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Destination Guide – Goa


Brief History:

At the height of Goa’s prosperity during the period called Goa Dourada or Golden Goa (1575-1625 AD) such was Goa’s fame that the Portuguese had a proverb for it: ‘He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon.’ After Vasco de Gama’s arrival in Calicut in the neighbouring state of Kerala, the Arab monopoly of the spice trade was broken. The Portuguese pushed for a base in India, and finally, under an alliance of war with the Vijaynagar Empire, Alfonso De Albuquerque, Governor-General of Goa, was able to occupy North Goa in 1510 AD. By 1530 Goa had become the capital of the Portuguese Empire in the East, and the Jewel of the spice trade (and Christian Missionary programs) from the Cape of Good Hope to the China Sea.

Prior to the Portuguese incursion parts of Goa were ruled by Hindu kings who were mostly vassals of the Kingdoms of Sawantiwadi, or Sunda, or the Maratha’s at various points in their history. Even after Portuguese pre-eminence in the 18th century, many pockets remained Hindu strongholds, giving modern Goa a cosmopolitan mix of Hindus, Portuguese, Europeans, Muslims (from a brief subjugation to the Deccan Sultanate), and a mixed community that evolved from their union, the Goans.

The Portuguese retained Goa and two other enclaves, Daman and Diu, till 1961, when the territories were annexed by India. They were then organized into a single entity and became a UnionTerritory in 1965. Finally, Goa became a state (without Daman and Diu) in 1987 with just two districts, North Goa and South Goa.

Geography and Weather:

Goa’s landscape is diverse: it has the Sahyadri Hills to the east, lateritic plateaus in the middle section, and low lying river basins and coastal plains abutting the coast. The Sahyadri peaks are not very tall:North Sonsagar- 3827 feet; Vaguerim - 3500 feet; Morlemgad - 3400 feet. The major riverine plains in Goa are those of the Mandovi and Chapora Rivers. The coastline is spectacular with scenic bays and headlands broken by estuaries of the Mandovi River before it flows into the sea. The beaches of Goa are world famous and the extensive curved beaches of Baga and Calangute are a major tourist draw.

Goahas a tropical-maritime and monsoon type of climate. The weather is moist throughout the year with heavy rainfall (320 cm) during the southwest monsoon season - from June to September. Due to the proximity of the sea it is warm and humid during the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon months. The relative humidity is around 60 percent during summer. The temperature ranges are: Summer 24°C - 32°C; Winter 21°C – 32.2°C. The best season to visitGoais from October to March.

Air/Rail/Road Connectivity:

Goa’s only airport is at Dabolim in South Goa. It is well connected from Mumbai and Bangalore. International flights fly in from Qatar, Dubai, and Kuwait in the Middle East, and from Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Russia during the tourist season (chartered flights).

Goa has two main rail lines: the South Western Railway – links Vasco De Gama,Goa, to Hubli/Belgaum in Karnataka; and the Konkan Railway – links major towns along the scenic coast which offers some spectacular views.

The road connections are quite good. NH-17 runs along India's west coast and links Goato Mumbai in the north and Mangalore in the south. NH-4A running eastwards connects the capital Panjim (Panaji) to Belgaum in east, providing quick access to cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Goa also has a seaport in Mormugao which handles international containers and is an export hub for minerals and iron ore.

Public and Private Bus operators ply people into the state. Intra-city bus services are also available. Taxis, autorickshaws, and motorcycle taxis are available for hire for local transport. Many ferries operate on the coastal waters and the Mandovi River providing evening soirees and dinner cruises to revellers and party-goers.

Safety and Etiquette:

Goahas a very cosmopolitan population. Konkani is the mother tongue of majority of people living in the North Goa district. Marathi, English and Hindi are understood by the majority of the population. Portuguese is also spoken and understood by a small number of people. All manner of religious festivals and celebrations dot the Goan calendar; there are as many Hindu festivals as there Christian ones; just as there are as manyTemples as there are Churches.

There is a wide variety of cuisines available inGoa. In fact, good dinning is a major attraction inGoa. Portuguese dishes jostle for eminence with continental and Indian fare all over the state. Breakfast joints, bakeries, and beach-side shacks are very popular among the tourists.

