This post was most recently updated on March 6th, 2019
A travel lover, lived in Bangalore for 4 years and never been to Goa yet? Do you even exist? Because if you do, you must know that we are with you too. At least we were till December 2018. So finally on our third wedding anniversary, we decided to explore Goa in 3 days. We took a 2-day leave from office and embarked upon the long drive in the wee hours of the night. People usually visit Goa for relaxing in a beach resort and partying all night. Since it was our first visit and we are not the hard-core party people we chalked out a 3 day Goa itinerary to explore the best of central and north Goa, while having enough time to rest. Those who have subscribed to our newsletters already got an exclusive preview of our Goa itinerary in December itself. However, here goes our detailed micro-itinerary for central and north Goa in three days. Our first trip to Goa was enough to convince us for repeat visits every year from now on, so I will keep updating the blog as I explore new interesting places in the party capital of India.
Bangalore and Mumbai are the nearest metropolitan cities to Goa. The shortest driving distance from Bangalore via NH48 is 556 km. From Mumbai, the shortest distance is 587 km by AH 47 and NH48.
However, there are several other routes that you can follow for a scenic drive from Bangalore to Goa. The most popular route from Bangalore to Goa is through the Konkan coast via Karwar. That is the route that most of the overnight buses connecting the two cities take. NH48 is the best road to drive on and on an average day, you can reach Goa within 10 hours with usual breaks if you start before 4 am. We started for Goa at 4 am, took a couple of breaks for breakfast and views and managed to reach our hotel at Panjim (Panaji) before 2 pm. You may want to start at night, but I think for people slogging all day at the office, a little sleep is essential before you go for a long drive no matter how excited you are for your first trip to Goa.
There is no dearth of buses leaving from Bangalore to Goa every day. Trains are the most preferred mode of transport not only because of the comfort but also because of the spectacular views of the Western Ghats, not to forget the mesmerizing Dudhsagar Falls. The most preferred trains are Kcg Yesvantpur Junction Express (17603) which passes through Yesvantpur station at 12:00 AM and Vasco Da Gama Superfast Express (02683) which starts from the same station at 10:30 PM. After reaching Goa you can hire a taxi or rent your own motorbikes for exploring the city.
Related: Best one day trips from Bangalore
Goa is full of surprises and attractions which would leave you spoilt for choices of what to do in Goa in 3 days. Panaji is a good place to base yourself if you are visiting for the first time. Being centrally located it offers you the opportunity to explore the old Goa, the casinos of the new Panjim, the major tourist attractions of the North Goa as well as the Dudhsagar falls. If you are looking for mid-range hotels with good facilities within Rs. 4000 per night, then Panaji is the best place for you.
We stayed at Crown Goa, an excellent 4-star hotel located right across the river Mandovi. Being situated at an elevation makes it a visible landmark and a great place to enjoy views of the riverside. It is also close to the floating casinos and actually the home to Crown Casino. Casinos are not the only thing you can do around the hotel. You can walk on the riverside and enjoy a night cruise party or explore the famous neighborhood with loads of attraction as a walkable distance.
Book your hotels for North Goa.
It’s difficult to decide upon just one common itinerary for all, especially in a place like Goa which attracts all types of tourists. If you want to get a bit of everything that Goa has to offer – beaches, UNESCO heritage sites, forts, Western Ghats and cultural experiences on your first trip to Goa, then this is how your itinerary should look like.
Read about the best long weekend trips in 2019.
We visited most of these places on our first trip but I have shuffled them a bit for a better itinerary. We didn’t visit casinos or engage in water sports as we preferred to relax on our anniversary holiday. That’s because we realized that we are going to visit Goa often from now on. But not everyone would do so, therefore I included some of these extra activities. Now that your itinerary is sorted, let’s take a look at the highlights of our 3 day Goa itinerary.
