pop 40,500

Mapusa (pronounced ‘Mapsa’) is the largest town in northern Goa, and is most often visited for its busy Friday market, which attracts scores of buyers and sellers from neighbouring towns and villages, as well as a healthy intake of tourists from the northern beaches. It’s a good place to pick up the usual range of embroidered bed sheets and the like, at prices far lower than in the beach resorts.

Many travellers pass through Mapusa anyway as it’s the major transport hub for northern Goa buses. Most amenities are arranged around the Municipal Gardens, just north of the Kadamba bus station and main market site.

Environmental action group Goa Foundation ( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2256479;; St Britto’s Apts, G-8 Feira Alta, Mapusa) has its headquarters in Mapusa, while numerous charity organisations, including International Animal Rescue and El Shaddai are nearby in Assagao.


Church of Our Lady of MiraclesCHURCH


Founded in 1594 and rebuilt several times since, the Church of Our Lady of Miracles (also known as St Jerome’s), around 600m east of the Municipal Gardens, is famous more for its annual festival than for its architecture. It was built by the Portuguese on the site of an old Hindu temple, and thus the Hindu community still holds the site as sacred.

On the 16th day after Easter, the church’s annual feast day is celebrated here by both Hindus and Christians – one of the best examples of the way in which Hinduism and Christianity often coexist merrily in Goa.



In the centre of town, the small, pastel-coloured Maruti temple was built in the 1840s at a site where the monkey god Hanuman was covertly worshipped during more oppressive periods of Portuguese rule. After temples had been destroyed by the Portuguese, devotees placed a picture of Hanuman at the fireworks shop that stood here, and arrived cloaked in secrecy to perform their pujas (prayers).

In April 1843 the picture was replaced by a silver idol and an increasing number of worshippers began to gather here. Eventually the business community of Mapusa gathered enough funds to acquire the shop, and the temple was built in its place.

The intricate carvings at the doorway of the temple are the work of local artisans.


With the northern beaches so close and most long-distance buses departing in the late afternoon or early evening, it’s hard to think of a good reason to stay in Mapusa, but there are a few options if you do.

Hotel VilenaHOTEL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2263115; Feira Baixa Rd; d without/with bathroom ₹630/840, with AC ₹1575; icon-acongifa)

Mapusa’s best budget choice, with 14 plain double rooms, is not much to look at, but staff are welcoming.

Mapusa ResidencyHOTEL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2262694; d without/with AC ₹1100/1430, ste ₹1790; icon-acongifa)

Rooms are in the bland-but-functional mould that you’d expect from GTDC accommodation, but the boderline budget–midrange price tag is reasonable value for the location across from the bus stand.

Hotel SatyaheeraHOTEL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2262949;; d without/with AC from ₹2500/2800; icon-acongifa)

Next to the little Maruti temple in the town centre, this is widely considered Mapusa’s best hotel, which isn't saying much. Rooms are comfortable enough but overpriced. Ruchira, the roof garden restaurant, is a decent place to eat.

5Eating & Drinking

Several cafes within the market area serve simple Indian snacks, dishes and cold drinks to a local clientele.

Hotel VrundavanINDIAN

( GOOGLE MAP ; thalis from ₹75; icon-hoursgifh7am-10pm Wed-Mon)

This all-veg place bordering the Municipal Gardens is a great place for a hot chai, pa bhaji or quick breakfast.


( GOOGLE MAP ; Hotel Satyaheera; mains ₹90-180; icon-hoursgifh11am-11pm)

On the top floor of Hotel Satyaheera, this rooftop garden restaurant and bar is popular with tourists and widely deemed one of Mapusa’s better family restaurants, serving tasty Goan, Indian and continental dishes (including seafood) at lower prices than the beach shacks.

Golden OvenBAKERY

( GOOGLE MAP ; Market Rd; pastries from ₹10, mains from ₹50; icon-hoursgifh9am-6.30pm Mon-Sat)

For some clean and shiny comfort, duck into this bakery opposite the market, a cool respite from the shopping chaos aross the street. As well as cakes and pastries, they serve mini pizzas and sandwiches.


( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2250757;; St Xavier’s College Rd, opp Ashirwad Bldg; mains ₹110-270; icon-hoursgifh10am-8pm Mon-Sat)

The second branch of Ruta’s excellent brand of fresh and tasty American-inspired cuisine has given travellers a good culinary reason to visit Mapusa. The sandwiches, salads and comfort foods such as jambalaya are all delicious. It’s north of the centre, in the same Portuguese-style house as Fabindia.


( GOOGLE MAP ; near the market; mains from ₹100; icon-hoursgifh10am-4pm & 7-11pm Mon-Sat)

Don’t be put off by the dingy entrance or stairwell: once you’re upstairs, this breezy place opposite the market is great for watching the milling crowds over a cold beer or feni. Eclectic daily specials make it a good spot for lunch.



On the road between Mapusa and Anjuna or Vagator, Assagao is one of North Goa’s prettiest villages, with almost traffic-free country roads passing old Portuguese-style mansions and whitewashed churches. The area is inspiring enough to be home to several of North Goa’s best yoga retreats.

Local organisation El Shaddai (icon-phonegif%0832-2461068, 0832-6513286;; El Shaddai House, Socol Vaddo, Assagao), a child protection charity, has several schools based here.


(icon-phonegif%9623348958;; 138/3 Bairo Alto, Assagao; 1-day course veg/nonveg ₹2000/3000, 3-day ₹5000/7000, 5-day ₹10,000/12,000)

For cooking enthusiasts, Spicy Mama’s specialises in spicy North Indian cuisine, from butter chicken to aloo gobi and palak paneer, prepared at the country home of the instructor, Suchi. The standard one-day course is four hours; book ahead for in-depth multiday masterclasses.


(; Anjuna-Mapusa Rd, Assagao; ste from ₹10,000; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

This collection of three incredible suites is one of North Goa’s most idiosyncratic properties. Owned and overseen by Jivi Sethi, a well-known and flamboyant Indian stylist, it’s all heirlooms, high theatrics, and lots and lots of luxury – as well as fabulous food.

Villa Blanche BistroCAFE

(; 283 Badem Church Rd, Assagao; mains ₹180-350; icon-hoursgifh9am-5.30pm Mon-Sat, 10.30am-3pm Sun)

This lovely, chilled garden cafe in the back lanes of Assagao is run by a German-Swiss couple. Salads, sandwiches, filled bagels, desserts and cakes are the speciality. For an indulgent breakfast or brunch try the waffles and pancakes.


Mapusa MarketMARKET

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-hoursgifh8am-6.30pm Mon-Sat)

The Mapusa market goes about its business all days except Sunday, but it really gets going on Friday morning. It’s a raucous affair that attracts vendors and shoppers from all over Goa, with an entirely different vibe to the Anjuna flea market. Here you’ll find locals haggling for clothing and produce, and you can also hunt out antiques, souvenirs and textiles.

So significant is the market locally that the town’s name is derived from the Konkani words map (meaning ‘measure’) and sa (meaning ‘fill up’), in reference to the trade in spices, vegetables and fruit that’s plied here daily.

Other India BookstoreBOOKS

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2263306;; Mapusa Clinic Rd; icon-hoursgifh9am-5pm Mon-Fri, to 1pm Sat)

This friendly and rewarding little bookshop, at the end of an improbable, dingy corridor, specialises in books about Goa and India with a focus on spirituality, environment, politics and travel. It’s signposted near the Mapusa Clinic, a few hundred metres up the hill from the Municipal Gardens.


There are plenty of ATMs scattered about town, including around the Municipal Gardens and market area.

