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Baga for Fun, Gokarna for Sun

April 12, 2024 10:44 IST
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Baga, in Goa, and Gokarna, in Karnataka, make the list of the world's top 100 beaches, rubbing shoulders with Bora Bora and Rio de Janeiro.

Baga beach

IMAGE: Getting one of Goa's best exports -- The Baga Tan. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

Baga Beach, Goa

Baga Beach winning a Golden Beach Award 2024 and finding a place on BeachAtlas' world's top beaches (external link), at Spot #35, along with Gokarna (at #78), is a surprise.

While certainly not one of the prettiest of Goa's beaches, it's a definitely a major hoppin and boppin spot. One of the earliest Goa beaches to open up to foreign and Indian tourists, and become a hippie capital of the world, Baga still has the vibe. And there's lots and lots to do at Baga.

You can embark on a round of fine dining and find practically any kind of cuisine, pretty, pretty well made, to make a memorable meal of. There's also the opportunity to tuck into delicious Goa staples like Chicken Xacuti, Sorpotel, Chicken Cafreal, Pork Vindaloo, Shark Ambotik, Fish Recheado, Sannas (rice cakes) and basic veg curries. Make sure you sample a tuna steak. Plenty of bakeries sell Goan faves like doldol, bibinca and many varieties of freshly-made cake

Shopping ops exist everywhere you turn. Tibetan, Nepali and Kashmiri sellers offer silver jewellery, brass, woollens and leather crafts. Rajasthani peddlers hawk embroidered items. Lots of unique home decor items and tchotchkes are available too in more spendy boutiques.

Baga beach

IMAGE: Baga parties 24/7. Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

At Baga beach you can have one of the roaming henna ladies apply any kind of mehendi design or tattoo you desire or shop for the best massage you have ever had in all your life.

There are bars galore serving up the hippest cocktails. Ever had a Cabo de Rama? Or a Kaju Tranquil?

Plenty of tours are there to be had. Or OD on water sports -- para sailing, jet skiing, banana boating are all on the menu.

The 'urban centre' of Baga looks, now, much like any mildly untidy, Main Road bazaar of an Indian city, packed with mishtan bhandars and topsy-turvy, one-on-top-of-the-other dukaans and everything from barfi, chaat, halwa, chikki, chaat, Rajasthani and Gujarati farsan, a range of Indian handicrafts and loads of cotton clothing are on sale. There's a fair amount of traffic too moving about. But it's the place to go to pick up India souvenirs.

And then there is people watching. Park yourself at any of Baga's landmark shacks on the beach -- maybe St Anthony or Britto's -- with a chilled beer or feni on the rocks and a plate of deep fried squid, and watch the hordes come and go. This section of Goa has more nationalities swarming about than Heathrow airport -- a good slice of India and the world right in front of you. And there is fashion unlimited to observe, some of it needless to say, very very brief.

Come evening the live music kicks in. Cavala remains one of the best locations for that. Stone House at Candolim is also great option. Tito's too endures.

As you would expect in Goa, accommodation exist for all pockets. The top hotel chains all have their properties nearby or a short drive away. The Taj has one of the top addresses smack on the Baga-Candolim-Calangute stretch.

The city of Panjim is not too far away from Baga and you can pop into Goa's capital for a Konkani seafood thali or a little bit of urban flavour.

UNESCO heritage site Old Goa, on the Mandovi river, which was the 16th century Portuguese capital is where the impressive Se Cathedral, Church of St Francis of Assisi, the Basilica of the Bom Jesus and other monuments are situated and is about half an hour away, across the river. And head to Mapusa, also approximately half an hour away, to buy some spices, piquant Goan sausages or cheap liquor.

South Goa is an hour plus away and definitely worth a drive to see prettier and quieter beaches.

Upside of Baga beach: Rather lively and happening.
Downside of Baga beach: A very busy beach and too many gawkers (because you know people watching cuts both ways).

Gokarna Beach

IMAGE: Gokarna=Virgin Sands. Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

Gokarna, Karnataka

Text: Mayur Sanap

Say beach in India and, yes, the first place that comes to mind is Goa. But for a more a tranquil beach interlude, you may want to look beyond Goa, and Baga. Barely a three-hour drive from Goa lies an emerging tourist magnet in north Karnataka -- Gokarna. It is a small temple town in Kumta district, which is surrounded by the Arabian Sea.

The beaches around Gokarna were previously frequented only by the pilgrims, who come to worship Lord Shiva at the Mahabaleshwara temple. Located right next to Gokarna's main beach, the temple is revered as Dakshin Kashi.

Thanks to the burgeoning popularity of this beach town, Gokarna beach has now a more jaunty atmosphere and is now dotted with souvenirs stalls, cafes and restaurants, as well as beach shacks. You can also buy into a more blissful atmosphere around here by dipping your toes into calm waters or walking in the sand to hunt down a picturesque sunset!

The upper side of town is where the hippie culture of Gokarna is at. Hostels, hotels, resorts and fancy cafes have mushroomed. What will astonish you is how antithetical to the temple town this corner of Gokarna is.

IMAGE: Can a beach ever be too tranquil? Photograph: Mayur Sanap/

The most unique offering of Gokarna has to be its thrilling five-beach trek that takes you past a number of the local beaches including Paradise beach, Half Moon beach, Om beach, Kudle beach and Belekan beach.

The highlight of the trek is Dolphin's Point from where, if you are patient, you will have an opportunity to spot dolphins from a rocky cliff! This is one trek that's sure to appeal to the direst hikers while it is perfect for beginners too.

You must also include a trip to Yana Caves in your itinerary to make the most of your Gokarna trip. Surrounded by thick forests and lush greenery throughout the year, the cave is formed by two giant natural limestone monoliths and it also holds religious importance with a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Gokarna also hosts a plethora of thrilling water sports similar to Goa, minus the hustle bustle.

The local gastronomic delights are sweet banana buns, idli-sambar, South Indian style thalis and yummy seafood are sure to have your tastebuds boogeying.

Upside of Gokarna beach: Tranquil
Downside of Gokarna beach: Too tranquil. Also not a lot of non-veg food choices. Or liquor.

Calling for your Best Beach Pictures!

Dear Reader, do you have a photograph that perfectly captures the beauty of one of India's finest beaches? Share it with the world. Simply send in your photograph (original photos only) to with the subject 'My beach pic', along with your name, the name of the place and a short description of the photograph, when you visited and what you liked most about its beach and we'll feature the best pics.

Lead Image: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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