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How to talk about Goa when you’ve never been

How to talk about Goa when you’ve never been

An armchair traveller’s guide to the region of beaches and Feni, a spirit drink made from the fruit of a cashew tree

An armchair traveller’s guide to the region of beaches and Feni, a spirit drink made from the fruit of a cashew tree

Jason Goodwin | December/January 2020

WHERE North is party Goa. But don’t dither there, go much farther south. You get better bragging rights, lower humidity – and anyway who needs wall-to-wall beach boutique cabanas?

GO Humidity makes summer a no-Goa. You’re definitely countercultural and Goa in the monsoon season – June to September – is as moody as it is gorgeous, but winter is the best time to go. The ultimate? November, when it’s green and newly rinsed. From early December expect Christmas carollers and winter markets as the coastline sitting on the Arabian Sea embraces the festive season.

STAY Agonda Beach? Why not? Not quite as unspoilt as it used to be, but still quiet, without hawkers and all-night dancing. You like the Cape Goa which is romantic and quiet, with its sea-view cottages, good food and a near-private beach. You hire a boat and sneak away to Butterfly Beach. For the adventurous it’s also a two-hour hike from Palolem. Take a picnic or go on to Patnem or Agonda for lunch. Galgibag Beach, home of the turtles, is clean and secluded with small fish and curry rice joints and oysters. For decadence stay at the Figueiredo House in Loutolim, designed in 1590 by Jesuits for a newly converted local bigwig. It’s over 400 years old and can seat 800 for dinner.

SEE Near Benaulim on the road south, Goa Chitra is a combination of a rural museum, an organic farm, a music venue, a cultural centre and general eccentricity, under the aegis of Victor Hugo Gomez. It’s ranked as the “topmost contemporary museum” in India by the Indian Archaeological Survey. You’ll always be bhingta, a non-Goan, but it’s not about you: it’s about Goa’s own fading Indo-Portuguese culture.

EAT Feni is a Goan spirit drink made from the fruit of the cashew tree, and you can only get it here. In the mornings, fresh kokum juice: healthy and part of Ayurvedic medicine.