With its heady mix of beautiful beaches, charming fishing villages, mouth-watering cuisine (much of it provided by those village fishermen) and lively nightlife, it’s hardly surprising that India’s sunshine state of Goa is one of the country’s most popular destinations. You are certain to spend much of your holiday on Goa's golden sands, but if you do take a couple of days out to explore all Goa has to offer, be sure to use this 48-hour guide to make the most of your time here!

But as tempting as it is to just kick back on a perfect sandy beach - and there are around 50 to choose from - there’s a lot more to Goa than an opportunity to while away the hours in the sun. Take a trip away from the idyllic coastline and you’ll find a wide range of things to see and do, from its intriguing history and Portuguese-inspired architecture, to bustling flea markets and buzzing nightlife. Our special two-day guide - which concentrates on northern Goa, which you can tour by car, taxi or public transport - is a great way to get a real taste of what this wonderful holiday destination has to offer.

Baga Beach in Goa is a perfect example of the beauty of the Goan coastal destinations. However, beyond the beaches - and even on some of them - there are such a lot of fascinating and fun things to do and see and this blog guide will make sure you see some of the best attractions if you want to take a break from your sun lounger.

Baga Beach in Goa is a perfect example of the beauty of the Goan coastal destinations. However, beyond the beaches - and even on some of them - there are such a lot of fascinating and fun things to do and see. This blog guide will make sure you experience some of the best attractions when you want to take a break from your sun lounger.

Day One: Morning

A great way to get your bearings - as well as shake off any residual tiredness from the travel to get here - is to take a relaxing walk along a white sand beach in the early morning sun. As I mentioned, Goa has plenty to choose from, but since this is the quietest time of day, why not head for one of the most popular? Baga fits that bill, and will be much more crowded later on, so now’s the chance to enjoy it at its most peaceful. Keep on strolling and you’ll reach its bigger neighbour Calangute, and when you’re ready for a rest, grab something to eat from one of the many food shacks dotted along the sand and enjoy your breakfast while taking in the amazing sun and sea views.

Calangute Beach is Baga's bigger neighbour and, apart from the wonderful shoreline walks along these perfect sands in the mornings to enjoy the beach at its most peaceful best, there are also many snack shacks along this shore where you can eat breakfast while enjoying the amazing views out over the ocean.

Calangute Beach is Baga's bigger neighbour and, apart from the wonderful shoreline walks along these perfect sands in the mornings to enjoy the beach at its most peaceful best, there are also many snack shacks along this shore where you can eat breakfast while enjoying the amazing views out over the ocean.

Day One: Afternoon

What sort of holidaymaker are you? Or what sort of holidaymaker do you want to be while you’re in Goa? Could this tranquil retreat be the place to change the habits of a lifetime? If you’ve got a sense of adventure - or want to throw caution to the wind - then the beaches of northern Goa offer an array of water sports, including wind surfing, wakeboarding, kayaking, knee boarding, waterskiing and scuba diving. And if that sounds too much like hard work, why not hop on a zany banana ride or get a bird’s eye view of the beach and Arabian Sea by parasailing high above the ocean?

Kite boarding is just one of many water sports to be enjoyed in the warm and balmy waters of the Arabian Sea which laps Goa's beachy shores.

Kite boarding is just one of many water sports to be enjoyed in the warm and balmy waters of the Arabian Sea which laps Goa's beachy shores.

For a more sedate activity, head inland to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Goa to explore some of its magnificent churches, including the Renaissance-style Sé Cathedral, which is believed to be the largest cathedral in Asia. Even more impressive is the Basilica de Bom Jesus, a Baroque church that contains the tomb (and silver casket) of Saint Francis Xavier, Goa’s patron saint.

The cultural attractions in Goa are just as impressive as its beaches, showcasing traditions and architecture that are unique to India. A handful of cultural gems, pictured from left, are the interior of Basilica of Bom Jesus (Borea Jezuchi Bajilika) an UNESCO World Heritage Site in Old Goa, the Basilica of Bom Jesus St. Francis Xavier and Se Cathedral, both also to be found in Old Goa, India.

Day One: Evening

On the back of those church visits I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume you’re visiting at the weekend, as the Arpora Saturday Night Bazaar is one of Goa’s genuine must-see attractions. The hugely popular night-time market - the clue’s in the name - takes place between Baga and Anjuna and is a fabulous feast for the senses. As well as stalls selling everything, from spices and clothing to jewellery and handicrafts (haggling is a pre-requisite, as well as part of the fun), you’ll find an array of colourful bars and eateries serving a variety of food and drinks. There’s even a stage with live music, so you can make a bit of a night of it.

You should never underestimate the nightlife in India, and Goa comes alive at night. Follow the bright lights of its winding streets and you will find all kinds of evening entertainment, from café bars to casinos - some of them floating...

You should never underestimate the nightlife in India, and Goa comes alive at night. Follow the bright lights of its winding streets and you will find all kinds of evening entertainment, from café bars to casinos - some of them floating...

