Goa itinerary for 3 days – a first-timer’s travel guide
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 sit back and relax. 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.
How to reach Goa?
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.
Goa by self-drive
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.
Goa by public transport
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 midnight 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 bikes for exploring the city.
Related: Best one-day trips from Bangalore
Why we stayed in Panjim on our first trip to Goa?
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 best of Goa in a short time.
Check out the best places to stay in Goa for different types of holiday.
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. The favorable location helped us explore a lot of places just by walking leisurely in the evening.
Quick Goa Itinerary for 3 days
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.
- Day 1:
- Reach Panjim by 2 pm, freshen up at your hotel and have lunch
- Dolphin watching cruise at Miramar beach (1 –1.5 hours)
- Explore new Panjim (1 hour)
- Cruise party in Mandovi (1 hour)
- Day 2:
- Dudhsagar falls (4 hours including 1-way drive)
- Private spice plantation and old Goa city tour (4 hours)
- Visit the Reis Magos Fort and watch the sunset at Miramar beach (2 hours)
- Retire with a spa or hit the casinos at night if interested
- Day 3:
- Aguada Fort, Central jail Aguada and rocky beach (3 hours)
- Sinquerim Beach (2 hours including a couple of water sports)
- Candolim beach
- Sunset at Chapora fort (1.5-2 hours)
- Foot massage at the Anjuna or Baga beach
- Return to hotel or party at one of the happening beaches of North Goa
- Day 4: On your way back
- Take the route via Karwar to get a glimpse of south Goa
- Halt for a bit at the Tagore Park at Devbagh beach
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.
Read about the best places to visit in monsoon in India.
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Short historical background of Goa
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 in 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.
Places to visit in Panjim | 3 day Goa itinerary
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.
Old Goa Churches
We 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 built it or some mythological story around the place. This was the first time I saw a guide introducing 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.
Church and market
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 to flea markets all around.
Beaches of North Goa | 3-day Goa itinerary
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 jet boat rides, banana rides and paragliding at the beach.
Rocky beach near the Aguada Central Jail
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.
Famous forts of Goa | 3 day Goa itinerary
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 the 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.
Visit Dudhsagar Falls and the Western Ghats
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 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.
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. Lifeguards are sitting at the area for additional safety. Here are some important travel tips to visit the Dudhsagar falls.
- Plan to visit Dudhsagar falls the first thing in the morning as it keeps getting crowded with time. We had our breakfast and started at 9 am.
- It’s a plastic-free zone so please do not carry any plastic bottles as they will be taken away from you at the gate.
- Carry a change of clothes for swimming but do not carry any soap or detergent. Respect the purity of the environment here
- As soon as a jeep is allotted to you, you need to board it. The jeeps are not allowed to wait for any passengers because of the rush.
- You are given 1.5 hours to reach the waterfalls and swim in the pool. After the jeep drops you they will give you a cut-off time by which you need to return. Be on time.
- One of the reasons for the scarcity of jeeps in the afternoon is that the tourists do not care about the rules and they spend more time than they are allowed to. It’s important to respect the rules and other people’s time, more so when you form a group with unknown people.
- You can book a package tour from ticketpapa.com for a complete tour of the forests, falls and spice plantation including pick up and drop.
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 feel bad for the drivers who work hard all day and then have to put up with such unruly people.
3 days in Goa – FAQs
What is the best time to visit Goa?
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.
Where and what to eat in Goa?
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. Fenny 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 altogether but all I can say is that it’s 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.
What are the recommended tours in Goa?
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.
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