Panaji is the largest town in Goa and the old Portuguese capital of Velha Goa. Known to everyone as Panjim, it is a busy Indian town known for its baroque-style churches. The traces of Portuguese architecture that remain include red-tiled roofs, wrought-iron balconies and narrow winding streets. The Friday market in Mausa is where local people load up on flopping live fish, crabs, prawns and feni.

Goa's capital, Panaji is located on the banks of River Mandovi and is considered to be one of the India’s most relaxed cities. Formerly known as Panjim, the city boasts lovely cafes and restaurants, colonial-era buildings, gorgeous churches and a stunning riverside promenade. The narrow by-lanes of the Latin Quarter gives one a taste of the city's Portuguese heritage. Among Panaji's most popular sites are Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, Adil Shah's Palace, which is Goa's oldest surviving building, Mahalaxmi Temple, Chapel of St Sebastian and Maruti Temple. The Goa State Museum is also worth a visit as is the Goa State Central Library.

According to legend the name 'Panaji' originates from the corrupted version of 'Ponjy', which means the land that never floods. Panjim was once a small village with creeks, coconut trees and vast fields and the inhabitants were mostly fishermen. It remained so for centuries with the Fort of Adil Shah along River Mandovi being the only recognisable structure. It was in 1632 that a 3.2 kilometers causeway was constructed by the then viceroy, Count de Linhares, Dom Miguel de Noronha, which linked Panjim with Ribandar Village, 50 kilometers from the city. Back then, it was the longest existing bridge. It exists to this day and is known as Pointe de Linhares.

Sights in Panaji

Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church (in Panaji) is believed to have been originally built as a chapel in 1541, to serve the religious requirements of the Portuguese sailors. The chapel eventually became a parish in 1600 and nine years later, it was replaced by a church. Its symmetrical zigzag stairway was constructed in the 18th century. The church is believed to have been modelled after the Bom Jesus de Braga in Portugal, with one middle and four side landings in perfect symmetry.

The statue of Our Lady was installed on a 5-meter-high plinth on the middle landing in 1954. The church also houses an ancient bell obtained from the Augustinian ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Grace. It is considered to be the second largest of its kind in Goa, the largest being the Golden Bell housed in the Se Cathedral. With its white facade displaying Portuguese-Baroque and Goanese styles of architecture, the church has two towers and a looming belfry. Due to the fact that it can be seen from very far away, it is also called the crown of Panaji.

One needs to climb 78 steps to reach the church. While the main altar in the church is dedicated to Mother Mary, the other two altars on either side are intricately carved and gold-plated. One of these belongs to the crucifixion of Jesus and the other to Our Lady of the Rosary. Marble statues of St Peter and St Paul flank these two altars. On December 8 every year, the church is illuminated to celebrate the Festival of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. These celebrations are preceded by nine-day novena to Our Lady.

Reis Magos (across the Mandovi River from central Panaji) is a quaint hamlet whose name of Reis Magos means “Three Wise Men”. It is home to two famous landmarks: the Reis Magos Fort and the Reis Magos Church. Reis Magos Fort was built in 1551 and is listed under the Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act. Located on the banks of River Mandovi, the fort is a wonderful example of the confluence of Hindu and Portuguese architectural styles. Surrounded by sturdy laterite walls, it is studded with Portuguese turrets. Once, 33 guns existed here though only seven have been found within the fort complex. During its glorious times, the fort accommodated viceroys and other dignitaries coming from, or going to, Lisbon in Portugal. Initially, it was used as a defence fortress, later a jail and has also served as a hospital in the past.

Reis Magos Church, whose white facade is visible from across the river, was built in 1555 by the Franciscan Friars. Dedicated to St Jerome, the church and its seminary became a famous site for learning, which can be gathered from the Portuguese royal coat of arms imprinted below the crucifix at the top of the gable. On January 6 every year, Reis Magos celebrates the colorful Festa dos Reis Magos, during which locals enact the story of the three kings who went on the journey to worship the holy infant child, Jesus Christ.

