Before you jet off on your gap year, I'm sure you'll have visions of backpacking in exotic destinations and lounging on palm-fringed beaches in glorious sunshine. Well, if you include Goa holidays in your itinerary, that's certainly what you can look forward to.
While you typically hear a lot about the beaches in the Indian state's northern and southern regions, what can you expect to find if you stay central? While not necessarily the most famous of Goa's bays, there are definitely some lovely sandy stretches where you can lie back and forget about the world.
A good base from which to explore central Goa is the state capital of Panaji, which is in itself a fantastic attraction. It was the Portuguese rulers who helped turn the sleepy fishing village into a bustling city and you'll find plenty of evidence of their occupation in the architecture of Panaji's buildings.
I'm sure your first thought after a long journey will be relaxing on a sandy beach rather than wandering the streets of the city, though. So, here are a few spots that are easily accessible from the metropolis.
Situated slightly north of Panaji, this is one of the closest beaches to the city and an excellent choice if you want to do more than just lie back with a good book. There are water sports facilities here, so you'll be able to have a go at water skiing or parasailing on a daytrip to the seaside.
Parasailing in particular is a fantastic activity to try, as you'll get amazing views of the coastline in both directions as you drift above the water attached to a parachute and a speedboat. There are also several resorts dotted along the beach, so you should be able to find a restaurant where you can grab some lunch if all that exercise has helped you work up an appetite.
Head to the south of the city, meanwhile, and you'll come to Miramar Beach, which sits on the corner of the estuary of the River Mandovi. Look across to the other bank and you'll be able to see Fort Aguada, which you really should plan to visit on one of your days away from the beach.
As its relatively close to Panaji, you'll find locals and tourists alike reclining on the warm sand, soaking up the sunshine and going for a swim in the cool waters of the Arabian Sea.
Travel further south still and you'll come to Bogmalo Beach, which is relatively small but very picturesque. There is a large, five-star hotel at one end of the bay, which often attracts a more upmarket clientele. There's nothing to stop you enjoying a day on this 4 km stretch of sand, though. If you're keen to try your hand at more water sports on your gap year this is a good spot to choose, as windsurfing and water skiing are both on offer.
By the time you reach Majorda Beach, you're technically getting into the realms of the south Goan coastline, but it's worth making the journey in order to try some of the bread and other baked goods you can buy in the village.
This might sound like an odd reason to choose Majorda for a daytrip, but the locals here were the first to be taught European baking methods and are still considered to be the best Goans when it comes to producing this type of food. So, pop into the village, pick up some lunch and head back to the beach for a picnic in stunning surroundings.