With its sparkling coastline, sultry climate and laid-back vibes, Goa is a tempting destination for escaping the gloomy European winters. After Portuguese Colonial rule ended in 1961, it became a legendary refuge for the ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’ hippies, and maintained its reputation as a counterculture hideaway for decades. These days, there are luxury resorts aplenty, where you can relax on golden sands and feast on fresh seafood and coconut curries. If sun worship isn't your thing, spend leisurely days wandering through the old towns, discovering hidden Baroque churches and colourfully painted villas.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
North Goa's coastline is an undulating stretch of golden sand that seems to go on forever, fringed with tall palms swaying in the gentle sea breeze. The most popular beaches like Candolim, Calangute and Baga are pretty crammed with slick resort hotels and tanning tourists, but further north, Arambol retains its old hippy vibe complete with ramshackle bungalows and castaway beach bars. There are lively souvenir markets at Mapusa and Anjuna, whilst the fascinating backwaters are easily explored by boat or kayak. Further inland, colourful Hindu temples nestle deep in dense woodland, and you can visit farms growing nutmeg, cardamom and aromatic fruits.
If you’re looking for total tranquility, head to the south of the state which has a much less developed landscape. Picturesque Palolem Beach is a lengthy semi-circle of soft sand shaded by palms, and nearby Patnem Beach is even more secluded and a particular favourite with yoga devotees. However, the best spot for total serenity is Galgibag. Also known as Turtle Beach, this almost untouched section of coastline is a protected turtle nesting site, and you can learn more about the vital conservation work during your stay. Away from the beach you can explore stately Portuguese-Colonial mansions, the magical hilltop temple of Parvat, and the atmospheric streets and bustling bazaar of Margao.
You could be forgiven for thinking you were in bygone Lisbon whilst strolling through Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter of Panjim, Goa's capital city. Colonial houses with brightly painted walls and balconies strewn with bougainvillea blooms line the sleepy streets, and many older residents still speak Portuguese. Nearby, Sao Tome is less gentrified and wonderfully atmospheric, ideal for a quiet evening drink. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Old Goa was known as the 'Rome of the East' and has a spectacular collection of lofty convents and churches dripping with Baroque swirls and flourishes. The state also has many crumbling forts, and while Tiracol is now a stylish hotel, Fort Aguada and Chapora are both well preserved, offering a different window into the region’s past.
Take your best shot at spotting wildlife with an itinerary that includes not one but three different parks, all located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. This allows you to explore some surprisingly diverse scenery, see myriad bird and animal species, and hugely increase your chances of spotting one of these elusive big cats.