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From the sun-drenched beaches and sprawling mountain ranges to colourful markets and relaxing bars, Goa is naturally beautiful, diverse and affordable.
Now we're not saying a summer trip to Suffolk wouldn't be lovely, but wouldn't you prefer somewhere with a little bit more sun? Once an almost exclusive destination for hedonistic hippies and backpackers, Goa has evolved over the years into a popular alternative to the Caribbean or the Maldives that won't break the bank. Today Goa's beaches are filled with families building sandcastles and millionaires sipping cocktails rather than the somewhat less visually appealing nudists practicing yoga.
That doesn't mean that this liberal Indian state has lost its laid-back attitude. The north is still a Hippy Mecca and is home to the famous full moon parties and legendary trance music festivals. And with over 6,000 bars – nearly two per square kilometre – it really is no wonder why Goa is India's party capital. Everything is in walking distance – you can spend the day on one of the beaches at Candolim, Arpora or Baga, nip back to your hotel for a quick change, and then hit one of the local bars. If neon raves aren't your thing, don't worry. Just a coconut's throw from the cultural capital of Panaji are the world-class sands of Anjuna, Baga, and the self-proclaimed queen of the beaches herself, Calangute. If you're feeling lucky, India's only floating casino "Caravela" floats off Goa's coast at Panaji harbour.
The south is more peaceful. You'll find colourful painted fishing villages surrounding palm-strewn coves. The beaches around Arossim, Cavelossim and Sinquerim are quiet, and more spread out. Here you can spend the day sunbathing under swaying palms on a secluded beach, Kindle in hand, listening to the waves gently lap the shore. None of this sunbeds at dawn business, no beach balls knocking your drink over and nobody accidentally walking all over your beach towel as they try to tiptoe though the sprawling mass of sun worshipers. Bliss.
Goa has a tropical monsoon climate, with rain arriving in early June to provide welcome respite from the heat. The best time to visit Goa is in the winter between November and March, when the temperature hovers comfortably in the 20s and humidity is moderate. These are the months when tourism thrives, and wooden beach shacks pop up all along the shore, selling tropical fruit juices and fresh fish caught by colourful fishing boats that very morning.