India // Goa //

Arambol

ARAMBOL, 32km northwest of Mapusa, is easily the most populous village in the far north, and the area’s main tourist hub. Traditionally a refuge for a hard-core hippie fringe, it nowadays attracts a lively and eclectic mix of travellers, the majority of whom stick around for the season, living in rented rooms, hut camps and small houses scattered behind the magnificent white-sand beach. As with most of north Goa, there’s a strong showing of Russians here, but the well-heeled Muscovites still don’t quite outnumber the spiritually inclined types from northern Europe who have long formed Arambol’s mainstay. The two groups rub along harmoniously enough, and the overall vibe is inclusive and positive, with plenty of live music to enjoy in the evenings, lots of relaxed places to eat and drink, and more opportunities to learn new yoga poses and reshuffle your chakras than you could get through in several lifetimes, let alone a winter. Moreover, beach life is generally laidback too – except on weekends, when day-tripping drinkers descend en masse in SUVs from nearby Maharashtra.

Arambol’s main drag is a winding road lined cheek-by-jowl with clothes and bedspread stalls, travel agents, internet cafés and souvenir shops selling tourist knick-knacks. The lane bends downhill to the main beach – dotted with wooden outriggers and one of the most picturesque in south India. The best view of it is from the crucifix and small Parasurama shrine on the hilltop to the north, which is an especially serene spot at sunset. After dark, when the Hula-Hoopers, fire jugglers and bhajan singers have turned homewards, the candles and fairy lights of the shacks illuminate the beachfront to magical effect.