To experience Goa, be a traveller not a tourist

Contrary to popular belief, Goa has evolved from the stereotypical party, booze and beaches to a more respectful and responsible form of tourist destination
FROM PARTIES TO SOULFUL EXPERIENCES: Under Goa's glossy sun, sand and shacks, there's a throbbing heart. Today, many visiting the serene coastal State can hear its distinct heartbeat.
FROM PARTIES TO SOULFUL EXPERIENCES: Under Goa's glossy sun, sand and shacks, there's a throbbing heart. Today, many visiting the serene coastal State can hear its distinct heartbeat.

Every time I see tourists blocking the famous Parra Madani Road (Dear Zindagi Road) or wandering aimlessly around Goa wearing 'I love Goa' t-shirts, claiming there's nothing to do, I feel an irresistible urge to act as Goa's unofficial ambassador and hand them travel brochures.

However, my aim isn't to blame the silver screen or influencers for Goa's challenges. Instead, I want to share itineraries offered by travel companies, groups and individuals that showcase a side of Goa that lies beyond cinematic and social media clichés.

BOLLYWOOD EFFECT: Every day, the Parra Madani Road, where a Hindi movie was shot, is blocked and crowded with tourists wanting to take pictures.
BOLLYWOOD EFFECT: Every day, the Parra Madani Road, where a Hindi movie was shot, is blocked and crowded with tourists wanting to take pictures.Photo: KD

There is a burning desire for every visitor to uncover the true essence of Goa. Why so? Because Goa offers so much more than than the typical tourist checklist like one-day photo ops at Dona Paula jetty and blaring Bollywood music on boat cruises in Panjim.

There is much more to Goa than what is seen. It has evolved from a stereotypical party destination to a treasure trove waiting to be explored, offering something for every kind of traveller. It's a place that craves a more mindful approach, one that embraces authentic experiences and experiential tourism.

FROM PARTIES TO SOULFUL EXPERIENCES: Under Goa's glossy sun, sand and shacks, there's a throbbing heart. Today, many visiting the serene coastal State can hear its distinct heartbeat.
Touristing in Goa? Remember to...

Experiential tourism is the latest travel trend

Experiential tourism is about going beyond the surface and immersing yourself in the heart and soul of a place, becoming one with its culture and stories.

Goa is perfectly suited for this type of travel. It offers myriad experiences waiting to be discovered in its serene nature, local narratives, and communities that will embrace you with open arms, ready to share their culture and traditions.

GOA BEYOND BEACHES: Discover nature's secrets and connect to its soul.
GOA BEYOND BEACHES: Discover nature's secrets and connect to its soul.Photo: Viresh Parsekar

How does experiential travel manifest in Goa?

Travel companies and groups are redefining experiences by going beyond sightseeing. They are offering experiences that allow you to truly know a place, its culture and communities.

For example, a spice farm visit today wouldn't just be about learning about local spices; you'd also experience authentic Goan cuisine prepared with organic, locally-sourced ingredients. Some experiences even allow you to participate in cooking these dishes before relishing them. These are collaborative experiences between establishments, local businesses and travel companies.

LOCAL FOOD IS ALL YOU NEED: Try some authentic Goan food for a local experience.
LOCAL FOOD IS ALL YOU NEED: Try some authentic Goan food for a local experience. Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Culinary tours in Goa delve into the stories behind the dishes. Old bakeries in Panjim, like Confeitaria 31 De Janeiro or Mr Baker, or some established bakers, are bringing their recipes and legacies to life by creating experiences in collaboration with travel companies.

Similarly, Cazulo Feni, Goa's heritage spirit brand with a passion for preserving tradition, has started community table set-ups, allowing visitors to learn about the stories of feni extraction and its significance as a GI-tagged and heritage drink of the State.

WALK WITH THEM: Curated walks and trails are excellent ways to explore Goa's heritage.
WALK WITH THEM: Curated walks and trails are excellent ways to explore Goa's heritage.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Companies like Make It Happen and Soul Travelling provide interesting tours that delve into Goa's rich historical and cultural past, showcasing the dynasties and rulers that made Goa distinct from the rest of the country.

Similarly, companies run by wildlife and nature enthusiasts offer nature walks, birding trips and themed study tours for educational institutions and are strongly committed to the ethics of minimising disturbance to the areas they visit. They also ensure that the local communities benefit from their outings.

MUSIC IS ALL YOU NEED: Music concerts by locals offer great insight into Goa's rich musical heritage.
MUSIC IS ALL YOU NEED: Music concerts by locals offer great insight into Goa's rich musical heritage.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Experiential travel offers a personalised and inspirational way to discover Goa and even discover yourself. Many yoga groups and companies offer experiences that allow you to destress and have a rejuvenating experience in the midst of nature and greenery that Goa offers.

Goa’s experiential travel scene also allows you to experience a touch of the state’s rich musical history, including colonial influences, at concerts like Sounds of Goa and Madragoa.

LOCAL FESTIVALS: The Three Kings feast in Cansaulim, South Goa, offers great insight into Goa's rich history and heritage.
LOCAL FESTIVALS: The Three Kings feast in Cansaulim, South Goa, offers great insight into Goa's rich history and heritage.Photo: Rohan Fernandes

Experience it yourself...

While some experiences might be expensive, you can always find options that fit your budget and add to your learning experience. You could start by going beyond social media content and popular hotel stays.

Instead, explore homestays, eco-stays, or hotels focused on rejuvenation. Immerse yourself in the local markets, interacting with people. Observe the architecture, and learn about its history instead of just clicking pictures.

The key is to find a balance. Experiential tourism in Goa is on the rise, offering a plethora of options for travellers seeking a deeper connection with the State.

FROM PARTIES TO SOULFUL EXPERIENCES: Under Goa's glossy sun, sand and shacks, there's a throbbing heart. Today, many visiting the serene coastal State can hear its distinct heartbeat.
Discovering Goa safely: A solo woman's ultimate travel guide

To becoming a traveller

Also, do not forget even experiential travel experiences come with a quotient of responsible travel. So do not forget to be a responsible traveller because this form of travel is the heart and soul of experiential tourism.

By embracing experiential tourism you don't just become a visitor, but a champion for responsible travel, a bridge between cultures. Forget the fleeting tourist experience; Goa beckons you for a much more deeper connection.

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