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Goa is not just about parties and casinos. It has a history of thousands of years since the prehistoric ages. So to fully appreciate Goa it’s good to know a little bit about its long and diverse history that helped shape the unique Goan culture. Geologists claim that the evidence of human inhabitants in Goa can be traced back to the Paleolithic age. As far as documented history is concerned, the oldest dynasty to rule over Goa were the Mauryas. This was from the 7th century BC to 2nd century BC. During this time Buddhism was also introduced in Goa. This region was successively ruled by many great dynasties – the Satvahanas, the Chalukyas of Badami, and the Vijayanagara empire to name some. After around 2000 years of successive rule by Hindu dynasties, until Goa came under the Bahmani Sultanate. By this time Goa was already a throbbing destination for world trade. If you like historical sites you can check out this itinerary for Hampi, the capital of the great Vijayanagara Empire. Don’t worry, it will open on another window so you can continue reading this post.
In 1510 the Portuguese conquered Goa and established the first European settlements in India. While trade flourished under the rule, like any other colonial rule, the history of Portuguese administration was also not all rosy. The Goan Inquisition established by the Roman Catholic Holy office in 1560 put under scrutiny all the native Indian converts and persecuted those who were found to be practicing their original religion in secret. This continued for over 200 years and was finally abolished in 1812. Thereafter Goa remained under the Portuguese rule till as long as 1961. Thus there is a great Portuguese influence that remains in the modern Goan culture.
As I said earlier, Panjim is an excellent place to base yourself as you can get the best of everything in Goa. Panaji, the Goan capital that is also called Panjim is divided into two parts – Old Panjim and new Panjim. The Old part of the city is famous for the Latin quarters and the Portuguese ruins. The new Panjim city is where you find the floating casinos, Miramar Beach and Dona Paula.
We actually headed to old Goa on the first day right after lunch at our hotel. That’s a good thing to do, but you may not have the time for a guided spice plantation tour then. I recommended it for day 2 along with Dudhsagar falls as they are in the same direction. The churches and convents of old Goa have been accorded with the UNESCO world heritage status. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries they are some of the finest Portuguese architecture in the world. The churches are still active and are frequented by locals and tourists alike.
The most attractive structure here is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, also called St. Francis Xavier’s tomb which was completed in 1605. It is regarded as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the subcontinent. The other two important structures which are a part of the World UNESCO group of monuments in Goa are the Se Cathedral and St Augustine’s tower both of which lie opposite to the Basilica.
Fountainhas is the Latin quarter of Goa where the wealthy Portuguese families lived. The houses in the neighborhood are painted in pastel shades typical to 18th-century Portuguese houses. These houses are painted every year so they appear new. Cute little cafes which are 100-years old are dotted around the neighborhood. Walking on the narrow streets of Fountainhas will take you to 18th century Portugal.
The Mandovi river flows through Panjim before it meets the Arabian Sea. There are multiple floating casinos in the river and river cruise parties. At just Rs. 250 you will get to sail on the river for 1 hour while watching some traditional Goan dance performances. After the performances, the floor is open for DJ party. Remember that the last tickets are sold at 8:30 pm.
Situated at the confluence of the Mandovi river and Arabian sea, Miramar is one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa. We visited the Miramar beach first to go for a dolphin watching cruise. Cost of the dolphin cruise is Rs. 300 for one hour guided trip. The dolphins are active all day and night but the best time to catch a glimpse is in the morning and afternoon. We were surprised to spot at least 4 dolphins on the trip. I have seen some guides introduce historic places by the name of the king or queen who commissioned it, or the architect who actually built it or some mythological story around the place. This was the first time I saw a guide introducing each and every place in the skyline only by the name of all the Hindi movies that they featured in. Some of the movies were not even popular so he had to name the actors and songs to remind us of the scenes.
We visited Miramar beach again in the evening the next day to bathe in the Arabian sea and watch the sunset. It was not as desolate as it was in the morning but was still calm. The calm and clean Miramar beach is an awesome place to watch the twilight unfold.
