Fragrant spices and aromatic food, swaying palms bowing heavy with coconuts, yoga at sunrise.. South Goa offers it all in spades.
Travelling in the wonderful company of my friend Rachel we visited 3 beaches in the south; Palolem, Cola and Agonda. Our first stop, Agonda, stole our hearts immediately with sacred cows bobbing along the beach, beautiful sunsets and a sleepy relaxed vibe.
There was an excellent choice of vegan food and cafes along the main street and we were spoilt for choice. If you are visiting Agonda and looking for great vegan breakfasts then our recommendation would be Mandala Cafe. The owner is charismatic and friendly and his colourful menu offered us our favourite breakfast of the holiday. Expect good music, food and vibes with homemade mueslis, breads, and smoothies.
Afterwards we spent our days stretched out on the beach, eating fresh fruit (me hiding under a parasol) and taking in the spectacular views.
We stayed in Agonda for 3 days before moving onto Palolem.
Palolem is a beautiful and popular stretch of beach with probably the best bar we’ve visited, ever. At the end of the sandy stretch of beach you find yourself wading through the sea to reach Sundowner, a bar that is cut off by the sea at high tide. In the evening on one side it catches the impressive red sunsets, and then from the other side it witnesses the moon rise up casting its light across the ripples of ocean water. Ibizan style music plays and with a small bonfire, big open clay oven for wood fired pizzas, it was a struggle to leave. Once the tide is in the owner organises a boat for your safe return to the main drag.
There are also a number of cooking schools in Palolem. We joined Rahul’s vegetarian cooking course for a night of making Aloo Gobi, Spinach Pankar, Chapati, Dal Fry and Mushroom Pahadi. The layout of the cooking class was well thought out with piles of colourful spices and vegetables layed out across all the work stations. Rahul split us into teams of 2 and we set to task, preparing all the delicious dishes.
Chapati has 3 ingredients; wheat flour, water and salt. The creation lies in the technique of kneading and cooking the dough. We beat the dough into submission before rolling out small pieces of dough into thin pancakes, dry frying on both sides and then placing directly on a gas flame for 5 seconds each side.
Rahul enjoyed impressing us with his flame handling skills. I might avoid this little cooking trick for fear of cooking my face and apartment.
Once all the dishes were prepared, and with Kingfisher beers in hand, we sat down to eat. Rahul makes his own Garam masala (with a combination of 15 spices ) and I’ve taken a batch home, ready to create plant-based versions of his recipes on UK soil. Hopefully a Goan supper club in the making?
Everywhere you stumble in Agonda and Palolem you’ll see yoga classes and massages on offer. We visited Bhakti Kutir on our final day in Palolem for yoga under the shade of palm trees and enjoyed a traditional Indian breakfast afterwards. This resort feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of life, it’s a peaceful retreat with some people staying for months and returning year on year.
Although beautiful, we found the main stretch of Palolem beach to be marred by Heineken flags flapping in the breeze, neon lights flashing everywhere and brits abroad gyrating against palm trees outside our bedroom door. It didn’t resonate with us after the tranquility of Agonda and we seeked solace in Cola beach.
If you haven’t visited Goa, or indeed here, then all I can say is that if you want a week of pure relaxation, with amazing food, sunsets and yoga then this Cola beach is the place. I’m envious of the people we left behind who are still there, waking up and stretching out under palm thatched roofs with wooden deckings overlooking a sweet water lagoon that trickles down to the ocean.
The food served up by the resort here, the Blue Lagoon was delicious. Their dal fry a staple of mine, served with cumin rice and roti.
Cola beach is a paradise for those who can forego luxury in favour of simplicity. There are no cars, no tvs, no phone signal, no bars… but a beautiful long stretch of golden beach and an ocean teeming with dolphins dancing near the shore. This is a place I hope I can return to time and time again.