We share our travel guide to Goa, the tiny state known for its live-in-the-moment lifestyle. Some come for the golden beaches and party vibes while others seek inner peace at one of the many spiritual retreats. Either way, you’ll find an intriguing cultural blend of East and West…

Why Goa?

Located halfway down India’s west coast, Goa has long been renowned for its natural beauty: sweeping sandy beaches, coconut groves, vibrant green paddy fields and dense forests. Explore a little and you’ll find the region’s 450 years of Portuguese rule are still evident in its mix of religions, cuisines and architecture. Amongst the baroque churches and grand mansions are some great little hideaways, ranging from simple beach cabanas to stylish small hotels. Combine all this with warm sunshine, and it makes an ideal winter getaway.

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Tell me about those famous beaches

Goa’s 100km-long coastline offers some of the finest beaches in India. Many believe Palolem’s palm-fringed crescent of white sand is one of the most stunning.  Set between wooded headlands, it stretches far out at low tide, and you’ll see the odd snuffling pig. The water is shallow and good for swimming. Despite being a fairly relaxed and low-key resort, the growing number of backpackers and beach cafés are making it more crowded and dirty these days. If you prefer somewhere which is still unspoilt, head to The Cape Goa, an intimate clifftop hideaway perched above a pristine curve of golden sand in southern Goa.

 i-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / The Cape Goa, India i-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / The Cape Goa, India

What if we need some retail therapy?

For chic boutiques selling East-meets-West clothes and homewares, head to the north of Goa. In Panjim, Sosa’s showcases clothing created by some of Goa’s most talented young fashion designers.

On Wednesdays, hundreds flock to Anjuna’s flea market. Here you’ll find everything from Tibetan curios, African musical instruments and traditional Rajasthani clothing to silver jewellery, tie-dye t-shirts, psychedelic-coloured sarongs and Trance music.

Where can I get away from it all?

The Beach Houses provide a dreamily private slice of Goan coast. Cross a wooden bridge spanning Otter Creek and you enter a little world of Goa au naturel. Restored 19th-century Portuguese dwellings dot the coconut groves, their pastel shades melting harmoniously into the landscape. Here, it’s all about watching the fishermen haul in their boats in the morning, chilling in hammocks in the afternoon, and stargazing at night. Butterflies flutter, birds tweet and creepy crawlies crawl – it’s an amazing place.

 i-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / The Beach Houses, Goa, India i-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / Goa, India

What about a yoga retreat?

Taking its name from the local word for ‘inner voice’, SwaSwara is the ideal all-inclusive beach retreat in which to ‘find yourself’. Set in acres of coconut groves and paddy fields, its daily programmes include various yoga and meditation sessions, so you can pick and choose what suits you. There are 2 levels – gentle and progressive – plus private tuition if you feel you need more. Alternatively, spend lazy days on the beach, swimming laps in the pool and bird-watching in the forest.

i-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / SwaSwara, Goa, Indiai-escape blog / Insider’s travel guide to Goa / SwaSwara, Goa, India

Look at our whole collection of boutique hotels in Goa

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i-escape blog / Insider's travel guide to Goa