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Home >> Tourist Guide to Goa
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Guide to Goa

GuideStretches of endless silver sand and white surf beaches wetted by the rush of the 'azure' arabian sea, the revelling of late nights over the local feni brew, the tarvernas, white churches and temples resting against plush green padding fields and coconut trees, the nostalgic atmosphere, longer days of sun, sand and sea, in other words -- Welcome to Goa.

But there's so much more than the sun, sand and trance. The allure of Goa is that it remains distinct from the rest of the other Indian states, and is yet small enough to get hold of and explore in a myriad of different ways. Its not just the familiar remnants of European colonialism that make Goa seem so accessible, but rather the prevalence of Christianity and some form of socio-political progressiveness that tourists most notably Westerners, can relate to. Although Hindus outnumber Catholics by 70-30, there are more skirts and pants than saris, and its people display a sense of liberality and civility which you'll be hard pressed to find elsewhere in India. Goa is perhaps the only place in India where shorts and tank tops and skimpy outfits are not frowned upon anywhere except at religious locations.

Goa MapThe palm-lined coastal plains, the wooded uplands and beaches so still and endless, create an illusion of lethargy - laziness or Sosegado, the local term. But in reality, Goans are hardworking, full of song, dance and merriment. Tourism is the main money-spinner and the majority of the population is engaged in related business. On the coast itself, coconut cultivation and fishing (both in-shore, with small boats, canoes and hand-nets, and off shore, with modern trawlers) are still the main sources of income. The discovery of iron in the hills to the east has also generated considerable revenue, and the economy is further fuelled by the stream of remittance cheques sent home by expatriate Goans working in Mumbai, the Gulf states, Europe and the U.S.

Blend of East & West -- Goa's 450 years under Portuguese domination produced a unique, syncretize blend of East and West that is at once exotic and strangely familiar: Christmas and Carnival are celebrated as enthusiastically by the 30-percent Goan Christian population as Diwali and Durga puja are by the Goan Hindus. The state's separate identity is discernible in other ways too, most visibly in its Latinate architecture, but also in a preference for a fish-and meat-rich cuisine. Another marked difference is the prevalence of alcohol. Beer is cheap, and six thousand or more bars around the state are licensed to serve it, along with the more traditional tipples of feni, the local hootch, and toddy, a derivative of palm sap.

Being the highest literate state in the union territory of India, Goa has come along way now from just being a beach haven. Apart for its distinctiveness, progress in fields of Education, Information Technology and Industry have scaled to new heights and all round development. But still a lot needs to be done as bureaucracy is seen as the major hindrance towards all round development of the state

Photo album Goa

Photo Curtsey Flickr
Facts on Goa

Country : Goa, India
Area : 3660 sq km
Population :
Capital City : Panaji
Airport : Dabolim (29kms from Panaji) Railhead: Madgaon (25 kms from Panaji)
People : Goans
Language spoken : English is widely spoken and understood. Konkani (The Official State language) and Hindi are the other languages used for communication.
Religion : Hindu, Christian and Muslim
Time : Five and a half hours ahead of GMT.
Climate : Maximum temperature of 35 degrees Celsius. Minimum temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius. Rainfall is upto 900 mm in the monsoons (June-August).

When to visit Goa

Goa is popular throughout the year & displays its own charm in every season.

Generally known as Holi, the month of Phalgun signifies the onset of what in Goa is known as Shigmo. Celebrated mostly by the masses in the close religious association of religious rites, the festival of Shigmo is accompanied by the fanfare of drum beats and the epic enactions of Mythology. Colour in vivid vibrancy hues the festivities that bedeck every area that is celebrating Shigmo. Today, the Shigmotsav has highlighted its festivities with the performance of troupes in the form of parades and cultural dances. The streets in the townships, at dusk resound with the music of the Dholl, the drums and conches as huge effigies of wondrous colour and light effects parade their way to prize winning combinations.

The month of March, 'Carnival' - is an event celebrated by Goan Christian community. It is a 3-day festival of fun and merry making and colourful floats, a 3 day orgy just before the 40-day Lenten period of fasting. Huge parades through the cities are organised with bands, floats and dances and balls in the evenings. The final day concludes with the famous red-and-black dance held by the Clube Nacional in Panjim. The origins of carnival are apparently the hedonistic feasts of ancient Rome and Greece. It made its appearance in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies, where it metamorphosed into the very Latin singing-dancing. The carnival is presided over by King Momo, who on the opening day declares the countdown to fun and merry making. Hotel bookings must be done in advance for carnival as the festival attracts thousands of tourists. Look at the hotel beaches & resorts guide on this site.

