Goa: Where the Portuguese legacy lives on

  • Goa's beautiful coastline has been attracting visitors since the 1960s. But in the last five years, the number of tourists coming to the holiday destination has almost tripled.
  • India's smallest state is split into two distinctive districts — in both, there are beautiful golden sand beaches and roads that wind through leafy green hills.
Local fisherman pack a fishing net as the sun sets on Baga beach in Bardez, Goa, India, on Mar. 9, 2016. 
Sanjit Das | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Local fisherman pack a fishing net as the sun sets on Baga beach in Bardez, Goa, India, on Mar. 9, 2016. 

Goa — India's smallest state — is about 300 miles south of Mumbai.

A Portuguese colony until 1961, the coastal region is now known for its music, nightlife and beaches.

Goa's beautiful coastline has been attracting visitors since the 1960s. In the last five years, however, the number of tourists coming to the holiday destination has almost tripled.

This remarkable growth has drawn hoteliers and restaurateurs to its shores, and attracted businesses from all over India that are keen to invest in the tiny state.

High season in Goa is between October and January. But if you don't like partying, and prefer deserted beaches, then the best time to visit is in the low season. While you may experience the occasional downpour between February and September, room rates will also be a lot cheaper.

Goa is split into two distinctive districts: The north tends to attract a livelier crowd, while the south offers a slower pace of life. In both, there are beautiful golden sand beaches and roads that wind through leafy green hills.

The best way to travel in Goa is on a scooter. To hire one for a day will cost around 300 rupees — or less than $5.

But if you're more adventurous and want to explore the rest of the state, head inland to Old Goa. Some of the region's most famous colonial architecture and Catholic cathedrals — which capture the the area's distinctive Portuguese heritage — can be found there.

Goa has had many different rulers over the course of its history, but it's the Portuguese whose legacy still lives on.

In their 450 years of reign, the Portuguese established hospitals and schools, and fervently converted the locals to Christianity. Through their colonial-era mansions, churches, cuisine and even their language, Portuguese rule has left a vivid historical mark here.

Travelers partying on a beach in the Indian state of Goa.
Ami Vitale | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Travelers partying on a beach in the Indian state of Goa.

Music is also synonymous with Goan culture. Across the region, but especially in the north, you can catch live performances of everything from traditional Konkani to Goa trance — an electronic music style that originated during the late 1980s. While the major festivals take place in high season, the cafes and bars showcase local musicians throughout the year.

For many people, Goa is a holiday destination for beachgoers who want to party. But it is that, and so much more. The history and architecture in Goa make it a unique experience to visit.

And if you happen to visit in low season, it can be the perfect time to appreciate the Indian state's laid back culture and experience an authentic Goan life.