Goa is a land of festivals. While festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and Christmas are common to most of India, the state is home to some very unique festivals. Think of a mud festival in the middle of heavy monsoon season or a festival where cucumbers rule. Imagine celebrations with live music on the streets that will invite you to join the dance. Yes, you get all of that and much more in the state.
Guide to Festivals of Goa
Come with us for a year-long round up of Goan festivals. Traditional & the modern Festivals of Goa, all the festival times to explore.
1. New Year Celebrations
Goa is a go-to destination for New Year Celebrations. Late December to Early January is the peak tourist season when the hotel and flights rates zoom up. The roads are blocked and the beaches are full. To top it up, the weather is just perfect. Just a bit of nip in the air but no need for any heavy woolens. Party is in the air around this time.
You must celebrate one new year in your life in Goa. While you can plan your parties, do not miss the fireworks on the beaches to bring in the new year. Once the new year is welcomed, go out looking for the floats that you would find everywhere in the state post-Christmas. I love the ones that literally float in the water.
This is also the best time to walk around quaint villages and admire the colorful homes in the middle of fields. Our favorite villages are Moira, Aldona & Assagao.
Where – All over the state, Especially the Beaches
When – Last week of December – First Week of January
Time – All day, but for lit-up the evenings is charming
2. Lokotsav – Celebrating the Folk Culture of India
Lokotsav is a showcase of arts, crafts, folk, and traditional music that is held every year in Panaji. Performers from all over India gather and perform every evening for 10 days.
The event is open to the public and no entry fee is charged. People look forward to their annual shopping sojourn at Lokotasava. Fold artists from across the country come with their creative designs to sell.
Where – Kala Academy & Football Grounds, Panaji
When – Roughly 2nd week of January
Time – Shopping through the day, performances in the evening
3. Viva Carnaval
Modern festival Viva Carnaval is how Goa makes merry and feasts before the fast season sets in. King Momo orders his subjects to ‘Eat, Drink & Be Merry’. Who does not want a king like that? Alas, he is a king only for 3-4 days. Carnaval is an adaptation of Carnivals as they happen in Latin America.
Read More – Viva Carnaval
The parades with floats based on various themes parade in the city. There is music in the air and not many can stop themselves from dancing. My only apprehension is that lately there are too many preachy floats that dampen the fun element. Nonetheless, this is a popular festival – unique in India. Many tourists travel to the state for Viva Carnaval.
When – Feb/March
Where – Multiple Cities of the state, Check local papers for exact dates
Time – Starts around 4 PM, but warms up by 5:30 PM and goes on till late evening
4. Shigmo or Shigmotsav
Shigmo is my favorite Goan festival. If there is one festival that you should visit Goa for, it has to be Shigmo. It is colorful, it is vibrant and it is rooted in the culture of Goa. It is like witnessing the cultural extravaganza on the road. The streets are decorated with flags.
There are traditional dances like Ghodi Modheni and Goff. The beats of dhols energize the whole environment. Different villages present different dances. The Gods are taken out on a Palki or palanquin. In the end, there are Jhankis or Floats that showcase historical and mythological scenes.
Read More – Shigmo – Cultural Extravaganza
Where – Multiple cities, check local newspapers for exact dates. We recommend watching the Panjim one that happens on 18th June Road or D B Road.
When – March, Check exact dates.
Time – Starts around 4 PM and goes on till late at night.
5. Sao Joao
Sao Joao is a monsoon festival that literally celebrates the onset of monsoons when the wells and rivers are full of water once again. People celebrate Sao Joao by wearing flowers and fruits on the heads and by jumping in the wells. Yes, men jump in the wells. New sons-in-law are expected to jump.
Where – Everywhere in the state, but Siolim is special
When – Around last week of June
What Time – Through the day. Siolim Boat Festival happens in the afternoon.
6. Chikal Kalo
Chikal Kalo is the most fun festival I have ever seen. Imagine all men of a village playing the mud, playing games that go back to ancient times. Add to it the free homemade food that gets distributed. The Dahi Handi tied high up on a tree in front of a temple. It is not just games. The festival begins with praying at the temple. It is monsoon time, and the best way to enjoy all the mud around you.
Read More – Chikal Kalo – the Mud Festival
We highly recommend participating in Chikal Kalo in Goa. I am not aware of any such festival anywhere else in the country.
Where – Devaki Krishna Temple – Marcel Village
When – Ashadh Dwadshi that roughly falls in mid-July.
