If you don’t already know, India is hectic! Motorbikes zooming around, cows strolling down the main street, and festivals every other weekend. No one goes to India to rest and rejuvenate, we go there to have an epic time and witness an epic culture, and Goa is no different!

The southern state of Goa has been a backpacking hotspot over the last 10 years with its beautiful beaches, friendly locals, and of course, the famous parties that have been sweeping the city since the 90’s. So you can only imagine how wild the festivals are.

Regardless if the celebration is religious or cultural, the city is about to show you how to have a good time. Prepare to party all night, beach all day, and experience India like never before.

These are the best festivals in Goa, and you’re gonna want to strap in because it’s gonna be a wild ride!

Festivals in Goa

Whether you’re in town to catch a tan or experience the famous nightlife, attending a festival is a must for a memorable trip to India.

This list is full of different festivals in Goa. Experience different religious festivals, a few music festivals, and the famous Goa Carnival!

Goa Carnival

Colorful masks at Goa Carnival, India
  • When: February
  • Where: Goa

There are so many good festivals in Goa, but I can’t lie—Goa Carnival might be my favorite! Similar to other carnivals around the globe, the streets are packed full of Goans celebrating and dancing!

For the three days leading up to Lent, a 40-day period of fasting for Catholics, the whole of Goa comes alive with people enjoying their last few days before the solemn period. And trust me. They enjoy it to the max, and so will you!

There’s an abundance of music, delicious food and drinks, captivating art and craft exhibitions, and of course, plenty of people dressed in creative costumes. And when it’s time to rest, Goa have everything you need for a cozy stay at an unbeatable price.

On the day of the parade, you’ll witness huge floats of jester heads and performers walking and dancing in between the floats. And you can’t forget about King Momo. He’s the main star of the show and always has been. The mythical character symbolizes joy and happiness.

He’s the life of the party, and he always leads the parade. Someone from the local community will be chosen to play him. Normally with a big belly and beautiful spirit, really portraying all that carnival means to the Goan people.

Make sure to bring your dancing shoes and get ready to have one of the best times of your life!

Where to Stay:

Beseco Bed and Breakfast is perfect for Carnival. It’s simple, clean and gives you a killer balcony to have your morning coffee with the palm trees.

Hilltop Festival

People partying in a festival
  • When: February
  • Where: Goa

Goa is the literal home to psytrance. The style used new technology and created a sensory overload of psychedelic sounds, trippy spirals, and interesting melodies. By the mid-1990s, it was everywhere, and now, of course, Goa is your ultimate destination for a good rave.

The Hill Top Festival in Goa, India, is your chance to partake in a top psytrance and techno festival. With world-renowned artists performing across three epic stages, this three-day event attracts over 5000 local and international visitors.

This is definitely a love it or leave it festival. The immersive sounds and visuals can be intense, and there are a lot of… questionable substances going around if you catch my drift. But if you’re into the psytrance scene, then their carefully curated lineup of international icons and local legends is going to rock your world.

Where to Stay

Stay right on the beach at Kaabo Hostel for easy access to and from the Hill Top Dance Club. After all, you’ll probably only need a shower and a place to rest your head for a few hours. 😉

Karakus Marakus

  • When: February
  • Where: Goa

Karakus Marakus—say that three time fast, woof! This pioneering festival in the Indian psychedelic scene has reshaped the global landscape of psychedelic music over the past 13 years.

The recent edition of Karacus Marakus drew over 4,000 people, creating an unforgettable experience of pure, unadulterated soundgasms for the ears. For the open-minded traveler, this is can’t miss festival in Goa.

Your ears, eyes, and mind are in for an adventure unlike any other as you explore the depths of sound at this psychedelic music extravaganza.

For 5 days, enjoy the trip (iykyk) of a lifetime. With numerous DJs who bring vibrant energy, insightful forces, and seamless frequencies to the stage. They’ll assist you on different energetic levels in shifting into a purer way of life.

Where to Stay

When you aren’t entranced by the sounds of Karakus Marakus, zen out at Dreams Hostel where you can do some yoga and spend some time in nature.