The larger towns are relatively safe, but it is not advisable to roam about on remote beaches very late into the night. Nightlife is vibrant with quite a few discos and specialty diners open quite late into the night.

Hotspots and Activities:

There is lot to do in Goa. Watching the sunrise and sunset on idyllic beaches is just one of them.  A large variety of water sports, including Sea Diving, and cruises are available near important beaches. There are many beaches to choose from:

Arambol Beach is both rocky and sandy, and is very popular amongst tourists. It has a sweet water pond right on the shore.

Vagator Beach has an imposing headland and is home to the Chapora Fort.

Anjuna is a popular beach amongst foreign tourists. There is the magnificent Albuquerque Mansion which was built in 1920.

Calangute is the hub of all beach activity. The beach is long and beautiful but overcrowding could be a problem at times. This is a resort area with hotels, shops, restaurants, beach-shacks, gas stations and medical facilities.

Baga Beach almost feels like the quieter section ofCalanguteBeach, which is overcrowded. It gets its name from the Baga creek which is nearby. The beach is popular for water sports and Dolphin Cruises.

Miramar is a quaint golden beach girdled with palm trees facing the Arabian Sea. Some dive spots are accessible from the Marriott Hotel nearby.

Dona Paula commands a great view of the Zuari River and Mormugao Harbour. Various water sports facilities (including water scooters) are available on rental at this beach.

Colva Beach is long and spectacular, and is popular for hang-gliding and parasailing.  Here, too, there are many resorts, and a fair number of tourists choose to make this their base.

Palolem Beach is certainly the most spectacular beach in South Goa. It’s crescent shape, white sand, and lively bars are a big draw for European and Indian tourists.

Must Sees:

Basilica of Bom Jesus: Many tourists flock to see the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, kept in a silver casket, inside the Basilica. The architecture is opulent and church is built in a very Portuguese style. Built in the 16th century the church is dedicated to Infant Jesus. It is now a world Heritage Monument.

Old Goa and Se Cathedral:  Old Goa was built by the Portuguese on the ruins of a town built by Adil Shah of Bijapur. While Old Goa is a great place to hang around and shop, the presence of the Se Cathedral makes a visit to the area truly rewarding.  This imposing structure with its vaulted interior and five bells, of which one is the famous Golden bell, is a structure of sheer grandeur. The Golden Bell is supposed to be one of the largest church bells in the world.

Shree Bhagavati Temple: This is a 500 year old temple in the Pernem Taluka. There are two life size images of elephants made of black stone in a standing position on either side of the entrance. A very imposing statue of Goddess Bhagavati Asthabhuja is enthroned on a high pedestal. During Dussehra over twenty-five thousand devotees throng the temple.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi:  Dedicated to the beatified St. Francis the church interior is illustrated with exquisite paintings. There is also an adjacent convent which now houses the Archaeological Museum.

Mapusa: The weekly fair at Mapusa (the main town of Bardez Taluka) is attended by large crowds on Fridays – akin to a large Flea Market. This is a shopper’s paradise for picking up great Goan products: curios, clothing, leather goods, furniture, rattan work, and antiques.


This mock heritage village is located in Lautolim, a mere 10 kms from Margao in South Goa. Over the years this village which endeavours to create awareness aboutGoa’s traditional lifestyle which is fast fading has become a major tourist attraction on the world map. It was built on a verdant expanse near Lautolim in 1995. The important things to do and see are:

  • Tour of the Casa Araujo Alvares, a stately mansion which reminds one of Goa’s colonial past.

  • Sculpture of Mirabai, the famous woman ‘Bhakti Movement’ leader. This exquisite sculpture made from laterite has been made by artist Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alavres in a Greco-Roman style, and is one of the longest sculptures in India.

  • Dance your night away in ‘Big Foot’– Goa’s biggest designer dance floor in an ambience of neon lights and razzmatazz.

  • Inside the Ancestral Village is 'Traverena', a local distillery. Tourists can experience first-hand the three-step process of fenny preparation: cashew plucking, extraction of ‘Nero’, and fermentation in an earthen pot.

  • It is the perfect place to buy Goan handicrafts, art, antiques, jewellery and curios.

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