Once the paradise of the hippies, Vagator today remains largely quiet. Unassuming and serene, its lazy off-season demeanour is reminiscent of post-party slumbers. The Vagator we visited, the Vagator that features in our complete guide is perfect for the traveller seeking solace, perfect for the couple looking for slow winding afternoons and bluesy punch-drunk nights, and perfect for the family seeking some quiet time together. The trance parties of the 80s have gone undercover now. A few “secret” moonlit rave parties take place once in a while but you have to be on the circuit for the know-how.
More domestic tourists have started arriving in Vagator which was once the haunt of westerners. There are two beaches in Vagator: Big Vagator or the main beach which has to bear the brunt of the tourist buses that unload selfie-stick wielding hoards in the afternoon. It is not safe for swimming because it is studded with wave-smoothed rocky outcrops. While these flat, rocky surfaces can be perfect for lounging in other seasons, in the monsoon we advise against climbing them because they can be slippery and the currents below are strong enough to tear you off your perch. The beach is also the rambling place for pye-dogs. For a more peaceful time, head south to Little Vagator or Ozran. Backed by red laterite cliffs and thick palm groves, this strip of three connected coves regularly features as one of Goa’s most coveted landscapes. On the southernmost is a carved face of Shiva staring skywards. In the high season, these beaches are full of shacks blaring trance & EDM. For reasons we haven’t yet deciphered, you can spot sizeable herds of stray cows here. Be warned that a rather steep descent leads to these coves. To the northeast of Vagator, on the other side of Chapora Fort, is the sleepy hamlet of Chapora which continues to be the haunt of hippies and smokers and wears a distinct scent of charas on its briny breath.
We visited during the monsoon and were treated to breath-taking views of the Arabian Sea. The waves left their footprints as delicate, braided patterns on the black sand. Towering masses of cumulonimbus poured their souls on the bluish-green waters and as the storm approached the coastline, it tore through the coconut and palm trees. On the clifftop, tourists huddled in makeshift stalls, slurping piping hot Maggi & sipping cups of cha: both highly desirable after getting rained on. While the off-season brings to the traveller the best of natural beauty and offers plenty of space for soul-searching and contemplation, it doesn’t offer quite as much to do, activity-wise. The shacks were shut and so were the flea markets.
Without the usual interruptions, your stay in Vagator becomes a tradeoff between your perceptions of North Goan hippy headiness & the unscathed rural beauty of Goa that is seldom portrayed in popular media. We are grateful we ended up being battered the rain on the clifftop. We are grateful to have spent quiet, unhurried hours together. Far from the noisy, breathless marathon of day-to-day life, we got a chance to rediscover our relationship.
From Panaji, ride the express shuttle to Mapusa (INR 15) and then take a local bus to Vagator via Anjuna (INR 20). The total journey takes about an hour. Alternately, you can book a cab or bike.
Hike to Chapora Fort:
Made famous by Dil Chahta Hai, this 17th-century Portuguese fort is the prime attraction for Indian tourists in Vagator and tops our complete guide to Vagator. An easy hike will lead you from the main market all the way through the ruins of the fort and to a viewpoint overlooking the sea. In the dry season, you can hike all the way down to the coast and onwards to the main beach. In the monsoon, the fort’s forgotten floor is a luxuriant carpet. Loud selfie-clicking youngsters fill the ramparts and despite the breeze and the unobtrusive views, it can get annoying after a while. The fort closes at 5 pm and the guard won’t allow you in even if you are late by a few minutes. Also, keep in mind that the climb to the fort can get slippery and muddy after a shower so be sure you are wearing the right footwear.
Bike to Anjuna Flea Market:
Originally founded by joint-smoking hippies as a way to fund their nomadic lifestyle, the weekly Anjuna Flea Market has reached cult-status for visitors. Unfortunately, we missed it but we hear that there are stalls selling handicrafts from all parts of India. Expats also set up shops selling handmade goods like necklaces, stationery, bags, bikinis, etc. It is a great place not only to shop and bargain but also to network. If the loud music gets on your nerves, take a break and chug a chilled beer at one of the many shacks. It is held every Wednesday from mid-November to April.
Experience the Arpora Night Flea Market:
Held every Saturday night from end-December to April, the Arpora Night Market is a bustling market featuring both local and foreign traders who sell everything from exotic spices to Christmas baubles. On the centre stage, dancers gyrate to music, contortionists exhibit their tricks, bands play their music, DJs belt out the season’s hits and often in between Bollywood and alternate Rock, you can experience little-known musical snippets from various parts of the globe. Countless food stalls featuring global cuisine is part of the fun. The number of languages you can hear being spoken at these flea markets is astonishing. It is indeed a pulsing, ecstatic miniature of the world! The atmosphere is electric and security is heavy. If you are planning to drive down the highway, be warned that it is absolutely choked on market nights.
