Once the largest and richest city in Asia with a population in the sixteenth century of over 200,000 - larger than London, Old Goa was called, by the Portuguese, Golden Goa or Goa Dourada. It was a thriving city with fine buildings and magnificent churches and was testament to the wealth and grandeur of the Portuguese rule. In the mid 16th Century a succession of epidemics decimated the population until the city was demolished and a new capital was rebuilt up river where Panjim now stands.
What remains today are the impressive Se Cathedral and the Basilica of Bom Jesus which is home to the remains of St. Francis Xavier and a number of Churches, Convents and Chapels.
Goa is literally synonymous with churches. They are living testimonies of the rich historical past of Goa. During the early days of the Portuguese rule in India, church building was the primary concern and occupation in Goa. This was because of their zeal to spread Christianity and convert as many people as they can. The Goan churches still have that old world charm and are very popular with the tourists who visit India. The church in Goa had much importance in the social life of the people there. It helped in the spread of education, built hospitals and helped people in their day to day troubles of life. Check out our related sections about the famous churches of Goa.
Basilica of Bom Jesus
One of the most popular churches in Goa, the Basilica of Bom Jesus truly deserves to be given the status of a World Heritage Site. It is located in Old Goa which was the capital city during the Portugal rule. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is famous for the preserved mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier.
Mary Immaculate Conception
The Church of Mary Immaculate Conception is one of the most famous landmarks of Goa. This church is supposed to be one of the earliest churches to be constructed in Goa. Tourists come to the Mary Immaculate Conception Church of India to feel blessed and to marvel at the magnitude of its construction.
Reis Magos Church
The Reis Magos church of Goa is one of the most famous landmarks of the Reis Magos village located in Goa. This famous church is visible from across the River Mandovi as a white monument that is stunningly beautiful to look at. The church is located on the road that passes the famous Calangute and Candolim beaches.
The Se Cathedral of Goa is located in old Goa, and is around 9 kilometers from the capital city Panaji. The Se Cathedral of Goa is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. This magnificent edifice was built in the 16th century under the Portuguese rule in India.
St. Anne Church
The church of St. Anne of Goa is noted for its remarkable architecture in India. The present day church was reconstructed by Mons Francisco do Rego with his own money. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, he could not complete the construction and Father Antonio Francisco da Cunha was bestowed with the responsibility of completing the construction of the church.
Church of St. Augustine
The ruins of St. Augustine church is a very popular tourist attraction and one of the most spectacular monuments in Goa. The church was built in 1602 with the combined efforts of 12 Augustinians. They also built a convent besides the church.
St. Cajetan Church
The St. Cajetan church is located in Old Goa near the Se cathedral church. The church is visited by numerous tourists because of exquisite architecture. This vast and strikingly beautiful church has been constructed on the primary design of the Basilica of St. Peter located in Rome.
Church of St. Francis
A stunning and charming building, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi is located in Old Goa at a distance of some 10 kilometers from the capital city, Panaji. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi is at the same complex in which Se Cathedral is located. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi of Goa was built during 1517-1521 AD.
St. Paul Church
The St. Paul Church is a ruined church that is a popular tourist attraction in Goa. It is located on the road that one takes from Old Goa to reach Ponda. One can always hire local transport to reach this lovely church. The church of St. Paul in Goa was set up because of the efforts of two priests namely Diogo de Borba and Miguel Vaz.
A short distance from the centre of Ponda town are a number of Hindu temples some dating from as far back as the 16th century. These are unusual to find in Goa as most did not survive the Portuguese rule. Although the temples are fairly modern by Indian standards, their deities are held in high regard by the local people and the hundreds of Indian tourists from Maharastra and Karnataka who travel here on special "buses". Two of the most interesting and easily accessible are the temples of Shri Manguesh and Shri Mahalsa. Other temples in the area are more off the beaten track although local taxis and rickshaw drivers will know the way.
TEMPLES IN GOA
Goa is famous for its temples that attract numerous devotees from all over the world. Many people tend to think of Goa as a Christian community and are not aware of the famous temples located here. During the Portuguese rule, many Hindu temples were destroyed in a zeal to spread Christianity. But as time passed, the Portuguese allowed the construction of Hindu temples and one of the earliest temples under the Portuguese was built around 1818. The style of construction of Goan temples is also different from other Hindu temples due to a different historical background.
Sri Bhagawati Temple
Located in Pernem, the Sri Bhagawati temple is dedicated to Goddess Durga. This temple is supposed to be over 500 years old and is dedicated to Goddess Ashtabhuja or Eight Handed Goddess. The temple is constructed in a grand style and the entrance is flanked by two statues of elephants.
Sri Datta Mandir
The Sri Datta Mandir is located in Sanquelim in Goa and is dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. The temple's annual festival is held in December - January and it is located amidst beautiful surroundings on a hill. Devotees claim that people who come here with mental ailments are miraculously cured.
Sri Damodar Temple
Located in Sanguem, this temple is considered sacred by Hindus and Christians alike. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and devotees throng the temple during the celebration of the Shigmo festival.
