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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.
How to reach Goa
By Air : Dabolim is the main entry point for Goa situated at a distance of around 29 km from Panaji on the coast near Vasco da Gama. Most domestic airlines operate in Goa apart from chartered private airlines operating from UK and Germany. Indian Airlines has direct flights from Delhi and Mumbai daily. Air India also flies to Goa.
By Rail: It is not difficult to reach Goa by trains, especially after opening of the Konakan Railway that connects Margao and Vasco da Gama to major cities in India. You can take trains from Delhi 1,874 km), Mumbai (490km), and Bangalore (430 km) to reach Goa comfortably. From the railway stations, you can hire taxis and motorcycle taxis to reach the desired destinations.
By Road: Goa, Maharashtra, and Karnataka state transport corporations operate from the Kadamba bus stand at Panaji. Frank Shipping operates a boat service between Mumbai and Panaji.
Moving around in Goa is quite easy. One can find bus as well as car rental services. A unique experience is that of the motorcycle taxi. Several ferry services are also available.
Usually the climatic conditions of Goa are temperate, except during the monsoon, which lasts from June to September. Thanks to the coastal Konkan region and the backdrop of Western Ghats, weather of Goa is pleasant and sunny. There are no extremes in temperature and no clear demarcations from one season to the other except for the monsoon.
The average temperature varies between 25° C - 30° C (67.96F - 81.56F Approx). The average rainfall is approximately 325cms, the average daily hours of sunshine is nine to ten hours in summer and three to five hours during the monsoon.
The main feature of the Goan climate is the monsoon, which occurs between June and the end of September. Goa is in the path of the southwest monsoon, thereby experiencing a dry period lasting six to eight months of the year, followed by the annual rainfall, which occurs over the remaining four months. During the two months preceding the onset of the monsoon the humidity increases dramatically, and the normally clear skies become hazy and then cloudy. During the monsoon, 250cm to 300cm of rain is normal, although in the Western Ghats the downpour is considerably high than on the coast.
Once the monsoon has run its course the skies clear and the weather becomes pleasant. For four to five months from October through February the climate is near perfect-cloudless blue skies, warm but not oppressively hot days, and calm seas. By mid-March the humidity starts to rise as the monsoon begins to approach again
Places Of Interest
Panaji is the capital of Goa. It is a midget town but one of the most beautiful in India. From the wooded Altinho Hill the town slopes to the Mandovi River. Among the places to see in Panaji are:
Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur built the palace during the 14th century. Presently the palace houses the secretariat. Next to the secretariat is the bronze statue of Abbe Faria, believed to be the father of hypnotism.
Situated 10km North of Panaji, the Aguada Fort has the first lighthouse in Asia. It was built in 1612 to protect Old Goa by controlling the entry to River Mandovi. The fort was equipped with an ammunition room, barracks and a church. Once it was a place of Portuguese strength and power. Today it serves as the Central Jail.
Ferrying across the river Mandovi in the ferry Santa Monica is a unique experience. Goa Tourism Development Corporation conducts the cruise.
Goa State Museum
The museum has several galleries featuring Christian art, Hindu and Jain sculptures and bronzes, and paintings from all over India.
The church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception
The church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, built in 1541 stands atop Altinho Panaji. The 500 years old Bhagavati temple is 26km from the city.
Dona Paula beach is 7km from Panaji. It is an idyllic spot for action as well of laze.
Kalangute is the most popular beach in Goa. The beach is 15km from Panaji and stretches for 7 km with its twin beach Candolim.
Siridao beach is 6km from Panaji. The calm and shallow waters of Siridao beach make it ideal for swimming.
Vagator beach is 25km from Panaji. This secluded beach is enhanced with the Chapora fort that marks the entrance to the bay.
Velha Goa is on the outskirts of Panaji. It was the capital of Portuguese during the 16th century. Old Goa was abandoned after the 1738 plague when disaster struck. Now Old Goa is a ghost city but it strives on its majestic, grand and amazingly numerous churches.
Bom Jesus Basilica
The church is a fine example of Jesuit architecture. Built in 1594, the most precious relic of the church is the remains of St. Francis Xavier.
The church has impressive vaulted interiors and a belfry with a huge golden bell said to be the biggest in the world. The church has 14 side chapels, every one unique in style. Adjacent to the cathedral is Church of St. Francis of Assisi and Chapel of St. Catherine.
St. Cajetan Church
The church is built in Corinthian style on the lines of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Convent and church of St. Monica is another interesting church in Old Goa.
This is the second largest town in Goa and the largest in South Goa. The city is a commercial metro and has fine parks and broad squares. Margao has gained more significance with the opening of the Konkan railway and it is the main railway terminal at South Goa. Interesting places in Margao are:
About 6km from Margao is Kolva beach, the pride of Salcete and considered as the rival to Calangute in scenic splendour. It is a series of beaches blended in harmony to provide an 18 km stretch of beach with Palolem and Betul beaches at the far end.
Situated about 33km from Margao, Agonda is a secluded small beach where nature lovers can find peace and tranquillity.
The beach is 37km from Margao. Palolem is one of the most enchanted beaches in Goa and yet not very crowded.
40 km from Margao on the way to Karwar is the intricately carved wooden temple of Sri Mallikarjunaor Lord Shiva.
Mapusa is located 15km from Panaji across the river Mandovi. It is the principal town of Mapusa in North Goa with easy access to the beaches of Calangute, Vagator, Anjuna and Chapora. This largest urban centre of north Goa has become popular due to the exotic weekly bazaars that are held in this town on every Friday. The tourists and Goans from nearby areas gather here to buy everything from an old brass lamp to garments or to witness the trading in the market.
