Ever wonder what tourists get up to in Goa? I mean, it’s a beach destination but what else is here for tourists… There is a lot! Because I live here, I haven’t gone into tourist mode and actually haven’t been to some places to visit in Goa on this list (yes, even after nearly 4 years).
I’m going to go all “Lonely Planet” and tell you the places to visit in Goa that tourists come here looking for since guidebooks say they are the best!
Don’t forget to pick up my Insider Guide to Goa and my Guide to India
General Goa Travel Tips
- Safety Tips For Solo Female Travel in Goa, India
- BEST Places to Visit in Goa in 3 Days
- 50 Things to Do in Goa
- Best Place to Stay in Goa
Places to Visit in Goa for Tourists
Basilica de Bom Jesus
This is a UNESCO Heritage Site. It’s located in Old Goa. To get here you’ll probably want to hire a taxi driver. Old Goa, in general, is a huge tourist attraction in Goa because the churches here were built by the Portuguese in the 1600’s. It’s free to enter and you need to cover your shoulders and wear something that covers your legs at least to your knees.
Church of St. Francis of Assisi
This is the other popular church in Old Goa so you can’t miss it. They are right next to each other. It was built at the same time by the Portuguese. Here’s what I have listed as what to see in Old Goa.
This is only 60 km from Panjim, near the Karnataka border. Again you’ll want to hire a driver because the roads are windy and it’s probably as much to rent a car! The waterfall is 310 meters high and is Goa’s tallest waterfall. It’s in the Western Ghats which is one of the most diverse biospheres in the world.
Hot Air Balloon Goa
There is only one company that does this in Goa, Tiger Balloon Safari. Their location is Chandor, Goa. You do have to book online and it does book up fast.
This is one of Goa’s oldest temples. This is a local favorite, so make you dress appropriately when you visit. It has a lot of history you can read about here.
18th June Road
Want to explore Panjim? You’ll definitely end up on this road at some point. The 18th June is an important date in Goa’s history because it’s when the Revolution from the Portuguese happened. This is listed as the top shopping place in Panjim and people seem to be all about Bombay Bazaar which is just a shop to buy homewares and clothing. Basically, while here you can visit churches in Panjim and eat street food while popping into all the shops. For me, I’m more interested in wandering around Fontainhas and seeing the cool streets that were built by the Portuguese. Very European! Here is my post about where to shop in Panjim.
These are located NE of Panjim about an hour driving. Seeing caves with sketching of Hindu gods is something people love to see in Goa and this is the only cave I know of like this in Goa. While it isn’t complete, is small, and doesn’t compare to a place like Hampi it would be interesting if you aren’t traveling to other areas of Goa.
All the Flea Markets
There are quite a few to think about seeing. The number one market is the Wednesday Flea market in Anjuna. You can see information in that blog post. You will love the Saturday Night Market in Arpora. There is also two more Saturday night markets in Goa, but they aren’t as good in my opinion. You could choose to also go to Mapusa and brave the traffic at the Friday market. This is the closest to “real India” you’ll get in North Goa.
You could see this in luxury by staying at the Taj Fort Aguada and looking out over the fort while you drink your Mai Tia, or you can visit it for free as a tourist. It’s located on Sinquerim beach. It was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century.
This fort is also free to enter. It’s mostly ruined now but has the best views over Vagator and the Arabian Sea.
Fort Tiracol (Fort Terekhol)
You’ll have to make the drive up the coast near to Maharashtra border to see this epic fort. This one was actually not Portuguese (it was built by the King of Sawantwadi) but later yes, was taken over by the Portuguese. This is a church inside called St. Anothony’s Church (there are a couple called this in Goa). It was a base for freedom fighters during the Goa revolution. If you come here you might as well visit Keri Beach which is up this way and totally stunning. The Fort is now a hotel, and a luxury one at that called Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel.