Stock up on grocery at Mapusa’s local market:
Held on Fridays, the Mapusa (pronounced: map-sa) local market is a typical example of rural Indian haats. We have a soft spot for farmers markets and felt compelled to include Mapusa’s local market in our guide to Vagator. It is loud and chaotic but it is such an important event that the town of Mapusa derives its name from it. In Konkani, map is measure and sa is fill up in reference to the trade of spice and locally-grown fruits. Vendors descend from Bardez and Tiswadi to sell fruits, spices, pottery, jewellery, carpets and cured meats. A dedicated hunt could also yield antiques and souvenirs. Must-buys are chouriços, seedless tamarinds, Goan sweets, and feni.
Visit the Siolim Fish Market:
A must visit for food lovers, believers of farm-to-table philosophy, and photographers, the Siolim Fish Market is the best place to get your haul of snappers, lobsters, crabs, shrimps, bangda, modso, and every other type of fresh seafood you’re craving. It’s located near the old jetty and is accessible by bike. We are not sure about bus routes.
Walk/Run along the Coastline:
An early morning walk/run along Vagator’s golden strip of coastline could be the relaxant you are looking for. With the silky breeze blowing through your hair and brushing your skin, what more could you ask for? Throw in a yoga session on the cliff and you couldn’t have a better start to your day.
Party the Night:
No guide to Vagator is complete without a section on nightlife. If you are the rave-by-moonlight kind, you will need to dig deeper in Vagator’s hippy past. Otherwise, buy a crate of beer and party the night with your hostel-mates. Vagator also has a number of clubs. Scroll down to know your options.
While we prefer staying in hostels when travelling alone, we found that it is more cost effective to book a private room in a locally run guesthouse, BnB, or homestay when travelling together in India. However, moral policing seems to be on the rise in India and we weren’t confident of finding budget accommodation without the hassle and thus ended up booking a private double at Jungle by The Hostel Crowd. It was a nice, comfortable stay but we also overshot our budget. We suggest walking around, looking at and weighing different options before booking instead of just booking online because many of these small, budget places do not advertise online.
Jungle by The Hostel Crowd:
The best place to chill in Vagator! Network with fellow travellers as you make breakfast in the kitchen (and also spot birds as they flit from branch to branch in the surrounding wilderness) or chill in the cosy dining area. The vibe is positive plus laid-back and the staff is incredible! Power-cuts maybe a problem, especially in the monsoons but you can sit in candlelight in the sitting area upstairs and hear the waves crashing in the distant. They also have privates.
If you are here to party, book a room at the brightly graffitied Pappi Chulo. They have a bar in the garden and organize movie nights. The dorms have different themes. They have privates too.
DJ Ravi, backpacker and owner, believes in the philosophy of “art, music and wellness” and promotes Dreams Hostel as a place for creatives who want to disconnect a bit from Vagator’s (in)famous party crowds and be closer to nature. The property sits within a nurtured garden and there are nooks to write or reflect.
A quirky hostel built entirely out of shipping containers could be your temporary home in Vagator! All units are air-conditioned and the property is pet-friendly.
OYO Rooms and Airbnb have some great rentals in Goa. If travelling with a group of 4 or more, we suggest booking a villa on Airbnb.
We like drawing attention to eateries that specialise in local cuisine in our guides and Tintin is one of them. Plonk yourself on the comfy seating and enjoy a meal of traditional Goan curries while the sea makes music in the background.
With an all-white decor and menu full of Greek delicacies, Thalassa is the prime attraction for foodies who visit Vagator. Book a table and enjoy the sunset over a leisurely meal. Prices are on the steeper side.
Smack in the middle of Vagator, Mango Tree serves a variety of cuisines and stays open late. Opt for the fish curry with rice and dig in with a side of upbeat music. The food is nothing out of the ordinary and prices are reasonable.
Anand is located on the road to Siolim and is known for serving authentic Goan curries.
Bean Me Up:
They are known for their vegan and organic selections. They also have a few rooms that they rent out. Please note that they aren’t open all year round.
Ashtanga Yoga Goa:
Lead by a Finnish instructor, Ashtanga Yoga Goa has centres in Mysore and Vagator. Check their website for details on the schedule.
Swan Yoga Retreat:
Located in Assagao, they have drop-in sessions and hold classes on Hatha and Sivananda Yoga. They also have meditation classes.
Jungle by The Hostel Crowd and Bean Me Up organize weekly yoga classes.
A legendary location in Goa’s psy-trance circuit and a must in all guides to Vagator, Hill Top hosts Friday night parties from 6 pm with international DJs playing Goan psy-trance. Special events are held on Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Overlooking the rocky cliffs of Vagator, Waters is the venue for a popular Techno party on Friday nights.
Popular for their Wednesday Ladies night (free entry and unlimited drinks for ladies!), Club Cabana is one of Goa’s best nightclubs. It is located on Arpora Hill and offers bedazzling views of the night skies.