Safa Masjid (in Ponda, five kilometers east of Panaji) is a mosque built in 1560 by Ibrahim Adil Shah, the sultan of Bijapur. It is a huge complex and amongst its ruins are various gardens and fountains that make for a tranquil setting. A pointed terracotta tile roof covers the main rectangular prayer hall of the mosque. The best time to visit here is during the festivities of Id-Ul-Fitr and Id-Ul-Zuha, when it is adorned with exquisite decorations. The most interesting aspect of the Safa Masjid complex is the huge water tank with 44 hammams or hot air baths that dot its four interior sides. The tank has a flight of steps made in typical Hindu bathing style of ghats. Both the tank as well as the mosque have been made in laterite stone masonry.

Aguada Fort

Aguada Fort (near Panaji, overlooking the of the mouth of the Mandovi river) was built by the Portuguese and houses a lighthouse.Built to defend and protect Old Goa from potential invasions, Fort Aguada is the largest and the best-preserved Portuguese bastion in the state. It was built sometime between 1609 and 1612 to guard against the Marathas and the Dutch forces that wanted to establish their reign. Its strategic location limited the entry into River Mandovi and also to protected Old Goa from enemy attacks. Among the most fascinating highlights of the fort is a large cistern that could store over 20,00,000 gallons of water and a magnificent citadel.

A four-storey lighthouse, built in 1864, sits prettily on the premises, and is believed to be the oldest of its kind in Asia. During the initial days, the lighthouse emitted light once every seven minutes that was reduced to every 30 seconds in 1834. The lighthouse was ultimately abandoned in 1976. The fort has been named after a freshwater spring located inside it that once provided water to arriving ships.

Though the fort has lost its earlier grandeur, some of the buildings are still intact and have been converted into a prison. Tourists can reach the hilltop fort either from a 4-kilometer-long road from Sinquerim Beach or a two-km steep footpath. Aguada Fort is a fine example of Portuguese construction and engineering and is the best preserved Portuguese fort in India. It is said that so well built and fiercely armed was this fort that it never fell into enemy hands. It also boasts of a secret passage which was used in the times of war and emergency.

Old Goa

Old Goa (10 kilometers east of Panaji) is the historical, European-influenced part of Goa with old churches colonial palaces and merchant houses. Also called or Velha Goa (Velha means "old" in Portuguese) it was constructed by the Bijapur Sultanate in the 15th century and served as capital of Portuguese India from the 16th century until its abandonment in the 18th century due to a plague. The remains of the city are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the Portuguese colonial neighborhoods you can find narrow winding streets and buildings with red-tile roofs and wrought-iron balconies

The old churches for which Goa is famous are mainly in Old Goa. The well-known of these are Se Cathedral (the seat of the Archbishop of Goa), the Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, the Church of St. Caetano and, notably, the Basilica of Bom Jesus which contains the relics of Saint Francis Xavier, which is celebrated every year on 3 December with novenas beginning on 24 November.

Old Goa was the second capital after Bijapur of the rule of Adil Shahi Dynasty. It was surrounded by a moat and contained the shah's palace, mosques, and temples. The city was captured by the Portuguese and was under Portuguese rule from 1510 as the administrative seat of Portuguese India. The viceroy's residence was transferred in 1759 to the future capital. Panjim. Few remnants, if any, of the pre-Portuguese period remain at Old Goa. During the mid-16th century, the Portuguese colony of Goa, especially Velha Goa, was the center of Christianisation in the East. The city was evangelized by all religious orders, since all of them had their headquarters there. The population was roughly 200,000 by 1543. Malaria and cholera epidemics ravaged the city in the 17th century and it was largely abandoned, only having of 1,500 people in 1775.

Churches and Convents of Goa: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Churches in Goa include the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (with an exquisitely illustrated interior); Chapel of St. Catherine (Goa's oldest church); Church of Our Lady of Rosary; the Nunnery of St. Monica: Reis Magos Church: the Church of Mae De Deus at Saligao, the Church of St. Alex at Curtorium and the Church of St. Ana at Talaulim.

The Churches and Convents of Goa were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. According to UNESCO: “The churches and convents of Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies – particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier – illustrate the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established. These monuments of Goa exerted great influence in the 16th-18th centuries on the development of architecture, sculpture, and painting by spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art throughout the countries of Asia where Catholic missions were established. In so doing they illustrate the work of missionaries in Asia. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The churches in Old Goa aimed to awe the local population into conversion and to impress upon them the superiority of the foreign religion. The facades were accordingly made tall and lofty and the interiors were magnificent, with twisted Bernini columns, decorated pediments, profusely carved and gilded altars, and colorful wall paintings and frescoes. Local laterite was used in the construction of the churches, which had to be plastered and finished with a lime whitewash, while the trimmings were sometimes of basalt. The color white was so identified with churches that the local administration ruled that no house could be painted that color.