Mapusa ClinicMEDICAL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2263343; Mapusa Clinic Rd; icon-hoursgifhconsultations 9.30am-1pm & 4-8pm Mon-Sat)

A well-run private medical clinic with 24-hour emergency services. Look for signs to the ‘new’ Mapusa Clinic, behind the ‘old’ one.

Pink Panther Travel AgencyTRAVEL AGENT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2263180;; Coscar Corner; icon-hoursgifh10am-6pm Mon-Fri, to 1.30pm Sat)

A useful travel agent that can book bus, train and air tickets (both international and domestic) as well as perform currency exchange. It’s just east of the Municipal Gardens.

8Getting There & Away

If you’re coming to Goa by bus from Mumbai, Mapusa’s Kadamba bus stand is the jumping-off point for the northern beaches. Local bus services run every few minutes; just look for the correct destination on the sign in the bus windshield – and try to get an express. For buses to the southern beaches, take a bus to Panaji, then Margao, and change there.

Local services include:

AAnjuna ₹15, 20 minutes

AArambol ₹30, one hour

ACalangute/Candolim ₹12/15, 20/35 minutes

APanaji ₹27, 30 minutes

AThivim ₹15, 20 minutes

Long-distance services are run by both government and private bus companies. Private operators’ services are more frequent and have more choice of bus type. Fares are variable based on the season and even day of the week. Private operators have booking offices outside the bus stand (opposite the Municipal Gardens). There’s generally little difference in price, comfort or duration between them, but shop around for the best fare. You can check fares and timings for government buses at

Most long-distance buses depart in the late afternoon or evening. Sample fares include:

ABengaluru ₹900, with AC ₹1200; 13–14 hours

AMumbai ₹700, with AC ₹900; 12–15 hours

APune ₹700, with AC ₹900, 11–13 hours

AHampi sleeper ₹1000; 9½ hours

There’s a prepaid taxi stand outside the bus terminal; it has a handy signboard of prices. Cabs to Anjuna or Calangute cost ₹280; Candolim ₹350; Panaji ₹300; Arambol ₹600; and Margao ₹1100. An autorickshaw to Anjuna or Calangute should cost ₹200.

Thivim, about 12km northeast of town, is the nearest train station on the Konkan Railway. Local buses to Mapusa meet trains (₹15); an autorickshaw to or from Thivim station costs around ₹200.


North Goa is well known and rightly popular for its beachy yoga shalas. But back in the countryside, mostly around Assagao, are some top-notch yoga retreats where the Zen-like silence of the forest more than makes up for the lack of ocean views.

Purple Valley Yoga RetreatYOGA

(icon-phonegif%0832-2268363;; 142 Bairo Alto, Assagao; dm/s one week from £600/750, two weeks £980/1200; icon-wifigifW)

This popular yoga resort in Assagao offers one- and two-week residential courses in ashtanga yoga; weekly rates include accommodation, daily classes, vegetarian meals and full use of resort facilities. Nonresidential two-week courses cost £700. A range of beauty therapies and ayurvedic treatments is also available on-site for course participants.

Sushumna YogaYOGA

(icon-phonegif%9923219254;; 290 Socal Vaddo, Assagao; drop-in class from ₹500, 3-/5-day workshops ₹12,500/20,000)

Reputable yoga school with drop-in classes, weekly workshops and teacher-training courses. Specialises in vinyasa flow but also offers beginners’ hatha, iyengar, pranayama and restorative yoga.

Swan Yoga RetreatYOGA

(icon-phonegif%0832-2268024, 8007360677;; Assagao; per person one week from ₹17,500)

Enveloped in the jungle in a peaceful corner of Assagao, Swan Retreat is a very Zen yoga experience in the Satyananda tradition. Minimum week-long yoga retreats start every Saturday and include eco-accommodation, ayurvedic veg meals, meditation, daily classes and an optional afternoon ‘masterclass.’ Several levels of cottage and teepee accommodation are spread around the property.

Yoga MagicYOGA

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-6523796;; Anjuna; s/d lodge ₹6750/9000, ste ₹9000/12,000; icon-wifigifW)icon-sustainableS

Solar lighting, compost toilets and local building materials (including cow dung and rammed earth) are some of the worthy initiatives practised in this ultra-luxurious village of Rajasthani tented lodges and bamboo-villa suites. Organic gourmet vegetarian food and serious yoga and meditation are the order of the day here.

Prices include breakfast and afternoon tea; daily yoga classes cost extra, or you can opt for one of the all-inclusive week-long yoga holidays from ₹38,000. It’s located on the Mapusa-Chapora Rd, about 2km from Vagator Beach.

Vagator & Chapora

Dramatic red stone cliffs, dense green jungle and a crumbling 17th-century Portuguese fort provide Vagator and its diminutive village neighbour Chapora with one of the prettiest settings on the North Goan coast. Once known for their wild trance parties and heady, hippie lifestyles, things have slowed down considerably these days, but Chapora – reminiscent of the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars – remains a favourite for hippies and long-staying smokers, with the smell of charas (resin of the marijuana plant) clinging heavy to the light sea breeze.

Chapora is a working fishing harbour nestled at the broad mouth of the Chapora River, so it doesn’t have much in the way of beach, whereas Vagator has three small, charismatic coves to choose from. The most northerly and largest is Vagator Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand, which fills up for a few hours each afternoon when domestic coach tours unload their swift-clicking tourist hordes making the most of its good swimming. Avoid this time of day and you’ll have plenty of room for lounging on its pretty, boulder-studded sands.

Vagator’s two southerly coves are known as Little Vagator Beach and Ozran Beach; they’re accessible by steep footpaths running down from near the Nine Bar and Thalassa respectively. With shacks occupying the sands, Goa trance heavy on the sound systems, and cows thronging among the people, there’s a distinctly laid-back vibe, overseen at Ozran by the huge, happy carved Shiva face that gazes out serenely from the rocks.

1Sights & Activities

There’s plenty of yoga and ayurveda on offer seasonally in both Vagator and Chapora; check the noticeboards at local cafes or look for flyers.

Chapora FortFORT


Chapora’s old laterite fort, standing guard over the mouth of the Chapora River, was built by the Portuguese in 1617, to protect Bardez taluk (district), in Portuguese hands from 1543 onwards, from the threat of invaders. It was built over the remnants of an older Muslim structure, hence the name of the village itself, from ‘Shahpura,’ meaning ‘town of the Shah.’

Today it is a crumble of picturesque ruins with only the outer walls remaining, though you can still pick out the mouths of two escape tunnels and a scattering of pre-Portuguese Muslim tombstones. The main reason to make the climb up the hill is for the sensational views out along the coast from atop the fort walls – north to Morjim beach and the Chapora River, and south to Vagator and Ozran beaches. The best time to climb up is about an hour before sunset.

Though heavily fortified, Chapora Fort was nevertheless captured several times by invaders: first by several groups of Hindu raiders, and next, in 1684, when it was reportedly conquered without a shot being fired. On this occasion the Portuguese captain of the fort decided to surrender to the Maratha forces of the chieftain Sambhaji, his decision perhaps stemming, if legend is to be believed, from the manner in which Sambhaji’s forces managed to breach the fort’s defences: it’s said that they clung tight to tenacious 1.5m-long monitor lizards, who were able to scale the rocky walls with ease.

The Portuguese rebuilt the fort in 1717, adding features such as tunnels that led from the bastion down to the seashore and the river bank to enable resupply or escape in times of trouble, but Chapora fell again to the Marathas in 1739. Soon the northerly taluk of Pernem came into Portuguese hands, forming part of the Novas Conquistas (the ‘New Conquests,’ the second wave of Portuguese conquests in Goa), and the significance of Chapora faded. The fort was finally abandoned to the ravages of the elements in 1892.

