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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe state of Goa in India is perhaps more popular for its beaches than its temples, churches and heritage sites. Goa became a part of India in December, 1961. Prior to that, as Goa was a Portuguese colony, Indians wanting to travel to Goa needed to have passports and had to procure visas. In 1961, that changed and opened Goa up for the domestic tourists. They discovered the beaches, the mixed culture with a liberal dose of western influences left behind by the Portuguese, and the tolerance to the consumption of liquor, which was cheaper than in the rest of India by far. The fact that Goa is well connected by road, rail and air to other important cities help. Another feather in Goa’s cap is the communal harmony between Hindus, Christians and Muslims that gives the place a kind of serenity that is reassuring for a visitor.
In the West, particularly Europe, Goan beaches were made popular by the advent of hippies in the late sixties. They found the ‘susegad’ (laid-back or easy going in Portuguese) attitude of the Goan populace just what they were looking for. The public in general were unaware of drugs and it suited the hippies to a tee. They thrived on the beaches, particularly in North Goa and some of them, in their seventies, are still around. With the advent of the internet, Goan beaches gained more exposure and Goa became one of the prime holiday destinations in the East, comparable to Bali and Thailand. Europeans mostly visit Goa in the winter months from November to February, while the domestic tourists prefer the summer months from March to May, during which Indian schools have the summer vacations.
Goa’s CoastlineOf the 101 kilometers of Goa’s coastline almost 83 kilometers are beaches. The beaches in the north of Goa are more commercialized and have a plethora of low and medium budget accommodation. The beaches in the south cater to the high end tourists with starred hotels and private beaches. The sand on the beaches in the north is slightly browner than the ivory colored sand in the south.
Beaches in North GoaThe popular beaches in North Goa are Candolim, Calangute, Baga, Vagator, Anjuna, and Miramar. Midnight parties, Full Moon bashes and live musical shows are organized on almost all beaches in North Goa quite frequently
Candolim at 12 kilometers is one of the closer beaches to the city of Panaji , and is partly acquired by Aguada Beach Resort, a five star hotel. Candolim has para-sailing and water skiing facilities besides other water sports. Accommodation is scarce but there are a few good restaurants close to and on the beach.
Calangute is the most popular beach in North Goa and is understandably crowded, especially on the weekends and on holidays. It is a stretch of seven kilometers of beach and is located 15 kilometers away from Panaji. The drop of the sea bed here is steep and that results in bigger waves than most other beaches. Accommodation abounds in Calangute for all budgets and facilities like money exchanges, banks, post office and travel agencies are easy to come by. Handicrafts from Kashmir, Tibet, Indonesia and Rajasthan, besides other places, are displayed in large show rooms.
Vagator is located 22 kilometers from Panaji and is the penultimate beach in the 30 kilometer stretch of beaches from Fort Aguada. A favorite for midnight and full moon parties, the beach is secluded by hillocks on both sides.
Anjuna is one the first beaches to be frequented by hippies in the late sixties. With a backdrop of swaying palms, the beach lies between a hill and the Arabian Sea. Foreign tourists frequent the beach for the relative privacy that it affords. Every Wednesday there is a flea market organized.
Miramar beach is just three kilometers away from Panaji, and is adjoining the estuary of the Mandovi River as it meets the Arabian Sea. Frequented by locals, the beach is crowded on most days, and in the area around the beach are the homes of the rich and the famous of Goa.
Beaches in South GoaBogmalo, Majorda , Colva, Benaulim, Varca/Cavelosim/Mobor and Palolem are the more popular beaches in South Goa. Other than Bogmalo and Palolem, the beaches are a part of the continuous stretch 20 kilometers of beach, starting in Velsao and ending at Mobor, barring a few small creeks that flow into the sea.
Bogmalo beach is located close to the seaport of Vasco da Gama , and is the closest beach to the airport. There is a five star hotel just next to the beach and other accommodation is available. It is frequented by the who’s who of Goa and has wind surfing and water skiing facilities.
Majorda beach is about 12 kilometers away from the city of Margao and is a location for many hotels, some of them five star resorts. Majorda is a village where the Jesuits discovered that they can use coconut palm toddy to ferment the dough for making bread, and the local bakers are among the most popular in Goa. The beach is bordered by innumerable coconut trees and so is the village.