“Of the 60 churches inventoried in the 18th century before the city was abandoned, seven major examples survive. The Sé Cathedral. The Chapel of St Catherine dating from 1510, the Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi (which now houses the Archaeological Museum), and the Church of Bom Jesus where the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier rest, are some of the best in terms of design and style. Also of importance are St Gagtan and its seminary, Our Lady of the Rosary (one of the earliest churches to be built), and the Tower of St Augustine, all that remains of a convent built in 1572. The Church of St Cajetan has a facade decorated with lonic, Doric, and Corinthian pilasters. Other monuments are partially or completely in ruins, but they nonetheless constitute an archaeological reserve of considerable interest.”

Churches in Old Goa

Church of St Francis of Assisi (in the main square of Old Goa) was established by eight Franciscan friars who arrived in Goa in 1517. Retaining the Portuguese-Manueline style portal of its older structure, which was built in 1665, the Church of St Francis of Assisi, offers a fascinating visual contrast between its simple exterior facade and its lavish Baroque interior. Featuring Corinthian influences, the interior is beautifully decorated. The main altar is the highlight, with a large statue of St Francis of Assisi above it, along with another of Jesus Christ. It is flanked on either side by paintings on wood depicting the life and times of its patron saint.

The church started off as a chapel was upgraded to a church in 1521 and consecrated in 1602 with the present structure being built in 1661. Contiguous to the church is the convent, which is now home to a museum. Set up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1964, it houses paintings, sculptures and other artefacts related to the history and culture of Goa. The church, facing west, contains a nave with three chapels on both the sides, a main altar and a choir.

St Cajetan's Church (in Old Goa, near the Se Cathedral) is one of the most picturesque churches in Goa. Built in 1665 by Italian monks of the Order of Theatines, St Cajetan's Church is a fine example of Corinthian architecture. Niched within the external facade are four stunning statues of St Paul, St Peter, St John the evangelist and St Matthew. The interior, also featuring Corinthian elements, displays Baroque, Rococo and Goan influences in gilded work. The main altar of the church is dedicated to Our Lady of Divine Providence. Originally called The Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence, the building of the church is constructed of laterite blocks that have been lime-plastered. The church’s façade has two towers on both sides that serve as belfry. On entering the church, one finds three altars on the left that are dedicated to the Holy family, Our Lady of Piety and St Clare. To the right are the altars of St John, St Cajetan and St Agnes. The largest of the altars on the right is dedicated to St Cajetan himself.

Basilica Of Bom Jesus: Where You Can See the Body of St Francis Xavier

Basilica of Bom Jesus (in Old Goa) is Goa's most famous monument. Built in the 16th and dedicated to the Infant Jesus, this dark church enshrines the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier, the famous missionary who devoted his life spreading Christianity in Asia. After he died in the island Sancian (Shangchuan) of China, his remains were brought here. The basilica contains dozen or so reliquaries in the shape of hands. Outside stalls sell crosses, rosaries and religious offerings.

His coffin was opened once a year, on his feast day of December 3, until 1755 when the king of Portugal took control of the body and decided the it could not be seen without his orders. Now the well-preserved body is viewed anytime through windows on the side of the coffin. Once, a pious Portuguese woman in fit of religious ecstacy bit off the little toe of the saint. A look at the body reveals that at least three toes are missing, raising the questions that maybe others took bites or the Portuguese woman bit off than she was given credit for. St. Francis Xavier's arm has been displayed all over the world.

The exterior facade of Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa is built of black granite and is noted for combining Baroque architecture with Doric, Corinthian and composite influences. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is the only church in the state to not have plastered exterior. On November 24, 1594, the foundation stone of the church was laid and it was consecrated on May 15, 1605 by the Archbishop of Goa, Fr Alexia de Menezes. It was raised to the status of basilica in 1946.