Chapora HarbourHARBOUR

The narrow road northwest of the village leads you past lots of village homes with rooms for rent, up to a small harbour where the day’s catch is hauled in from colourful, bobbing fishing boats. Self-caterers with the desire for fresh fish can haggle directly with fishermen or go mussel fishing at low tide. In any case, it makes for a scenic photo opportunity and provides an interesting window into traditional village life.



Budget accommodation, much of it in private rooms, ranges along Ozran Beach Rd and Vagator Beach Rd; you’ll see lots of signs for ‘rooms to let’ on the side roads, too, in simple private homes and guesthouses, from ₹400 to ₹600 per double.

icon-top-choiceoJungle HostelHOSTEL

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2273006;; Vagator Beach Rd; dm without/with AC ₹450/500, s/d ₹900/1400; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-wifigifW)

True backpacker hostels are on the rise in Goa, but this place (formerly Asterix) was one of the originals, bringing the dorm experience and an international vibe to Vagator. The six-bed dorms are clean and bright and things like lockers, wi-fi, breakfast, communal kitchen and travel advice are free.


(Enterprise Guest House; MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%7769095356;; 1639/2 Deulvaddo; d without/with bathroom ₹900/1200; icon-wifigifW)

Set around a leafy, parachute-silk-clad courtyard that’s home to Vagator’s best vegan restaurant, rooms at the Enterprise Guest House look simple but are themed with individual exotic decor, earthy shades, mosquito nets and shared verandahs. The mellow yoga-friendly vibe matches the clientele.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9822104780, 0832-6529454; Vagator Beach Rd; s/d from ₹600/700; icon-wifigifW)

Just four clean rooms and two spacious bungalows in the garden behind an old Portuguese-style house; popular restaurant attached.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%919881578459, 0832-2273166;; d ₹800-1400, with AC ₹1800; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

Arranged around a placid garden not far from the path down to Little Vagator Beach, this established place run by a friendly family (whose home is on-site) offers a variety of extremely well-kept rooms and a two-bedroom apartment for long-stayers.

Julie JollyHOTEL

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2273620, 0832-2274897;; d from ₹1900, with AC ₹2300-2700, tr/q from ₹3000/4000; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-swimgifs)

Rooms are neat and spacious, like little Spanish villas surrounding a small pool. It’s back from the beach action but has its own resort-style atmosphere. The owners also run two cheaper guesthouses in Vagator – Jolly Jolly Lester and Jolly Jolly Roma.

Alcove ResortHOTEL

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2274491;; Little Vagator Beach; d without/with AC from ₹3300/3850, cottage ₹4400/4950; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

The location overlooking Little Vagator Beach is hard to beat at this price. Attractively furnished rooms, slightly larger cottages and four suites surrounding a decent central pool, restaurant and bar, make this a good place for those who want a touch of affordable luxury.

Casa VagatorHOTEL

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2416738;; d incl breakfast from ₹7000; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

A successfully rendered outfit in the deluxe Casa boutique mould, this is Vagator’s most stylish accommodation option, with gorgeous rooms offering equally gorgeous views out to the wide blue horizon. The only downside is its proximity to techno-heavy Nine Bar, which pumps out Goa trance every night from 6pm until the 10pm shutdown.


Head down the road to the harbour and you’ll find lots of rooms – and whole homes – for rent, which is precisely what most long-stayers do.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2274355, 9822157145;; r ₹600-1200, without bathroom from ₹300)

This welcoming family-run homestay, set around a nice garden on the way to Chapora harbour, offers spotless rooms of varying sizes in a three-storey building. The best are the brand-new top-floor rooms with swanky bathrooms, TV and balcony. Budget travellers will be happy with the compact ground-floor rooms with shared bathroom.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2273339;; d without/with bathroom ₹250/500)

At this price, and with its laid-back Chapora location, Baba is often full with long-stayers but you might be lucky as a walk-in. The 14 rooms are clean and simple but serviceable. Located behind the Baba Restaurant on the main street.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9822156511;; Chapora Fort Rd; d without/with AC ₹800/1200; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

Brand new at the time of research, Baba Place features a rooftop terrace with views of Chapora Fort, immaculate, decent-sized rooms with verandah, and a nice, quiet Chapora location.



Vagator has a handful of outstanding dining spots, along with the usual range of much-of-a-muchness shacks down on the beach.

icon-top-choiceoBean Me Up Soya StationVEGAN

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ;; 1639/2 Deulvaddo; mains ₹180-350; icon-hoursgifh8am-11pm; icon-wifigifW)

Bean Me Up has gone all vegan, but even nonveg travellers will be blown away by the taste, variety and filling plates on offer in this relaxed garden restaurant. The extensive menu includes vegan pizzas, ice creams and innovative salads. Ingredients are as diverse as coconut, cashew milk and cashew cheese, quinoa, tofu and lentil dhal.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; mains ₹80-200; icon-hoursgifh9am-10pm)

Well known locally for its fresh Tibetan food like momos (Tibetan dumpling) and soups, as well as pasta dishes. The chairs and tablecloths are plastic and the decor downmarket compared with some of its beachfront neighbours, but most travellers enjoy the food.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ;; Ozran Beach Rd; mains ₹250-370; icon-hoursgifh8.30am-11pm)

Bluebird specialises in Goan cuisine, with genuine vindaloos, chicken cafreal (marinated in a sauce of chillies, garlic and ginger), fish curry rice and Goan sausages among the temptations, as well as some delicately spiced seafood dishes. Dine in the lovely open garden cafe. The attached guesthouse has some nice rooms.

Mango Tree Bar & CafeMULTICUISINE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Vagator Beach Rd; mains ₹120-550; icon-hoursgifh24hr)

With loud reggae, crappy service, dark-wood furniture, a sometimes rambunctious bar scene, ancient expats leaning over the bar, draught beer and an overall great vibe, the Mango Tree is a classic Vagator meeting place. It’s open late (24 hours if it’s busy enough), the food is pretty good – from Goan to European, pizza, Thai and Mexican – and films or sports are sometimes shown on the big screen.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9850033537;; mains ₹300-750; icon-hoursgifh4pm-midnight)

Authentic and ridiculously good Greek food is served alfresco on a breezy terrace to the sound of the sea just below. Kebabs, souvlaki and thoughtful seafood dishes are the speciality, but vegie dishes are also excellent; the spanakorizo (spinach and rice cooked with Greek olive oil and herbs and topped with feta) is outstanding. Wash it all down with a jug of sangria. It’s very popular around sunset – book ahead for a beachside table.

Greek dancing – complete with plate-smashing – livens up the night on some weekends. Thalassa also has huts (double per night ₹3000 to ₹4000), which are almost as classy as the restaurant.


Little Chapora doesn’t have the breadth of eating choices of Vagator, but that’s what the people who hang out here like about it. With a couple of popular juice joints and a handful of nondescript restaurants, Chapora stays cool while the fine dining is elsewhere.

Sunrise RestaurantCAFE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; mains ₹90-200; icon-hoursgifh7am-10.30pm)

Sunrise doesn’t pretend to be anything special but it does open early for breakfast and has perfectly edible food and a decent little garden on the main road out of Chapora.

6Drinking & Nightlife

Vagator, along with Anjuna, was once the epicentre of Goa’s infamous all-night trance party scene. To its credit, Vagator still has two or three of the most happening late-night places along this coast, and over the Christmas and New Year period parties can crank up at surprisingly short notice.

Jai Ganesh Fruit Juice CentreCAFE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Chapora; juices ₹40-80; icon-hoursgifh8.30am-midnight)

Thanks to its corner location, with views up and down Chapora’s main street, this may be the most popular juice bar in Goa. It’s a prime meeting spot and, once parked, most people are reluctant to give up their seat. Enjoy the juices, shakes and lassis, including an avocado variation.

