Situated on the west coast of India, the small state of Goa is most famous for its stunning beaches. Once a Portuguese colony, it has a unique mix of cultures. There are also lots of other smaller, charming towns and villages to explore, and there are many places to visit in Goa.
Goa is also famous for its many flea markets, and for its unique and delicious food. It also boasts a vibrant nightlife, and lots of exciting adventure opportunities. Panaji (or Panjim) is the state capital and is a wonderful mix of the old and the new.
How to reach Goa
Goa is very well connected to all the other Indian states. Here is how you can get there.
Goa’s only airport is Dabolim in the town of Vasco da Gama (around 30km from Panaji). It has lots of regular domestic flights, but only a handful of international flights. Many foreign tourists arrive via Mumbai or Bangalore, both of which have multiple connections to Goa.
Goa is well linked to the Indian Railways. The largest station is at Madgaon in South Goa, though there are also amaller stations at Pernem, Thivim, and Canacona. The Konkan Railway connects Goa to both Mumbai in the north and Mangalore to the south.
Goa has a well-connected network of roads, and many buses (both private and state-run) run daily from major cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, and Pune. You can also drive to Goa from these destinations (600km from Mumbai, and about 605km from Bangalore)
Cruise ships travelling between Mumbai and the Maldives often stop at Mormugao in Goa. There is also a ferry service that operates between Mumbai and Goa from October to May.
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Places to visit in Goa
There are lots of wonderful places to visit in Goa, both cultural and natural. From whitewashed churches and crumbling forts, to glittering beaches, and tropical forests here are some of the best places to visit in Goa.
- Arambol Beach — a quiet beach in North Goa, it is known for its exciting water sports (like paragliding and parasailing) and a big beach market.
- Dudhsagar Falls — this impressive waterfall falls from a height of 603m, and is the second highest in India
- Paolem Beach – it is a scenic beach in south Goa with many rocky islands off its shores.
- Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary — covering an area of 240 sq km, this is the largest of Goa’s four protected sanctuaries. It is home to leopards, elephants, deer, Indian bison, cobras, and pythons.
- Anjuna Beach — running for almost 2km, this beach is best known for the flea market held each Wednesday, and for the neighbouring Vagator Beach
- Butterfly Conservatory — just north of Ponda, this small butterfly sanctuary is home to more than 100 species of free-flying butterflies, and is situated near spice plantations
- Calangute — one of the most popular beaches, it is full of famous clubs, and some nice dining options.
- Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary – set on Chorao Island on the Mandovi River, this is one of the most famous bird sanctuaries in India. It is spread over 1.8 km sq, and houses around 400 species of birds, both local and migratory.
- Aswem Beach — located in the north of Goa, this beach has lots of beach-shack restaurants and is excellent for swimming
- Basilica Bom Jesus — this imposing Roman Catholic church was built in the 1500s, and is said to contain the tomb and mortal remains of St Francis Xavier
- Aguada Fort — built overlooking the mouth of the Mandovi River, this fort dates back 1612, and has stunning views of the sunset
- Sé Cathedral — the 16th century Sé Cathedral is the largest church in Asia; located at the back is the ornate Church of St Francis of Assisi.
- Braganza House — located in Chandor’s village square, this is one of the biggest and grandest traditional Portuguese mansions
- Shri Manguesh Temple — this temple to the north of Ponda is one of the most visited in Goa, and features a mixture of architectural styles
- Chapora Fort — situated at the mouth of the Chapora River, the picturesque Chapora Fort was built by the Portuguese in 1617
- Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception — this whitewashed church in Panaji was built by the Portuguese in the early 17th century and has breathtaking views along the coast
- Caves of Khandepur — in the village of Khandepar, these four small rock-cut caves are believed to have been carved in the 12th century
- Safa Shahouri Masjid — it is Goa’s oldest remaining mosque. Located near Ponda, it was bilt by Bijapuri ruler Ali Adil Shah in 1560
- Shri Shantadurga Temple — located in southern Colva, it is one of the most famous shrines in Goa, and dates back to the 18th century
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Interesting facts about Goa
- Music, Art and Dance: Goa is famous for its lively beach parties, and is full of all kinds of clubs.
- Local food: Goan cuisine is a unique and delicious blend of Portuguese and Indian flavours. It is full of meat and fish dishes such as vindaloo (a spicy ), xacuti (meat red coconut sauce), cafreal (dry-fried chicken), and chouriços (red pork sausages). There are also wonderful desserts like bebinca (a layered coconut cake) and dodol (coconut fudge).
- Celebrations and Festivals: Christmas is a big festival in Goa, as is Ganesh Chaturti. However, one of the most unique is the four-day Carnival that is held in mid-February, just before Lent, featuring lively processions, floats, and dancing.
Goa enjoys pleasant weather throughout the year, as it lies on the coast. However, summers (April to June) can get quite hot and humid. Monsoon sees bad weather along the coast, though there are also far fewer crowds. The best time of the year to visit Goa is during the (November to February) when the weather is pleasant and dry, and there are calm seas.