We have a wide choice of beach resorts, mainland hotels all over Goa. For a hotel guide Click here

Beaches

Beaches at Goa

Anjuna - 18 km from Panaji and adjacent to Chapora Fort, it was the haunt of the flower generation in the sixties and still popular with the younger generation. A key attraction here is a magnificent Albuquerque Mansion built in 1920, flanked by octagonal towers and an attractive Mangalore tile-roof.

Agonda - 37 kms from Margao, it is a nature lover's delight. Secluded and picturesque, this beach is ideal for lazing around in the sun. Agonda is the place if you are looking for peace and solitude.

Arambol Beach

Arambol - About 50 km from Panaji, this is an unique beach in north Goa. It is both rocky and sandy and the most sought-after beach by foreign visitors.

Baga - It is a secluded and pleasant beach with good recreational facilities like river cruises, water-skiing, yachting and fishing. Staying here is no problem as there are many lovely, small cottages available.

Betul - A virgin beach untouched by tourism, it provides a stretch of silvery sand, alongwith the secluded wilds. Betul offers total seclusion, and magical beaches and a wonderful view.

Calangute - 16 kms from Panaji, this 7 km-long 'queen of beaches,' is a popular holiday resort. The small houses amidst the coconut groves behind the beach are always in demand. It is the most popular holiday resort in Goa and a hit with foreign tourists.

Colva - 6 km. from Margao, it is the pride of Salcete and rivals Calangute in scenic splendour. Here sea , sand and sky blend in enchanting natural harmony, weaving their magic spell on the visitors. The beach offers good accommodation facilities.

Dona Paula Beach

Dona Paula - 7 km from Panaji near the rocky point between the Mandovi and the Zuari is Dona paula, a secluded bay with a fine view of the Marmagao harbour. This is an idyllic spot to relax and sunbathe. Water scootering facilities available.

Miramar Beach

Miramar - A lovely golden beach of soft sand girdled with palm trees, Miramar is one of the most popular beaches. Less than 3 km from the Panaji city centre, it is just where the Mandovi meets the sea. From here one has an excellent view of the Aguada fort just across the river.

Palolem Beach

Palolem Beach - A relatively deserted beach, Palolem is about 35 Km from Margao. It is one of the most enchanting beaches of Goa with a backdrop of the Western Ghats.

Polem - Goa's southernmost beach, a few kilometres from the Karnataka border, is Polem. This is an absolutely spectacular beach which is completely untouched by tourism. The only thing to be done here is swim and sunbathe in complete isolation.

Vagator Beach

Vagator - 24 km from Panaji, this is a popular beach dominated by the Chapora Fort (which marks the entrance to the bay) in the north and Calangute beach to the south. It's a free-and-easy mood at Little Vagator beach where a young, hip crowd and nude sunbathing are the norm.

Churches and Temples

Places to Visit in Goa (Churches in Goa, Temples in Goa and Mosques in Goa)

Churches in Goa

Church

Se Cathedral at Old Goa - The largest church in Asia, the cathedral in Old Goa, is a mighty 16th century monument to the Roman Catholic rule of Goa under the Portuguese. It's huge Golden Bell is the biggest in the world. The Church has 14 side chapels; the last chapel, in Mauresque style, preserves a cross upon which a vision of Christ is said to have appeared in 1919.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi at Old Goa - is adjacent to the Cathedral. Built in pure Manueline style, the interior is adorned with a profusion of carvings and exquisite paintings. The convent at the back of this church is now the Archaeological Museum. It houses many portraits of the Portuguese Viceroys and fragments of sculpture from Hindu temple sites in Goa.

Church

Bom Jesus Basilica - Partially in ruins but awesome still, it is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. The church's most precious relic is the embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier entombed in a marble mausoleum presented by the Duke of Tuscany, who received the Saint's pillow in exchange. Once every 10 years, the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier are exposed for public veneration. It was last exposed in 1994.

St. Cajetan Church -- is built on the lines of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Interesting to note are the interiors decorated in pure, unrestrained baroque, the intricately carved pulpit. Of interest is the covered well inside that indicates that the site was one perhaps a temple. Walk over to the side to see the doorway that once was the entrance to an Islamic palace belonging to Adil Shah, the ruler of Goa before the Portuguese disembarked.

