This is a guest post written by Alex Wolfe and all photos are those of Alex Wolfe and Eleanor Daulby.
Some have come to believe that Goa is now only for holiday makers and package holidays; a place ruined by it’s own reputation for great trance parties and beautiful beaches.
When I arrived in Arambol in North Goa, I wasn’t expecting much, and to be honest for the first few days I wasn’t impressed. The bar covered beach with it’s blaring music, the thousands of deck chairs lining the shore. It all reminded me of costs dell somewhere. However due to some unfortunate circumstances, I was forced into staying in Arambol a lot longer than anticipated.
I’m so glad that I was, because had I not I wouldn’t have have fallen in love with the place and discovered these amazing gems.
What to do in Arambol
Just around the corner from the main stretch of beach lays “Sweetlake” as the name suggests it’s a lake and it’s pretty sweeeet. You can swim here and chill out on deck chairs. I people watched a lot here. I watched as Indian families braved the shallow water, usually screaming as most of them didnt have a clue how to swim, and saw lots of Russian tourists having little photoshoots by the lake. Every so often you many be joined in the water by a water snake but I’ve been reassured millions of times that they are not dangerous. One day a monkey came and sat on one of the big rocks and most of the time you can watch herons stalking fish in the water.
TIP:To rent a deck chair costs 50r (50p) and you can spend as long as you like there.
Editor’s note: sweet water is another way of saying fresh water, and there are a few amazing sweet water lakes in Goa so go explore outside the beaches!
Tourist Baba & Mud Bath.
A 15 minute walk away from Sweetlake, through the jungle you come to a giant Bodhi tree. It’s stunning, huge vines fall from it’s branches and natural platforms are made by the tree, perfect for sitting on a chilling out. However what’s not quite as stunning is the drunk and high “holy” baba that lives there during the tourist season. The only way I can describe this “Baba” is as the anti Santa Clause. On the day I arrived he sat, wearing black, his long beard and hair is a dark grey, a rum and coke in one hand, a chillum in the other, trying to impart words of wisdom to the entourage of tourists surrounding him. Instead of handing out toys a Russian doll shrine lays behind him, Rudolf was replaced by a man who was muttering to himself, needles to say I did not want to sit on his knee and tell him what I wanted for Christmas.
He was surrounded by people trying to have an authentic Baba experience but if it’s spiritual enlightenment your after, you’re in the wrong place. I spent all of 15 minutes under the Bodhi tree. I took lots of photos of Simon, a very friendly dog who lives between the tree and the beach and I briefly spoke to Anti Santa Baba. He told me of his many wives and that he would happily have me as his ‘kindergarten bride’, then he creepily kissed my hand. It was weird.
I do recommend going and having a peak at anti Santa though, the tree is beautiful and I never seen a place like it. On the way you can pop into the river that runs through the jungle and have an authentic mud bath, something that hippies have been doing here for years.
TIP: To get to the tree just ask anyone working around Sweet Lake, its a very simple stroll.
Drum Circle & Market.
Drums circles happen every evening at the far end of the beach. Locals, expats and travelers meet here to play drums as the sun goes down and everyone dances together. The atmosphere is amazing, everyone dancing for the sheer love of dancing. There are children running all around. It’s amazing to see people from all over the world coming together each evening to make music. Next to the drumming circle is a small market where expats sell handmade jewelry and Mr. Cookie from Cookie Waller sells cookies!
TIP: If you don’t want to dance, sit on the restaurant behind the circle, order a Vodka Lime Soda and watch the fun!
FOOD in Arambol:
Stick to the food in the village rather than overpriced beachfront places.
Cookie Walla almost deserves a post in itself. The owner, Nepali “Cookie” is a huge character in Armabol. He speaks in a hilarious mock cockney accent shouting “ello” every min or so and insists on making every customer and handmade bracelet for free. He has a giant cookie tattooed on his chest and loves to show it off. The food here is cheap and delicious, especially the momos and fish thali. The atmosphere is great, lots of expats, travelers, and live music.