Scarlet Cold DrinksCAFE

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; juices & snacks ₹30-80; icon-hoursgifh8.30am-midnight)

Selling juice, lassis, fruit salads and muesli to travellers, Scarlet is the second-most popular of Chapora’s juice bars. There’s a useful noticeboard with news of the latest local yoga classes, reiki courses and the like.


( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2273665; icon-hoursgifhsunset-late)

Hilltop is a long-serving Vagator trance and party venue that’s deserted by day but comes alive from sunset. Its edge-of-town neon-lit coconut grove location allows it, on occasion, to bypass the 10pm noise regulations to host concerts, parties and the occasional international DJ. Sunday sessions (5pm to 10pm) are legendary here, and in season there’s usually an evening market and techno party on Friday night.

Paulo’s Antique BarBAR

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Chapora; icon-hoursgifh11.30am-11pm)

In season this hole-in-the-wall bar on Chapora’s main street overflows with good music and cold beer at night. Even during the afternoon the few tables on the verandah are a good spot to watch the world go by.

Nine BarBAR

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; icon-hoursgifh6pm-4am)

Once the hallowed epicentre of Goa’s trance scene, the open-air Nine Bar, on the clifftop overlooking Little Vagator Beach, has now moved into an indoor space so the parties can still go all night. Look out for flyers and local advice to see when the big party nights are on.


Goa has a far longer and more vibrant history of hosting parties than most people realise. As far back as the 16th century, the Portuguese colony was notorious as an immoral outpost where drinking, debauching and dancing lasted till dawn, and, despite a more strait-laced interlude at the hands of the notorious Goan Inquisition, the tradition was finally resurrected full-force when the ‘Goa Freaks’ arrived on the state’s northern beaches in the 1960s.

But the beach parties and full-moon raves of the 1970s and ’80s came to seem like innocent affairs compared with the trance parties that replaced them in the ’90s. At the peak of Goa’s trance period, each high season saw thousands of revellers choosing synthetic substances such as ecstasy over marijuana and dancing to techno beats in Day-glo stupors, sometimes for days at a time.

In 2000 a central government ‘noise pollution’ ban on loud music in open spaces between 10pm and 6am was handed down. This, combined with increasing crackdowns on drug possession, seriously put the brakes on the trance-party scene, with police teams swooping in to close down parties before they even began. This was largely greeted with relief from locals, who were becoming increasingly worried at the peak of the trance-party phenomenon about the effects of drug dealing, alcohol and attendant promiscuity on Goa’s own youth population.

With a tourist industry to nurture and the potential for baksheesh, the police still tend to turn a blind eye to a handful of parties during the peak Christmas and New Year period or full-moon nights. Indoor venues, including clubs in Baga and Candolim, are able to remain pumping till 4am or later, but entry rules are restrictive, particularly for men. In Vagator and Anjuna, several clubs still carry on by partying indoors after 10pm. Down south in Palolem, ‘silent discos’ are the new thing. Other parties, like the Sunburn Festival (, simply take place during the day.

If you’re determined to experience the remnants of Goa’s true trance scene, hang around long enough in Anjuna or Vagator and you’ll likely be handed a flyer for a party (many with international DJs). Taxi drivers are one of the best sources of information as it’s in their interests to ferry party-goers around. Other locals get involved setting up chai and omelette stands, and selling cigarettes and laser pointers.

Keep an ear close to the ground – if you’re lucky, you might get a taste of the Goa of old.


Rainbow BookshopBOOKS

( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Vagator Beach Rd; icon-hoursgifh10am-2pm & 3-7pm)

Long-running shop stocking a good range of secondhand and new books.


There’s a HDFC ATM at the petrol station on the back road to Anjuna.

8Getting There & Away

Fairly frequent buses run to both Chapora and Vagator from Mapusa (₹15, 30 minutes) throughout the day, many via Anjuna. The bus stand is near the road junction in Chapora village. Practically anyone with legs will rent you a scooter/motorcycle from ₹250/400 per day.


pop 12,000

The large village of Siolim straddles the Chapora River and is a major road junction between Anjuna, Chapora, Mapusa and the road north to Arambol. Though all travellers heading north will pass through Siolim, it’s often overlooked due to its riverside location some way from the nearest beach, but if you’re looking for a change from sea and sand, it makes an interesting place to stay with quite a few budget and midrange guesthouses for rent, and some fine top-end heritage hotels.

1Sights & Activities

Siolim is home to an atmospheric daily market near the ferry landing stage on the banks of the Chapora River, where you can watch women open mussel shells at high speed. On Wednesday mornings another small market (from 7.30am to 10am), full of homegrown produce, sets up near the central St Anthony Church, a building that dates back to the 16th century.

Siolim Cooking SchoolCOOKING

(icon-phonegif%0832-2272138, 9604887740;; Little Siolim House; 4hr class ₹2500)

This very reputable cooking school run by Siolim House specialises in Goan cuisine. Visit the market to select produce then learn to cook four dishes.


icon-top-choiceoSiolim HouseHERITAGE HOTEL

(icon-phonegif%9822584560, 0832-2272138;; annexe ₹4300-5000, ste ₹5600-7600; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

Comprising the seven-room Siolim House hotel and the smaller, three-bedroom Little Siolim, Siolim House is without doubt one of North Goa’s boutique treats. Situated in an old palácio (palace) that was once home to the Governor of Macau, the hotel is elegant and carefully restored and, though it has a lovely pool, is devoid of many ‘luxury’ trappings such as TV and only three rooms have air-con.

The rooms are all unique, some with grand four-poster beds and enormous stepped, throne-like bathrooms.


(icon-phonegif%9011071911;; villa from US$700, min 2 nights; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

This wonderful villa, strictly for families or groups looking to book the whole place, is as exclusive as it gets. It’s a spacious, stunning refurbished Portuguese-style mansion with three double bedrooms and a variety of extra sleeping spaces if your party requires it. You can kick back amid antiques, hang out in its river-view tree house, consult with its gourmet chef and float in a cool swimming pool.

Artists, writers, musicians and the like should ask about special creative rates.

Teso WaterfrontRESORT

(icon-phonegif%0832-2270096;; Vaddy Siolim; luxury tent ₹9000-12,000; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

This loungy upmarket party place has a cool location looking out on the lake-like mouth of the Chapora River. The safari Rajasthani tents are pricey but deluxe with air-con, fluffy beds, fridge, flat-screen TV, wardrobe and dresser. Muslin-wrapped cabanas make a great place to sip a cocktail overlooking the waterfront, and the dancefloor kicks off after sunset.



Zagor FestivalFESTIVAL

Held annually on the first Sunday and Monday after Christmas, Siolim’s Zagor Festival offers a glimpse into the peaceful coexistence of Goa’s diverse religious communities. Taking place on the Christian feast day of Nossa Senhora de Guia, the night-time festival blends both Hindu and Christian traditions, centring on a small Hindu shrine near the ferry dock, which is believed to house Zagoryo, the village deity.

The guardian of the village bunds (the dams that keep the river from the rice fields), Zagoryo is offered thanks during the festival by every Siolim family. Hindu families offer the deity oil, Christians bring candles, and everyone also offers up pohe (small cakes of pressed rice).

Beginning with a midnight candlelit procession, villagers file through the streets of Siolim bearing an effigy of Zagoryo, stopping at both roadside Hindu and Christian shrines for blessings along the way. Next comes a traditional dance drama, during which legends are re-enacted by members of two important Siolim families – the Catholic D’Souzas and Hindu Shirodkars – who’ve inherited the roles from their forebears.

At first light the next morning, Hindu and Christian blessings are chanted by village priests, and the deity is carried back to his shrine, amid a shower of further offerings. Huge crowds attend but if you’re in the area at the right time it’s an event not to be missed.


