The hedonistic land of hippies, trance parties, drum circles and tropical beaches, Goa is renowned as a world-class party destination. Backpackers, soul searchers and nomads alike have been flocking there for generations. Some of whom forgot to go home and can still be found there today.
These days, spot any elephant pant clad tourist in India, and you can be certain that Goa will be a definite part of their itinerary. However, ask where they are going and chances are that they’ll be headed to the “backpacker friendly” beaches in the North, such as Anjuna, Vagator and Arambol. Most of them dismissing the Southern beaches as being “too chilled”, “too family friendly” or, quite simply “boring.”
This year I decided to return to Goa. However, having spent two weeks chilling out in the North with my mum last year, I wanted to see what else Goa has to offer. I set off for the South- Palolem Beach to be exact, and was pleasantly surprised by what awaited me.
Comparing the North to the South, I felt like the South of Goa was a better fit for me. Maybe it was the chilled out vibes or maybe it was the amount of greenery and nature around. Whatever it was, something just stuck and I felt quite at home. Despite the rain (and, there was a lot of rain while I was there), I felt like I could have stuck around for an extra few days- a feeling that I rarely get in beach destinations.
For backpackers who are thinking of defying the norms, and heading to the south, here are my 2 cents on the area.
Since this is what most backpackers come to Goa for, this is where we are going to start!
Pick up any guidebook about India, and you will be sure to find words such as “calm”, “sleepy” and “quiet” used to describe Palolem Beach. You would be forgiven for believing that there isn’t much going on!
I visited Palolem Beach in September, which is effectively Goa’s off-season due to the monsoon. Despite the fact that it wasn’t busy with tourists, there were still (a few) beach shack bars open. I’ve been assured that there are a lot more going on in the high season.
One of the most popular clubs in the area is “Leopard Valley” which is just a short drive from Palolem Beach. This outdoor venue which can host up to 1,500 people hosts both international DJs and upcoming local DJs throughout high season.
The south of Goa might not be renowned for the all night trance parties that have come to define the north, but they do have, not one, but two silent discos taking place in the high season. A unique experience to have under the stars in Goa!
As for boozing, since Goa is India’s most relaxed state, booze can be picked up for much cheaper than elsewhere in the country. A large kingfisher should set you back around 50 rupees from an off-license and you can expect to pay around 300 rupees for a bottle of rum. Budget backpackers should take advantage of the many bottle shops around the beach area. Drinking on the beach is totally free, and great fun if you can get a bunch of backpackers together to join you! Just remember to be careful and stay out the water. (Sensible Auntie Nicole speaking here!)
P.s for anyone homesick travellers looking for a familiar old day at the pub, I’d recommend checking out Octopus Restaurant in Chaudi. I’m usually all for immersing myself in the culture, but there are some days that you just need to swap your curry and chapati for a Sunday roast (yup, they do a Sunday Roast!) Check out their facebook page here.
Nature & Things to Do
Not all backpackers are into the party scene, and that’s what I like about Palolem- there is something for everyone. For those who prefer early mornings and early(ish) nights, you can spend your days exploring the surrounding beaches of Palolem and the jungle-like landscapes inland, rather than sweating out your hangover in your dorm room.
Since I went in monsoon and wasn’t exactly blessed with blue cloudless skies, I missed out on a lot of the usual activities. However, here’s an idea of some of the things that you can do in the area around Palolem Beach:
- Watch turtles nesting at Galgibaga Beach
- Visit the neighbouring beaches, Pantem and Agonda
- Trek to Duhdsagar Waterfalls
- Take a surf lesson or go stand up paddle boarding
- Go souvenir shopping in the bazaar
- Take a boat to monkey island or butterfly island
One of my biggest apprehensions about travelling to Palolem Beach, as opposed to the more popular beaches in the north, was that I would struggle to meet people. I had absolutely no need to worry! Coincidentally, I ended up making 2 friends on the train from Hampi to Goa who were also Palolem Beach bound. Add to that loads of friendly faces in my hostel and I always had someone to hang about with.
One of the golden rules for meeting people while travelling is to stay in a hostel and, luckily, Palolem Beach is covered on that front. Hostels are nowhere near as popular in India as they are in the likes of South East Asia and Europe, so it’s always great to stumble upon a good one, particularly if you’re in the market for a few new friends! I stayed at Summer by thehostelcrowd which was just a short walk from the beach, and a central meeting point for backpackers.
During high season, the (lovely and extremely helpful) guys there also offer group excursions such as kayaking and jungle canyoning. This is perfect for anyone who wants to explore the area and meet people at the same time. Plus, thehostelcrowd is currently offering Wee Gypsy Girl readers who use the code thehostelcrowd 10% off rooms booked on their website. Click here to book yours! (Full review in the pipeline!)
A common misconception about Goa is that it’s a huge budget blower, however, from my experience, that’s more to do with temptations than the actual cost of things. Here’s a few tips for staying on budget while you’re in Palolem Beach:
- Alcohol is cheap in Goa but, of course, it all adds up- try not to go too mental!
- Scooters can be hired for around 350 INR per day which is great if you want to explore the neighbouring beaches.
- As you’ll find most places, the restaurants along the beach front are, obviously, more expensive- head away from the beach and have a great meal for a fraction of the price.
- For solo travellers, hostel accommodation is the best way to go. You’ll spend less, get free breakfast (usually) and you’ll meet friends who you can split tours and tuk tuks with!
- For groups and couples, getting a non A/C double room is almost always the most economical option. Check out a few and see who gives you the best price. Unless it’s the height of high season (a.k.a Christmas and New Year), I wouldn’t advise booking these sort of rooms online as the cheapest rooms aren’t always advertised.
Palolem Beach really took me be surprise on my trip. For anyone looking for the right balance of party, nature and chilled out beach time, definitely make your way south on your next Goa trip.
Don’t forget to stop into Summer by thehostelcrowd and use my code thehostelcrowd for 10% off your stay. (Valid until October 31st)
If you’re backpacking around India, don’t miss these posts!
- A Backpacker’s Guide to Hampi
- Rajasthan: The Land of Kings in 2 Weeks
- Kerala, Goa and Karnataka: 1 Month Itinerary
- 8 Tips for Doing India on the Cheap
I was a guest of Summer by the Hostelcrowd on my stay. However, as always, all opinions are my own.