Sri Chandreshwar Temple
This temple is located in Ponda, Goa. The Chandreshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the beautiful Shiva Lingam located here is a major attraction. During full moon night, the Lingam bathes in moonlight and looks magical. One can have a beautiful view of the valley below from the temple.
Sri Mangesh Temple
Sri Mangesh temple is a famous temple located in the Ponda district in Goa. This beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The lovely temple attracts lots of devotees and the architecture of the temple follows every norm of the traditional Hindu architectural style.
Sri Ananta Temple
The Ananta Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is located in Ponda in Goa. The temple attracts many devotees and is located amidst serene and beautiful landscapes. The pillars of the temple are decorated with delicate and detailed carvings.
Sri Shantadurga Temple
Shantadurga temple is dedicated to the Goddess known as Shantadurga who is known to be a peaceful form of Goddess Durga. According to legends, she settled a major dispute between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu amicably. The temple is constructed beautifully and is located amidst scenic landscapes.
PANJIM (OR PANAJI)
Panjim is the present day State Capital of Goa on the South bank of the Mandovi River.
There are a good selection of restaurants and some interesting historical buildings dating back to the 16th Century including the main Church and the Secretariat. There is also the fascinating Old Portuguese quarter of Fountain has with its narrow cobbled streets and traditional hole-in-the-wall bars. Great for an early evening stroll.
Evening Cruises on the Mandovi River are an interesting way to round off an afternoon visit. Tickets can be purchased from the Quayside and the two-hour trip takes you to the Arabian Sea to catch the sunset and then a programme of folk dancing to entertain you for the return trip.
Just 33kms from Panjim is Margao, in South Goa, the state's second city. It is a prosperous town surrounded by fertile farmland and has always been an important agricultural centre. There are few towns of any size in the south and Margao acts as the main shopping centre for all the local towns and villages. It is therefore always busy and clogged with traffic. There is an excellent market that is a good source of authentic souvenirs and an interesting place to browse. If you tire of shopping then you can always hire a rickshaw and see some of the sights. The Portuguese absorbed the area during the seventeenth century and there are some Catholic churches dating back to this time and an old colonial quarter with one of Goa's grandest mansion's, "Seven Gables" here. Or you can cool off on Colva beach that is 20 minutes drive away.
Margao has an old-worldly charm about it because of its Portuguese churches, and some magnificent specimens of old Portuguese houses complete with shady balcaos (porches) and oyster-shell windows in its Borda area.
The Largo de Igreja, or the Church of the Holy Spirit as it is also known, dominates the entrance to the city, just north of the Municipal Garden square. The church area is surrounded by beautiful old residential houses still in pristine condition. The church was built by the Portuguese in 1675 and is one of the finest examples of late-Baroque architecture in Goa, boasting a pristine white façade and an interior dripping with gilt crystal and stucco.
Just within walking distance of the Church, is the famous "House of Seven Gables" or "Sat Burzam Ghor". This magnificent mansion was commissioned in 1790 by Sebastino da Silva, emissary and private secretary of the Portuguese Viceroy. Although only three of the seven gables remain today, they are enough to give the visitor an idea of the size of the original edifice.
In the centre of the town is the Municipal Garden (known as Praça Jorge Barreto), around which most restaurants and office buildings are located. The colonial style red washed Municipal building built in 1905 and the Library lie on the park's south side. From this main square, bylanes lead to the bazaar and the area that used to be the fish market.
Margao's fish market was earlier located opposite the Municipal building. The market has since been shifted to a complex located at the entrance of the city.
MAPUSA FRIDAY MARKET
From clothes to carrots, jewellery to junk, from shoes to spices, fruit to fish Mapusa has it all. The market is also open Monday - Saturday but smaller. Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) is the main market town for North Goa and most items found in Anjuna and Calangute can be picked up here at a fraction of the price. It has a large fish and vegetable market and on Fridays the market doubles in size with sellers from far flung villages setting up stalls and selling intriguing vegetables and colorful spices
ANJUNA FLEA MARKET
Located in the heart of the 'backpackers' scene, the Anjuna flea market is the place to be on Wednesday's in Goa. A beach town situated off the North of Goa, Anjuna became the hide-out for Western 'hippies' arriving in the 60's. Finding their wallets empty but wanting to stay longer, these early travelers auctioned off their belongings from guitars to jewelry and jeans to their compatriots. Thus began the infamous 'flea' market at Anjuna.
The market is open only on Wednesdays from 9am until sunset (mid October to mid April)
Barter for bargains amongst the Tibetan craft stalls. Nepalese and Kashmiri artefacts including jewellery, paper mache and earrings, stones, rock bottom priced clothes, lungis, bedspreads, bags, German bakery items include cheese cake, strudel and breads. Tattoing, hair cutting, you name it - you can probably get it. Don't be put off going to the Flea Market if you have already "shopped out". It is worth a visit anyway just for the sight, sounds and hubbub.
There are plenty of shady places to rest and have a snack whilst watching the sights.
SATURDAY NITE MARKET
In 1999 the first night market started up in Arpora and was initially quite a low-key affair, the kind of event where the Western stall holders could drink a few beers and catch up with the latest gossip. It was only for artisans and with a bit of live music, it made for a pleasant Saturday night.
