This tiny state, along the Konkan Coast, covers an area of 3702 sq km and consists of just two districts, North and South Goa. Goa’s distinct culture is a legacy of its colonial past. In 1510, Alfonso de Albuquerque established a small but powerful Portuguese enclave here. Though Goa became a part of the Indian Union in 1961, remnants of the 400-odd year of Portuguese rule is still evident in the dress, language, religion and cuisine of the people of this land. Their music, a fusion of the plaintive fado with the lilting rhythms of the local Konkani folk songs has a peculiar charm of its own. Today Goa is one of India’s most popular holiday destinations, with its idyllic beaches, lush paddy fields, coconut plantations and villages dotted with pretty white washed churches and grand mansions. Its other attractions include the Hindu temples around Ponda built between the 15th and 18th centuries and the magnificent cathedrals of Old Goa. Goa’s friendly easy-going people go out of their way to make visitors feel at home.
How to Reach
Air: Only airport in Goa is Dabolin 29kms away from the capital city, Panaji.
Road: Goa, the hot beach destination, is a paradise to vacationers. Moving around here is easy since there are good roadways all around.
Rail: Trains from all major cities in India connect Goa to other regions. Konkan railway is a great opening for an easy reach.
Places to Visit in Goa
Fort Aguada: This fort, 4 km west of Reis Mangos, was built in 1612 as a defense against the Marathas and the Dutch. Its church dedicated to St. Lawrence, the patron saint of sailors, was built in 1630, while the huge lighthouse dates to 1864. Some buildings within the fort now house the state prison. The local beach sinquerim is known for its luxury resorts.
Reis Magos: The Fort At Reis Magos was built in 1551 by Don Alfonso de Noronha, the fifth viceroy, as a second line of defense after the forts at Aguada and Cabo. It once housed a prison, which was moved to Mormugao in 1996. Adjacent to the fort is the Reis Magos church. Constructed in 1555, this is one of Goa’s earliest churches, and had the royal Portuguese coat of arms on its facade.
Anjuna: Anjuna, the north Goan district 18 km north west of Panaji, has now replaced Calangute as a haven for backpackers. It is better known for its full-moon rave parties and the sprawling flea market than for beach tourism. The popular market, held every Wednesday, is crowded with hawkers from all over India selling everything from Balinese batik, piper-mache boxes to Tibetan prayer wheels, Rajasthani mirror work and Kerala wood carvings. Fluorescent rave gear and trendy beach wear round off the selection. Added attractions here includes monkey performances and fortune-telling Nandi-bulls.
Mapusa: The largest town in northern Goa, Mapusa’s main point of interest is the colorful Friday market, with its tantalizing aromas of dried fish, spices, chillies, vinegar, local toddy, spicy Goan sausages and the chourica. This region is famous for cashew nuts, which are in much demand. Hawkers peddle a range of beachwear, including cheap T-shirts and summer dresses, in the covered colonnades in front of the rows of shops. In the lanes leading off from the main market are stalls selling handicrafts and souvenirs from all over the country.
Vagator: A beautiful bay sheltered by rocky outcrops at both ends, Vagator consists of a number of small beaches fringed by shady coconut palms. Rarely crowded, it is the perfect place to discover Goa’s unspoilt beauty.
The southernmost cove of ozran lies below a steep cliff, where a freshwater stream empties into a clear pool, ideal for swimming. Little Vagator, to the north, is a secluded stretch of sand popular with more discerning visitors. The big Vagator Beach is dominated by the red laterite Chapora Fort situated on top of a hill at its northern tip. Now in ruins, this fort was built by the Portuguese in 1717 on the remains of an older bastion erected by the Adil Shahi sultans. Its name Cahapora, is derived from “Shahpura” or “ Town of the Shah”, as the village was once known. In 1739. Sammbhaji, the son of the Maratha chief Shivaji, occupied this fort for a short time until it was returned to the Portuguese in exchange for Bassein, near Mumbai. Its ramparts, now desolate, offers a sweeping view of the coast. Chapora village, below the fort, has numerous pleasant cafes.
St Jerome’s Church: It also known as the Church of Our Lady of Miracles was rebuilt twice, first in 1791 and again in1838, after it was destroyed by fire. Its main altar, with the image of Nossa Senhora de Milagres, has some grand ornamental screens, salvaged from a church in Old Goa. Both Hindus and Catholics celebrate the Feat of Our Lady with equal fervor. At the end of the festival Hindu devotees, accompanied by Catholics, take the holy oil from St Jerome’s church back to the nearby Shanteri Temple.
Pernem: The headquarters of Goa’s northern most sub-district, it was occupied by the Portuguese in the mid-18th century. It was one of the last conquests they made between 1764 and 1788 during the period in which they expanded their territory to include Pernem, Bicholim and Satari in the north and Ponda, Sanquem, Quepm and Canacona in the south. By this time, the fervor for conversions that existed during the period of the early conquests had waned and these areas remained predominantly Hindu.
Terekhol Fort: Across the Terekhol river from Querim is the little hamlet of Terekhol Fort situated on a plateau above it. The Portuguese captured this early 18th century fort in 1776 from the Bhonsles, a Maratha clan. It was the scene of an uprising in 1954, when a group of satyagrahis hoisted the Indian flag on its ramparts in an act of civil disobedience against colonial rule. The fort’s high battlement faces the sea, overlooking the waters of Fort Aguada, Arambol and Chapora. The tiny chapel within the fort, with a statue of Christ in the courtyard, is usually closed but the atmospheric Terekhol fort Heritage Hotel offers a panoramic view of the surroundings.
Arambol: Also known as Harmal, Arambol is the only fishing village in North Goa that has some basic facilities for its visitors. Situated along one of Goa’s less commercial beaches, it still retains all the charm of a traditional fishing village, except for the occasional gypsy selling bright scarves and skirts. Unlike in central Goa, the Hindu influence is apparent here.
At the northern end, a rocky footpath leads to a second beach, entirely surrounded by cliffs. This sandy cover has a freshwater lagoon fed by hot springs and is surrounded by sulphurous mud. A 5-km long path, heading north. Leads to Querim Beach, a pristine strip of white sand backed by casuarinas trees.