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    Goa Food and Cultural Festival

    Goa Food and Cultural Festival
    Photo: joegoauk Last Namegoa (Flickr)
    • When: February
    • Where: Beaches of Goa

    Indian food has long been the way to my heart, so you know I was swooning at the Goa Food and Cultural Festival. This five-day event is held on the beaches of Goa and celebrates the state’s vibrant culture through an explosion of flavors, aromas, and colors. All things that make Goa worth visiting.

    This festival is put on by the Department of Tourism in Goa, and they have done a fantastic job of showcasing the Goan culture to everyone that attends.

    The event is packed with a wide variety of food stalls, awesome cooking demos, live music, incredible cultural performances, and so much more. Local vendors and talented home cooks have set up over 50 food stalls, proudly showcasing their signature dishes and cherished traditional recipes passed down through generations. Yum!

    The Goa Food and Cultural Festival goes beyond just food. It takes you into the home of Goans and how they’ve passed on traditions from generation to generation. You’ll experience traditional music, dance, and art forms that are still very present in their day-to-day life. This is the perfect cultural festival in Goa to experience a little bit of everything!

    Where to Stay:

    After days on the beach, you’ll love coming home to relax at this boutique hotel. The pool is the perfect place to cool down, and the rooms are equipped with air conditioners guaranteeing you won’t melt in the Indian sun.

    Holi/Shigmo Festival

    people holding colorful powders in their hands during Holi Festival Goa
    Colorful explosion!
    • When: March
    • Where: All over India

    Although Holi is celebrated all throughout India, and maybe Goa isn’t the first place you would think to go to celebrate it, the town definitely goes wild for the lively Hindu festival in Goa.

    Goans also refer to Holi as Shigmo, but the festival is celebrated with just as much enthusiasm and zeal in Goa as anywhere else.

    Brightly colored powder, known as gulal, is thrown around everywhere, and the laughter in the air can be heard for miles. (Make sure to wear some old white clothes, it makes the colors stand out more, and you can through them away after the festival.)

    Holi in Goa is all about welcoming the newness of spring and saying goodbye to things of the past. It brings a freshness to the air that really captures the heart of the locals.

    Attend the night of the full moon when people gather together to light bonfires around town. Using dried leaves, twigs, and wood, these babies blaze for quite a while. The fire is known as the ‘burning of Holika,’ and it symbolizes the joyous triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. It’s such a beautiful celebration and one of the best night events you can attend in Goa.

    Where to Stay:

    The Happy Panda Hostel is the life of the party in Goa and is the perfect place to meet other travelers to enjoy the Holi celebrations. Stay in a dorm or snag a private room to rest after the long days in Goa.

    Grape Escapade

    People gathered in Grape Escapade Goa
    Photo: Joegoauk Goa (Flickr)
    • When: April
    • Where: Goa

    If you’re looking for a unique festival in Goa, or you’re a lover of wine—or maybe both! Then you gotta add the Grape Escapade to your list of things to do in India. Since 2005 this festival has made a name for itself and is now the biggest wine festival in all of India.

    This 5-day event attracts wine connoisseurs from all corners of the globe. And maybe you’re asking yourself, “Really? All over the globe?” Yes, really. Goa brings in the best wines from India, of course, but also from all over Europe, some farms in California, so it really is a worldwide festival.

    But the Grape Escapade is not just about wine; it’s an explosion of Goan culture that draws people in from all around. There are all kinds of music and dancing, bringing together tourists and locals and creating a unique atmosphere.

    Oh, and of course, you can’t miss the annual grape stomping. I don’t know what it is about stomping on grapes, but it definitely brings out the kid in everyone. And lastly, each year, they crown a queen of the Grape Escapade, and it’s one of the most anticipated awards they give out. I’m actually not sure how they choose, but it gets everyone cheering and is a really fun part of the festival.

    Where to Stay:

    Orange sky beach bungalow is right on the beach and also only 1km from the Banakor Grounds, where Grape Escapade takes place. Wake up to the sounds of the waves, and enjoy your own private plunge pool before heading out to the festival.