This is a beautiful promenade and a former fishing village in Panjim. The viewpoint is very pretty with the hills at the backdrop. We visited Dona Paula on the day we left Goa for Bangalore. This is different from other beaches in central and north Goa in look and feel. It is named after Dona Paula, a Portuguese woman who did a lot of philanthropic work for the fishermen. If you have time you can visit the Cabo Raj Bhavan and the historic British cemetery. The grand palace turned government residence, Cabo Raj Bhavan could only be admired from the outside till 2018. From January 2019, the Raj Bhavan has opened its doors to the tourists on the weekends.
When in Panjim you cannot miss the beautiful church of “Our Lady of Immaculate Conception” which was built in the 16th century. The church is whitewashed and so well-maintained that there is no way to say that it is so old. There are daily masses held here. A short walk from the church brings you to the Panjim market where you can find all kinds of shops. If you are looking to buy some fancy Goan dresses do not purchase anything here and rather go to Aguada, Calangute and other beaches which have flee markets all around.
North Goa is known for vibrant beaches and amazing nightlife. Unfortunately, most of the beaches are crowded all day because of the same reason. Good thing is that despite the crowd the beaches are mostly clean. The calm waters make it apt for bathing, swimming and water sports. Some of the most famous beaches have a car parking charge of Rs. 100 and the car needs to be parked almost a kilometer away from the beach. The beaches are lined with pretty shacks and free loungers.
Located near the Lower Aguada the Sinquerim beach is perfect for having a peaceful time. We enjoyed strolling at the walls of the fort overlooking the calm blue waters. There are various activities like jetboat rides, banana rides and paragliding at the beach.
This beach is refreshingly different than the others because of the rocks and the fact that it is nicely tucked away from the tourist zones in north Goa. There is nothing much to do here except sit, watch the waves and just talk.
Baga beach is located near the Chapora fort and is a real party hub. The shacks turn into silent bars and nightclubs in the evening. The loungers are full throughout the evening with people enjoying foot massages. On your walk from the parking area to the beach, you will find a host of shops for fashion garments and souvenirs and tattoo parlors.
Other party beaches of North Goa are the Candolim beach, Calangute, Anjuna, and Vagator beach.
Goa is home to some centuries-old fort which are the best examples of Portuguese military architecture in the subcontinent. The forts were raised mainly to defend against the invasion by other foreign traders.
The biggest fort that you cannot miss on your 3-day itinerary for Goa is the Aguada fort. Its a large fort divided into upper and lower Aguada and is one of the few intact Portuguese forts in the subcontinent. In 1604 the Dutch troop blocked the mouth of river Mandovi with seven ships for one month. The Portuguese could not thwart them from their original forts Reis Magos and Gasper Dias. They identified this gap in their defense and raised the huge Aguada fort at the mouth of river Mandovi and another fort Mormugao at the mouth of river Zuari. The Aguada fort has a lighthouse, chapel and a huge underground water storage system.
The Chapora Fort is in ruins but offers a spectacular view of the sunset at Vagator beach and the unending view of the Arabian sea. It involved a short trek in uneven lands, so be careful of wearing comfortable shoes if you plan to visit there. The fort has a long history of defiance against the Portuguese colonizers. The site was destroyed and recreated multiple times since 1510, the time of Portuguese invasion in India. The fort lost its military significance towards the end of 18th century. The place shot to fame after the popular Hindi movie Dil Chahta Hai.
There are many other forts to explore in Goa namely the Reis Magos fort which was the oldest Portuguese fort in India, Fort Mormugao and other smaller ones.