The broad mouth of the Chapora River splits the North Goa coast, and Morjim Beach is the first village and beach resort heading north – it’s reached by back roads heading west from the main highway after you cross the Siolim Bridge.

Morjim was once a very low-key – almost deserted – beach and the southern end is still protected due to the presence of rare olive ridley marine turtles, which come to lay their annual clutches of eggs between November and February. A Goa Forest Department hut is set up here to monitor the turtles and to provide environmental information in season.

As with many pockets of Goan beaches, Morjim has become extremely popular with long (and shorter) staying Russian tourists, so many little guesthouses and beach shacks have set up here with Cyrillic signs and menus, while domestic tourists and travellers from other beaches are also drifting here.

Still, it’s not as developed as Mandrem or Arambol, and though there are lovely views down the headland to Chapora Fort, the beach is more black sand than golden.

Sleeping & Eating

icon-top-choiceoWanderers HostelHOSTEL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9619235302;; Morjim; dm incl breakfast ₹500, luxury tent d ₹2000; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

This relatively new hostel about five minutes’ walk back from Morjim Beach is a real find. The main building, decorated with original travellers murals, has 40 beds in spotless air-con dorms with lockers, bed lights and free wi-fi, full kitchen, clean bathrooms, cosy communal areas and a pool table. In the garden next door is a tent village with swimming pool and yoga retreat centre (classes free to guests).

It’s an interesting mix of yoga-meets-party atmosphere, and with an enthusiastic young owner, it’s hard to think of a downside to this place. Morjim’s only ATM is across the road.

Rainbow Bar & RestaurantHUTS

(hut ₹1000)

Rainbow has some colourful huts behind its beachfront restaurant and bar. It’s at the end of Morjim Beach Rd, on the beach.

Goan Café & ResortRESORT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2244394;; apt & cottage from ₹1800, with AC ₹2200, treehouse without/with bathroom from ₹1200/1700; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

Fronting Morjim Beach, this excellent family-run resort has a fine array of beachfront stilted ‘treehouse’ huts and more solid rooms (some with AC) at the back. The Friends Corner restaurant is good; it’s not licensed but you’re welcome to BYO.


Aswen is a wide stretch of beach growing busier each year but still a little overshadowed by Mandrem to the north (though it’s increasingly hard to tell where Aswem ends and Morjim or Mandrem begins). Beach-hut accommodation and beach-shack restaurants spring up each season on a very broad stretch of clean, white-sand beach with few hawkers and the main Morjim–Mandrem road set some way back from the sands.

Yoga, ayurvedic massage and water sports are on offer here in season, including Goa’s best new surf outfit.


Vaayu Waterman’s VillageSURFING

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9850050403;; Aswem; surfboard hire per hr ₹500, lessons ₹2700)

Goa’s only surf shop is also an activity and art centre where you can arrange lessons and hire equipment for surfing, kiteboarding, stand up paddleboarding, kayaking and wakeboarding. Enthusiastic young owners also run an art gallery, cafe and funky accommodation across the road from Aswem beach.


Aswem boasts a stylish and growing range of beach huts. Most places are steadily moving upmarket but you can still find basic beach huts and rooms back from the beach for ₹1000 (less out of high season), depending on the view, facilities and proximity to the beach.

Meems’ Beach ResortRESORT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2247015;; r ₹2000, with AC ₹2500, f ₹4000; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

A solid guesthouse with 11 very clean rooms, Meems’ is just across the road from the beach. A feature here is the atmospheric garden restaurant with low tables and floor cushions, specialising in Kashmiri cuisine and Vietnamese barbecue.

Yab YumHUT

(icon-phonegif%0832-6510392;; hut from ₹5800; icon-wifigifW)icon-sustainableS

This top-notch choice has unusual, stylish, dome-shaped huts – some look like giant hairy coconuts – made of a combination of all-natural local materials, including mud, stone and mango wood. A whole host of yoga and massage options are available, and it’s all set in one of the most secluded beachfront jungle gardens you’ll find in Goa.

Marbela Beach ResortLUXURY TENTS

(icon-phonegif%9158881180, 0832-6450599;; tent ₹12,000-20,000; icon-wifigifW)

The luxury tents and ‘Spanish-style’ rooms at this slick resort are pricey but fitted out like five-star hotel rooms. Even if you don’t stay here, the beachfront cabanas are a divine spot for a drink and the resort’s thumping Club M parties late from Thursday to Sunday.

Amarya ShamiyanaTENTS

(icon-phonegif%7350711882;; tent from ₹7900; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

Four huge, luxurious tents with all the modern trimmings (including wi-fi, room service and rain showers), located just off the beach, makes this a highly tranquil spot to splurge.

Leela CottagesBEACH HUTS

(icon-phonegif%0832-22822874;; cottage ₹6500-7500; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-wifigifW)

The 15 cute luxury beach cottages (deluxe and grand) are situated in a nice leafy garden, just steps from the beach. Stand-out touches include antiquey bits and pieces in each cottage, ornate furniture, individually named rooms and lots of cute throw pillows, plus air-con and minibar. There’s a quality spa and yoga classes too.


There are plenty of beach shacks along this bit of coast and the restaurants at Marbela and Leela are top-notch.


( GOOGLE MAP ; mains ₹210-400; icon-hoursgifh9am-10pm Nov-Mar)

Rnowned in these parts, La Plage takes beach shack to the next level with its inspired gourmet French-Mediterranean food. Along with excellent salads, seafood and fabulous desserts (try the chocolate thali), La Plage stocks great wines. It’s usually open from late November to April.


Each November, a strong breeze known as the ‘turtle wind’ heralds the arrival of olive ridley marine turtles to lay eggs on a clutch of Goan beaches. It’s believed that these females – who live for over a century – return to the beach of their birth to lay eggs, courtesy of an incredible in-built ‘homing device,’ often travelling thousands of kilometres to do so.

One such beach is Morjim, but turtle numbers over the last century have slowly dwindled to dangerous levels due to poaching. On investigation, it was found that locals were digging up the eggs and selling them as delicacies at the market, and any turtle found out of the water was generally killed for its meat and shell. Increased tourism to Goa has also taken its toll; eggs were, for years, trampled unwittingly at rave parties, while sea and light pollution continue to threaten the survival of those turtles that manage, against the odds, to hatch. Since nesting is influenced by lunar cycles, some environmentalists believe increasing unnatural lighting contributes to the turtles’ confusion.

In 1996 the Goa Foundation, on the urging of several concerned local residents, finally stepped in and enlisted the help of the Goa Forest Department to patrol the beach and instigate a turtle conservation program. Locals who once profited from selling the eggs are now paid to guard them at the several turtle protection sites (at Morjim, Agonda and Galgibag beaches) established for this very purpose. Drop into one of its information huts, or go to, to learn more.


Mellow Mandrem has developed in recent years from an in-the-know bolt-hole for those seeking respite from the relentless traveller scene of Arambol and Anjuna to a fairly mainstream but still incredibly lovely beach hang-out.

An unusual feature of Mandrem is the narrow river inlet separating the white-sand beach from most of the accommodation strip and the road – rickety bamboo bridges connect you to the beach, where seasonal beach shacks set up. Some pretty sophisticated hut villages are springing up each year too.

Development is still low-key compared to most resorts in Goa and the beaches are largely free of hawkers, sunbeds and tourist crowds. There’s plenty of yoga, meditation and ayurveda on offer, though, plus good dining and space to lay down with a good book. Many believe there’s no better place in North Goa.


Mandrem is something of a Spiritual Central, and there’s plenty of yoga on offer. Many classes and courses change with the season, but there are a few places that reappear year after year.



Learn the spiritual art of ‘Open Clarity’ at Amalia Camp, where local guru Neeru hosts satsangs (devotional speech and chanting sessions) to help ease you towards ever-elusive enlightenment. Check the website for a schedule of events or to book accommodation.

