidaymakers, boasting stunning beachfront locations backed by a hub of eateries, bars and souvenir stalls, promising the complete range of amenities and facilities required for a relaxed and indulgent holiday to Goa.
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For night owls, a visit to North Goa isn’t complete until you’ve embraced the vibrant nightlife found around Baga and Calangute. The state’s most famous nightclub, Tito’s, can be found here, while during the day an unbroken line of beach shacks serve up refreshments beside the sand. The original Goan hippie vibe isn’t quite what it once was, but if you’re likely to rediscover it anywhere, it’ll be amid the colour and chaos of Anjuna, where the weekly flea market is held each Wednesday with stalls selling everything from authentic clothing to spices and hammocks.
While the stunning stretches of beach may not extend throughout Central Goa, the character and heritage of the state is at its most prominent here, as well as its outstanding natural beauty, discovered primarily inland. The state’s official capital, Panaji (Panjim), lies on the banks of the River Mandovi, home to many signs of Goa’s colonial past. There are some calm and quiet bays here, but it is for culture and history that most people descend upon Panaji, in search of sites such as the Church Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and the many colourful houses of the Portuguese old quarters.
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The culture and history continues in nearby Old Goa, known as ‘the Rome of the East’ in the 16th century when it was the largest, richest and most affluent city in Asia. Many of the famed landmarks of Old Goa remain brilliantly preserved today, including the stunning Basilica of Bom Jesus, recognised today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an attraction that any culture vulture cannot afford to miss during their Goa holiday. Se Cathedral is another must-see in Old Goa, famed for its iconic Golden Bell.
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Further inland, as Goa becomes wilder, more verdant and naturally striking, you’ll discover some beautiful landscapes and attractions. In addition to a number of wildlife sanctuaries, Central Goa is home to the stunning Dudsagar Falls. These 600-metre high waterfalls are among the largest in the whole of India, cascading down a mountainside and settling in pools where holidaymakers can go for a refreshing dip.
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Serenity and sedateness, two words often associated with South Goa, the quieter and less-developed half of the state. You’ll encounter fewer activities, eateries and nightlife in comparison to North Goa, but for many, this is the attraction of a holiday to Goa’s south, defined by peace and quiet. That’s not to say you won’t find a packed itinerary awaiting you in the south, with a number of fantastic beaches to be lazed upon, authentic food to be sampled and various tours and excursions to be experienced.
The undeveloped nature of South Goa will see you encounter more nature and much more isolated coastal scenes. Rice paddies commonly back onto pristine beaches, flanked by sprawling coconut groves. Mobor and its beach are testament to this, though inhabited by some great beach shacks, ensuring you’re never too far away from a Goan curry and a Kingfisher beer. The same can be said for captivating Cavelossim where you’re almost more likely to encounter cows strolling along the sand than fellow sunbathers.
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If you’ve had your fill of the sedate and serene, there are resorts and beaches in South Goa with a little more action and adventure popping up. Palolem is arguably the most stunning beach in Goa, a label that has seen it experience an influx of visitors and development, featuring some great stilted beach shacks and a moderate party atmosphere creeping in as the sun sets. Colva is another of the South’s more charismatic resorts, favoured by local tourists and providing some great water sports opportunities to those looking for some seaside thrills and spills.
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Tempted by a holiday to North Goa or South Goa? Get a little bit more inspiration via our Holiday Ideas page.