Say hello to India’s own slice of paradise. Running from the Konkan Coast into the Arabian Sea, Goa has got beach life covered, along with nightlife and colonial culture.

This fusion of paradise, partying and Portuguese heritage brings backpackers flocking. There are so many things to do in Goa, so we’ve chosen a few that you shouldn’t miss no matter what you’re into.

1) Get some tanning time

The bay features some of India’s best beaches, so it’d be rude not to whip out the towel and top up the tan. In fact, for many travelling India, beaches like Mandrem, Baga and Cavelossim are the sole reason for making the trip to Goa. Each has stunning sands and sparkling seas that invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy this beach utopia.

Goa Beach Cows

2) Master a water sport

Maybe ‘mastering’ is a strong word, but with so many activities on offer for pros and beginners, it’s hard not to be tempted by the reasonable prices of classes and equipment rental.

Surfing, jet skiing and parasailing are all traditional seaside options, but by the riverside there’s kayaking on the Aguada River, white water rafting on the Mandovi River and regular rafting at the river of Valpoi. Whatever it is, you’ll be leaving Goa with a new skill to boast about.

3) Get tattooed

Not permanent artwork but traditional henna. Tribal tattoo artists stroll the beach offering designs for a flexible price – have you really even been to India if you don’t return home with a fancy henna tattoo on your hand?

Having a henna tattoo also provides the perfect excuse to relax in the sun while it ‘dries’.

Henna Tattoo India

4) Search for dolphins

Dolphins are well known for roaming about the Arabian waters close to Goa’s shoreline, and in places like Sinquerim, Candolim and Calangute they’re fairly easy to see.

The best way to guarantee a viewing is by going aboard one of the harbour cruises. John’s Dolphin Tour is a well-known sightseeing trip that operates on the philosophy of ‘no dolphin, no pay’. So for us backpackers on tight budgets, that’s a definite ‘yes’.

5) Spice things up

Goa is known for producing some of the country’s best spices and it’s pretty much customary to leave the state with a bag of your own in tow. Spots like the Sahakari Spice Farm will give a guided tour of the gardens, the Parvati Madhav Park Plantation organises their plants into ‘one’s spiritual, psychological and aesthetic needs’ while the Tropical Spice Plantation in the Ponda area produces some of the world’s hottest chillies.

6) Go wild

From plantations to parks, seeking out Goa’s wildlife is on most people’s list of to-dos when visiting the state. Places like the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park are home to panthers, sloth bears and barking deer that you can see up close in their natural habitat.

Don’t forget your binoculars, as tropical birds like woodpeckers, paradise flycatchers, fairy bluebirds and emerald doves are also pretty common up in the trees.

Dudhsagar Falls Goa

7) Party on the beach

From wildlife to wild nights, Goa makes the most of its beautiful bays and doesn’t just limit the fun to daylight hours. At night, heading down to the beach where the breeze, beautiful scenery and local beer can all be found at cool seaside shacks, is impossible to refuse.

St. Anthony’s Bar in Baga Bay is ideal for catching a sunset while the live music of Café Lilliput and Curlie’s Beach Shack near Anjuna Beach make them super popular for backpackers.

8) Make moves in the market

Just as beachside parties are a must on a Goa trip, so is a night out on the market cobbles. Ingo’s Saturday night bazaar in Arpora is an open-air market and one of the area’s biggest attractions. That means that inevitably every traveller ends up here on a weekend looking to shop.

With local crafts, food and art, you can pick up a few souvenirs and, backed up by DJ beats, dance the night away afterwards.

9) Entering the taxi trap

Whether it’s coming home from market night or after hours exploring, your eagerness to get back to the hostel means giving in to the temptation of a taxi is likely. With touts constantly hollering at you to climb in it can be easy to do, but with no meters, watch out that you don’t get scammed. Agree your price before, maybe even write it down and get the driver to confirm, and you’re all the less likely to part with more rupees than you should.