Discover the other side of Goa, the lush green hill-forests, wildlife and one of the tallest cascades in India – the Dudhsagar falls. To protect the environment the tourism in the area is put under tight control. There is now only one legal way to visit the Dudhsagar falls. You have to park your car outside the gates and book a jeep safari from there. You have to drive 68 km from Panjim to Kulem for booking the jeep safari. It is a 1.5-2 hour drive on an average day. The jeep then takes you on an off-roading trip through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. The drive takes about 40 minutes as the jeep shoots across several small streams. Each jeep has a capacity of 7 people and costs Rs. 3500. On contrary to what we had heard before, the people at the counter were actually helping in the formation of groups. Despite such controls in place the Dudhsagar falls is brimming with tourists all the time and you have to be ready for standing in the queue for at least 30 minutes.
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Dudhsagar Falls -the other side of Goa I abhor the sight of people bathing and washing clothes at waterfalls. In Dudhsagar however, floating in the natural pool beneath the falls is encouraged by the authorities. People are given life jackets and are not allowed to bring soap or detergent here. So no actual bathing .. just swimming or floating in the pool. Life jackets are mandatory. I liked how secluded it is from the city and how well regulated the trips are. That is what has kept the place relatively clean and pristine despite the huge crowd.
We were standing in the queue discussing how can we find a group (didn’t know till then that it was being facilitated) when a family of 5 approached us for forming a group. We agreed to their deal which we did regret later (keep reading to know why). From here you need to rent safety jackets compulsorily the money for which will be refunded after you return them. The natural pool at the foot of Dudhsagar falls is so clear that you can easily see the fish inside. Here are some travel tips for Dudhsagar falls visit. There are lifeguards sitting at the area for additional safety. Here are some important travel tips to visit the Dudhsagar falls.
Coming to the regrets, we usually like to travel invisibly – that is, abiding by the rules and not causing any nuisance. W regretted the fact that the family we grouped up with not only thwarted all rules set in place but also ganged up on the driver when he pointed out their flaws. These are the times when I really feel bad for the drivers who work hard all day and then have to put up with such unruly people.
Goa has a hot and humid climate for a larger part of the year. So the best time to visit Goa is in winter between November to February. To avoid the peak-season crowd you should visit between November to 2nd week of December. Christmas and new year are celebrated with great pomp in Goa, so if you can visit for these events if you don’t mind the crowd.
You must try the variety of seafood in Goa. Fresh prawns and pomfret cooked in different styles from grilled to fried are a foodies delight. Fennys is a popular and cheap alcoholic drink in Goa which I honestly hated. But I hardly drink, so don’t take my word for it and try it yourself. Discussion about food in Goa will take another post all together but all I can say is that its one of my favorite food destinations now. One tip will be to not eat at the beach shacks and instead eat in the hotels outside the beach. The food is cheaper and of better quality off the beach.
If you have any more questions be sure to write to me in the comments. I will be happy to answer them from my personal experiences or through references. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletters and follow us on social media.
We went there 26 years ago – blimey was it really that long ago? Rekindled some lovely memories of our two weeks. Thank you. kx
I visited Goa a few years ago now and found it so pretty and relaxing. I loved the fact that we saw cows wandering along the beaches and the people there were friendly and chilled out. I would definitely go back to check out more of what you’ve mentioned in this post!
That’s a very detailed post! I have been to Goa several years but with my parents and can’t recall much besides the church and the location of that iconic Dil Chahta Hai scene. Keeping this bookmarked for a handy guide if we plan on doing a long weekend getaway from Delhi
I have yet to travel to India but I continue to read so many people talking about their travels there. Now I need to add Goa to the list of places to visit when I finally make it to India! Great read!
Decent itinerary you’ve put together! Glad you mentioned that off-peak times were during the winter season as Goa seems like a great place to go to escape the cold and snow. Pictures of the rivers and beach are really beautiful too!
Such a thorough and interesting guide to Goa and your photographs are great too. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Goa is on our list but we hadn’t considered a drive tour. thanks for all the in-depth info and ideas.
