It's a shame Goa comes burdened with a reputation for louche living, because there's so much more to it than sun, sand and psychedelia. The allure of Goa is that it remains quite distinct from the rest of India and is small enough to be grasped and explored in a way that other Indian states are not.
It's not just the familiar remnants of Portuguese colonialism or the picture-book exoticism that make it seem so accessible; it's the prevalence of Roman Catholicism and a form of social and political progressiveness that Westerners feel they can relate to.
Although Hindus make up two-thirds of the population, the people of Goa are more liberal-minded than imperviously devout, in a way that is unmatched elsewhere in India.
The former Portuguese enclave on the west coast has enjoyed a prominent place in the travellers' lexicon since the heady days of the 1960s. Travellers in Goa still feel obliged to 'hang out' meaningfully, be mellow and wear pretty silly tribal costumes, but the (in)famous hippies have now been replaced by backpackers, Indian visitors and a bevvy of bewildered package tourists on two-week jaunts from Europe.
Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track