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In Goa, those who love the water can swim, go parasailing or jet-skiing, or hire a banana boat for a couple of hours paddling. Foodies have menus full of fresh seafood, local delicacies and international dishes to choose from. There are lots of markets all over the state for those interested in shopping, and more than enough bars and nightclubs to keep the party crowd going all night. And despite Goa's prominence on the tourist trail, it's still possible to go off the beaten path and experience Goa's quieter and charming side along its rivers and in its villages.
It takes about a week to catch all of Goa's highlights—the beaches, Panaji, Old Goa, and the backwaters. If you're coming mainly for the beaches, a three- or four-day trip will suffice for swimming in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea, shopping at the colorful markets, and enjoying the flavors of Goan food. And there's a beach to suit every desire: those looking for seclusion and clear water can head north to Arambol, currently home to Goa's few remaining hippies, while the resort-lined southern beaches offer swankier shacks and cold bottles of wine on quiet beaches. For nonstop action—all-night parties with DJs and live bands—partygoers should head for Baga in the north or Colva in the south. It's worth putting a day aside to see Panaji and to sample Goa's Portuguese ties firsthand, most apparent in the historic Fontainhas and Sao Tomé districts, as well as in the grand churches of Old Goa, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.
A wonderful way to properly experience Goan life is to check in for two or three days at one of the state's heritage homes or properties. With antique-filled guest rooms, attentive service, and delicious home cooking, the best of these places amount to a pleasurable window into Goa's past. Ultimately, much of Goa's charm lies in its ability to be so flexible: here you can choose between a tranquil retreat from modern life or party central, a resort spot for a perfect tan, or a destination from which to explore India's heritage.