This little gem is hidden behind a beautiful boutique shop, there’s a giant tree house you can sit on and munch delicious treats. My favorite meal was Eggs Benedict, which includes crispy bacon and lovely bread. It’s not the cheapest place in town but it’s worth the extra hundred rupees for the great food, pleasant staff and beautiful tree house.
Editor’s note: there is one in Mandrem as well.
Although the food isn’t anything to write home about, (apart from the musli, fruit and curd breakfast) the set up is beautiful, hundreds of Indian scarfs shelter you making a giant “Umbrella” to help keep out the roaring sun on the rooftop during the day.
A favorite hangout for the Isreali crowd, the food is amazing. You sit on the floor or directly on the roof. My top pick is the “chef special” a chicken dish with creamy potatoes and salad, and the paneer salad is lovely too. They do amazing deep fried chocolate: a chocolate bar of your choice, wrapped in a chapatti and deep fried, so naughty, but so nice!
A raw food restaurant hidden above a residential building which sells an amazing mix of salads. You sit under lights that look like jellyfish and the attentive staff gives out free basil and lemon water. It’s the perfect place to eat after over doing it at Shiva Moon.
SHOPS in Arambol:
On the way down to the beach you will walk past Alleys crystal shop. If your lucky Alley will give you some free Reiki. He really knows his stuff about crystals and gives a great price. The place has an amazing energy.
Not only good for its food, the boutique is divine. They sell clothes from TOPSHOP as well and other brands.
The guys that own it are really friendly and the hammocks are very comfortable. You can also send packages back home from here.
PS: If you’re coming to India and will spend a week of more in Goa, check out my ebook the Insider’s Guide to Goa. After five years of living here, I’m sure this 170-page book is the most comprehensive guide to Goa on the market. Click here to buy it.
Howdy, I’m Alex (Wolfe) from Brighton in the UK. I love rooftops, tea and anything kitch. My blog is Lone Wolf Travel and is all about my travels in India. I tell my story and share tips about where to go and how to have an adventure in India on a budget. I’m also documenting my cynical road to enlightenment. Currently spending Christmas on Om beach in Gokarna, chilling on the beach with cows, dogs and Baba’s. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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I hardly go to north goa,even though I grew up in goa..so this post is very useful for me..i get know whats going on in the touristy part of goa..
Yeah, same. I never make it so far up North. Where in Goa are you from?
That was a lot of fun! But man, “kindergarten bride”? I’d be creeped out too. I’m glad you were able to discover so many interesting places in North Goa after all. Lucky for us too! ;)
Is arambol and manderem beach the same. And I think the secret spot is this. Long life for you hippies…
If you mean the secret beach I wrote about, it’s in South Goa.
there are other places that are similar but less crowded and less hectic. My fav. is Diu.. it’s in Gujarat.
Right on. I’m arriving in Arambol next week, and staying a couple of months. Bringing my drum, wolf skull mask and turtle rattle, I do a ton of festivals back in the U.S.
I quit my job at 4o, prepared 10 years to be a nomad… can’t wait to see Goa!
Thanks for the food suggestions as well, seems like there is a fair bit to explore there, while getting away from all the packaged stuff.
You sound like you’ll love arambol :) enjoy!
LOVE your blog! Reallllly want to go to Goa, may even drop by and meet Anti-Santa and dance in the drum circle with him! haha
hahah enjoy ;)
Hi Rachel, I loved this, brought back old memories, taking a mud bath at sweet water lake, saying hi to this anti Santa Baba who claimed himself to be a master of spritualism which is not the case at all, completly agree with you. I also used to make it to the place in the evening where they play drums, used to dance for hours. Having dinner at the beach side at Littel Budha cafe and almost used to interact everyday with Cookiewala, also there are few people in the pictures I found familiar like the guy who is playing a guitar under a tree at sweet water lake, he is Canadian and few others.
I was there in November , want to come again in April but I dont think that’s a good time. THANKS AGAIN :)
Awesome, I’m happy this post brought you back so many great memories
hi,grt blog,Visited arambol and lake beach last week,very few hippies left unfortunately,However lots of tourist english n Russians both.There are 2 huge markets selling ornaments,clothes and rest of goan shopping stuff(one between the 2 beaches and other through the lane connecting beach to the village.