Inside, the main altar is 30-ft-broad and 54-ft-high and its pillars have been erected using basalt from Bassein (now Vasai, a town in Maharashtra), approximately 300 kilometers away. Richly gilded, it features the figure of infant Jesus Christ, above which is a statue of St Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The latter gazes at a medallion, and above this is depicted the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit). The southern side of the basilica houses the chapel wherein are preserved the sacred relics St Francis Xavier. The church's interior is richly adorned with wood carvings and paintings that depict scenes from the lives of St Xavier. A silver casket, which contains the sacred relics of the saint, is divided into seven panels each of which contains two plates that are representative of the incidents of the saint's life.

Se Cathedral

Se Cathedral (in Old Goa) is an impressive airy 16th century structure with a vaulted interior, whitewashed walls and richly, carved and gilt altars. Dedicated to St Catherine, it is among the most imposing churches in Goa. Due to its sheer scale and stunning design, it is a treat for architecture and photography enthusiasts. Commissioned by Portuguese viceroy, Redondo, the edifice of the church is, in fact, bigger than any of the churches in Portugal as he wanted it to be “a grandiose church worthy of wealth, power and fame of the Portuguese who dominated the seas from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”

According to UNESCO: “With its Tuscan exterior, Corinthian columns, raised platform with steps leading to the entrance, and barrel-vault is another example of Renaissance architecture. The paintings in the church were executed on wooden boards and fixed between panels with floral designs. Except for a few statues which are in stone, most of the other statues of the saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus were first carved in wood and then painted to adorn the altars.” [Source: UNESCO]

It was during the reign of king, Dom Sebastiao, that the construction of the church took off and was completed in 1619. Built for the Dominicans, the cathedral was paid for by the Royal Treasury out of the proceeds of the sale of the crown’s property. Built in the Portuguese-Gothic style with a Corinthian interior and Tuscan exterior, the church is one of the oldest of its kind in the state and is believed to be the largest of its kind in Asia.

The church’s bell, the largest of its kind in Goa, is popularly called the Golden Bell. Initially, there were two towers on either side of the church’s façade, however, the one on the southern side collapsed in 1776. It was never rebuilt and gives a vintage look to the historic church. The main altar in the church is dedicated to St Alexandria with both its sides depicting scenes from her life. To the left of the main entrance of the church are four chapels that are dedicated to Our Lady of Virtues, St Sebastian, the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Life. A highlight of the cathedral is the Chapel of the Cross of Miracles. The church measures 250 feet in length and 181 feet in breadth. A vision of Jesus Christ is believed to have appeared on the Cross housed therein in 1919.


Margao (25 kilometers south of Panaji) Touted as the commercial capital of Goa, Margao has a delightful collection of Portuguese churches and residential buildings. It is often called Margaon or Madgaon and is the second-largest city in Goa by population. It attracts not just businessmen for its excellent trade and commerce facilities but also draws tourists for its splendid architecture and the nearby Colva Beach. At the entrance of the city, visitors are greeted by the Largo de Igreja, or the Church of the Holy Spirit. Built by the Portuguese in 1675, it is one of the most beautiful examples of late-Baroque architecture in the state.

At the heart of Margao lies the Praça Jorge Barreto, also known as the Municipal Garden, around which are located an array of restaurants and offices. By-lanes from here lead to the bazaar, Margao's main market area. Once a major religious center with a number of wealthy temples and Dharamsalas, Margao is apparently a Portuguese corruption of the word 'Mathgram', which is broken into two - 'math' meaning a Hindu religious center and 'gram' meaning village. Margao has some wonderful remnants of Portuguese architecture with shady balcaos (porches) and oyster-shell windows.

Braganza House (five kilometers east of Margao) is a magnificent Portuguese mansion that extends along one side of the Chandor village square and is spread over 10,000 square meters. Constructed in the 17th century as a single structure by the Braganza family, it was eventually divided into two wings, both of which are now open to tourists. The biggest Portuguese mansion, one-of-its-kind in Goa, it was built on land granted by the king of Portugal to the Braganza family, who were an influential lot. In 1950, the Braganza family fled from the mansion as one the family members was closely associated with the Indian Independence movement against the Portuguese rule.

