Goa is the most popular tourist place of India. “The pearl of the east” is known for its Gothic churches, crumbling forts, palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves, ferry rides, bubbly folk music… the list is endless! With its 131-km-long coastline, Goa is an important locale in every tourist’s itinerary. Sun, sand and sea being the major attractions, Goa trip is a perfect heaven for the ones who need and want relaxation. Goa Beach Resorts always add to the fun. Christian pilgrimage tours to Goa are extremely popular.
Besides pilgrimages Goa is famous for honeymoons, specially the honeymoon packages.
Location: Situated on the western coastline of India, the Union Territory of Goa is sandwiched between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The capital Panaji is at a distance of 592 km from Bangalore and 593 km from Mumbai. The waters of the Arabian Sea wash the coastline of Goa. It is split into two districts – North Goa and South Goa. North Goa includes the city of Panjim, the former capital of Old Goa, Fort Aguada and Candolim, Chapora, Vagator, and the beaches Calangute, Anjuna, and Baga. South Goa includes Vasco da Gama Bogmalo, Margao, Colva and Benolem.
Being near to the sea, Goa enjoys a maritime climate, with April and May being very hot. The Goa Beach Resorts situated on the beach ides are the best way to enjoy Goa. Christian Pilgrimage tours to Goa are usually taken up around Christmas and New Year.
Best time to visit is October to May
History: Goa has been a key destination for Christian pilgrimage tours in India. Goa was a part of the Mauryan Empire, around 3rd century BC.
The Satvahanas of Kolhapur, and later the Chalukyas of Badami, took over the governance. Other dynasties followed, including a short-lived Muslim invasion, until the Vijaynagar Empire established itself for almost a century. This era, too, ended with the arrival of the Sultans of Gulbarga, from whom the rule passed on to the Adil Shah of Bijapur. Soon, the Dutch, English, French and Portuguese, all began struggling for its possession. Ultimately, in 1510, the Portuguese conquered Goa, with Alfonso de Albuquerque leading the invasion. Having ruled for around four centuries, in 1961, fourteen years after the country’s independence, the Portuguese had to leave Goa.
Beaches and churches are the key attractions in Goa. Christian pilgrimage tours and Goan Carnival attract numerous visitors. In the local dialect, Goa is often referred to as “Goa Dourada,” (meaning “Golden Goa”) because of its beaches, forts, churches, waterfalls, seminaries, and caves. Today, Goa Beach Resorts are attractions in themselves.
“The queen of Indian beaches,” Calangute is a stretch of 7 km. Baga beach is a handy commuting point to Anjuna. At a distance of 7 km from Panaji is the beach of Dona Paula, which is a good site for relaxation and sunbathing. At a distance of 6 km from Margao is another beach, Colva, which offers good accommodation.
Calangute, Baga, Candolim, Colva are dominated by package tourism. Anjuna, the traditional rave center is popular with the bag packers. Benaulim falls between hype and hip, and is filled with beach shacks and low-key Goa beach resorts. Arambol in the north and Palolem in the south are idyllic by nature. Other famous beaches include Miramar and Agonda. Goa Beach Resorts along these beaches in Goa are excellent accommodation options.
The Dudhsagar waterfall and Arvalem waterfall attract many tourists every year. The rock-cut caves of Khandepar and Arvalem are also worth mentioning. The Pilar monastery, Saligao seminary, and Rachol seminary attract the religious minded travelers.
While nature has been generous to Goa, man too has contributed a lot to Goa’s beauty. The strong Roman Catholic community, with the active support of the erstwhile Portuguese rulers, has had a number of churches built in this picturesque locale. In Panaji, one must visit the church dedicated to our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and the Chapel of St. Sebastian. No doubt that Christian Pilgrimage tours to Goa are so popular. The Goa State Museum, the Secretariat, the statue of Abbe Faria in the capital is a must see for lovers of art.
The largest of the churches in Goa, the Se Cathedral is in Old Goa and is flocked by thousands of tourists every year. The holy shrine of Basilica of Bom Jesus, also in Old Goa, houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. It is a famous pilgrimage center among the Roman Catholic world. Most Christian pilgrimage tours include visits to these churches of Goa. Other famous churches are the Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of St. Cajetan, Church of St. Augustine Ruins, Church and Convent of St. Monica, Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Chapel of St. Anthony and Chapel of St. Catherine-all of which are in Old Goa. Fort Aguada is worth a visit to savor the nostalgia of the Portuguese regime, especially in its lighthouse and the Aguada jail.
Terekhol Fort in the Arambol beach has been now converted to a hotel. The Museum of Christian Art in Rachol Seminary and church and the Braganza House near Margao are also worth a visit.
Besides these, to get a glimpse of the Hindu population in Goa, one has to visit Ponda. The Kerkar Art Complex in south Calangute is also an important tourist center. The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna is an important trading center for handicrafts from Kashmir to Gujarat.
Fairs & festivals
Being a predominantly Roman Catholic society, most of the festivals of Goa are Christianity-specific. Feast days, thanksgiving, monsoon celebrations, processions-all mark the Goanese calendar. Shigmo, the Goanese version of Holi, is celebrated in the month of February and March. The Feast of Our Lady of Miracles, celebrated 16 days after the Easter, is secular by nature and is celebrated with pomp and show by both Hindus and Christians.
Igitun Chalne, held at Sirigao temple in Bicholim during May, is one of Goa’s most distinctive festivals. The main attraction of the festival comes when devotees of Goddess Lairaya walk across burning coals to prove their devotion. The Feast of St. Anthony in the month of June is also significant as it marks the beginning of monsoon. Besides such religious festivals, Goa is also known for its arts and crafts fairs, and food festivals.
How to reach
Air – Goa’s international airport is Dabolim, at a distance of 29 km from Panaji, on the coast near Vasco da Gama. Most domestic airlines operate here apart from the chartered private airlines operating from UK and Germany. Getting round the place is quite easy. Several ferry services are also available
Rail-The major railway stations in Goa are Margao and Vasco-da-gama. These stations are in the Konkan railway line and are well connected to Mumbai.
Road-Kadamba bus stand of Panaji is the main bus station. The state owned bus services of Goa, Maharashtra and Karnataka operate from this station. These buses connect cities in Goa to in and out of the state Goa. Super deluxe A/C buses are available from Mumbai (580 km) and from Bangalore (650 km).
Sea- Shipping services from Mumbai to Panaji are available. Vacation cruises are offered by some tourist companies for enjoying the marine life of Goa.