Variously known as "Pearl of the Orient" and a "Tourist Paradise", the state of Goa is located on the western coast of India in the coastal belt known as Konkan.The magnificent scenic beauty and the architectural splendours of its temples, churches and old houses have made Goa a firm favourite with travellers around the world. But then, Goa is much more than just beaches and sea. It has a soul which goes deep into unique history, rich culture and some of the prettiest natural scenery that India has to offer.Much of the real Goa is in its interiors, both inside its buildings and in the hinterland away from the coastal area. The best time of the year to visit Goa is mid-November to mid-February when the weather is comfortable, dry and pleasant.
Old & New Capital Tour:
Drive to Dona Paula, overlooking the magnificent harbor of Mormugão, towards Panjim via Miramar Beach. Once a fishing village, today’s Panjim infuses old charm with typical Portuguese architecture visible along the Mandovi River. Visit Panjim Church, Palácio Patriarcal (Bishop’s Palace), Palácio Idalcão (present Secretariat) and Basílica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of St. Francis Xavier are entombed in a silver casket. Identify sights and smells at the fruit and vegetable markets.
Golden Goa Tour:
Start the day by visiting North Goa’s Panjim with the Latin quarter Fontainhas and the fruit and vegetable market, proceeding towards Old Goa with its Portuguese style churches and the famous Hindu Temple – Mahalsa. Continue onwards to a spice plantation for an authentic Goan-Hindu vegetarian lunch. Then drive to South Goa to see the palatial Menezes Braganza House in Chandôr. Drive through Margão and then head back to your hotel.
Spice Plantation Lunch:
Indulge your senses with a Spice Plantation visit and savor an authentic Goan-Hindu vegetarian meal. Led by a local person, walk through the farm comprising ‘dry land’ crops (timber trees, medicinal plants, mangoes, peppers, cashew) and ‘wet land’ crops (spices, betelnuts, coconuts, papaya, chickoo, love apple). Observe rural, traditional Goan organic farming methods. Enjoy your lunch served in typical Goan mud-pots and on banana-leaf ‘plates’, while heady spice aromas tickle your tastebuds!
South Goa’s Salcette, the erstwhile stronghold of the Goan elite in the Portuguese army, is interspersed with relics from that era in the form of their grand mansions, with ornately decorated houses and grand ball rooms. Visit such homes as Menezes Braganza Mansion and the Palácio do Deão, where Goan craftsmen sneaked their own primal cult figures into Christian idolatry. Goa Chitra is one of Goa’s most charming attractions, housing thousands of traditional implements, vessels and tools that evolved over centuries
Night Life in Goa:
Goa is world famous for its bouyant nightlife, going back to the 1970s, when hippies gathered around a bonfire and swayed to cutting edge electronic and trance music. Goa even has its own genre of music called Goa Trance! Goa’s traditional retro scene is hip with the young and old, who love to gyrate to music from yesteryear. D.J.s from India and abroad enthrall all party goers and Christmas / New Year is the perfect time to experience Goan nightlife at its peak.
Champagne, Sunset & Dolphin Tour:
Experience world-famous Goan sunsets across the coastline of endless stretches of tree-lined beaches. Your very own personal boatman will fetch you and take you on a romantic boat ride in the Arabian Sea. Leisurely sip sparkling champagne, munch on savory canapes (served by your very own maîtred’), cruise amidst a romantic pinky-orangy sky backdrop and among playful, high-spirited dolphins.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Goa’s Famous Beaches:
Despite being one of India’s tiniest states, Goa is divided into two areas – North Goa and South Goa. Whilst both areas offer an array of beaches, the North is a more bustling area, ideal for guests interested in heritage, sightseeing, shopping in local markets and even nightlife. In comparison, South Goa in general is a quieter destination primarily focused around relaxation on the beach.
Enjoy vibrant Goan markets held on different days of the week. Delight in the Anjuna Flea market, reminicent of ‘Hippie days’, find interesting handicrafts, get henna tattooed, stroll the colorful maze of humanity and watch the sunsets on Wednesdays. The Saturday night Arpora market is the place to see and hear Goa’s most talented live musicians; taste blends of International, Indian and fusion cuisine and shop. Visit the traditional Friday market at Mapusa where craftsmen and farmers come to sell the products.
Historic Churches :
Aside from its beaches, Goa is famous for its churches. Located in old Goa, the most famous is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, also known as the Basilica of Good Jesus. This holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier and attracts a huge number of devotees from all over the world, especially during the public viewing of his body every ten years .The saint is said to have miraculous powers of healing. This is considered as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. Other churches include Church of Our Lady of Rosary, The Rachol Seminary Goa, Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Se Cathedral Church, all of which are located in North Goa.
Chapora Fort was built in 1540 A.D. and is located on the south headland of Mandovi River and overlooks Vagator beach. The fort is mostly in ruins today however Bollywood buffs may recognise that this is the location where the title song of the Hindi movie Dil Chata Hai was filmed.
HOW TO REACH HERE
Major hotels have coach services to and from Dabolim Airport, 30 kms from the state capital Panaji for picking up and dropping off their guests. The airport has a pre-paid taxi counter. All the major airline services have daily flights to Goa from Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune and twice a week from Chennai and Kochi. International service airlines also connect Goa with Kuwait and Sharjah twice a week.
The Kadamba Transport Corporation runs long distance services throughout the state from their main stands at Panjim, Mapusa and Margao and from locations in the adjoining states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Private buses, serving everywhere else, including the coastal resorts are affordable, frequent and provide a relaxed mode of commuting.
The Konkan Railway makes Goa easily accessible by rail from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Mangalore, Ernakulam, Thiruvanthapuram. Goa is also linked to Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune via Londa.
Direct charter flights operate from UK, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Russia and other countries.
Taxis: For tourists, taxis serve as the main means of traveling between resorts. One will find them lined up outside most charter hotels, where a board invariably lists the destinations in and around the region. The fixed rate fares only apply to peak season and at other times one should be able to negotiate a hefty reduction from the demanded fare.
Motorcycle Taxis: Goa's unique pillion-passenger motorcycle taxis known locally as "pilots" are ideal for nipping between beaches or into towns from the resorts. Bona fide operators ride black bikes with yellow mudguards and yellow number plates. Fares which should be settled in advance are almost half the auto-rickshaw rates.
Rented Motorcycles: Renting motorcycles in Goa offer a lot of freedom to tourists. Officially one needs an international driver's licence to rent or ride anything more powerful than a 25 cc moped. Rates vary according to the season, the vehicle and how long one wants to rent it. Most owners also insist on a deposit and passport as security. The range is pretty standard and the reasonable choice is a 100cc motorbike. These are fine for buzzing to the beach and back, but to travel further the stalwart Enfield Bullet 350 cc is popular for its pose value and its British origins. The smaller Kinetic Honda 100cc which has automatic transmission is a good choice for the novice as well as the all-rounder.
Ferries: If autorickshaws are the quaint, essentially Indian mode of transport, flat-bottomed ferries are their Goan equivalent. Crammed with cars, buses, commuters and scooters, fisherwomen and clumps of bewildered tourists, these blue painted hulks provide an essential service, crossing the coastal backwaters where bridges have not been built. They are also incredibly reasonable and run from dawn till late in the evening.
The most frequented river crossings in Goa are Panjim to Betim, across River Mandovi, Old Goa to Divar Island, Siolim to Chopdem across the Tiracol river and Cavelossim in the far south of Salcete taluka to Assolna.