Nine years on the night market is massive. There are hundreds and hundreds of stalls and thousands and thousands of people passing through, eating and drinking, enjoying the live shows and spending lots of money.
There’s something quite surreal about seeing something so well organised in India, a country where chaos and inefficiency are the order of the day. Everyone puts it down to German management and Ingo has in truth pulled off something of a miracle. People have a great time, the merchants make a load of money and it’s a cool social scene, loud and garish though it can get at times.
The palatial country houses of Goa are sprinkled throughout the rural heartland of the south and most date from the early eighteenth century. The owners were wealthy merchants and high ranking officials. These families emerged as a powerful aristocracy frequently intermarrying to preserve their fortunes. After independence, many had their estates confiscated and others struggle to maintain their large estates. Some of these magnificent houses filled with eighteenth century antiques and sumptuous furnishings are now open for visitors. Stately home hunters should head for Lutolim where some of the most elegant houses are found and a must to see is the village of Chandor where the Perreira-Braganza/Menezes-Braganza House is located.
Goa is a state blessed with incredible natural beauty; from beaches and gently rolling hills to woodland and forest. To protect some of this natural beauty and the birds and animals living here, Goa has established four wild-life sanctuaries which are open to visitors
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
Dr.Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
The Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary
lies in eastern Goa, bordered by the eastern Ghats and Karnataka. It has a total of 240 square kilometres of tropical forest land dotted with occasional grassy Savannahs and tribal villages. The animals are allowed to roam free in the reserve, and it can be difficult to spot them in their wild habitat unless you come prepared with hiking boots and plan to spend a few days trekking in the more remote areas of the sanctuary. The Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla is one of Goa's most sacred stone temples whose origins date back to the Kadamba Dynasty. Devil's Canyon, which requires permission to visit from the Interpretation Center (near the entrance to the sanctuary), is a lovely gorge near the town of Molem. It is a popular picnic spot visited by locals and tourists alike. Some members of the Dhangar community of nomadic buffalo herders also inhabit this reserve, and can be seen tending to their buffaloes in the grassy plains and winding rivers. The highlight of a trip to this sanctuary, however, is a visit by jeep to the Dudhsagar Waterfalls, in the southeast region of the park.
The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
lies in the northeast portion of the state. Though only 8 square kilometers in total, Bondla is home to some splendid and picturesque landscapes of lush tropical vegetation. Monkeys, jackals, wild boar, peacocks, a variety of deer and snake species, in addition to roaming herds of Indian Bison, inhabit this area, though again, do not expect to see these animals in their natural habitat with only a quick drive through the sanctuary.
Located on the island of Chorao, one of the first to be conquered by the Portuguese in 1510, is the Dr.Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
. This reserve has few roads, but can be reached by ferry boat from Ribandar, a few kilometres from Panjim. The sanctuary is home to mangroves, an unusual mudskipper fish variety, and a variety of coastal birds which inhabit Goa. Chorao is a lovely island with small villages of Portuguese-style villas surrounding white-washed churches and it is worth a trip on its own. It has been by-passed by the rush of modernisation and expansion and gives visitors a glimpse of how Goa used to be.
The Cortigao Sanctuary
is Goa's fourth wildlife sanctuary and has 86 square kilometres of deciduous forest and picturesque natural vegetation. The park, created in 1969, lies 12 kilometers from Palolem, a popular southern beach resort in Canacona taluka, and is best seen with private transport. It is open from 9:30am to 5:30pm, as are most of the other sanctuaries, and has a small rest house where visitors can spend the night if they receive permission in advance. Wildlife may be harder to observe in this park, however, as the Kunbi and Velip tribal communities still live there.
The Dudhsagar Waterfall lies in the Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary, 10 kms from Colem Railway Station. Water plummets hundreds of feet in cascades, forming one of the most spectacular of all natural phenomena in Goa. Its name "dudhsagar", in Konkani, literally means "sea of milk" and derives its name from the foamy waters of the fall. Monkeys are a frequent sight. Butterflies and birds add colour to the natural beauty of the surroundings near the waterfall.
The water from the Arvalem Waterfalls, situated in Sanquelim, falls from a height of about 50 metres in a straight drop. Its glory is seen during monsoon when its fall turns to a giant rush of water, cascading down from the mountains behind it. Near the waterfall, is the temple of Sri Rudreshwar and close by are some 5th century rock cut caves.
Enjoy a day's bird watching - even if you are only an armchair bird watcher you should not miss seeing the amazing varieties of birds in Goa, now a "hot spot" for professional birders from around the world.
DOLPHINS & CROCODILES
Take a Fishing Boat Trip and watch the dolphins feeding in the early morning or take a trip up river to see the crocodiles in the back waters and mangrove swamps.
There are a number of Spice farms that accept groups of tourists which makes a fascinating day out. Find out how pepper grows, cardamom, tamarind and all the other spices you only see in packages in the supermarket. The highlight of the tour is to see the men climb the Betul Nut trees, over a hundred feet above the ground, swaying from branch to branch.
Most of the Spice Plantations are located around Ponda and a visit to one can be combined with a visit to the famous Hindu temples.