If you’re up for a later evening, then Goa has a range of lively nightlife - Club Cubana, a couples-only open-air nightclub that sits on a hilltop overlooking Arpora is among the best rated - as well as a host of casinos, in fact enough to earn it the nickname ‘mini Vegas’. Most of the venues are on boats anchored in the Mandovi River, as local law dictates that live gambling tables are only permitted on floating casinos. One of the biggest and best is the Deltin Royale, a luxury casino-liner moored off the coast of Panaji that offers a heady mix of games, drinks and tournaments.

The aptly named Deltin Royale is one of Asia's finest casinos. In compliance with local laws which only permit gambling offshore, this casino is located on a cruise liner which is moored in Goa's Mandovi River, just off the coast of Panaji.

The Deltin Royale is one of Asia's finest casinos. In compliance with local laws which only permit gambling offshore, this casino is located on a cruise liner which is moored in Goa's Mandovi River, just off the coast of Panaji.

Day Two: Morning

This morning’s activities will almost certainly depend on what kind of evening you had the night before, but a terrific way to start your second day is to take a trip out to Fort Aguada, a 16th-century hilltop fortification near Candolim that offers wonderful views over the coast and out across the sea. It also contains an ancient four-storey lighthouse - the oldest of its kind in Asia - and a younger version that’s open to the public. While you’re here make sure to check out a scenic spot named the Devil’s Finger and (in the interests of balance), Our Lady of Hope, a church that contains huge bell towers, a statue of Mother Teresa, and somewhat unnervingly, a drop of her blood.

Fort Aguada is a 16th-century Portuguese fortification standing on Sinquerim Beach in Goa which served to remind visitors of India's long history which has been shaped by some unexpected influences. It is also home an ancient lighthouse - the oldest of its kind in Asia.

Fort Aguada is a 16th-century Portuguese fortification standing on Sinquerim Beach in Goa, serving as a reminder of India's long history, which has been shaped by some unexpected influences. It is also home an ancient lighthouse - the oldest of its kind in Asia.

There are more historical artefacts in the Museum of Goa in Pilerne, which features a range of contemporary artworks by Indian and international artists, many of which - including a colourful installation of giant chillies - are influenced by Goa’s spice route history. If it gets your taste buds going then the museum’s café is an ideal spot for lunch.

Day Two: Afternoon

It’s time to head inland again now, this time to explore Goa’s lovely capital city of Panaji, in particular its spirited Latin Quarter, known as Fontainhas. Here you’ll find narrow, winding streets lined with colourful colonial houses and cottages with artily creative doors and red-tiled roofs. There’s plenty of things to see here, including the Cabo Raj Niwas, a 16th-century fort that’s now home to Goa’s Governor; the Public Astronomical Observatory; the Kala Academy Cultural Centre; St Sebastian’s Chapel, which contains a life-size crucifix depicting Christ with his eyes open; and the Old Secretariat, a colonial building that fronts onto the river. A short walk along the riverside will bring you to Campal Gardens, which is a tranquil place to relax, then head back to the Fontainhas for a lunch pit-stop at one of the many taverns and bakeries that line its streets.

A walk through Fontainhas, known as the Latin Quarter, in Goa's  capital city of Panaji, pulls you through the rainbow architecture and street décor that sets India apart and lets you know that you are in a unique destination.

A walk through Fontainhas, known as the Latin Quarter, in Goa's capital city of Panaji, pulls you through the rainbow architecture and street décor that sets India apart and lets you know that you are in a unique destination.

The brightly-painted colonial cottages that line the streets of Panaji are reminders of the equally colourful history of this city. be sure to visit Cabo Raj Niwas, a 16th-century fort that is now home to Goa's Governor.

The brightly-painted colonial cottages that line the streets of Panaji are reminders of the equally colourful history of this city. Be sure to visit Cabo Raj Niwas, a 16th-century fort that is now home to Goa's Governor.

Day Two: Evening

After a fairly long day sightseeing, a relaxing way to spend the evening is to take a cruise along the Mandovi River and enjoy the glorious sunsets for which Goa is renowned. The cruises start around 6pm and run throughout the night, and as well as food and drink, many offer music and dancing that turn the whole event into a party.

For something similar but also very different, as well as the chance to enjoy one of Goa’s most spectacular sunsets, head south to Palolem Beach, where there’s a wide range of food shacks and cafés for you to enjoy some excellent Goan cuisine. And the 'something similar but very different' I mentioned above is the chance to end the night in true party style, avoiding Goa’s 10pm amplified music curfew by joining Silent Noise, a hugely popular club night where revellers in headphones dance to the rhythms and beats of their choosing.

Goa's beaches are famed for their sunset parties, whether you take to the sands for sundowner cocktails or partying, you are sure to enjoy a night to remember.

Goa's beaches are famed for their sunset parties. Whether you take to the sands for sundowner cocktails or partying, you are sure to enjoy a night to remember.

Which is a useful metaphor for Goa itself, as India’s sunshine state certainly dances to its own beat, its Portuguese history and influences creating a unique and delightful holiday destination. This guide to a two-day sight-seeing tour of this wonderful Indian holiday destination should get your holiday off to a great start.

Goan sunsets are among the finest in the world, such as this one on Arambol Beach.

Goan sunsets are among the finest in the world, such as this one on Arambol Beach.

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