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Kerala vs Goa: Which One to Choose for a Yoga Retreat in India?

by Alberto G. Güitrón

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Kerala and Goa are two of the most visited destinations in India. Both have fantastic beaches, tasty food, traditional festivals, excellent gurus and everything you need for an authentic yoga vacation.

Therefore, when yogis think about going on a retreat in India, they face the dilemma of choosing between the two of them. Could it be because one is more affordable, or maybe because alcohol is believed to be banned in the other?

Both are great options, but there are several similarities and differences between Kerala and Goa. So, how to decide where to go? Keep reading and find out which destination suits your needs best.

Goa

Goa Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Shivoham Yoga School

Located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, Goa is known as the beach capital of India. With golden sandy beaches, casinos, and night markets, it has everything an adventure seeker needs to have a good time, combined with the inherent Indian spirituality.

Goa was part of Portugal for almost 500 years until 1961, so the Portuguese influence can still be seen everywhere you go. From the European-style architecture to the more open-minded people (compared to the rest of the country) Goa has this laid-back atmosphere that any yogi would like to experience. 

Plus, there're several famous yoga centers and ashrams open for tourists to visit, along with historic places like Chapora Fort, Terekhol Fort and Basilica of Bom Jesus, which are absolutely worth a visit!

Not to mention that Goa’s traditional dishes are delicious, such as the famous Sorpotel that’s served during Christmas time, a mix of pork Curry with ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves and cumin seeds. It’s as delicious as it sounds! 

Don’t forget to read this guide about 6 things you need to know before your yoga retreat in India.

Kerala

Kerala Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Bodhi Ayurveda and Yoga Retreat

Situated on the Malabar Coast, known as God's Own Country, Kerala is famous for its backwaters, palm trees and tea plantations. Besides, according to a survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), it’s the cleanest state of India along with Sikkim.

Thanks to the booming of the spice trade industry, this region was influenced by the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and the British. This impact can still be seen in some of the historical places like the Hill Palace Museum, the Bekal Fort and the Dutch Palace.

Due to its location near the coast, Kerala’s famous food includes fish, crabs, mussels and lobsters. One of the traditional ones is Pollichathu, a fried fish stuffed with ginger, red chili pepper, lemon juice, garlic and other ingredients wrapped in a banana leaf. Also, the cuisine features an abundance of coconut, rice and tapioca, the basis of many other typical dishes.

Finally, lots of travelers come to this emerald green territory to learn more about Ayurveda treatments, a system of Indian medicine that, based on the Doshas, determines the diet that’s best for you. This area has a vast tradition and it’s home to many experts who run plenty of Ayurveda retreats in Kerala.

Simplicity vs sophistication

Goa Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Hatha Yoga School Rishikesh

There’s a very simple way to embrace life in Goa, while Kerala is among the most developed places in India. It’s the only state to have hospitals and banks in every village, it has the highest literacy rate, the highest life expectancy rate and a government plan aimed towards having zero homeless citizens. It also has three major international airports, while in Goa there’s only one.

By now you might be thinking that Kerala is the clear winner, but don't lose heart about Goa. It is actually a better option if you want to experience India’s nightlife. There’s a variety of cruise-ship casinos, parties on the beach that last until morning, a more chilled vibe and you can actually have a drink or two without feeling uncomfortable.

Kerala, on the other hand, barely has any nightlife and there used to be a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol that wasn’t eased until 2017.

Goa is also one of the best places to be for Holi (festival of colors). Along with the Goa Carnival and the International Jazz Festival, this state is full of festivities. But there are celebrations in Kerala too, Onam (the harvest festival) being the most popular one.

In the end, people are what matters most. For instance, Goa is full of beach bums, party guys and backpackers, while in Kerala you’ll come across people interested in Ayurveda, wildlife and leisure activities. So, the question is: what crowd do you fit in?

Affordable prices vs luxurious comfort

Goa Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Bamboo Yoga Retreat​

With all the progress in Kerala, prices tend to go up and accommodation here usually means luxury resorts. On the other hand, Goa has lots of other alternatives, including cabins and homestays for budget travelers.

For dining in Kerala, you’ll normally go to a fancy restaurant; but in Goa, there are a lot of beachside shacks with more affordable prices.

When it comes to recreational activities, dolphin watching is very popular in Goa and you can also find more affordable water sports, including parasailing and surfing. However, if you’re into wellness activities, such as Ayurvedic spas or sailing, Kerala will meet your needs. Indeed, Muzhappilangad beach ranks among the world’s top 6 beaches for boating.

Wide sandy beaches vs rocky beaches

Kerala Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Rama School of Yoga

Goa has a greater number of beaches than Kerala. They’re wide and have free beach chairs for everybody! Some of the most popular spots are Majorda, Baga, Sinquerim, Candolim and Anjuna. As a matter of fact, there are hundreds of beach yoga retreats in Goa.

On the other hand, the beaches in Kerala are rocky but beautiful. The most visited are Kovalam, Bekal, Marari, Varkala and Kannur. Here, the beach lounges are for rent. You’ll also find plenty of yoga retreats by the sea in Kerala, but there aren’t as many as in Goa.

Looking to further upgrade your practice and become a teacher? Here’s all the information about where to do your yoga teacher training in India.

Best time to visit

Goa Yoga Retreat

Image Credit: Bamboo Yoga Retreat​

Finally, now that you’ve made your choice, it’s time to set the dates! Remember that Goa and Kerala are coastal states, which means that there’s humid and tropical weather in both.

The best time to visit Kerala is from September to March. During this time, the backwaters are at their best! However, if you’re traveling for Ayurvedic treatments, the monsoon season (June to August) is recommended.

Goa’s best time to visit is from November to February, when it’s safe and warm to swim in the ocean. Though, if you’re short on your budget, the monsoon season (June to October) will work better for you. Just keep in mind that swimming during these months isn’t as pleasant.


Want to have a yoga experience in India but don’t have much time to attend a retreat? Here’s a list of the best short yoga breaks in India!

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