After India gained freedom from the Portuguese in 1961, the family returned. Tourists can get to witness two chairs that bear the coat of arms gifted to them by the king of Portugal. An architectural marvel, the mansion boasts a Portuguese style outer facade with 24 windows. A representative or family member is always forthcoming to give tourists a guided tour. The west wing belongs to the Menezes-Braganza family while the east wing is with the Pereira-Braganza family. The latter includes a chapel that houses a relic of St Francis Xavier. Antique artefacts collected over the years make the tour around the structure particularly fascinating. A salon and a ballroom featuring an Italian marble floor with a stunning chandelier and ornate furniture dating back to the 18th century, amplify its charm. The west wing is home to a library, believed to be the first private library in Goa. It contains around 5,000 books collected by Luis de Menezes Braganza (1878-1938), a renowned journalist of his time. Though there is no entry fee, tourists can offer a donation, which is utilised for the maintenance and upkeep of the mansion.


Mapusa (13 kilometers north of Panaji) is Goa's third-largest town. It is primarily known for its vibrant Friday Market. Attracting visitors from across the state, the market offers much, including fresh and dried fish, spices, cashews, fruits and vegetables, incense and even souvenirs. This is also a great place to sample local Goan culinary fare such as spicy sausages. The Church of Our Lady of Miracles, around 2 kilometers from the market area, is worth a visit.

Also known as St Jerome's, the church dates back to 1594 and has been rebuilt several times. After a fire razed it during the liberation of Goa from the hands of the Portuguese in 1961, the church was reconstructed. One of the most famous shrines of the region is Shree Dev Bodgeshwar Sansthan of Lord Bodgeshwar. It is located on the city's outskirts amid rice fields and draws thousands of devotees for its annual jatra (procession). In the heart of the city is Maruti Temple, which was constructed in 1840s with Lord Hanuman as the presiding deity. Mapusa makes for a great stopover when visitors are heading to the beaches of Calangute, Baga, Candolim and Anjuna.

Hindu Shrines

Hindu Shrines in Goa include Shri Bhahvatti in Pernmen, the 5th century Brahma Temple near Valpoi, Shri Damodar at Zambaulim, Shri Mahalakshmi at Bandode, Shri Manguesh at Priol and Shri Shantadurga. The Safa Mas jid at Ponda was built in A.D. 1560 and is one of the most important in Goa. Thousands of Hindus flock to Vailankanni, "a beachside Lourdes."

Mahalasa Temple (in Mardol, 22 kilometers from Panaji) is a beautiful structure. The presiding deity, Mahalasa, is a Hindu goddess, who is considered to be the female incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple is famed for some unique characteristics like the tall samai (lamp) or the dnyandeepa, a historic bell, a grand copper roof and more. According to legend a beautiful goddess once appeared at Verna village, and was first seen by a shepherd, Sahastrapal. He was asked by the goddess to bring his master but the shepherd hesitated and said that his cattle was thirsty. The goddess, with her nupur (musical ornament worn on ankles), created a spring that is said to exist to this day. Though the shepherd went to get his master, he could only manage to bring back his son-in-law, named Mhal Pai, who was told by the goddess to construct a temple to enable her to reside there as Mahalasa Narayani. With huge wooden pillars and a silver-framed doorway, the beautiful temple of Mahalasa has a huge brass ornamental pillar lamp, 40 feet high. It is a sight to behold when the pillar lamp is lit during the annual jatra days. The temple also celebrates Jaiyanchi Puja around August and Kojagiri Poornima on full moon days after the monsoon and these are attended by devotees from across the state.

Manguesh Temple (in Priol in the taluka of Ponda, 20 kilometers from Panaji) is the most famous of temple in Goa and is also known as Manguesh Devasthanam. According to legend Lord Shiva lost all he had in the game of dice he was playing with his wife, Goddess Parvati, so he decided to go for a self-imposed exile and arrived here. As Parvati could not stay without him for long, she came looking for him in the jungles of Goa. Lord Shiva played a prank on her by disguising himself into a tiger and attacking her. Terrified, Parvati shouted, "trahi maam girisha" (O lord of mountains, save me). At this point, Lord Shiva changed to his original form but the words stayed with him. In due course of time, these were abbreviated to Manguirisha or Manguesh. It is the only place where Lord Shiva is called by this name. After a local shepherd discovered a lingam here, a temple was dedicated to Lord Manguesh. The best time to visit the temple is when it is lit up beautifully during the annual Jatra, a festival held in the month of January that is attended by thousands of devotees.