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    Sao Joao Festival

    Sao Joao Festival Goa
    Photo: Joegoauk Goa (Flickr)
    • When: June
    • Where: Northern Goa

    The Sao Joao festival in North Goa is one of the most popular catholic festivals in Goa. The celebration is dedicated to St. John the Baptist when he supposedly “leaped for joy” in his mother’s womb when hearing the news of Jesus’ birth.

    It’s honestly a really interesting festival as it’s only celebrated really heavily in the north of Goa. The festival begins with boats covered in flowers that are carried out into the water, followed by young men jumping in to retrieve different gifts or money.

    After retrieving the gifts, they set all the beautiful boats up and race them against each other. It’s really a sight to see, and many tourists flock to the northern part of Goa during this time of year to witness the spectacle firsthand.

    The festival usually involves lots of dancing, singing, and general merry-making. People tend to wear traditional clothing and dance in circles around a big bonfire at night. The festival is also renowned for its delicious local food and the famous feni drink. This is a local spirit, and, holy shit, is it strong—be careful with that one. Even if you don’t believe in what they’re celebrating, it’s a great way to connect with the local culture and people.

    Where to Stay:

    Mojigao is the best hotel in Northern Goa. The Bali-inspired hotel is full of greenery and really makes you feel like you’re in the jungle. They have a wellness spa and bikes for rent for all the days following the Sao Joao Festival.

    Diwali

    Monster sculptures in Diwali Goa
    Photo: Joegoauk Goa (Flickr)
    • When: October
    • Where: Goa

    Diwali has long been one of the most popular festivals in India, and while it’s celebrated in Goa, they’ve kind of gone and put their own spin on it.

    Traditionally, Diwali is the festival of lights and is a five day holiday. It’s a time when locals deep clean their houses, light lamps to ward off evil, go out and buy new clothes, and ultimately just enjoy the time with their families.

    While that is also true in Goa, they just start the festival a little differently. Goa celebrates the victory of good over evil by defeating the demon king Narakasura.

    The celebrations feature the amazing sight of giant effigies of the demon, carefully crafted from papers, straws, and various materials. And some of them can be quite scary, if I’m being honest. They’re paraded around town, and once they hit the beach, people let off fireworks and light sparklers.

    It’s an amazing sight to see and really adds something special to the Diwali celebrations in Goa. Besides the slightly different entrance to the festival, the rest of Diwali is celebrated the same, with delicious foods and homemade sweets being shared among family and friends.

    Where to Stay:

    If you’re on a budget in India, staying at the Whoopers Hostel is a great way to save money. You can get beds for as low as $7 and join other travelers for the day’s festivities.

    International Film Festival of India

    International Film Festival of India Goa
    Photo: Frederick Noronha (Flickr)
    • When: November
    • Where: Goa

    Bollywood generates a staggering $2.83 billion annually, selling over 2.2 billion movie tickets each year. So, needless to say—films are a big deal in India. The International Film Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Goa, bringing in people from all over the country as well as the world.

    For 54 years, filmmakers have been coming to the International Film Festival of India to showcase their work and exchange ideas. It’s become the industry leader in Asia by a long shot.

    The production quality, scripts, and overall star power is unparalleled. It attracts film stars, directors, and producers from all over the world.

    It’s an 8-day extravaganza where film buffs get to enjoy a mix of fiction and nonfiction films, along with educational workshops and discussions with industry experts. Film screenings take place all across Goa, making it easy to grab tickets to your “must-see” movie.

    Where to Stay:

    Want to catch multiple movie screenings without breaking the bank? Look no further! This super affordable hostel in Goa offers dorms or private rooms right in town near all the different showings.

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    Feast of Saint Francis Xavier

    Feast of St Francis Xavier Goa
    Photo: Joegoauk Oldgoa (Flickr)
    • When: December
    • Where: Goa

    For nine days in December, the feast of Saint Francis Xavier celebrates one of Goa’s beloved patron saints. This festival is celebrated across the whole state and particularly in the church dedicated to Xavier in Old Goa, where thousands of people come from all over India for a spiritual experience.

    The Feast of Saint Francis Xavier is the most popular Christian festival in Goa, the saint preached Christianity in the 1500s. He died in 1552 and was laid to rest in 1637 in a silver casket made by Goan silversmiths. The casket remains in the Basilica of Bom Jesus, and once every ten years is a public viewing of his body.