That illuminated garden is stunning! And that view of Vagator beach is something else! 🙂
I visited Goa many years ago and wasn’t impressed but my friend had booked it and we stayed in a town that was popular with Brits and I came away feeling very disappointed. But this itinerary makes me want to give it another go. I love your mix of forts, falls and beaches. This is the Goa I was hoping to see 🙂
So interesting to learn that Goa has a history that stretches waaaayyyy back to prehistoric times! So amazing that there is history from the Paleolithic age. Good to know that the best time to visit here is from November to February and I will be sure to do it before Christmas to avoid the crowd. I am like you and am not a big partier, but great to know that there’s still plenty to do for the non party type. The natural side of Goa looks incredibly beautiful and visiting via car I think would be the best option for me because of the flexibility of getting around and exploring.
I’d love to visit Goa one day! India is a country I’ve still yet to see, but there’s something special about Goa. The churches sound amazing, and it’d be interesting to see the Portuguese influences there too. Miramar Beach sounds like a dream right about now, it’s so cold where I am.
Thanks for bringing back memories of our time in Goa. We loved Panjim, great accommodation and food and sightseeing was excellent. We enjoyed the beaches. This is a great 3 day itinerary that you have provided. Thanks.
I haven’t yet been to India, but it’s very high up on my list. I’d love to visit all these picturesque cities, like Bangalore, Mumbai, or Goa. However, 10 hours on the road to reach Goa from Bangalore seems like a very long time. Trains would probably be better. Do they have any flights there from any of the big cities around? I would rather fly there.
Goa is an amazing place for some awesome food and culture. We have been to Goa several times and every time it feels like a new place. We love the beaches in South Goa as compared to North Goa as they are a little less crowded and are clean.
I totally identify with your first statement on the post. I have lived in Mumbai for so long and I travel on every possible weekend. Yet, I have never been to Goa. And yes! I do exist. I am so glad you have put together such a wonderful itinerary of the state. I am not party-goer either. So, I like the inclusion of everything natural and historical in your itinerary. I am planning a trip there very soon. So, this will come in handy.
Goa looks so lovely! I would love to go and see the fort and the beaches!
Wow so many places to explore in Goa. I am amazed to see that cathedrals, the beautiful river and famous forts. It seems India have the majority of cultures in their country. I wish to visit it someday.
I visited Goa for a week to do some photography for a holiday company a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I’d dearly love to go back on holiday. My favourite memory was sitting with my feet in the sand one evening with a cool beer outside a beach shack. We then had the best Indian meal I’ve ever tasted at The Garden Restaurant in Colva. We also spent a night on a rice boat which was fabulous and visited the Dudhsagar Falls. Much better than a week in the office any day!
Hahaha! Sometimes the destinations close to home are the least visited because we’re so busy going so far away. This is true for me. Living in Australia, I have yet to explore New Zealand properly! Love the beaches and that waterfall but had no idea the churches were so beautiful too. I have heard amazing things about Goan cuisine, especially their curries. One day, I shall explore this region!
The more I read about Goa, the more I would like to go! Great itinerary- you included so many great tips and details. I would especially like to visit those old churches. I love history, and this beautiful area seems to be full of it. Great photos!
This would be a dream destination to reach Goa, and India itself one day. I’ve watched several documentaries about the trains there, and I’d like to take your suggestion and see those views of the falls on the way to Goa. The old churches, resembling the Portuguese rule are so stunning too. I hope to see it one day!
Great informative post! Glad you finally made it to Goa. We visited Goa last year and really loved it so many great restaurants to choose from. We spent most of our time on the beach so I’d love to go back again to see the old churches and whale watching.
The old Goa churches are so impressive! Seems the details are still looked like when they built it. Walking around the Fountainhas sounds wonderful, too! Just like you, if I get a chance to visit Goa, Old Panjim will be my first choice.
There was a time when I used to visit Goa every year. Pretty much-covered everything you wrote about. I love South Goa more than North. Find it more peaceful and beautiful. Love the Mondovi river.