Ashiyana Retreat CentreYOGA

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9850401714;; Junas Waddo, Mandrem)

This ‘tropical retreat centre’ situated right on Mandrem Beach has a long list of classes and courses available from November to April, from retreats and yoga holidays to spa, massage and ‘massage camp.’ Accommodation is in one of its gorgeous, heritage-styled rooms and huts.

Ayurvedic Massage CentreAYURVEDA, MASSAGE

(icon-phonegif%9420896843; 1/1½hr massage from ₹1000/1500; icon-hoursgifh9am-8pm)

Ayurvedic massage is provided here by the delightful Shanti. Try the rejuvenating 75-minute massage and facial package, or go for an unusual ‘Poulti’ massage, using a poultice-like cloth bundle containing 12 herbal powders, which is dipped in warm oil and comes especially recommended for treating back pain. You’ll find her place on the right-hand side as you head down the beach road.

There’s another branch at Sea Paradise Resort on the beach.

Himalaya Yoga ValleyYOGA

(icon-phonegif%9960657852;; Mandrem Beach)

The winter home of a popular Dharamsala outfit, HYV specialises in hatha and ashtanga residential teacher-training courses, but also has daily drop-in classes (₹400; 1½ hours; 8am, 10am and 3pm daily) and 10-day yoga refresher courses.

Oceanic YogaYOGA

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9049247422;; Junas Waddo, Mandrem; drop-in class ₹300-400)

Oceanic offers drop-in classes, seven-day yoga and meditation retreats, reiki and yoga teacher-training courses.


Mandrem has a growing number of beach huts fronting the beach or river inlet for around ₹1000, though many of the operations are moving more upmarket. As with most destinations in Goa, the huts change appearance, owner and prices seasonally. You’ll also find plenty of houses and rooms for rent throughout the village; just look for signs.

Dining options are largely of the standard beach-shack variety, with most places dishing up a decent range of Indian and international cuisine.

icon-top-choiceoDunes Holiday VillageBEACH HUT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2247219;; r & hut ₹900-1100; icon-internetgifiicon-wifigifW)

The pretty huts here are peppered around a palm-filled lane leading to the beach; at night, globe lamps light up the place like a palm-tree dreamland. Huts range from basic to more sturdy ‘treehouses’ (huts on stilts). It’s a friendly, good-value place with a decent beach restaurant, massage, yoga classes and a marked absence of trance.


( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9158266093;; r & hut ₹1600-5500; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

Mandala is a peaceful and beautifully designed eco-village with a range of huts and a couple of quirky air-con rooms in the ‘Art House.’ Pride of place goes to the barn-sized two-storey villas inspired by the design of a Keralan houseboat. There are no beach views or even direct beach access but the location, overlooking the tidal lagoon, is serene with a large garden, daily yoga sessions and an organic restaurant.

The Brit owner also runs adventure trips, kayaking and cruises.

Beach StreetRESORT

(Lazy Dog; icon-phonegif%0832-3223911; Mandrem Beach; r & hut ₹3300-4400; icon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

This large and relatively new beachfront villa has neat and tidy rooms, while the seasonal beachfront huts are spacious and well designed. The pool is a nice touch but it’s only a short walk over the bamboo bridge to the beach.


(icon-phonegif%9823610001, 0832-2247928;; 438/1 Junasawaddo; d ₹3015, with bathroom ₹3770-4800; icon-acongifa)

This fabulously quirky circular guesthouse – filled with art, light, antiques, and an owner with a decidedly creative inclination – is popular with arty types, potential screenwriters and return guests. Animal lovers will enjoy the resident cats and dogs.

Riva Beach ResortRESORT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-2247612;; d ₹​6000-7000; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifW)

This sprawling complex of hotel-style rooms and seasonal cottages tumbles down from the main road to the inlet where bamboo bridges provide access to the beach. Spring mattresses, ocean-view balconies and a good restaurant.


(; tent/r/house per week from US$811/1314/2435; icon-internetgifi)

The exact location of this heavenly set of historic beachfront houses and Otter Creek Tents, on some 500m of beachfront, is a closely guarded secret – though Google Earth will give you a clue. Choose from four beautiful beachfront houses, intriguingly named the Piggery, Bakery, Priest’s House and Captain’s House, or from three luxury tents (each sleeping two) and revel in the solitude that comes with a hefty price tag and a 60m walk across a bamboo bridge.

Minimum one-week stay. Book ahead.


There are motorbike and scooter hire places, travel agents and shops along the beach road to Mandrem. There’s an international ATM on the main road in Mandrem village.

8Getting There & Around

Although local buses run between Siolim and Mandrem village, it’s a nightmare trying to get anywhere in a hurry on public transport. Most travellers taxi to their chosen accommodation, then either hire a scooter/motorbike or use taxis from there.

Arambol (Harmal)

Arambol (also known as Harmal) is the most northerly of Goa’s developed beach resorts and is still considered the beach of choice for many long-staying budget-minded travellers in the north.

Arambol first emerged in the 1960s as a mellow paradise for long-haired long-stayers. Today things are still decidedly cheap and cheerful, with much of the village’s budget accommodation arranged in simple little huts along the cliffsides, though the main beach is now an uninterrupted string of beach shacks, many with beach-hut operations stacked behind.

The covelike beach is gently curved and safe for swimming, making it popular among families with children, along with the usual array of travellers. A short walk around the northern headland, past shops and cheap guesthouses, brings you to little Kalacha Beach, another popular place thanks to the ‘Sweetwater Lake’ back from the beach. The headland above here is the best place in Goa for paragliding.


Aside from yoga and beach lounging, the most popular pursuits in Arambol are paragliding from the headland above Kalacha Beach and kite surfing and surfing down at the southern end. Several operators give lessons and rent equipment; look out for flyers and noticeboards.

Arambol ParaglidingPARAGLIDING

( GOOGLE MAP ; 10min flight ₹1500; icon-hoursgifhnoon-6pm)

The headland above Kalacha Beach (Sweetwater Lake) is an ideal launching point for paragliding. There are a number of independent operators: ask around at the shack restaurants on the beach, arrange a pilot, then make the short hike to the top of the headland. Most flights are around 10 minutes, but if conditions are right you can stay up much longer.


( GOOGLE MAP ;; Surf Club; 1½hr lesson from ₹2000, 3-/5-day course ₹5000/8000)

If you’re a beginner looking to get up on a board, join the international team of surfers based at Arambol’s Surf Club. Prices include board hire, wax and rashie. Check the website for instructor contact details – between them they speak English, Russian, Hindi, Konkani and Japanese! Board-only rental is ₹500.

Himalayan Iyengar Yoga CentreYOGA

( GOOGLE MAP ;; Madhlo Vaddo; five-day yoga course ₹4000; icon-hoursgifh9am-6pm Tue-Sun Nov-Mar)

Arambol’s reputable Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre, which runs five-day courses in hatha yoga from mid-November to mid-March, is the winter centre of the iyengar yoga school in Dharamkot, near Dharamsala in North India. First-time students must take the introductory five-day course, then can continue with more advanced five-day courses at a reduced rate.

Booking and registration must be done in person at the centre. Accommodation is available for students in simple huts or tents (single/double ₹650/800).


Accommodation in Arambol has mushroomed from the basic huts and rooms along the clifftop walk and the guesthouses back in the village to a mini-Palolem collection of beach huts spawning behind the shacks along the main beach. Enter at the ‘Glastonbury St’ beach entrance and walk north to find plenty of places clinging to the headland between here and Kalacha Beach, or enter at the south end and ask at any of the beach shacks.