    The next viewing is scheduled for 2024, so now is your chance to view him. TBH, this is wild to me, but it’s a tradition that’s been going on for hundreds of years, so you know it must be special!

    During the festival, there’s a massive spread of food and drinks for everyone to enjoy. The park outside the church transforms into a chill picnic spot where people hang out and socialize. Church services kick off as early as 4:00 AM, and the turnout is actually insane.

    Where to Stay:

    Since the festival is all about honoring someone who preached what he believed in, why not connect to yourself at the Yoga Culture Eco Resort? It’s 50m from the beach, and you can attend yoga every morning.

    Sunburn Festival

    Girl clapping in a music festival in Goa
    • When: December
    • Where: Goa

    Ready for the best nightlife experience in Goa? Sunburn Festival is the biggest and best electronic dance party in India. It brings together some of the biggest names in EDM over three full days. The festival started out as a small-scale event and has since grown into one of the biggest music festivals not just in India but also around the world.

    Located on Vagator Beach in Goa, this festival is on one of the most beautiful beaches on India’s coastline. With its white sand and crystal clear waters, I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a good show. When the sun goes down, and the beat is just right—pfff, I don’t think it gets better!

    With over 120 local and international artists across seven stages, it’s an ideal event for EDM enthusiasts. The festival offers SFX, high-octane performances and some of the sickest laser shows.

    Pro tip: Don’t forget to bring cash, as most vendors won’t take card payments.

    For backpackers that love EDM but are on that hostel bed and ramen budget, Sunburn Festival is a must-attend event, adding an electrifying experience to your Goa itinerary. Regular tickets only cost $82, and VIP tickets are $134. That’s a freakin steal, you guys, and for three days!!

    Where to Stay:

    The best way to enjoy the Sunburn Festival is by camping at one of the many organized camping spots around the festival. You’ll get to hang out with other partygoers and you’ll have easy access to everything going on at Sunburn.

    Make sure you’re geared up well for your camping adventure with our master camping checklist.

    Christmas and NYE

    New Year's fireworks in Goa
    • When: December
    • Where: Goa

    Okay, it’s not a festival, but I wouldn’t feel right not including Christmas and NYE on this list.

    December is a special time to visit India. It’s during this time of the year that Goa has an electric atmosphere due to all the festivals and Christmas activities going on in different bars and restaurants.

    The town is full of colorful decorations, yummy street food markets, firework displays, live music on popular beaches, and lots of parties in both north and south Goa. It’s truly one of the best times to be in the city, and you’ll have a magical ending to your year, I promise you :).

    Where to Stay:

    December in Goa is busy, busy, busy! So staying on the actual beach is prime and will guarantee you an incredible time. Splurge a little for the holidays and stay at this excellent Beach Resort.

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    What to Pack For Your Goa Trip

    A solid travel plan starts with a good packing list. These little items are absolute game-changer. Thank me later!

    Product
    Description
    Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
    Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

    Ear Plugs

    Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

    Keep your laundry organized and stink free
    Keep your laundry organized and stink free

    Hanging Laundry Bag

    Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

    Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
    Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

    Sea To Summit Micro Towel

    Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

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    Make Some New Buddies…

    Monopoly Deal

    Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

    Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
    Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

    Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

    Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

    Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

    Traveling without good travel insurance is not the way to go. It’s not the type of crazy we are looking for here. Festival crazy > insurance crazy.

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    Final Thoughts on Festivals in Goa

    Goa just keeps getting more and more popular every year, and how can it not? With its beautiful beaches and crazy party scene, it’s backpackers paradise.

    And with all of the festivals that are going on, there is always something exciting to do that will still give you that sense of Indian culture and vibrancy. Whether you want to drink some wine at Grape Escapade, dance the weekend away at Sunburn Festival, or experience the Shigmo Festival, you will never be bored in Goa.

    But if there is one festival that is worth planning your India trip around, then I highly recommend visiting Goa during the Goa Carnival. It’s one of the most authentic Goan experiences, and there is nothing quite like it in the rest of the country. It is the absolute best festival in Goa, and you need to experience Carnival for yourself.


    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!