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The South Indian idyll of Goa is a beautiful, small state, with almost 100 kilometres of rich golden sand beaches overlooking the glittering Arabian Sea.

India’s smallest state, Goa has had a long relationship with the West; it was the first place in India to be colonised by the Portuguese in 1510, an occupation that lasted 451 years. ‘Golden Goa’, named so for its incredible prosperity from the lucrative spice trade, reached its peak in the 16th century. In 1961 the Portuguese were booted out of Goa by India’s first prime minister, Nehru, leaving behind their indelible mark; a kaleidoscope of baroque architecture, whitewashed churches, crumbling forts, traditional catholic ceremonies and stunning cathedrals. In the 1960s Goa also became a magnet for a new type of traveller in search of sun, sea, sand, seafood, spirituality and a laid-back lifestyle. The Portuguese legacy is richly evident and perhaps nowhere more delightful than in the burgeoning food scene. Months could be spent exploring the restaurants, villas and homes offering a tantalising cuisine that joyfully sings with a mingling of Latin and local cultures.

Goa today can be divided into three distinct areas. The North, the first to be "hippified", has long since given way to development and is generally seen as busier and more commercial. The popular and more developed resorts of Calangute and Candolim are home to boutique hotel Ahilya by the Sea, beautiful private villa Summertime and the family-friendly Taj Holiday Village. South Goa is more peaceful and relaxed and is often described as "Goa as it used to be", although many of its beaches are at least partially developed. Here travellers can relax at the 5-star hotel resorts of Alila Diwa, Taj Exotica and The Leela Goa.

In the centre, the Zuari and the Mandovi rivers reach the sea, carving out the Panaji peninsula, a triangular spit of land also known as the Velhas Conquistas, between them. Stretching along the northern riverbanks is Panjim, or Old Goa, Portugal’s former capital in India. With its UNESCO World Heritage status, this was the first territory to be colonialised and the original port of the Portuguese. Although Central Goa draws in less crowds than the neighbouring beach resorts, it is certainly worth a day or two to visit the handsome Portuguese buildings and churches, and the crumbling remains of Old Goa. Adventurous travellers who venture inland are rewarded by a landscape filled with spice plantations, astonishing churches and verdant rice paddies. Over the centuries Goa has been naturally protected by the thickly forested Western Ghats; the sheer inaccessibility by land has kept sites such as the impressive Dudhsagar Falls and the beautiful medieval Hindu temple at Tambdi Surla are untainted by tourism.

With its palm fringed coves, pastel-coloured colonial houses and a beautifully relaxed atmosphere, a luxury holiday to Goa offers everything for a retreat to return to again and again.

>> Read our blog: Goa Food & Feasting

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My favourite thing is to go where I've never been.
Diane Arbus

Client Testimonials

Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India

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