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As winter approaches, think about going to Goa

vagatorbeachDepending on a variety of factors, it’s quite possible that you’ve never even heard of Goa before. It’s a small state (not a city) on the southwestern coast of India, and among other things, it has an international reputation for its wild beach raves featuring big name DJs from around the world. Those beach parties aren’t quite what they used to be anymore, but still Goa is a popular destination for fans of electronic and dance music, plus hippies who’ve been going there for decades now.

Goa has a definite high season

When I first went to Goa I arrived in the middle of April, which was about a week after Easter. I was so excited to be there finally, and then crushed to discover that the “season” pretty much ends completely on Easter Sunday. I found a nice hotel in Vagator, which is where much of the rave action takes place, and then as I wandered around the small town I discovered that it was almost completely empty. Learn from my mistake.

If you want to go to Goa you should think about the period starting in December, or maybe even after Christmas, and up to Easter Sunday. If you arrive before or after that timeframe you’ll either find the area empty or full of Indian families on their own holidays. There’s nothing wrong with empty or full of locals, but if you want to check out the “scene” then you have to go during the window.

Weather is a factor

It’s true that Goa and that region of India has a monsoon season through summer, so it’s best to avoid the worst of that, but outside the June through September rainy season, the weather is actually quite good. The main factor in the “season” is Goa is a major holiday destination for people escaping their own cold climates. You’ll find mostly Europeans but also quite a few Israelis, Australians and a sprinkling of Americans.

Getting to Goa

When searching for tickets to India you really need to pay attention. This is obviously a very large country so you have to have your specific destination in mind. The normal way to do it is check airfare to Mumbai, which will usually be the cheapest of any city in the country. From Mumbai you can take a 12-hour train ride to Goa, or you could check on airfare to Goa itself, as there is a decent sized airport. It’s worth checking both, even though your flight to Goa will almost certainly have you changing planes in Mumbai. There are also a few discount carriers in India, so you could think about flying to Mumbai on one ticket and then down to Goa on another cheap airline.

Where to stay in Goa

As a major resort area, it’s no surprise that there is no shortage of hotels in Goa. But again, this is a state, not a city, so you have to pay close attention exactly where you are booking. Each beach city has its own vibe, and there are a few cities inland that are potentially worth a visit as well. Vagator, as mentioned, is home of the rave scene, while Anjuna is where the famous hippie market takes place, and Calangute is a more straight-up beach resort area that tends to be popular with Indians. You might even want to book at one place for a few days and then in another city for a few more, to get a better appreciation for the different styles along the coast.