To Other Countries I May Go as a Tourist, to India I Come as a Pilgrim
Martin Luter King
India is the mother of many cultures, histories, languages, traditions. Mama India is an old country, a country where I really felt like a pilgrim. I was not just visiting, in fact, I was paying my respect, I was coming back to an old home, a home from another life. Back to the source, back in time.
Indo-European is indeed the root of nearly all languages spoken in Europe and India, and much knowledge, history, and trade have been shared between Europe and this subcontinent. My fascination with this country has always been present – as a kid, my dream has always been to wear a pink saree – but in the last couple of years, I was drawn to it because of my yogic studies.
So here I am, in India. I am in Goa, which is a tropical region facing the Arabian Sea. I chose this destination because as a female solo traveler is the most approachable one, where locals are a bit more tolerant with females’ skin exposure (read: even just shoulders is something in India) and are used to tourists. Goa is also partly Cristian, partly Hindu and partly Muslim because of different historical moments and political situations, in particular, the latest Portuguese colonial era whose remains are still visible not only in the religion but in the architectural style.
While I am writing this post I am actually in North Goa, but I have stayed in the South, and precisely in Agonda (Canacona), for a month. Let me say this straight and clear: AGONDA IS A LOVELY PLACE!
I absolutely loved every minute of it: the people, the beach, the restaurants, the surroundings, the feeling of safety, the yoga… Everything. As a woman solo traveler, Agonda (but also Palolem) can really be a safe harbor where to hang out, incomparable to many many other locations in Goa. It’s a tiny little place, with one main crossing and many rickshaw drivers, a very big beach, little shops, and a green lush jungle all around. The locals tend to ‘adopt’ you after a while, and you start feeling at home, part of their big family.
Here below are some of my recommendations for where to sleep, eat, shop and what to do.
Fatima’s: cheap, essential&basic guest house, but central and with a nice restaurant right below. Some rooms are also a bit nicer, depending on the category.
Simrose: A little bit more luxurious because of garden/beach bar/gate and options to get a room literally in front of the sea.
The White Resort: Real Luxury… period. It even has a swimming pool!!
Monsoon Guest House: cute and well maintained, it is also a restaurant. The only downside is that it is at the other end of the beach so you need to be either a good walker, get a bike or get a tuc tuc (100 Rs to the main crossing).
Fatima’s (the same as above): cheap, delicious, safe, quick and huge menu. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner. It has been my go-to many, MANY times. The best coffee I had in India so far (I am Italian :-P). Meal + Drink for 350/400 Rs ca.
Avocado Garden: it is also a guesthouse and I heard it’s basic but nice. However, the good jam is the restaurant: a lovely, cozy garden surrounded by the jungle… <3. Vegetarian and vegan options, everything is cheap, delicious and safe. Downside: service is very slow. Go there armed with patience, but it is worth it. Meal + Drink for 400/500 Rs ca.
Dinesh: Indian, Indian, Indian!! The best masala-everything you can imagine! ❤ Meal + drinks for 350 Rs ca.
The Space Goa: from Agonda, get a tuc tuc and visit this Indian version of a concept store. Clothes, jewelry, yoga mats, herbs, oils, malas, courses, and great food. It’s a little bit more inside, that’s why you need a Rickshaw. Oh, and it closes at 5.30pm unless otherwise stated, because… “sunsets are nicer by the beach” the owner told me :-). Meal + Drink for 400/500 Rs ca.
Zest: the best restaurant in Palolem, definitely worth a visit especially if you are vegetarian vegan. Cozy, tasty, and good looking :-). slightly more pricey but I mean… in Indian terms. So, totally doable. Meal + Drink for 500/600 Rs ca.
Gita’s shop is the best place for clothes. However, the shop doesn’t have a tag, so you have to find the entrance of Silent Waves and it’s the one on the opposite side of the road, just in front. Say my name/show her a picture of mine, she might give you a bit more discount :-).
Himalaya Shop in front of Fatima’s (there is also another one further down the street heading north, they are brothers) has great quality items from Kashmir. Again, say my name/show them a picture of mine, they might give you a bit more discount :-).
The Stone Shop (after Simrose, keep going for 50 mt or so, same side) for the best stones and crystals. Make sure you specify VERY WELL that you want silver or whatever metal and look for the 925 sign if so. Best is talking to the owner, he is more expert than the young guy.
For Macramè&Crystals: I don’t remember the name, but you will see a shop close to Avocado garden sign which offers macramè courses. The guy is the best macramè maker I have met so far and he is very kind. Again: say my name/show him a picture of mine, he might give you a bit more discount :-).
+ in Palolem you have many more options, but because it’s more famous and touristy, it can be more expensive. When it’s less, then be careful with the quality! I have seen many shops that do not keep their items nicely.
What to do:
Yoga: Sampoorna Yoga has great teachers on rotation for drop-ins. My favorite ones are Chrissie (spiritual, nurturing and delicious), Maria (energizing vinyasa) and Johanna (Ashtanga). Ask inside! They have been my teachers for my own Yoga Teacher training and I love them <3.
Surf: There is a surf shop which offers board rentals, classes etc. The waves are nice and the spot is safe also for beginners.
Courses: macramè (see the shop mentioned above) massage/tantra (see the Space Goa), and Thai Massage by the incredibly skillful Chris, who is a yoga teacher, an incredible therapist, and anatomy-savvy guy! He saved my life when I had horrible sciatica.
Beaches: visit Cola Beach, a more secluded beach near Agonda. There are a restaurant and a hotel even! It’s a little piece of paradise. You need a Rickshaw or a good bike to go there!
Climb the Rocks and Meditate: by the Southern end of the beach there are some rocks… you should walk up to the fishermen area, then go into the jungle through the path, climb until the path splits into 2 and then keep right. Then you will reach a set of flat rocks where to watch dolphins, meditate and enjoy the best sunset.
+….. CHILL ❤ it’s Agonda!
Nightlife: Agonda is chilled, quiet and relaxing. There are occasional parties, but nothing too crazy. Because of this, you will almost never be annoyed by noise or even proposed to buy drugs & co (which will happen in North Goa). I heard Palolem has some nightlife, but I was not in the mood and never been there for parties so I cannot give you feedback!
That’s all my friends! Let me know if you visit and how did you find it. I would love to hear from you. Personally, I really couldn’t recommend Agonda more. Soon I will publish my ‘India tips and tricks’ + an update from North Goa! Stay tuned!
Remember: Be a kind stranger.