Vagator has long been regarded as the smaller cousin of the larger districts in Goa - Baga, Calangute. That’s a long way from the truth - it has a charm of its own and has a lot to offer to both the adventurous as well as the peace seeking tourist. Located in the northern end of Goa, next to the (unsurprisingly named) winding Chapora river is this bustling little mini town. Part of the larger Anjuna district, it has carved out its own identity of late and has created a distinct recall amongst both foreign as well as Indian tourists
What sets Vagator apart? Peace and quiet, but also a little bit of character
Compared to areas like Baga, which are now indistinguishable from “regular” Indian towns with the familiar bustle, Vagator is laid back and has a some untouched areas of natural beauty. It has everything a tourist may need and none of what he wants to stay away from - no traffic or unnecessary bustle.
The Vagator Cliffs & Chapora Fort
It has a distinct hilly outcrop which features the Chapora Fort - made famous by the movie “Dil Chahta Hai”. It’s a steady 20-30 climb by foot, but so worth the walk - sometimes one can spot dolphins from the cliffs which are almost 200 metres above the sea below. Its probably the best view in Vagator - sea on one side and the river Chapora on the other! Get up early and catch the sunrise. During the Portugese rule, the Chapora fort was one of the line of forts built to protect the river entrance from invading ships. It seems to have seen its share of battle - or maybe time related damage. Could do with some plastering and a fresh coat of paint!
Little Vagator Outlook
Little Vagator is the hilly outcrop overlooking the Ozran beach - visit this area for some of the best food - a vast number of international restaurants here, as well as probably the best sunsets in Northern Goa. Catch the sun through the Palm leaves as you sip a Daiquiri in one of the strategically placed restaurants. The Ozran beach is a small but neatly maintained strip of sand - most of it is privately owned by the shacks there - so you may have to buy a drink just to sit there! An average meal would cost you INR 1000 per head.
Vagator “Main Street”
The street leading from Anjuna Petrol Pump all the way to the beach is sometimes called the Main Street (technically Vagator beach road). It does resemble a bit of a main street with shops selling everything from beach wear to groceries. This is Vagator’s main market and one can find almost every daily need item here - chilled beer included. The street has a couple of breakfast places - getting up early never felt so good! You can get continental, South Indian or even Italian breakfast during the peak October to March season. Breakfast may cost you INR 200 per head.
Clubs, Restaurants and more
Not to be underestimated, the less busy Chapora road (leading to the Chapora village and then the fort) has its own share of excellent eating joints. During the regular season, there is Pizza, Japanese and of course great Goan food. If you want excellent fish curry, head to any of the local places for the catch of the day.
Chapora River and the Fisherman’s jetty
Want to try your hand at cooking some of the local sea fare? You can get the freshest fish and prawns at the jetty right under the shadow of the Vagator Cliffs. You can make your way here through the narrow winding roads of Chapora village and maybe buy some fresh vegetables to go with the fish. The jetty has a wide range of fish to choose from - tuna, mackerel, pomfret, prawns and the odd (small) shark. You can be sure of the quality as its freshly caught and its way cheaper than the regular super market - from the ocean to the plate!
Vagator Nights - Breezy and bubbly
There are some good clubs in the area and some of them play exclusively house and techno. The party starts around 10 PM and goes on till the wee hours (no real closing hours here). There are a few clubs that play commercial and hindi music as well, but rave, techno are more of the norm here. It’s easy to find like minded party people in Vagator as its popular for its great rave parties. So dont forget to pack your dancing shoes.
Ideal for tourists who want to escape from it all - but not quite
Some of the best views of Vagator are from the cliffs looking back - it has an amazing green canopy (its still a relatively un touched town). Thats probably the best part about the place - it just has a character of its own. Cliffs, winding roads, greenery, small beaches and relaxed culture. Easy to get taxis, bikes and cars on rent - relatively cheap during the non peak months. The best time to visit Vagator is from September 15 to Nov 15 - its right after the rains and the just before the peak season rush starts. The other great window is from Jan 15 to March 31 - its relatively quiet after the crazy December peak season and still very cool.
Weather - What to expect
Its funny to say this, but the weather is almost the same through out the year expect from April to August. It gets a bit warm from April to June and then it rains a lot from June to August. The rains are also a great time to visit - its lush green and its pretty foggy. Swimming is off limits during the monsoon months, but you could probably have the entire town to yourself, and acco will be relatively cheap. That’s a frequent visitors little secret!
Connected to the quieter Northern Beaches - Ashvem and Morjim
Some of the best beaches in Goa are north of the Chapora river. Still relatively non commercial, you could live out your dream of being on the beach by yourself. Be sure to be careful of rip current at Morjim beach, which is right next to the mouth of the (albeit small) Chapora river. Ashvem is a flat beach famous for its flat calm sea - ideal for those who just want to wade in the water. Morjim is closed during the monsoon and right after during the turtle nesting season - surprise, surprise. Yes, Goa boasts of a small population of turtles that return to Morjim and adjoining beaches for annual egg laying.
How to get to Vagator
The closest train station is Thivim and its about 30 minutes away. The Airport is 90 minutes away and could be a bit more during the peak December season. Leave well in advance if you have a flight to catch - you’ve been warned!
From Delhi - Cabs to and fro Vagator charge about 1500. Be sure to negotiate the price before you set off though. Like many things in Goa, taxi prices can vary from one cab to the other.
From Mumbai - There are plenty of trains that run from Mumbai and its a 10 hour journey (preferably done overnight). Get off at Thivim and catch a cab for about INR 500 to Vagator.
Where to stay
If you are coming for anything more than 2 nights, your best bet is either a service apartment of a villa. You can experience the Vagator life like a local and have the comfort of a large villa or an apartment. Usually apartments accommodate upto 4 adults and 2 children. Villas are also great for reunions and family outing. Everyone can stay together yet have their own little space. There are plenty of holiday rental options in Vagator - studios , villas and apartments. You will probably get a fully furnished apartment along with basic housekeeping & breakfast services. Almost everywhere in Vagator is 5 minutes drive, so location won't be a huge issue.