Arambol has a budget reputation and you can get basic huts – especially around the clifftops – for ₹400 or less, but prices are creeping up and anything seafacing is likely to be around ₹1000, more in peak season.

Most of the budget cliffside places don’t bother with advance booking – simply turn up early in the day to see who’s checking out – except, of course, in peak Christmas season when you might even have to book a minimum of a week.


( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9921882424; d ₹600, apt with AC ₹1000; icon-hoursgifhyear-round; icon-acongifa)

Near the beach entrance on Glastonbury St, this clean and friendly canary-yellow place is one of Arambol’s better non-beachfront bargains. Chilli’s offers 10 decent, no-frills rooms, all with attached bathroom, fan and a hot-water shower. The top-floor apartment with AC and TV is great value. Owner Derek hires out motorbikes and scooters and offers free advice.

Shree Sai CottagesHUT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%0832-3262823, 9420767358;; hut without bathroom ₹400-600)

A good example of what’s on offer along the cliffs, Shree Sai has simple, cute, sea-facing huts on the cliffs overlooking Kalacha Beach.


( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9404436447; r & hut ₹400-800)

Popular seasonal huts along the cliff path and a good restaurant, Om Ganesh has been around for a while and also has solid rooms in a building on the hillside.

Ludu Guest HouseBEACH HUT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9404434332, 0832-2242734; r ₹500-1000)

A cut above many other Arambol options, Ludu offers simply decorated, clean and bright cliffside rooms with attached cold-water showers. Hot water can be ordered by the bucketful.

PitruchayaBEACH HUT

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9881811098, 9404454596; r & hut from ₹500)

This relatively spaciously situated little place, with a slightly Mediterranean feel, has very neat sea-facing huts. There are also eight good-value rooms on the back side of the path.


( GOOGLE MAP ;; d ₹1200-1600; icon-wifigifW)

In its own space at the end of a lane, on the very southern end of Arambol Beach, the Surf Club is one of those cool little hang-outs that offer a bit of everything: simple but clean rooms, a funky bar with live music, surf lessons and a seasonal kindergarten.

Arambol Plaza Beach ResortHOTEL

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9545550731, 0832-2242052; Arambol Beach Rd; r & cottage ₹1800-2500; icon-acongifaicon-wifigifWicon-swimgifs)

On the road between the upper village and the beach, Arambol Plaza is a reasonable midrange choice with cute timber cottages around a decent pool. All rooms are AC but avoid the poorly maintained rooms in the building at the side.

5Eating & Drinking

Despite Arambol’s backpacker-hippie vibe it certainly hasn’t escaped the beach shack invasion, so you’ll find about two dozen of them wall to wall along the main beach in season, complete with sunbeds and beach umbrellas out front. Most are pretty good (and many have accommodation behind). They change seasonally but a few are consistent.

The northern cliff walk has a string of budget restaurants with good views and the road leading down to the beach is punctuated by some interesting dining options. In the upper village, chai shops and small local joints will whip up a chai for ₹5 and a thali for ₹70.

The Surf Club is well known for good burgers and for hosting live music concerts in season.


( GOOGLE MAP ; meals ₹100-160; icon-hoursgifh9am-11pm)

Just back from the beach, and understandably popular with Israeli backpackers, Shimon is the place to fill up on exceptional falafel. For something more unusual go for sabich, crisp slices of eggplant stuffed into pita bread along with boiled egg, boiled potato and salad. The East-meets-Middle-East thali (₹360) comprises a little bit of almost everything on the menu.

Follow up with a strong Turkish coffee or its signature iced coffee.


( GOOGLE MAP ; mains from ₹90; icon-hoursgifh8am-late)

Among the many little clifftop restaurants, Outback is consistently good for seafood and is always a great place for a sundowner, preferably right after you’ve hit the thermals over nearby Kalacha Beach.

German BakeryBAKERY

( GOOGLE MAP ; Welcome Inn; pastries ₹30-90)

This popular little cafe bakes a good line in cakes and pastries, including lemon cheese pie and chocolate biscuit cake. It’s a cool meeting spot close to the beach but away from the beach shacks.

Dylan’s Toasted & RoastedCAFE

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9604780316;; coffee & desserts from ₹60; icon-hoursgifh9am-11pm late Nov-Apr)

The Goa (winter) incarnation of a Manali institution, Dylan’s is a fine place for an espresso, chocolate chip cookies and old-school dessert. A nice hang-out just back from the southern beach entrance.


( GOOGLE MAP ; mains ₹180-350; icon-hoursgifhfrom 6.30pm)

On the left-hand side just before the beach, this unsignposted but long-standing Italian joint is perfect if you’re craving a carbonara or calzone. More than 20 wood-fired, thin-crust pizza varieties are on the menu, but save space for a very decent rendition of tiramisu.


( GOOGLE MAP ; mains ₹110-390, steaks ₹420-470; icon-hoursgifh7am-10pm)

In a peaceful garden set back from the main road to the Glastonbury St beach entrance, Double Dutch has long been popular for its steaks, salads, Thai and Indonesian dishes, and famous apple pies. It’s a very relaxed meeting place with secondhand books, newspapers and a useful noticeboard for current Arambolic affairs.

Rice BowlASIAN

( GOOGLE MAP ; Arambol; mains ₹110-280; icon-hoursgifh8am-11pm)

Rice Bowl specialises in Chinese and Japanese cuisine and does it well. With a good view down to Arambol Beach, this is a great place to settle in with a plate of gyoza and a beer.


Arambol HammocksHAMMOCKS

( GOOGLE MAP ; icon-phonegif%9822389005;; icon-hoursgifh9am-6pm)

At the north end of the main beach, Arambol Hammocks designs and sells hammocks, including their ‘flying carpets’ and ‘flying chairs.’ You can also organise paragliding from here.


The closest ATM is on the main highway in Arambol’s village, about 1.5km back from the beach. If it’s not working there’s another about 3km north in Paliyem or about the same distance south in Mandrem.

Everything else you’ll need in the way of services – internet, travel agents, moneychangers and the like – you’ll find in abundance on what’s commonly known as ‘Glastonbury St,’ the road leading down to Arambol’s beach. Wi-fi is widespread, and mostly free, in beach huts and restaurants.

8Getting There & Away

Frequent buses to and from Mapusa (₹30, one hour) stop on the main road at the ‘backside’ (as locals are fond of saying) of Arambol village, where there’s a church, a school and a few local shops. From here, it’s a 1.5km trek down through the village to the main beach drag (head straight to the southern beach entrance or bear right for the northern ‘Glastonbury St’ entrance another 500m further on). An autorickshaw or taxi will charge at least ₹50 for the ride.

Plenty of places in the village advertise scooters and motorbikes for hire for ₹250 and ₹350 respectively, per day.

A taxi to Mapusa or Anjuna should cost around ₹600. If you’re heading north to Mumbai, travel agents can book bus tickets and you can board at a stop on the highway in the main village.



Just a few kilometres north of Arambol, quiet Querim’s beach (also called and signposted as Keri Beach) is a little-visited patch of sand where you can while away the hours in peace, with just a few beach shacks in residence from mid-November. Backed by a shady cover of fir and casuarina trees, there’s not much to do here but have a leisurely swim, settle back with a book, and enjoy the tranquillity that’s missing from Arambol these days. You can reach Querim the long way by scooter or taxi, or tackle the headland walk (about one hour) from Kalacha Beach.

If you’re keen to stay here, wander around the village set back from the beach where there are numerous ‘rooms for rent’ signs, and some entire village houses up for grabs.

To get to Terekhol (the most northerly point in Goa) and its fort, it’s fun to hop on board Querim’s free ferry (icon-hoursgifh7am-10pm, every 30min) that chugs passengers and vehicles across the Terekhol River from the ferry landing at the very end of the village road. If the ferry isn’t operating, a huge new bridge (completed in 2012) crosses the river along the main highway.

