Goa is a package-tour paradise, squeezed between the seas and the lush forested hills. Goa is a state in western India with coastlines stretching along the Arabian Sea. Its long history as a Portuguese colony prior to 1961 is evident in its preserved 17th-century churches and the area’s tropical spice plantations. It offers glistening sands, swaying coconut palms, and ultra-fresh seafood. Luxury hotels and budget guesthouses overlook fisherman mending their nets, and beer comes cheap and chilled. Discovered by pioneering hippies looking for peace and love. Goa’s beaches are now filled with persistent hawkers during the day and rave parties at night. Goa is also known for its beaches, ranging from popular stretches at Baga and Palolem to those in laid-back fishing villages such as Agonda. For that intent on discovering the real India, Goa is the best treated as a relaxing break on the southern trail. Lavishly gifted by nature, Goa can also boast of its rich cultural and historical heritage. It is hardly surprising that the Portuguese who came in search of spices in the 16th century decided to put down roots in this tropical paradise. Goa’s natural boundaries, the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri mountains, had sheltered it from much of India’s inland turmoil, while its strategic location on the newly discovered trade route to the East made it even more attractive. It provides spectacular views with bottle green hills wooded with jackfruit, mango, and cashew groves, cut across by river and edged by miles of sun-drenched beaches. Warm, languid climates and a gentle unspoilt people complete this compelling kaleidoscope. While the rest of the country progressed towards the independence and the 20th century, Goa remained a Portuguese colony, since 4 1\2 centuries of Portuguese rule has left its imprints everywhere. Major public or special holidays are around Christmas, Republic Day, Id-ul-zuha, Gudi Padva, Good Friday, Independence Day, Ganesh Chaturthi (both days), Gandhi Jayanthi, Dussehra, Diwali, Id-ul-Fitr, Feast of St Francis Xavier, Goa Liberation Day, Mahashivratri, Holi and Id-e-Milad. Banks may remain open during local religious celebrations. Expect a huge influx of tourists and locals residing in other states during festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi and the Carnival, which is celebrated at the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. It is advised to make bookings for trains, buses and flights well in advance if you intend on visiting the state during these times. Stop at a small taverna (bar) for a drink of feni – a locally brewed drink made from cashew or coconut, listen to the sounds of a mando (love song) and the strains of a guitar mingling with the sensuous lapping of the waves, or the warm golden sands of lonely, idyllic beaches. There is a Mediterranean atmosphere in the quaint towns with their red-tiled roofs & narrow streets and the charming fishing villages surrounded by coconut groves. It is easy to slip into Goa’s warm effortless existence. In Goa, Latin influence fuses with Indian colour to produce an enchanting hybrid. Goa’s traditions of language, religion, dances have remained firmly entrenched despite the end of Portuguese rule in 1961. Goans may be Indian, but they are Goan first.