Romantic Goa

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Romantic Goa
As well as endless stretches of beach and gorgeous sunsets, Goa offers couples dramatic waterfalls, secluded picnic spots, balancing Ayurvedic treatments, and opportunities to visit spice plantations and take cooking classes.
By Neha Puntambekar , AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Jiva Taj Exotica
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    Hit the Spa
    It's simple to find a healing massage or rejuvenating treatment in Goa. With offerings at most of the hotels as well as at smaller facilities, your biggest challenge may be deciding which one you like best. Ayurveda is a traditional Indian system of wellness that concentrates on balance and harmony; Ayurvedic massage usually uses essential oils to aid this process. The Devaaya Ayurvedic retreat on Divar Island, 10 kilometers from Panaji, is an idyllic spot to try it. Jiva, in the Taj Exotica near Benaulim Beach, provides a full menu of traditional Indian remedies in addition to Ayurvedic treatments.
    Photo courtesy of Jiva Taj Exotica
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    Table for Two
    Just because Goa is a laid-back place doesn't mean every meal needs to be from a beach shack. For a more romantic Goan meal, try the Fisherman's Wharf in Cavelossim. With an open-air bar, riverside seating, and live music, the ambience is at once celebratory and sultry. The Black Sheep Bistro is one of the few establishments in Panjim that can rightfully call itself farm-to-table: Most of its ingredients are sourced within a 100-mile radius. Menu favorites include clams and Goan chorizo, osso buco, and crabmeat ravioli. BSB also presents an extensive wine list with an internationally educated sommelier to make pairing recommendations. Owned by a Japanese-Israeli couple, Sakana is situated near the red cliffs of Vagator Beach. Book a table near the sakura tree that sparkles with white lights, and dine on traditional dishes like sushi, udon noodles, beef yakiniku, salmon rolls, and chicken katsu with pickled radish. If it's available, order the amaretto or cherry ice cream for a light and sweet finale.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Cooking Classes
    Learn to cook with the kadhai (a woklike Indian pot), and bring the tastes of Goa home with you. You can learn how to make traditional Indian food like curries, biryanis, samosas, and masalas at Rita’s Gourmet Goa in Dabolim. It boasts a range of regional, vegetarian, and even children’s classes. Or, visit the village of Siolim in the North Goa district for some instruction at the Siolim Cooking School. Specializing in Goan dishes, it has classes that can also include a market visit and a meal. Finally, it's not uncommon to be offered an impromptu cooking class right on the beach; try busier areas like Benaulim.
    Photo by Dorling Kindersley/age fotostock
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    A House on the Water
    For one of the most romantic accommodation options in Goa, consider a houseboat rental. These handcrafted vessels are traditionally made with local materials like bamboo and coconut fiber, but inside they are outfitted with modern amenities. Many local companies offer rentals and excursion. John's Boat Tours has several packages for day trips as well as an overnight journey. The Proud Mary has four rooms for rent, and takes guests out for daily lunch cruises and overnight cruises. The Santa Lucia, available through Goa Houseboats, sleeps three couples.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    The Romance of Old Goa
    Velha Goa (Old Goa) is a 15th-century municipality in the North Goa district that was the capital of Portuguese India and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Historically a hub of Christianity in the region, it is home to many churches, including Se Cathedral, the Basilica of Bom Jesus, and the St. Cajetan Church, which was built by Italian friars. By the end of the 16th century the city began to crumble, and the capital was moved to Panaji, which is approximately 6.5 miles west of the site. In 1961, Old Goa was incorporated into the Republic of India along with the rest of the state.
    Photo by José Fuste Raga/age fotostock
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    Romantic Picnic Spots
    Goa is made for outdoor eating, so head to a local market for food and pack up a picnic. Throw a sarong on the sand at Palolem, Candolim, or Majorda; look for a smaller, more isolated beach; or choose a place with the view in mind. Just outside Sanquelim, in North Goa, Arvalem Falls is a dramatic—and romantic—backdrop for a meal. For something a shade more urban, the churches in Old Goa provide a historic setting, and there are forts along the coast in both districts. Goa also has several wildlife and bird sanctuaries; try Salim Ali in North Goa or the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary in South Goa. Take a dip at Pomburpa Springs, a natural freshwater source less than 10 kilometers from Panjim. The waters are believed to have medicinal properties for ailments including arthritis, bone fractures, and circulatory disease. The springs are set among areca nut trees on landscaped terrain. For the ultimate picnic with a view, Tiger Balloon Safaris offers private hot-air balloon rides over Goa. Though the region has several picturesque spots, little compares to the aerial panoramas of spice plantations, multicolored coastlines, and Western Ghats painting the landscape. Balloons are flown throughout the day in the winter and in the morning and early evening during daylight hours in spring and autumn; weather limitations ground flights during monsoon season.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Monsoon Season
    Monsoon season lasts from late June to September, and it transforms Goa. The tourists are gone, leaving those who remain with the vastness of the coast. Also, because of the weather, the sea is wilder, the birds are louder, and the countryside is more vibrant. Head to North Goa in late June, where (more so than in South Goa) people take part in the Sao Joao fertility festival, a celebration with roots in Christian and pagan traditions. Some towns host boat races; in others, people jump into streams and ponds to retrieve bottles of feni, the local spirit. The Mhadei River springs to life during monsoon season, creating the perfect scenario for white-water rafting. Enjoy the lush jungle scenery on Class II and III rapids through the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary while spotting bears, panthers, leopards, and Bengal tigers.
    Photo by JoeGoaUK
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    A Touch of Spice
    Visit one of the spice plantations that dot the interior parts of Goa to inject a touch of spice into your relationship. Many of these are located north, near Ponda. Popular with tourists, the Sahakari Spice Farm offers tours and elephant rides. In the village of Savoi-Verem, outside Goa's capital, Panaji, Savoi Plantation is a 200-year-old facility covering 100 acres. In addition to spices, Savoi grows many tropical fruits. Sai Herbarium goes beyond the traditional spice tourism. Managed by an Ayurvedic doctor, this farm also includes herbal gardens with aromatic and medicinal plants. Suffering from a rash, asthma, or even kidney stones? The staff is quick to recommend Ayurvedic remedies covering everything from the common cold to migraines.
    Photo by Jen Straus
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    Waterfall in Love
    Located inside the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudhsagar (Sea of Milk) Falls is a multitiered waterfall on the Mandovi River. It is most impressive during monsoon season, and at just over 310 meters, it is India's fifth-tallest waterfall. Arvalem Falls—near the town of Bicholim, in North Goa—is smaller (about 50 meters tall), but is complemented by the nearby Arvalem Caves. Outside Panaji, near the Verna Plateau, the Kesarval Waterfall is adjacent to natural springs that many claim have healing powers. In the 1950s, steps were installed to allow visitors access to these waters.
    Photo by Neha Puntambekar