Best Time to Visit Goa

by Kshaunish Jaini

Goa is one of the Go-To places for most travellers when they are in India. Its pristine, palm fringed beaches , natural wonders and a curious mix of Indo-Portuguese cultures make it a haven for someone who wants to explore an offbeat destination. While this is true, it is also important to know that there is a stereotypical image of Goa that has been propagated by popular media as the land of cheap beer and cliched nightlife. In some circles, Goa has become synonymous to celebrating new year’s on the Calangute-Baga beach stretch. The fact is that there is so much more to see and do in Goa throughout the year .

As with most tourist attractions , Goa runs on a yearly seasonal calendar, which is a result of weather conditions and the inflow of travellers. A result of this is that prices of lodging, boarding, taxi services and bike rentals skyrocket during the peak tourist season, not to mention the crowds that you have to negotiate in almost all mainstream points of attraction. In fact, the look and feel of Goa is completely different during different times of the year, with something unique to do in each season. As a result, a ‘best time to visit Goa’ exists only in the stereotypical sense. A more nuanced understanding of the seasonal changes in Goa will make you decide the best time to visit Goa for yourself. Here is a short guide for what to expect throughout the year in Goa.

Goa Tourist Season - Big

Goa in the month of December

Goa in the month of December. Photo by Ignazio

Goa in November-March

Winter to spring is when Goa is the busiest, owing to the splendid balmy weather and tourist influx from India and abroad. Winters in this tropical state are extremely mild, and the temperature stays between a pleasant 15 to 23 degrees Celsius. It is perfect for spending both the day and night outside, traversing through the pretty Goan roads on a bike or chilling at the beach. This is also when most shacks, cafes and resorts are fully operational throughout the state. The famous Saturday Night Market of Arpora in North Goa opens in November and operates throughout the season all the way into March. Its bohemian atmosphere, unique handmade items from trinkets to spices and herbs and live music that goes on all night makes it a great place to start off your saturday night. November is also when the International Film Festival of India takes place in Panjim, apart from other cutting edge art events like the Serendipity Arts Festival and the Story of Space, which attract a throng of art enthusiasts with a host of interactive installations, theatre productions, music acts and performances. This is also a great time to experience water based activities like scuba diving as the rainy-season is over and the waters are calm and offer good visibility.

January-February is spring-time in Goa, and the weather Gods are absolutely benevolent at this time. The bright sunlight, fresh cool water and warm sandy beaches make a day at the seaside a day well spent. The downside to all this is the heavy costs of virtually everything at this time, from food to lodging to travel, since this is when most of the tourism based operations in the state make money. Apart from that, you would also have to negotiate the crowd of other tourists that flock around this time. Getting stuck on the Baga-Arpora road in a traffic jam around the new year time is an experience not worth having.

Goa - Little Tourist Season

Goa in April - May

The little tourist season is aptly named for two reasons - one on account of its shorter duration that lasts for two months, and the other being that the sweltering heat of the summer results in most foreign tourists avoiding visiting this time of the year. On the other hand, because of the summer holidays in Indian schools, family trips to Goa are generally planned and executed around this time. While the Saturday Night Market is shut for the season by this time, the Wednesday Flea Market at Anjuna is open for business throughout the day. The beaches tend to be overcrowded, unless you are willing to travel way up north towards Morjim or way down south towards Palolem and Agonda , where you might find a semblance of tranquility. The temperatures rise up to 35-37 degrees Celsius in April/May, and along with the humidity due to the proximity to the sea, the weather can be quite unforgiving. That said, medieval churches and temples that Goa is known for are ever welcoming. Not to mention the Salim Ali bird Sanctuary in Chorao Island and the forts of Chapora in the north and Cabo de Rama in the south. More information here.

Goa Monsoon

Monsoons make Goa greener and the beaches empty.

Monsoons make Goa greener and the beaches empty

June-September in Goa

Goa is a completely different animal in the monsoons. They arrive diligently in the first week of June, and with a bang. For the next two to three months, Goa is draped in shades of green. The constant rains drastically reduce accessibility and as a result, many of the seasonal attractions pack up for the season. You will find most beach shacks empty around this time, shut for the off-season. But it is great to take this opportunity to explore parts of Goa away from the beaches and into the lush green forests. One great example of this is the Dudhsagar waterfalls - hike into the southern forests of Goa for a few hours and you will be rewarded with a magnificent waterfall and a freshwater pool. Another great bonus of visiting Goa at this time is the cheaper rates for lodging, boarding and travel.

This is also a great time to explore the cities of Panjim and Margao, each of which have their own monsoon charm. Exploring the bylanes of fontainhas latin quarter in Panjim is an alluring experience, with some of the oldest establishments in Panjim like Hospedaria Venite and Viva Panjim that provide the most authentic Indo-Portuguese cuisine. On a slightly less rainy day, get on a bike and explore the beautiful roads of Goa by heading out to the quaint village of Loutolim and visiting the family run Jila Bakery, which is on the President of India’s payroll, providing monthly batches of their signature eclairs and cookies. Also check out the Sao Joao festival of Goa, which takes place in June/July every year. Dedicated to St. John the Baptist, Sao Joao in Siolim village is a no holds barred Goan celebration with a lot of fun and frolic and a procession of decorative floats across the Chapora river.

The bottomline is that there is no bad time to visit Goa. You just need to know how to immerse yourself in the incredibly vibrant culture that this beautiful state has to offer.

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