Goa, the smallest state in India, is undoubtedly one of the most popular holiday destinations for travelers across the globe. Situated on the western coast of India, Goa is peppered with miles of glorious sun-kissed beaches, fringed by lush green plantations and dense tropical woodlands. The white sand beaches of South Goa are ideal to reconnect with nature while the beaches of north Goa pulsate with vibrancy and invite you to let your hair down.
A former Portuguese colony, Goa’s weaves in its fabric an interesting mix of Portuguese and Indian influences aptly reflected in its architecture, cuisine, traditions, customs, lifestyle, local dialect, and festivals. Various basilicas and churches in Old Goa also stand testimony to Portuguese sway over Goa.
The state capital Panaji reflects the charm of an Old Portuguese quarter. Situated along Mandovi River, Panaji is a riot of color with buildings bathed in soft pastels, soothing whites and blues, bright reds and earthy browns. Stroll through the eastern neighborhood of Panaji to admire the cobbled streets lined with heritage buildings and churches dating back to 1700. The old world charm of the city is perfectly complemented by an exciting range of restaurants, nightclubs, theatres, and malls.
Goa is one of the most tourist-friendly states in India and has a well deserved reputation of being an easy place to travel around. Goa was part of the hippy trail in the 1960′s and the easy going, laid back lifestyle still finds resonance in its modern day lifestyle.
Goa has also emerged as a hub of art and culture. National and international film festivals and prominent art and cultural events feature regularly in Goa’s event calendar and no matter what time of the year you visit the state, there will be an event or festival vying for your attention.
Things To See
Goa’s primary claim to fame are its exquisite golden sand beaches. However there is more to Goa than its sandy shores. This tiny state has its share of lush green woods, majestic waterfalls, and quaint coves. Wander beyond the coastline fronting the Arabian Sea and you will find the hinterland blessed with spectacular buildings, warm friendly people and a culture which is both Indian and Mediterranean.
Fort Aquada: Situated atop a hill, this fort offers unparalleled views across the Arabian Sea and Aquada Bay. Built in 1612, the Fort got its name from a freshwater spring that supplied water to the ships passing by. Watch the waves splash against the solid stone structure and feel refreshed as you are caught in the spray.
Dudhsagar Waterfalls: Dudhsagar, literally meaning ‘sea of milk’, is a magnificent waterfall that cascades almost 2,000 feet down a cliff to a rugged valley. Trek around this region and you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the surroundings. You can spend an entire day enjoying a refreshing dip in the water or exploring the virginal surroundings. The Goa Tourism Development Corporation conducts regular tours to Dudhsagar from Panaji and Calangute.
Basilica of Bom Jesus: Situated in Old Goa, Basilica of Bom Jesus is dedicated to the reverence of the infant Jesus. This basilica is also known as the tomb of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa. The saint’s body, which lies in a silver casket, has survived almost 500 years without ever being embalmed. Once every 10 years, it is put on display and attracts thousands of devotees from all over the world. Built from red stone by the famous Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista, the basilica is also known for its beautiful architecture and is and definitely worth a visit.
St. Catherine’s Cathedral: Built between 1562 and 1652, this impressive white cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. The interiors of the cathedral have impressive carvings that depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. You will also find a couple of beautifully decorated chapels dedicated to St. Joseph, St. George, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and the Holy Cross.
Fontainhas: This residential neighborhood is reminiscent of a Portuguese city. Wander through the narrow cobbled streets and you will see old mansions and houses with little colonnaded porches. The Chapel of St. Sebastian, established in late 19th century, is well worth a visit.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary: While Goa’s coast is dotted with miles of sandy beaches, the interiors are covered with dramatic and picturesque green foothills of the Western Ghats. Ensconced amid the lush green woodlands is the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, which is home to Sambar, Gaur and wild boar, and a host of other animals. If you are lucky, you can even spot an elephant, otherwise you can admire the pretty rose garden or discover rare species of plants at the botanical garden within the sanctuary.
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary: Named after India’s renowned ornithologist, Salim Ali, this bird sanctuary is situated on the Island of Chorao near the Mandovi River. The sanctuary is known for its dense mangrove vegetation and is home to around 400 species of birds, both local and migratory. It is also inhabited by wild animals such as crocodiles, foxes and jackals. The sanctuary is open through out the year; however, it is advisable to avoid the monsoon and summer season as the weather gets really hot and humid.