Church of the Lady of the Mount - Located near Ponda, this was apparently the vantage point from where Adil Shah beat back the Portuguese only to meet his doom few months later. Ironically the view from this hill of the imposing and towering churches below, built by the Portuguese, who finally wrested Goa from the Muslims, is wonderful yet poignant. Interestingly mass is still held at this church on the 8th of every month.

St. Augustine Tower - was once the largest church in Goa. Bear with the weeds and rubble to visit the spot where the Augustinians lived when they first arrived in Goa in the 1500s.

Santa Monica cloister - Located on the Holy Hill, in Old Goa, a visit into this crumbling convent, that is still occupied by nuns and is one of the largest in Asia, transports one into another era.

Temples in Goa

Shri Mangueshi Temple - dedicated to Lord Shiva, is 22 km from Panaji at Priol-Ponda Taluka. Though small, it has an air of distinctive elegance. Its lofty white tower at the entrance is a landmark of the countryside.

Temple

Shri Shantadurga, Kavlem - Built at Kavlem, it is dedicated to Shantadurga. The temple has an impressive idol of Goddess Durga in a tranquil mood, flanked by Vishnu and Shiva. Agrashalas provide lodging facilities to the devotees.

Shri Mahalaxmi at Bandora - Situated in the village of Bandora, about 4 km from Ponda, it is considered the abode of the original Goddess of the Shakti cult. The Goddess Mahalakshmi was worshipped by the Shilahara rulers (750-1030 A.D.) and the early Kadamba Kings of Goa. There are also 18 wooden images of Vishnu here.

Shri Nagesh at Bandora - Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is situated in Bandora village, about 4km to the east of Ponda. The temple has a gallery on both sides that contains exquisite specimens of intricate woodcarvings of the events of Ramayana on one side and wooden images of Astadikpal and Gandharva on the other.

Shri Bhagavati Temple -- 26 km from the city, it is believed to be 500 years old. Two life-sized images of elephants carved from black stone guard its entrance. The statue of the Goddess Bhagavati Ashtabhuja is an imposing one.

Shri Mahalsa at Mardol - A km from Shri Manguesh Temple, this temple is popular with people of all faiths because the deity Gomantaka is beleived to fulfil the wishes of all her devotees.

Shri Chandranath at Quepem - Built on a 350m high hill, Chandranath Hill, the main attraction of this temple are the rock-carved Shivlings from which water oozes on a full moon day.

Temple

Others: Brahma Temple at Carambolim; Shri Damodar temple at Zambaulim (sacred to both Hindus and the Christians); Shri Datta Mandir in Bicholim; Shri Gopal Ganapati temple at Ponda; Shri Kalikadevi mandir in Bicholim (almost 800 years old); Shri Saptakoteswar mandir at Bicholim (renovated on orders of Shivaji); Shri Mallikarjuna, in Canacona (60 deities surrounding temple ) Shri Mahadeva temple in Sangeum.

Mosques in Goa

Mosques Jama Masjid, Sanguem - An elegant mosque of harmonious proportions and simplicity.

Safa Masjid, Ponda - It was built in 1560 by Ibrahim Adilshah of Bijapur. The masonry tank nearby has beautiful 'maharab' designs.

Forts

Forts in Goa
Fort

Aguada Fort - was built by the Portuguese in 1609-1612, to control the entry into the river Mandovi and to protect Old Goa from potential enemy attacks. A spring within the fort provided water supply to the ships that called there. The fort presently houses the Central Aguada Jail.

Cabo Fort (Raj Bhavan) - 9 km from Panaji, it lies on the peninsula land jutting out in the Arabian Sea, at Dona Paula. Initially during the Portuguese era, a Franciscan Convent, was attached to the fort. This later became Cabo Raj Bhavan and is now the Governor's Palace.

Chapora Fort - Located 10 km out of Mapusa, it has a splendid view of nearby Anjuna and Vagator beaches. The fort once in the hands of Muslim rulers before the Portuguese wrested it, has some interesting ruins.

Terekhol (Tiracol) Fort - 42 km.from Panaji, it stands at the nothern most tip of Goa's shoreline, on the hillock overlooking the Arabian Sea, at the mouth of the river Terekhol. In its courtyard is the century old church of St. Anthony. It is now a tourist resort.