One of the quietest resorts in southern Goa, Varca Beach boasts over 10 kilometres of unspoiled coastline, featuring pristine white sand dotted with palm trees. Steal yourself away from the idyllic shoreline and you'll find historic villages, interesting colonial architecture and an array of nature tours where you'll uncover waterfalls, canyons and wildlife amid the dense jungle on your Goa holidays.
A 30-minute drive inland will find you in the historical village of Chandor, one of the region's most prominent villages. Home to an ancient fort and temple, this unsuspecting settlement is believed to have been the capital of Chandrapur rulers in the past and served as a reputable port, which laid the foundations of trade in the India.
On the west side of the village you'll find the Kushavati River - and for those interested in the history of Portugese Goa you can explore the Menezes Braganza House. As the oldest standing house in Goa, it displays lavish antiques and wonderful examples of colonial architecture.
For a quicker pace and to experience a different side of cheap holidays to Goa, make your way over to Margao, the second largest city in the region. Located a 30-minute drive from Varca Beach, the area is bursting with locals, historical landmarks and attractions.
Amid the busy back streets you'll discover small canteens serving up delicious homemade curries and over in Largo de Igrejais, there are a number of traditional old Portuguese mansions in various states of repair. There are also many religious sites in Margao, from the impressive Church of the Holy Spirit to the Hindu crematorium and the Muslim burial ground. You can also find handfuls of temples and smaller churches.
The sweet aroma of spices fills the air at this authentic and vibrant Indian market in the city of Margao. As the region's main shopping hub, the huge covered canopy can get somewhat crowded but its size means you'll find everything from basic groceries to clothing, jewellery and other household items.
If you're looking for a taste of Goa to take home, you'll also find the best selection of dried spices and fruits here, alongside locally produced soaps, sweets and the famous Goan sausages. For a more interesting souvenir look out for stalls selling fenny, a locally produced alcoholic drink made from cashew nuts.
In the charming village of Rivona, a 45-minute drive from Varca Beach, you'll find the fairly unknown Rivona or Pandava Buddhist caves, thought to have been occupied by Buddhist monks in the 6th or 7th century. Carved out of a slab of overhanging laterite, the caves are just outside the village, with the entrance marked by strips of red cloth, hung from an old tamarind tree.
Further afield – an hour and a half north just outside the town of Bicholim – you'll find the more famous Lamgau and Arvalem Caves, also delicately carved from lamerite and covered in palm trees and rich vegetation.
The Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary sits approximately a 90-minute scenic drive from Varca Beach and is full of rich vegetation and evergreen forest, covering an area of 240 square kilometres.
Enjoy an elephant ride around the park as you look for deer, bison, flying squirrels and wild boar. If you'd rather, you can even climb to the top of Devil's Canyon - a basalt rock formation - for a bird's eye view of the mountainous landscape. Constructed in the 13th century, the park is also home to the Tambdi Surla Temple, Goa's oldest standing temple, and the 200 metre tall Dudhsagar Waterfall.