Naguesh Temple (25 kilometers from Panaji) is dedicated to Lord Naguesh, known as Lord Nagnath in ancient times, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva. The area surrounding the temple is known as Nagueshi. The temple boasts colorful images of gods and goddesses around the base of the deepstambha (lamp tower) and an ancient water reservoir, which is surrounded by palm trees. The reservoir has been constructed in such a manner that by standing at a particular point around it, one can clearly view the reflection of Lord Naguesh's idol and the lit lamps in the inner sanctum. A stone plaque near the temple dates back to the year 1413. The temple houses stone idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, along with that of Lord Ganesha that date back to the 7th and 8th centuries.

Mahadev Temple (in Tambdi Surla, around 65 kilometers from Panaji) is believed to be one of the oldest temples in Goa, An excellent example of Jain-style architecture, the Mahadev Temple was built in the 12th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The inner sanctum contains a lingam (symbol of Lord Shiva) placed on a pedestal, along with a headless Nandi (the bull that is Lord Shiva's vehicle) in the center of the mandap (pillared outdoor hall). A flight of stone steps leads visitors to River Surla flowing nearby.

The temple has been beautifully carved in black basalt and is quite similar to the ones found in Aihole in Karnataka. It is considered to be the only remaining specimen of Kadamba-Yadava (10th-14th centuries) architecture. The weather-resistant black basalt was brought here from the Deccan plateau and carved in situ by skilled craftsmen. The temple faces east so that the first rays of the sun fall on the deity. The inner sanctum and the pillared hall are surmounted by an incomplete three-tiered tower. On panels at the sides of the temple are bas-relief figures of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma with their respective consorts. The mandap is surprisingly covered with a roof of plain grey sloping slabs. An elephant trampling a horse, the symbol of the Kadamba kingdom, is carved at the base of one of the columns. A lingam is mounted on a pedestal inside the inner sanctum. Local According to legend a huge king cobra is in permanent residence in the dimly lit interior of the temple. The festival of Mahashivratri is celebrated with great pomp and vibrance on the temple's premises every year by the residents of surrounding villages.

Shri Saptakoteshwar Temple (in the village of Narve, 35 kilometers from Panaji) is considered as one of the six temples of Lord Shiva in the Konkan region. An ancient structure, the temple is visited by devotees of Saptakoteshwar, the deity of the Kadamba dynasty. A number of coins unearthed here mention the deity's name along with that of king Jayeshi of Kadamba dynasty. The most important festival celebrated here is Gokulashtami, which is believed to be the day on which Lord Shiva appeared in this particular incarnation to answer the prayers of seven pious sages. Legend behind the name Saptakoteshwar is that seven holy sages started praying to Lord Shiva near the region where five holy rivers merged with the sea. For seven crore years, they kept praying and when Lord Shiva appeared to grant wishes, he promised to stay back in one of his incarnations, sapkoteshwar (sapt meaning seven and koteshwar meaning lord of crores).

Shri Shantadurga Temple (in Sangolda, five kilometers north Panaji) is beautiful temple dedicated to the deity, Santeri Devi, who mediated between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. It is said that so fierce was the battle that Lord Brahma prayed to Goddess Parvati to intervene. She did so in the form of Shantadurga and placed Lord Vishnu on her right hand and Lord Shiva on her left to settle the fight. The temple complex in Sangolda has an impressive idol of the goddess, which is flanked by idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Highlights of the temple include a huge tank, a deepastambha and agrashalas (guest houses). The temple is visited by devotees throughout the year, especially during the annual jatra (procession) celebrated in the month of November/ December. Other famous festivals celebrated include Navratra, Mahashivratri, Ganesh Jayanti and the monthly, Palakhi.

Museums in Goa

Relics and artifacts from Goa's past are stored in the Archeological Museum, Portrait Gallery and the Archives of the Museum of Goa. There are also small museums in St. Francis of Assisi Convent, the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral.