Not far from the ferry landing, you’ll find Fort Tiracol (Terekhol), perched high above the banks of the river of the same name. Originally built by the Marathas in the early 17th century, the fort was captured by viceroy Dom Pedro de Almeida in 1746 and was rebuilt; the little Chapel of St Anthony, which takes up almost all of the available space within it, was added at that time.

The fact that the fort falls on the ‘wrong’ side of Goa’s natural northern border, the Terekhol River, led it to be involved in considerable controversy. In the late 18th century the British demanded that it be handed over to the Empire, and in 1825, when the first Goan-born governor, Dr Bernardo Peres da Silva, was ousted, his supporters took over the fort. His own forces mutinied at the last moment, and met their deaths at the hands of the Portuguese. Finally, in 1954, Goa’s entire northern border came to be at the centre of anti-Portuguese demonstrations. Several pro-India supporters hoisted an Indian flag over the fort’s ramparts, and two were killed as a result; a plaque here still attests to this today.

The fort has operated as a private hotel in past years but was closed and waiting for a buyer at the time of research. The gates are guarded but you can still enter and look at the chapel and the views down the coast from the ramparts.

Inland Bardez & Bicholim

There’s not as much to explore in North Goa’s interior as there is in the central and southern parts of the state, but with your own wheels you can leave the beach behind for a day or two and head east into the districts of Bardez and Bicholim. There are some fine old churches, sleepy villages, forts and a part of the Goan countryside that relatively few tourists see.


Britona & Pomburpa

On the Mandovi River, east of the national highway, is the pretty riverside village of Britona. Its parish church, Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca (Our Lady of the Rock of France), is a grand old dame, occupying a fine location at the confluence of the Mandovi and Mapusa Rivers, looking across to Chorao Island on one side and to the Ribandar Causeway on the other.

Nossa Senhora de Penha de Franca was a Spanish saint who, after one hair-raising voyage in which the sailors saved themselves from certain death by appealing to Nossa Senhora, became associated with seafarers, and thus was favoured by many of those who had survived the voyage to India.

The interior of the church is beautifully decorated, with a high-vaulted ceiling and a simple reredos embellished with painted scenes. This church is best visited in the morning and holds one service (in Konkani) on most days.

Britona has plenty of old-fashioned village character, and makes a nice place to stay for the night. Casa Britona (icon-phonegif%0832-2416737;; d from ₹7200; icon-acongifaicon-internetgifiicon-swimgifs) is a 300-year-old converted customs warehouse, with luxurious antique-filled rooms, fine outdoor dining beneath the stars and a lovely riverside swimming pool.

Continuing on another 5km to the village of Pomburpa, peek in at its equally beautiful Church of Nossa Senhora Mae de Deus (Our Lady Mother of God), noteworthy for its stunning interior and elaborate gold-leaf reredos.


Around 5km north of Pomburpa, the large and picturesque village of Aldona is home to the Church of St Thomas on the banks of the Mapusa River, which makes a grand sight, particularly when viewed from the village’s now-defunct ferry crossing. The church, built in 1596, is attached to a strange, saintly legend. The story goes that one day, as a group of thieves crossed the river to Aldona, to strip the church of its riches, they were met by a young boy who warned them to reconsider carrying out their crime. While they were nonetheless attempting to remove valuables, the church bells began to peal; fleeing in a panic, some of the thieves drowned, while the others were captured. As the leader was led sorrowfully away, he recognised the church’s statue of St Thomas as the boy who had cautioned him against his misdeeds.

Corjuem Island

On this inland island around 2km northeast of Aldona and now accessible by modern road bridges, you’ll find the only still-intact inland fort, the abandoned and atmospheric Corjuem Fort. Around 1705 Corjuem came to mark the easternmost boundary of Portugal’s colonial conquest, and the small fort was quickly built to protect the territory from raids by the Rajputs and Marathas.

Squat and thick walled, standing alone on a small hillock, the fort has a lonely element of beau geste about it, and although there’s not a whole lot to see here, it’s easy to imagine this place as a solitary outpost in the jungle nearly three centuries ago, filled with homesick Portuguese soldiers just waiting to be overrun by bloodthirsty attackers.



Turning right to take the main highway north just after Britona, it’s worth a quick detour away from the Mandovi riverbanks to reach the little village of Torda, where you’ll find the interesting Houses of Goa Museum (icon-phonegif%0832-2410711;; near Nisha’s Play School, Torda; adult/child ₹100/25; icon-hoursgifh10am-7.30pm Tue-Sun), created by well-known local architect Gerard de Cunha to illuminate the history of Goan homes, apparent statewide in various states of picturesque decrepitude. The multilevel, triangular building is an architectural oddity in itself, and the museum traces Goan architectural traditions, building materials and styles in an in-depth but accessible style.

Next door is the Mario Gallery (icon-phonegif%0832-2410711; icon-hoursgifh10am-5.30pm Mon-Fri, to 1pm Sat) with works by one of India’s favourite cartoonists, Loutolim local Mario de Miranda, who died in December 2011 at the age of 85.

Marooned shiplike in the middle of a traffic island, the museum is hard to miss. Turn right at the O’Coqueiro junction and then left at the fork, and you’ll find it just there. If you don’t have your own transport, a taxi here from Panaji should cost around ₹300 one-way.

Naroa & Shri Saptakoteshwara Temple

For the most scenic entry to the little village of Naroa, clinging to the banks of the Mandovi, venture here by ferry (free; icon-hoursgifhevery 20-30 min) from picturesque Divar Island.

Just 2km from the ferry point, the Shri Saptakoteshwara Temple is tiny, tucked away in a narrow emerald-green valley and undisturbed by anything apart from a few mopeds and the occasional tour bus.

The deity worshipped at the temple is a lingam (a phallic symbol of Shiva, the destroyer), which underwent considerable adventures before arriving here. Having been buried to avoid early Muslim raids, it was recovered and placed in a great Kadamba temple on Divar Island, but when the Portuguese desecrated the spot in 1560 it was smuggled away and subsequently lost. Miraculously rediscovered in the 17th century by Hindus, who found it being used as part of a well shaft, it was smuggled across the Mandovi River to safety in the temple. It’s said that the great Maratha rebel leader Shivaji used to come here to worship, and personally saw to it that the temple was reconstructed in 1668, creating the small, solid structure that stands here today.

To find the temple, follow the road from the ferry point at Naroa (from Divar Island) for approximately 2km, before forking right down a small tarmac lane. You’ll find the temple about 1.5km along, to your left; follow the red and green archaeology arrows until you arrive. You’ll know it from its shallow, Mughal-style dome, tall lamp tower, and vaulted arches. Look out for the equestrian mural of Shivaji, above the entrance.


Corjuem Fort’s most famous Portuguese defender was Ursula e Lancastre, a Portuguese noblewoman who travelled the world disguised as a man, eventually finding herself stationed here as a soldier. It was not until she was suspected and stripped that her secret was discovered; however, this did not put an end to her military career. She promptly went on to marry the captain of the guard, following what was, in retrospect, probably one of the most interesting strip searches in the history of warfare.

Mayem Lake

East of Naroa and about 35km from Panaji, glistening Mayem Lake is a pleasant sort of place that’s popular among local picnickers, while the GTDC’s North Goa bus tour also sets down daily for lunch here.

If you’re keen to stay for longer than lunchtime, Goa Tourism’s Mayem Lake View (icon-phonegif%0832-2362144;; d ₹1049, with AC ₹1380-1710, ste ₹2200; icon-acongifa) is almost certainly the nicest of all the GTDC’s hotels. Its rooms are cheerful, clean and good value, particularly those perched at the lake’s edge.