Goa – Places to Visit
The chain of beautiful Goan beaches starts north of Goa’s capital Panaji, right at the mouth of the Mandovi River, at Fort Aguada. Located near Candolim Beach on a rocky headland, the fortress is considered the best preserved Portuguese bastion in Goa. Today, this old fortress, built in 1612 to protect against attacks from Dutch and Maratha forces, accommodates the luxury hotel Aguada Beach Resort. The ruins are impressive, and so are the beautiful views of the waves rolling into the coastal cliffs and the town across the estuary.
Anjuna beach, once world-famous as the hippie meeting place of choice, is often described as one of the most beautiful Beaches in northern Goa. Anjuna is famous for its picturesque flea market, which is held every Wednesday and attracts many visitors. With a stunning sandy beach and palm trees in the background, this is an ideal place to relax, especially when one seeks a paradise-like setting.
Quiet Baga Beach is protected by a rocky headland and is an extension of Calangute Beach, a beautiful beach developed for tourism, which is also known for its evening entertainment. The road to Baga Beach goes through a quiet hinterland with a rural charm characterized by coconut plantations and small farm houses. When in Baga, one can choose between Panaji and Mapusa for more extensive shopping.
In the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, one can see sambar deer and other wild animals in their natural habitat. Bondla, located in a charming area at higher altitude in the foothills of the Western Ghats, is Goa’s only wildlife park with accommodation facilities. It’s also interesting to visit one of the many traditional spice gardens. Other Goan wildlife parks are the Molem Wildlife Sanctuary and the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary.
Mapusa (locally also referred to as Mapsa), at a distance of 13 km from the capital Panaji, is the largest town in the northern provinces of Goa. Mapusa is a starting point for tourists and a supply center for the northern beaches, especially if you live in Anjuna. There are no points of particular interest in Mapusa itself, although the Friday market, with its wares ranging from fish, spices, incense and exotic fruits to t-shirts and bathing suits, is well worth a visit.
Old Goa is located 10 km east of Panaji at the Mandovi river and can be reached via a beautiful coastal road. Of this former Portuguese capital, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only ruins remain. But some magnificent churches have survived the ages. Surrounded by manicured green lawns, they are embedded in a wonderful landscape lined with palm trees. The Se Cathedral or Cathedral of St. Catherine was built in the 16th century for the Dominican Order. Of particular interest are the sixteen elaborately decorated chapels and the gilt main altar with representations of the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria. Also worth a visit is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi with its rich murals. The most famous church in Goa is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, which keeps the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier in a precious sarcophagus. Every year, on the 3rd Of December, the anniversary of the death of the saint, the faithful celebrate the occasion in a grand feast in Old Goa and in the Basilica.
Located in the broad estuary of the Mandovi river, the capital of Goa is characterized by a very special atmosphere. Although Panaji has, like all Indian cities, not been spared traffic noise and an increasing population density, the experience of life here is marked by a contemplative Southern-European influence. It is particularly evident in the small cobblestone streets of the romantic old town, which has the appearance of a provincial Portuguese town. Between old houses with wooden balconies and lush flower arrangements, one can find small restaurants offering specialties from Goan cuisine. A walk through this town quarter, along with a stroll through the modern 18th June Road is highly recommended. The city center features numerous buildings in Portuguese colonial style, including the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, consecrated in 1541. It is situated on a hill top, from where one can enjoy a beautiful view of the city, the river and the surrounding area. Nearby Miramar Beach is also worth a visit, while the Dona Paula cliff offers a wonderful vantage point for the setting sun.
This semi-circular bay, fringed by the bright green of coconut trees, is straight out of a postcard. The perfect curve of the white sandy beach extends from a group of bizarre rock formations in the north, down to Sahyadri Ghat. In the bay lies the wooded island of Canacona, also called the “Green Island”. A few kilometers to the east is the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary. Those looking for a quiet place away from the crowds will appreciate the atmosphere in Palolem.
The most famous Hindu temples in Goa can be found in the area around Ponda. They were built in the 16th and 17 century, when Hindu Goans who did not want to convert to Christianity withdrew to the inaccessible hinterland to protect themselves. Embedded in a wooded hilly landscape here are the Shri Mangueshi temple, the Shanta Durga temple, the Mahalakshmi temple and the Mahalsa temple. All places of worship can be covered in one day trip and are perfect places to familiarize oneself with the Hindu side of Goa. A particular architectural feature of the Hindu temples in Goa is the light tower in the courtyard, a style element that shows the influence of the Christian church.
The attractive Vagator Bay is nestled between rocky headlands and dominated in the north by the silhouette of Chapora fort up on the hill. The face of the town is characterized by green lanes and picturesque Portuguese bungalows. Vagator’s wide sandy beach, called Big Vagator Beach, is of unparalleled beauty. There are a few smaller bays among the rock formations around the fort.