Time – Starts around 11 AM and goes on for 2-3 hours
7. Touxeachem or Cucumber Festival
This is a unique Goan festival. At St Anne’s church in Talaulim village, people offer cucumbers. You would see piles of cucumber as you head towards the church. Inside you will see people offering the cucumbers while other festivities are going on. It is believed that the patron saint was someone who had children after 40 years of age. So, offering cucumbers get the blessings of fertility or children.
No wonder, this festival is particularly popular with newlyweds.
Where – St Anne Church, Talalulim Village
When – End of July
Time – Morning around 11 AM is the best time to go
An island festival that takes place on the island of Divar. It is a flag festival where the villagers come out to re-enact the old territorial battles that used to be fought on the island of Divar.
Read More – Bonderam at Divar Island
Not very different from Viva Carnaval, but it brings the ethos of an island to its parade.
Where – Divar Island on Mandovi River
When – Third week of August
Time – Evening, go around 5 PM and plan to stay for 2-3 hours
9. Ganesh Utsav
We usually associate Ganesh Utsav with Maharashtra. Goa also celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi with equal gusto. What is unique to Ganesh Utsav in the state is the Matoli that is made at the Ganesh Pandals.
Even today, Matoli made with all the natural things including the herbs collected from the sacred groves and forests of Goa. Of course, there are fruits of all kinds and flowers. Some traditional Matolis are made up of as many as 400 items.
Where – All over the state
When – With the rest of the country, check Ganesh Chaturthi Dates
Time – Go Pandal Hopping in the evening
10. Narkasur Chaturdashi
Goa like its neighboring Karnataka celebrates Narkasur Chaturdashi that falls a day before Diwali. You would see the giant effigies of demon Narkasur in almost every street. Children collect funds from the neighborhood to create Narkasur. It is their creativity on display in almost every street of the state. Music announces where the effigy is. If you want to see it being burnt, you have to be awake early morning on Diwali day. Cracker sounds in the neighborhood will wake you up.
Where – Everywhere in the state
When – A day before Diwali, Check the exact date
Time – Late evening to view Narkasur & early morning to view the burning
11. Dev Deepawali or Tripurari Purnima – Popular Festivals of Goa
Kartik Purnima that falls exactly a fortnight after Diwali. It is celebrated as Dev Deepavali in Varanasi, as Kartik Purnima across the country, as Guru Purab or Guru Nanak Jayanti by Sikhs and as Tripurari Purnima in Goa.
Read More – How Goa Celebrates Tripurari Purnima!
Now the story of killing demon Tarakasur is common across India but Goa celebrates it in its own unique way. It celebrates it as a mid-night boat festival on Valvanti River at Vithal temple of Sakhali Village. There are cultural programs like Lavni and a competition for the best-designed boat. For me, this was a midnight extravaganza. One of the very traditional Festivals of Goa.
Where – Vithal Temple, Sakhli
When – 15 days after Diwali, Kartik Purnima
Time – Starts late at night and peaks at midnight.
12. IFFI or International Film Festival of India
Do you know Goa is the permanent venue for the prestigious International Film Festival of India? Come November and Panjim is all decked up like a bride to welcome the delegates of the film fraternity. Goans keep their diaries and calendars blocked for these days. Nothing should come between them and the films. One more modern festivals of Goa.
If you are a film buff, this is the best time to visit the state.
Where – Various places in Panjim, but mostly INOX theater and Kala Academy
When – 2-3rd week of November, Check Exact dates on IFFI Website
Time – Throughout the day, almost around the clock.
13. Goa Arts & Literature Festival
Like most cities in India, this place too has its own literary festival. It is called the Goa Arts and Literature festival. It attempts to combine some art displays along with being the venue for authors, publishers, and bibliophiles to meet.
If you love books and if you happen to be in the state in December, it is a good opportunity to catch up with your favorite authors.
Where – International Centre Goa – Dona Paula
When – Around the first week of December
Time – Full 3-4 days
14. Serendipity Art Festival
Serendipity Art Festival is a relatively new but a state of the art festival held in Panjim. Various venues turn into art galleries, new public art gets installed. Artists from various fields like performing arts, culinary arts, etc get a platform to showcase their work.
Not just Goans, we see tourists also loving this lovely art festival. It is one of the modern festivals of Goa.
When – Around Mid-Dec
Where – Various venues in Panaji, main exhibits at Adil Shah Palace
Time – Throughout the day
Goa has a reasonable Christian population. Its landscape is dominated by churches. So, it is obvious that Christmas is celebrated here with great fervor. We usually step out to see the lit up churches in the evenings or to see floats made by people in the church premises. Out favorite being Panjim Church that looks even more gorgeous during Christmas.
When – 25th December
Where – All over the state
There are many other smaller festivals that happen in the state, especially its villages. We will keep updating this post as and when we discover a new festival in Goa.