Goa State Museum (in the Old Secretariat in Panaji) was set up with an aim to preserve the arts and antiquities of the state, along with objects of cultural significance. The extensive collection at the museum includes exhibits related to the state's natural heritage, contemporary art, cultural anthropology, environment and development, sculpture and geology, among other things. Also known as the State Archaeology Museum, the Goa State Museum was established in 1977 and has over 8,000 artefacts on display that include bronze items, paintings, stone sculptures, manuscripts, rare coins and anthropological and wooden objects.

The museum has 14 galleries - Sculpture Gallery, Christian Art Gallery, Printing History Gallery, Banerji Art Gallery, Religious Expression Gallery, Cultural Anthropology, Contemporary Art Gallery, Numismatics Gallery, Goa's Freedom Struggle Gallery, Menezes Braganza Gallery, Furniture Gallery, Natural Heritage of Goa Gallery, Environment & Development Gallery, and Geology Gallery. The museum, open from Monday to Friday, has no entry fee. Photography is only allowed for students and scholars except on prior request.

Naval Aviation Museum is one of the two military museums in India. Inaugurated in 1998, it is the only aviation museum in Asia. The chief attractions of the place are displays of Indian aircraft that were used in the history of the Navy. These are displayed in an open-air gallery outside the museum. The interior of the museum has been built to look like the inside of a naval aircraft carrier. Several galleries display naval equipment, a simulation room and exhibits from prominent battles.

Goa Chitra Museum (in Benaulim) was set up by Victor Hugo Gomes, an artist and restorer by profession, in a bid to preserve traditional items and memorabilia from Goa. With more than 4,000 objects on display, Goa Chitra Museum delves into the culture of ancient Goa. The exhibits include traditional farming implements and other ancient tools of trade. Each of the artefacts is supplemented by information collected in situ by interviewing the elders of the community and through the study of its application in daily life. Goa Chitra is an ethnographical museum, which means it is a reflection of civilisations whether or not technically advanced. When such a museum is planned, importance is given to the concept that the implements represent people's lifestyles, their indigenous methods, craftsmanship, art and folklore.

Goa Beaches

Goa beaches are not the best in Asia by any stretch but are pretty good for India. The surf can be rough and dangerous. The beaches near Old Goa are sometimes crowded and dirty. The beaches south of town are nicer and developed. Those north of Panjim are centered around thatch roof communities and are noted from nude sunbathing, flea markets and hashish smoking. These stretch for about five kilometers and include (from north to south) Anjuna Beach, Baga, Calangute, Candolin, and Sinquerim Beaches. Further north, Varca and Cavelossim are quieter, clean and less visited. They are near the wide, muddy Sal river. The beaches of Baga, Arombol and Anjuna in Goa feature marijuana "smoking shacks." Drug-selling hawkers work the beaches and the streets.

On the rave and part scene in Goa, one person posted on Quora in 2018: “There won’t be any party going on from Morjim beach till Anjuna after 10pm. Looks like some sanskari MLA/MP of that area has ordered to stop any kind of party after 10pm. I mean, are you kidding me? Goa is the place where people go for party and to have fun. My last visit was not so much fun. When we asked to people over there about any party going on near by, they told some ass minister has circulated a notice that no party after 10pm.

Anjuna Beach (18 kilometers away from Panaji) is the famous for its swaying palms, golden sand, flea market, marijuana smoking shacks, rave parties (in the past), serene vistas and unusual rock formations. A weekly flea market draws a large number of visitors every Wednesday, offering an array of apparel, footwear, jewelry, souvenirs, knick-knacks and more. There are many beach shacks here that have achieved legendary status. Additionally, there are some youth hostels here too.

Baga Beach (south of Anjuna Beach) is part of a 30 kilometers stretch of coastline along Goa's west coast, beginning at Fort Aguada and stretching north to Chapora Beach. This bustling beach is lined with beach shacks, vendors, restaurants and a host of companies offering recreational and adventure sport activities. It is popular with international tourists as a base for water sports and fishing in the area.

Sinqueim Beach (just outside Panaji) has a dramatic setting. It is shadowed by a hill with the 17th-century Fort Aquada and is home to the Fort Aquada Beach Resort. It is one of the best beaches in Goa for water sports enthusiasts. It has facilities for activities such as water-skiing, scuba diving, parasailing and wind-surfing. Sinquerim is an ideal beach for a long walk along the seaside, its firm sand stretching all the way up to Baga.