Colva beach, six kilometers from the city of Margao, is the most popular beach in South Goa, and like Calangute is invariably crowded. Among the widest beaches, it has very fine white sand. The area around the beach is almost fully occupied by hotels, restaurants and showrooms. The sea bed is shallow, up to a distance of almost 300 meters into the sea, and that makes it a favorite spot for those who want to have a dip in the sea.
Benaulim is just two kilometers south of Colva, and is a lot less crowded than the later. A popular landing place for the canoes of local fishermen, an early morning visit to Benaulim is worth waking up for. Benaulim is famous for its traditional rosewood furniture and the coconuts harvested here are supposed to be among the best in Goa.
Varca, Cavelossim and Mobor are in a continuous stretch ending where the Sal River empties into the Arabian Sea after Mobor. All along and just off the beach, are a string of exclusive and luxurious resorts. As much of the beaches are annexed by the hotels, these beaches are much quieter and cleaner. They are well connected with Margao and budget accommodation is also available. Mobor, at the farthest, is about 21 kilometers from Margao. Motor boats on the Sal River take tourists for dolphin viewing trips.
Palolem beach three kilometers away from the town of Canacona is a superb stretch of sand. This beach, farthest at 40 kilometers from Margao, is different from all other beaches because the accommodation available here is mostly basic. Many foreign tourists reside in Palolem for months on end either in rented rooms or as house guests. There are beach huts and shacks on the beach that serve some very delicious sea food. Many operators conduct dolphin viewing trips.
Forts in GoaThe forts in Goa have been built during different regimes by the Marathas, the Muslims and the Portuguese. Their study, gives one a very good idea of the history of the state for the past six centuries. Most of them are situated on the beach front and are convenient to explore.
The Aguada Fort on the Sinquerim coastline in Goa, was strategically the most important fort built by the Portuguese in Goa, and is one of the best preserved forts of those existing in Goa today. Built in 1613 to guard against the Dutch and the Marathas, who were a constant threat to the Portuguese at the time, the walls of the fort are 5 meters high and 1.3 meters broad, and it is protected by a moat.
Agua in Portuguese means water. The fresh water spring in the fort provided fresh water to replenish the supplies of the ships that called on the port. That is how the fort got the name Aguada. A light house that is four storied and sixteen meters in height, serving as a beacon for ships was built in 1864. The tower had a huge bell retrieved from the ruins of The Monastery of St. Augustine 1871, after which it was shifted to the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Panaji, 18 kilometers away.
Armed with 79 cannons and strategically located on the mouth of the Mandovi River, the fort was never captured by enemies in its 450 year old history prior to the liberation of Goa by the Government of India. The upper part of the fort served as the grandstand for defense and as a watering station and had an underground water storage tank, gunpowder room and bastions. The lower half served as a safe berth for ships. The fort is currently used as a high security prison.
The Chapora Fort is to the north of Aguada Fort and is 10 kilometers away from Mapusa. Built by the Muslim rulers, the fort was captured by the Portuguese in 1617. The bastion built with red laterite stones and the rock bluff was added by the Portuguese. The fort changed hands between the Portuguese, the Marathas and the Muslims several times till 1741.
In 1684, Sambaji, the Maratha ruler, captured the fort only for his successors to lose the fort due to the discord with the locals in 1717. The Muslim prince, Akbar, joined the Marathas to defeat the Portuguese in 1739, only to lose it back two years later. By now, the Portuguese had consolidated their position in the surrounding areas and managed to hang on to it. By 1892, realizing that the fort had become redundant from the defense point of view, the Portuguese abandoned it. The Fort is now in ruins and efforts are on by the Government of Goa to repair the damage caused by the elements and neglect.
The Cabo Fort, with the Cabo Palace in it, was built by the Portuguese in 1540. The palace is, today, occupied by the Governor of Goa and is referred to as the Cabo Raj Nivas or the Raj Bhawan. The fort is located on the other side of the Mandovi estuary and the palace was occupied by the then Governor of Portuguese Goa, Estêvão da Gama , who was instrumental in building the fortifications around the palace.
The fort was built from laterite stone cut from the rocks on the sites. The resulting pits were then converted to water storage tanks. In the later years, the Cabo fort became the most well equipped fort in Goa. Within the fort is a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Cabo (Our Lady of the Cape), a chapel that was constructed in 1594 by the friars of the Franciscan order.