Reis Magos Fort & Church
This Fort and Church are both located in Panjim, near the big Mandovi river. These were built in the 1500’s and it’s the oldest church and Fort in Goa making it quite the site for history buffs. I won’t lie there are about 5 more very popular churches in Goa but I’m not adding them to the list because it’s SO redundant and I can’t recommend you go around seeing all these churches. If you are into that, though, here is an article that sums up all the best churches in Goa.
You could go beach crazy here if you wanted to, but here’s a tip: it’s all the same (“same same but different” as the locals would say). It’s best to stick to just one or two and not think of seeing beaches as “sightseeing” or something to check off your list. You’ve got the most crowded beaches of Calangute, Candolim, and Baga. Anjuna is the party beach. Vagator is pretty calm but still crowded. Ashwem and Mandrem are more beautiful. The beaches in the South are the best: Palolem, Agonda, Colva, and more.
Houseboat on Chapora
There are so many options from budget to luxury, but I don’t think you’ll find them as cheap as you do in Kerala simply because there just are not enough boats. You should book this ahead of time. You can take an evening tour or you can stay overnight on the boats.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
You’ll go far into the Western Ghats for this. You can see guar and deer. Supposedly you can see leopards or black panthers also but it’s very rare. This sanctuary is near Dudsagar Falls so plan accordingly.
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
Bird lovers don’t fret, there is a place especially for you! This is on a small island in the Mandovi River that you take a ferry to, so you will have a lot of peace and quiet there.
Naval Aviation Museum
You can walk around outside and see the aircraft up close. Then after you go the inside section of the museum to learn about the history of the Indian Navy and the aircraft they use, plus real uniforms and photographs.
Sahakari Spice Plantation
There are a couple of spice plantations in Goa, but I prefer this one. When you get here you just wander around with a guide while he shows you what the different plants are. Then you have lunch (if you paid for that) which I suggest so you can try simple local food. You could see the elephants but I don’t recommend this as I don’t feel they are treated well and believe that any elephant tamed for tourism is animal cruelty.
Did any of these places to visit in Goa interest you?
If they didn’t, don’t feel bad. Goa is more about getting into the Goan way of life (slow, relaxed) and just chilling out. While, yes, there are places to visit in Goa for tourists, I personally don’t take my friends from the USA to more than 2-3 places on this list.
Here are some more ideas that I DO recommend you to do here in Goa:
When booking online tours for Goa’s attractions, keep in mind that the images used to promote these popular places to visit in Goa are often stolen from the interest and do not depict what you will actually see. There are some places I have purposely not mentioned (dolphin tours, crocodile tours) because I just cannot recommend them unless you are very bored.
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Agh! I was supposed to go to Goa last year in Feb, but all the trains were booked because of some lit beach party. This blog piece makes my heart even more sore that I missed this place.
I hope you get another chance to come to Goa :D
Saw your Hampi tour blog. its really awesome. Started following you after reading that :)
Thanks Vishnu, happy you found the blog :)
Great tips! I’m a bit of a culture-vulture, so for me it’s all about Old Goa <3
Beautiful article Rachel ! The beach looks amazing and i will definitely put it on my “must visit” list . This place is extraordinary and the people seem so kind.
Great tips Rachel! I recommend the Saligao Church to all my friends too!
Hey Jade – love your blog!
I was just looking for the places to visit in Goa as we are planning a trip to goa next month! You just saved Hours of Research!
Traveling is also a major passion of mine, and I spend a lot of my free-time planning out future adventures. I would love to travel through South America sometime, especially Argentina. Something about the culture just speaks to me… not to mention, they make fantastic wine.
Hi there! I noticed that you wrote you stayed in Goa for 3.5 years? I’m just curious about what kind of visa did you have that allowed you to stay that long? :)
Hi, I am 42 with a long career in petrochemicals and will be taking a 3 week, off family, off work trip in Goa. After visiting in 2006 (with my Mom!), I have dreamt of going back and spending New Year’s there ever since. I am deciding to go to the most natural and less crowded areas, and chose Palolem for it. Is this a right decision? I would like to go to a rave as well, and I thought there will be one in every beach? Also I want to mellow, relax and meditate, think, write… And after Goa, Rishikesh will come! Thanks for your advice