If you’re looking for a varied and fascinating destination for a gap year you can’t do much better than India – the country is huge and there are a lot of differences between its many states. Goa – and particularly the north – has a lot to offer travellers, so check out some of the top reasons to head to this region of the southern state.
Although Goa is best known for its beaches, the north of the state actually has a lot more to offer than just glorious stretches of sand – there are, of course, plenty of these though. One of the best reasons to spend time in north Goa is to explore its historical sites.
Old Goa – the former capital – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an absolute must if you’re keen to learn more about the colonial era in this corner of India. The Portuguese had a strong influence on the state from the 16th to the mid-20th century and this is particularly evident in Old Goa where a host of churches still stand.
The Chapel of St Catherine – which was constructed in 1510 – is the oldest one remaining, while the Convent of St Francis of Assisi and its archaeological museum are well worth exploring during a day at the site. The most impressive buildings here are the Se Cathedral and the Church of Bom Jesus, with the latter particularly important as this is where the remains of St Francis are interred.
Another attraction that you should head to on your gap year is Aguada Fort – the best preserved Portuguese enclave still remaining in Goa. The fortress is located on a headland overlooking the Mandovi River and the freshwater well within its walls is what gave it its name.
Goa developed a reputation as being a haven for hippies and travellers in the 1970s and since then has attracted a steady stream of people looking to escape on its wonderful beaches. There are some lovely stretches of sand in the north of Goa, as well as lively beachfront areas such as Calangute and Baga.
Although there are some very well-developed seaside areas in Goa, there are still peaceful bays where few other tourists hang out – like Sinquerim, which has become associated with high-end holidays thanks to the two luxury resorts that sit on one of its headlands. Another option is Vagator, a quiet crescent of sand close to the more famous Anjuna Beach.
For some thrills and spills head to Calangute, which has extensive water sports facilities, as well as many of north Goa’s top bars and restaurants. This is a lively spot and definitely a good place to come to if you’re hoping to make friends – with both fellow travellers and locals.
North Goa is home to some of the most vibrant and exciting nightlife in the state, with parties often spilling out on to the sand and lasting into the small hours of the morning. Dance music is popular in Goa, with trance often blaring out of the beachside bars from the middle of the evening until the sun comes up.
Calangute and Baga are two of the liveliest nightlife spots, with Tito’s Bar a must-visit as it is the longest-running establishment in the area. Another place worth checking out is Club Antoos at the south-end of Calangute Beach. Parties here are busy and a lot of fun – perfect for mingling with other people and making some new friends.
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