… According to us.
First and foremost – MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! I hope it was filled with fun and frivolity and it’s still acceptable to say that. Maybe Happy New Year is more appropriate?
We have had a very challenging week and a half indeed. The sun has been shining every single day, alcohol and meat have been reintroduced to the diet and we’ve been moving from beautiful beach to beautiful beach up the coastline of Goa. It really has been tough…
Goa is known amongst travellers because its picturesque beaches have drawn in many hippies over the years who come to enjoy a spot of yoga and fire dancing to trance music. However, while some of the beaches are certainly far more touristy than areas of India we had come across so far, there are plenty that are relatively untouched so we used our time in the south to explore as many as possible.
So here it comes – the 8 beaches of Christmas, ranked from best to worst!
1. Agonda Beach
Agonda Beach was my favourite of the beaches we visited firstly for how scenic it is, but also for nature on and around the beach itself. Dense palm tree forests come right up to the top of the beach and the sand, although not postcard perfect white, is much finer and stretches out across the open bay giving the beach a very spacious feel.
There seemed to be less people in Agonda when we were there and there were definitely fewer restaurants and bars along the beach itself. That’s not to say there isn’t a sense of community – the locals are super friendly, and it was lovely to see the little white churches against the blue sky.
We also discovered that Agonda is one of only 4 designated turtle nesting areas. While we sadly didn’t see any turtles, we did see plenty of happy cows and a couple of horses basking in the evening sun, and at one point befriended a pack of stray dogs!
Perhaps the most bizarre surprise though was the huge colony of fruit bats living in the trees just behind our accommodation at the north end of the beach – we learnt the hard way not to look up when you walk under a tree hosting lots of sleeping bats…
2. Palolem Beach
Palolem beach is the most southern that we visited and as we were advised, was a welcome change from the north where we had come from. We had hoped to travel from Palolem to Hampi but due to peak season, we weren’t able to book a bus or train. However the golden sands and gentle rolling waves quickly put this disappointment to rest.
Cafes and bars are nestled between the trees and on top of the rocks giving you plenty of options for watching the spectacular sunset on the horizon with a cocktail. You can also clamber over these rocks to the neighbouring beaches such as Patnem Beach and the very tiny Colomb beach. While staff at the restaurants come to invite you in in the evenings, there seemed to be fewer touts (or at least fewer annoying touts) and all of the sunbeds were free – ideal!
Palolem is approximately 2km in length and it’s curvature is lined with rows of colourful beach bungalows and shacks serving freshly caught fish and other western food catered for the (mostly Russian) tourists. The bay itself is relatively sheltered, which means that whilst there are a few waves depending on the tide, the water is usually flat – perfect for swimming and paddle boarding.
Many people also take the opportunity to practice yoga on the beach throughout the day, which really adds to the peacefulness of Palolem. Having come from the cities and towns in the north, it literally was a breath of fresh air to be able to spend time here!
We were slightly taken aback by the increase in price compared to the north but we discovered that if we ate at one of the cafes along the road behind the beach, we saved some pennies. We even found a place which did a decent Sunday roast, which strangely was an Italian restaurant called Royal Italy…
3. Sunset Beach
It takes a long walk but if you’re after peace and quiet and a beach with hardly anyone on it, this is the one.
We stumbled across this little hidden gem when we were staying in Colva and we went for a stroll to avoid the people who tended to gather on Colva Beach itself. It didn’t take long to find our own space but we kept on walking (probably for about an hour) and found Sunset Beach.
Google Maps makes it look as though this beach is only accessible by road, which if you are travelling by taxi or scooter, you can travel down a single track road from the main road, sandwiched by rice paddy fields. This route is much quicker than walking along the beach however, far less scenic. Perhaps because of the extra effort that goes into getting to this beach, Sunset stays less busy and more clean than it’s much bigger neighbours.
By the time we arrived at our unknown destination, we were delighted to find that there was a single cafe there called Anries Palace which served us some basic but delicious food and more importantly – refreshingly cold water (we’re used to lukewarm drinking water these days!). The cafe also provided a few sun beds for its customers to enjoy and the stretch of sea is manned by a life guard.
If you’re lucky, you’ll also pass and see fishermen bringing in fish their nets, making your calamari taste even fresher!
4 + 5. Benaulim + Betalbatim
While you’re walking that way and feeling active, you can enjoy the peacefulness of Betalbatim and then walk back past Colva to Benaulim Beach.
It’s amazing how a few hundred meters make a difference to the business and serenity of the beaches, and perhaps how lazy many of the tourists are in exploring new areas! Having said that, there are plenty more eateries to choose from as you mosey along the shore.
6. Orzan Beach
If you’ve gone to North Goa for a bit of the party scene, but fancy somewhere to nurse your hangover that is a bit off the beaten track, then Orzan is a great shout.
The beach is surrounded by rocks with a number of higher end resorts built into them (including Antares, run by an Australian Masterchef winner apparently!) overlooking the sea and the beach below. There’s a couple of tricky paths to get down there, but once you’re down, you’ll find it hard to leave.
There are a few shacks to order food and drinks from (during peak season at least), but there were a lot of hungry cows that had no qualms about helping themselves when you weren’t looking. The beach also felt like it had a lots more touts than previous beaches, which if you are firm is fine, but can rather taint the experience.
7. Anjuna Beach
The party beach. The beach that many travellers come to Goa for. The one with the loud music and excessive drinking… or so we thought.
In actual fact, Anjuna beach was not as ‘party central’ as we thought it would be! It’s definitely built for tourists nowadays and the bars are certainly beastly compared to the little shacks found on other beaches, but during the day – particularly the morning, Anjuna feels fairly subdued.
The beach is almost 2km long but broken up by small formations of volcanic rock which make a lovely spot to watch the sunrise or set. The sand, like most in Goa, is more golden/shingly than anything, but still nice underfoot!
Because of all the tourists here there are many water sports on offer and lots of opportunity to practice Yoga, Reiki and Ayurvedic Massage (the traditional Indian oil massage).
Of course, you’ll have a very different experience of Anjuna beach in the evening when the beach is lit up by strobes and neon paint while the bigger ‘clubs’ blare out their loudest and most repetitive trance music. While women get in for free to these nights a lot of the time, they will attempt to charge men for going onto the beach but the staff are easily avoided.
An additional draw to this hippy beach is the weekly flea market which is located just behind the southern end of the beach, which sells far more than the hundreds of neon t-shirts you see in Goa. You’ll find everything from beautiful silver jewellery to handcrafted spice tins – well worth a look, even without a purchase!
8. Colva Beach
The most touristy beach of all! According to our Googling, Colva Beach was a very popular beach but it seems maybe a little too popular!
It was the only beach we visited that backed onto the edge of a town and main road, which meant that the entrance of the beach was densely busy with people, vehicles and water sports companies. Despite this obviously being a popular activity on the beach, the jet-skiers’ and para-sailors’ lack of air or distance didn’t seem very exciting but the locals seemed to love it!
Personally, I would give Colva Beach a miss except that if you walk 5 minutes in either direction, you’ll find your own space between official beach areas which are much more pleasant. Bring water and snacks though – there can be a significant distance between cafes!
Sorry not sorry for the beach spam!
From tomorrow, you’ll find us in Kerela for a few days and into 2018, so farewell for now!