Main attractions i found was para sailing and nude sunbathing(which could be done peacefully)
I don’t think I would recognize Arambol; deck chairs, a life guard, Russian tourists? I went there in 1998…
I was just thinking the same. 1997 for me. No deckchairs yet!
Hey I am visiting goa in the end of May. Could you tell me if the drum circle will still be on then?
no i think it’ll be over for sure
I loved your description of the Tourist Baba or in your words.. Anti-Santa. While the walk through the jungle is truly amazing, I didn’t spend more than a couple of minutes in the circle. It was a laughable experience!
But, I found a nice spot just before the final climb to where the Baba sits/sleeps and spent a good hour there. Simon dropped by as well!
I am planning to visit this place this month. Is this the right time to visit Arambol?
I am a party person, anything is there for me!!
HI, no this isn’t the time for arambol. It will be empty I imagine
yes i like your blog… it was really help fool for me… bcz last year i was going to goa but i am not happy. my nature is innocent & cool so i like silent place. i am drinking n druging n feel alone then i like hippie life so i feel happy for that when i read your blog,, thank you so much :)
god bless you :)
Firstly, let me thank you for writing this, its really helpful. I’m planning to go to Goa this weekend and only want to visit offbeat places, not the commercial and crowded places. Could you please list out a few places which is suitable? I have come across posts talking about caves, islands, freshwater lakes, forts, abandoned churches, etc.
It feels great,,just more than great to read your blog. It Reminds me of some goa memories of mine. but m still untouched on to the hippppieee side of goa. Just after reading the story I booked my tickets to ashvem and arambol. I strongly have a feeling of finding a bit of BABA. I rather visit goa for the year ending music festivals, but i came to know that the real feel of music lies in the drum of a hippie. May 16 m coming over ther, I hope to see hippie fellas over there. Once again; great description. #hails
I’d like to move to Arambol for a few months, September onwards. Is it safe for a single woman to stay there during that time? I was there earlier in March, and it was starting to get pretty empty already. Do you think it’s a good idea?
September it’ll still be empty.. until about first week November :) I would wait a bit to go and maybe stay at Anjuna before you head there.
Alright, Anjuna it is then. Thanks! Lovely blog btw. :)
Are you a member of the GLT group?
Ps. I’m arriving to Goa end Spetember and staying for.. I dont how long.. Will take my Yoga teacher training at The Jungle Dance Theatre. Lemme me know if you ever should have time to meet up and you should join our comminity, 78.000 women who love to travel! :)
Hi Emma yep I am a member :) September I’m here until the 14th then am off traveling for a month :) I havent heard of Jungle Dance Theatre, hope you have a great time!
Hi Rachel, I am a huge fan of your blog, thanks a ton for all the wonderful information. I am travelling to Goa this Saturday & will be staying a 5 days at my cousin’s house. Since we are staying cousin’s house, we don’t have access to any pools. My son feels any vacation is not complete without swimming pool. I was thinking of have lunch at any decent resort which allows us to use their pool for an hour or so. We would be in North Goa & request you to suggest any such resort where we can use pool & have lunch. I am looking at an inexpensive but neat option. Will look forward to hear from you. Thanks a lot in advance :).
You can pay to use the pool at Grandpa’s Inn near the roundabout to Assagao. This is a small guesthouse and I don’t think they have food. You can also pay at a bigger resort, Resort Rio, where there is a huge pool and good food to order.
Thanks Rachel for such a quick reply. Will surely checkout these options. Any suggestions of things that kids could do in Goa?
Hello Rachel! I’m visiting goa hhis 22feb with friends. I want to visit more peaceful, hidden, less traveled and hippie place. Arambol is one them for sure and your blog made me super excited for that. Thanks a ton for all of your blogs on goa. Can you surgery me with few more such locations in goa?
Hi Rachel! Thank you for the lovely article, well explained. I live in Mumbai, have been to Arambol a couple of times but missed on most of the places mentioned herein. Will be visiting Dec 17/ Jan 18, will surely drop u a line then. Cheers!!!!
Enjoy when you are back!! Arambol is fantastic.
do we have any party night club in north goa???