Calagunte Beach is a major resort area, with a mile-long strip of hotels, restaurants and condominiums. Calangute used be a popular beach with hippies and was especially lively during December when the rave season was s at its peak. But those days now seem to be gone. Still Calangute Beach attracts large crowds throughout the year. The village of Calangute is equipped with all basic facilities a traveler needs: banks, foreign exchange offices, Internet cafes, hotels, resorts, eateries and hospitals.

Miramar Beach (three kilometers from Panaji) is an urban beach situated on the Arabian Sea near the estuary of River Mandovi. It is a popular beaches because it close to urban areas. It also offers a stunning view of the Aguada Bay across the river. It was originally named Porta de Gaspar Dias by the Portuguese.

Palolem Beach (three kilometers from the Canacona railway station, now on the Konkan Railway route) has a white sand beach that overlooks a blue bay. A lot of seaside shacks selling delectable seafood, souvenirs and apparel can be found here. The Rajbag Beach nearby can be visited for some peace and quiet.

Colva Beach (in South Goa) boasts white sands fringed by swaying palms, Colva Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the state and is located. It is equipped with several modern amenities including tourist cottages, air-conditioned resort complexes, restaurants and guest houses. The Church of Our Lady Of Mercy nearby is also worth a visit and is renowned for its statue of Menino Jesus.

Benaulim Beach (two kilometers south of Colva Beach) is recommended by many guidebooks as quiet and laid back with a wide beach, but the are lots of mosquitos, the beaches are crowded, and the surf is a little rough. Further north, Varca and Cavelossim are quieter, clean and less visited. They are near the wide, muddy Sal river.

Vagator Beach is a crescent-shaped haven situated on the Caisua Bay along River Chapora. A favorite venue for parties by the sea at night during the peak tourist season, it overlooks the Chapora Fort perched atop a hillock.

Arambol Beach , also known as Harmal Beach, is particularly popular with international travelers. You'll find a number of tai chi, yoga and meditation centers along with kiosks for non-permanent henna tattoos here. Sunsets are especially picturesque, with black rocks creating a dramatic effect against the pristine sand and the multi-hued sky. A pool of yellow clay, a short walk away, is believed to possess healing properties.

Natural Sights in Goa

Natural Sights in Goa include 200-meter-high (650-feet-high) Dudhasagar waterfall (55 kilometers from Panaji) and Maem Lake (34 kilometers from Panaji). Monkeys, buffalo, antelope, birds and other forms of wildlife can be seen at Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary and Bondla Forest in the Western Ghats. Large numbers of king cobras can be found around Caranzol and a lone elephant watches from a distant peak over Tambdi Surla Temple.

Spice Plantations thrive in Goa’s soils and weather. Using organic methods, these farms produce some of India's major spices, including black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, cashew and betel nut palm. Some of the most famous spice plantations in Goa include Savoi Plantations, Tropical Spice Plantation, Sahakar Spice Farm and Pascoal Spice Village, where visitors can learn about everyday spices and sample some of them.

Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary is nestled at the foothills of the Western Ghats and covers an area of 240 square kilometers. The largest of Goa's wildlife reserves, it is home to tigers, leopard, jungle cat, toddy cat, jackal, giant squirrel, bonnet macaque, sloth bear, hyena, sambar, spotted deer, hog, mouse deer, barking deer, ruby-throated yellow bulbul, Malabar pied hornbill, Malabar trogan, crested serpent eagle, crested honey buzzard, white-rumped spine tail, ashy wood swallow, black-crested bulbul, forest wagtail, scarlet minivet, chestnut-bellied nuthatch, velvet-fronted nuthatch and sulphur-bellied warbler.

The reptiles found at the park include bronze-back tree snake, cat snake, hump-nosed pit viper, Indian rock python, Malabar pit viper, rat snake, Russell's viper, Indian cobra and common krait. The most famous reptilian inhabitant of the park, however, is king cobra. The best way to explore the park is by hiking through it and one can choose from a number of treks and hikes conducted by knowledgeable guides. There is also an Interpretation Center, which has an invaluable amount of collectibles and data from the park.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: India tourism website, India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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