Goa has attracted beach lovers for decades drawn to the laid back atmosphere, golden sands and cheap prices, but the former Portuguese enclave is shaking off that image. Did you know that away from the palm trees and glittering sea lays exquisite architecture in the temples and tombs; colonial heritage in the forts and churches and stunning natural landscapes of waterfalls, lakes and springs. Tear yourself away from the beach for a few days and try exploring the real adventures to be had in Goa.
Goa is the smallest state in India and is located on the west coast covering 3,702 km2 with nearly 1.5 million residents. Mainly Hindu, the Goa region lays on the Arabian Sea whilst the capital city is Panaji and the biggest city is Vasco da Gama.
Goa’s Cultural Sites
The wealthiest state of India is rich in heritage as well. The architecture of this state reflects its glorious past and especially the mosques, churches and temples are a treat to explore. However, the glimpses of Portuguese influence are still clearly visible. The combination of Portuguese, Hindu and Muslim creates a unique blend of architecture, which is known as Goan style.
Old Goa’s St. Cajetan Church, Santa Monica and Basilica of Bom Jesus have historic significance. The last one was completed in 1605, and is the first church in entire country, which was graded as a minor basilica. Basilica of Bom Jesus is also included in UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Ruins of St. Agustin, St. Catherine Chapel and Seminary of Rachol are other important churches in Goa. Observe the local etiquette when exploring cultural and religious sites.
On the other hand, some of the most visited temples in Goa are;
- Shri Shantadurga Temple in Kavlem
- Hanuman Temple at Altinho hill
- Shree Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla
- Pandurang Temple at Sanquelim
- Pernem’s Bhagavati Temple
Further, there are around 27 mosques for Muslims in this state, and some of them are Safa Masjid, Namazgah mosque, Jama Masjid in Sanguem and Surla Tar Mosque in Tambdi Surla. It is believed that Surla Tar mosque is nearly 450 years old, and it is still an important place of worship for the Muslims residing in Goa.
Natural landscape of waterfalls, lakes and springs
Goa is a land of beautiful landscapes and green hilly areas. This state invites tourists over and over just to explore the natural landscapes by taking a walking or hiking tour to the resplendent waterfalls at Chorla, Charavane waterfall, Bamanbudo waterfall, Harvalem waterfall and many others. Dudhsagar Falls is other exhilarating place in Goa that is near Panaji, and is on Mandovi River.
Carambolin and Mayem are two beautiful lakes in Goa. Mayem Lake is 22 miles away from Panjim city, and is known for picnic and bird watching. Both of these lakes are perfect for swimming, pedal boating, boat cruise and party. Boca De Vaca, Pomburpa Spring and Kesarval are always crowded with the tourists. Kesarval is famous its medicated water, and lots of people visit this spot for a relaxing bath.
Turtles, wildlife and eco travel
Goa is an ideal place for all nature lovers. The presence of six wildlife sanctuaries in a small state attracts thousands of travellers to this part of the planet drawn to the eco-tourism. All these sanctuaries spread on an area of around 755 square km. There are ample opportunities for watching birds and all kinds of flora and fauna.
Due to its tropical biodiversity, National Geographic Magazine had compared this state with the Congo and Amazon basins. Important trees of this region are chillar barks, bhirand, asan, maratha barks, coconut and bamboo canes. Further, cashew teak, pineapples and mango trees are also there in big numbers. Wild pigs, many migratory birds, gaurs, foxes are found in Goa. National Parks include the Molem Wildlife Sanctuary, exotic birdlife at the Salim Ali bird sanctuary and the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. There is also the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary and the Madei Wildlife Sanctuary.
The beach of Morjim is an important place for sea-turtle’s nesting, while Agonda and Galgibag beaches are other conservation places for the giant Olive Ridley turtle.
Goa’s cultural and historical sites
History is spread everywhere in Goa. Aguada Fort, Chapora Fort, Cabo Raj Niwas and Tiracol Fort are always packed with both sightseers and culture seekers. Both Aguada and Coba Rai Niwas are the remains of Portuguese era while Tiracol Fort was built by Hindu monarch. The rooms of Tiracol are now transformed into a well-maintained heritage hotel.
Old Goa is blessed with many old-fashioned buildings, museums and places, which come under UNESCO world heritage sites. Destinations like Gate of the Fortress of Adil Shah, Viceroy’s Arch and the Royal Hospital are must visit tourist destinations. Again observe the etiquette guidelines when in India.
Magnificent golden sandy beaches and crystalline seas
Goa is the coolest place in India to enjoy sun, sand and swimming. After all worldwide tourists have been coming here for decades, drawn to the 125km of lush coastline. The old image of a ‘hippie’ haven are being swept aside in favour of a focus on a more authentic experience. Many of the traditional beach shacks are now being replaced with coffee shops, boutiques and sandwich bars. For the ultimate experience spend Christmas chilling out here or party in style under the stars on New Year’s Eve!
- Calangute Beach: Popular in mainstream holiday brochures, Calangute has the largest beach in northern Goa, and as such attracts thousands of visitors. Christmas and New Year are especially popular times.
- Palolem Beach: This small and crescent-shaped beach is very lively as there are many hotels, clubs and taverns to enjoy a good vacation.
- Varca Beach: Excellent for watching dolphins, this beach is located in the south of Goa. It is not very crowded, but many nice and economical hotels are there to accommodate the travelers. November to March is considered as the top touring season at Varca
- Aguada Beach: It is perfect for swimming and to have all kinds of water sports due to the presence of professional lifeguards. This northern Goan beach is famous for many fun-filled attractions.
- Arambol Beach: Known for its colorful evenings and late night parties, this beach is surely a must visit spot of Goa.
- Vagator Beach: This northern beach is completely covered with high palm trees while the red laterite cliffs and golden sand makes it one of the most beautiful beaches in Goa.
Further, there are other beaches like Patnem, Miramar, Agonda, Colva and Bogmalo, which are all really exciting and perfect for all beach lovers.
Even though it probably sounds too good to be true to some readers, it is not difficult to orchestrate a trip to this tropical paradise. All it takes is a few minutes online to find preferable accommodation in Goa. Book a hotel next to the beach or next to some of the local cuisine, or reserve one in close proximity to some of the many festivals, such as the Classical Musical Jugalbandi, taking place in the region. It doesn’t take long to make the first step towards embarking on an unforgettable vacation.