The Tiracol Fort is almost on the border with the neighboring state of Maharashtra. It was built atop a rocky plateau by Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsle, the ruler of the small kingdom of Sawanthwadi, and was captured by the Portuguese in 1746. Tiracol is a small village, 42 kilometers from Panaji. Situated on the northern side of the Tiracol River estuary, the fort was strategically important for the defense of the north of the Portuguese colony.
The approach road to the fort is scenic and winds through paddy fields and coconut groves. The chapel of St. Anthony, which is in disuse unless on special occasions, is located within the fort. The fort was used by resistance to the Portuguese regime as a base for the rebels. During the 1825 uprising by the locals against the Portuguese, the fort was almost destroyed, but was later rebuilt.Today the fort has been converted into a Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel.
The Cabo de Rama Fort was built on in the hilly areas of the Canacona taluka much before the advent of the Portuguese. The Cabo de Rama means ‘Cape of Rama' in Portuguese referring to the Lord Rama from the epic Ramayana. He is supposed to have spent some years of his fourteen years of his exile there with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana.
25 kilometers south of Margao, this fort too has changed hands between the Marathas, the Muslims and the Portuguese. The Portuguese occupied it by defeating the Hindu King, Raja of Soonda. The fort was equipped with 21 cannons, some of which can still be seen in the ramparts, military barracks and commandant quarters.
In ruins now, the church of St. Antonio is still used by the local devotees and is in excellent condition. The atmosphere inside the fort is mystical and intriguing with the church, painted white, standing starkly against the dark backdrop of the fort.
The Anjediva Fort is located on the island of Anjediva off the coast of Goa. The chapel of Our lady of springs was built here by the crew of Vasco da gama in 1505, much before the Portuguese established themselves in Goa. There is also a chapel of St. Francis of Assisi that is in ruins today.
Vasco da Gama, who first stopped here in 1498, realized that the island, strategically placed off the Goan coast, with its springs and harbor that would shelter ships from the ravages of the Arabian Sea, was crucial for the Portuguese ambitions in Goa. The island, 1.5 square kilometers in area, also helped to control the sea traffic in the area. Today, most of the island has been occupied by the Indian Navy. The island is 4 kilometers away from Karwar , a city in the southern state of Karnataka. It takes a 2 kilometer ride on a causeway before a one hour trawler trip to get there.
Other Places of InterestGoa is a sightseer’s delight. Besides the beaches, there are churches and temples that are centuries old, and are a blend of Indian, Portuguese and Persian architecture, as are the ones in the UNESCO World Heritage town of Old Goa, and forts built by the Marathas, the Muslims and the Portuguese. There are several wild life reserves, in one of which is the Dudhsagar falls, and the famed Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary at Chorao, only a few kilometers from Panaji.
Transportation , Accommodation and FoodGoa is the smallest state in India and the cities and places of interest are well connected by road and by public transport. Unmetered taxis will charge a rate of $ 10 USD to $ 12 USD for every 50(51 kilometers) kilometers. The cheapest option for a back packer or a person to go from point to point are the motorcycle taxis. They ferry individuals at a much lesser rate. There are two rail routes through the state, which are a convenient and cheap form of transportation to other states. At Dabolim, five kilometers from Vasco da Gama and 35 kilometers from Panaji, is the Dabolim International Airport.
Goa, particularly the coastal belt, is littered with hotels that can suit any purse. There are hotels that are frequented by the rich and the famous frequented by Hollywood and Bollywood stars and many budget hotels too. During the peak season from November to May it is advisable to book accommodation in advance.
For the gourmet, Goa is a delight. Cuisines in Goa can broadly be classified into Catholic cooking and Hindu cooking. Fish curry and rice however, is the staple diet for the locals. Goan dishes like pork vindaloo and sorpatel, chicken cafrial, mutton shakuti, khatkatem, udda methi, sol kadi and many more are famous and have tingled quite a few palates with their spiciness. Most restaurants serve continental, North Indian and South Indian dishes too.
Crime rate in Goa is low and the state is well policed. Tourists however have to be wary of touts and peddlers who charge exorbitant prices for trinkets and souvenirs. the locals are easy going and English and Hindi is widely understood and spoken.
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Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Mar 30, 2015