This is the administrative Headquarters of Ponda taluka. Located 28km from Panaji, one of the main tourist attraction is the Safa Masjid, the biggest and most famous of all 27 mosques in Ponda. Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur built the mosque in 1560.
Shi Mangueshi temple
About 10km from Old Goa and on the way to Ponda lies Farmagudi and Mangesh where there are fine Hindu Temples those survived the onslaught of the Portuguese. The 400 years old Mangeshi temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at Priol is the most celebrated of them all. A unique feature of these temples is their multi-storied lamp towers.
In the valley of Ponda lies Kavalem, where the Shanta Durga temple with an impressive idol of Goddess of Durga in a tranquil mood flanked by Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, is situated.
This is one of the two major railway terminuses into Goa the other being Margao. Vasco-Da-Gama is close to the Marmugao harbour and is only 3km from Goa's Dabolim Airport
Other Places of Interest
Located 100km from Panaji is the Dudsagar Waterfalls,the most impressive waterfalls in Goa, that attract many tourists. It is a popular spot to trekkers and hikers.
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
The sanctuary is located on the island of Chorao along River Mandovi. It covers an area of 1.78sq.km. Many species of local and migratory birds are seen here.
Bhagavan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary
Situated at Molem 160km from Panaji, this sanctuary covers an area of 240sq.km.of thick forest.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
52km from Panaji, this is the smallest sanctuary in Goa. The Sanctuary has a zoo, a botanical garden and a deer-park.
Whenever we descend on a foreign location for vacationing, shopping for keepsakes is regarded a task as essential as the regular sightseeing tours. While Goa is famous for its splendid beauty, it is also a shopper's paradise with a vast wealth of indigenous artifacts. But more than the shopping items, it's the composite shopping experience in Goa that will leave you mesmerized.
The real joy of shopping in Goa can only be experienced in the local markets and the flea markets in the Goan beaches. These bustling local markets are a kaleidoscope of rural Goa with villagers of the neighboring areas bringing their agricultural produce. The Friday market of Mapusa is particularly famous among the local markets. The Goa beaches too are shopping havens with noisy vendors feverishly trying to outbid each other. The Wednesday flea market of Anjuna beach is world famous with an astounding variety of shopping attractions.
As far as the shopping items are concerned, you will get the opportunity to choose from a wide range of artifacts and momentos. Artifacts made of shell work, bamboo work, brassware, curios and old coins, trinkets made of stones and corals, artifacts made of papier-mache, carved furniture, and beachwear are some of the popular entries in shopping carts.
While you bask in this shopping extravaganza, make it a thumb rule to bargain to your heart's content. In most cases, the quoted price is far higher than the actual price and use your persuasion and negotiation skills while bargaining with the feisty Goan vendors.
Goa offers a variety of foods from all over the world to try along with its local cuisine. Goa is well known for its lip smacking variety of seafood, which is savored by one and all. It can be spicy so inform the chef before if you want it a bit sobered down. Along with the traditional Goan food, you can find numerous fast food joints, serving western and Chinese food, at most of the tourist destinations, cities and towns in Goa. Bedsides the fast food joints, most of the restaurants offer fast food and Chinese dishes.
Goan food is a mixture of Portugal, continental and Indian flavors. This unique blend of cooking styles is what makes the Goan foods stand out. There is an endless variety of seafood to choose from which includes prawns, lobsters, shrimps, exotic fish species, crabs, clams and oysters. For vegetarians, there are a large variety of vegetarian foods to choose from. Rice and curry is a popular vegetarian dish among the locals and is known for its hot and spicy taste.
Goa also has a number of fast food corners to choose from. These fast food corners cater to sudden hunger pangs that crop up while roaming from one place to another and offer a variety of foods to choose from. You can easily spot fast food joints like Domino's, Barista, Caffe Coffe Day etc in major cities and towns of Goa. Food is incomplete without drinks and Goa offers a variety of drinks to choose from. The most popular and readily available drink is the "Feni" which is an alcoholic drink, like beer. One should take it in moderation as it tends to react very fast and can get you drunk in no time. Apart from that, one can get the best beer and the finest wines in Goa.
What makes Goa one of the hottest tourist destinations in India is its vibrant nightlife. A state that believes in partying for almost every occasion, the nightlife of Goa is sure to remain etched in your memory for a long time to come. The nightlife of Goa is an essential part of an average Goan's life. Though it is not one of the metros, the Goan night life is much better than the nightlife of any other big metro city of India. The nightlife here was started by the hippies who came here during the 70's. Since then, the nightlife in Goa has steadily increased and has gained much fame now.
Since alcohol is easily available in Goa, there is no dearth of fun and enjoyment here during late hours. Goa is full of small restaurants that have bars too. So, almost every eatery will have a bar that serves chilled beer and allows you to relax in peace. The most popular zones for enjoying the nightlife of Goa are the beaches. Goans believe in partying hard and one can spot many trance parties in famous beaches where people just enjoy themselves and forget the tensions of life. Though Goa is a liberal state, there are strict laws against drunken driving, taking drugs, etc.
In case you are planning to drink, eat and dance, chances are you will end up doing it at the same place. The key to enjoy Goan nightlife is not to plan. Let everything unfold before you simultaneously. The idea of encountering the unexpected is what makes the nightlife of Goa even more exciting. Of course, the beaches are full of people jiving away to trance music and enjoying their drinks. But that unknown factor that attracts so many revelers to the Goan nightlife is what makes the parties so happening. You have to be there to feel the magic take over you.