Goa the smallest state of the western coast of India is world famous for its picturesque beaches, architectural wonders, Iberian and Portuguese legacies, heritage buildings, spell bounding churches and temples and quaint little villages and towns, which make up the main attraction of tourism in Goa. For an experience of a lifetime to enjoy beauty and splendour of the beautiful coastal state, start your experience with the pampered luxury of the Villa De Penha.
Being a popular tourism destination, Goa has a well-developed transport network. We explore the different options to get to Goa and once in Goa, to get around it. The 3 main ways of reaching Goa are either by Air, by road or by rail.
Dabolim International airport is centrally located and easily accessed from everywhere in Goa in less than an hour. Dabolim International airport is well connected to Indian cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune and is also linked to a few international destinations. The bulk of the arrivals and departures happen in the afternoon and the airport can get a bit chaotic at times. Being shared with the Indian Navy, the airport is shut during the nights so most flight timings can range from early morning till late evening. At the airport these exist a number of local transportation services, from prepaid taxis to rent a car, most operators have booths in the airport, which can be easily accessed.
Goa is connected to its neighbours, Maharashtra and Karnataka by the National highway 4, 17 and 17A that run through Goa. Coaches from Mumbai (Bombay) and Bangalore bring in the bulk of passengers by road. Most journeys are carried on in the night allowing passengers the opportunity to rest and last for around 10 hours. The coaches range from top end air-conditioned Volvo coaches to normal buses. Most coaches screen a movie during the night and also halt at restaurants for refreshments and meals. The convenience of the coach is that it can drop a passenger at any location along the way; this mode of transport is preferable for those wanting to alight on the route the coach takes.
Goa is a part of the giant Indian rail network. Margao railway station is the hub for the Konkan railway and the South Western railway and connects to a number of cities in India, the main connections being with Mumbai, other important connections being to Delhi, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Mangalore, Ernakulam and Thiruvanantapuram. Rail journeys in India are in experience by themselves and the landscape keeps changing as one crosses different regions. Rail journeys are also the most economical way to travel. Most trains also offer interesting food options and often people also venture to sample the food available at stations where the trains make extended halts.Top
Margao, Goa's second largest town and is the commercial capital of Goa and the administrative headquarters of South Goa. Margao is 35 kms from the capital of Goa, Panjim and is well connected with other towns in Goa through the national highway NH 17 which by passes Margao. The Kadamba bus stand at the entrance of Goa offers inter town services to Panjim, Vasco and Ponda and to villages lying around Margao. Margao also is the biggest railway station in Goa and the important trains passing though Goa halt at Margao.
Margao, before being conquered by the Portuguese was an important Hindu temple town and centre for learning with a university and a library. The Portuguese introduced Christianity and a unique Iberian influence to almost every aspect of the town, from the cuisine to the architecture. Houses and official buildings were give European architectural finishes, which some of them retain even today. The Magnificent church of the Holy Spirit was built at the heart of Margao with its famous church square. Most of the developments started around the church and later started spreading towards the interiors. The Borda area of Margao still has a handful of Portuguese designed mansions.
Margao's strategic location helped it evolve into a commercial and administrative hub for the surrounding villages. Trade became the main activity of the town and gave it prominence on the map of Goa. To facilitate trade a number of administrative buildings and markets were set up in Margao. The municipal building called Camara was built in Portuguese style to facilitate record keeping and taxation and stands majestically even today in its red and white functional architecture. The closed market, which sells almost everything for the household from perishables to clothes and watches, is another traditional activity unique to Margao. The municipal gardens, originally built to mark the visit of the Aga Khan to Goa and the Ana Fonte springs are areas where locals go for their strolls. Margao also has a number of small cafes which are ideal for meeting up over a coffee and enjoying the delicacies on offer.
Margao also has numerous churches and temples catering to the predominantly Roman Catholic and Hindu population. The most prominent amongst churches are The Holy Spirit Church, the Grace Church, the Monte hill chapel and the St Sebastian chapel, while amongst temples, the Damodar Temple, the Hari Mandir, the Maruti Mandir and the Shiva Temple are of significance.
The citizens of Margao love their culture and frequent the theatre for locally produced plays at the traditional hub for theatre, The Gomant Vidya Niketa and the newly built Ravindra Bhavan. Margao also caters to the soccer crazy fans of Goa, at the only official football stadium, the Nehru stadium which caters to league and international football fixtures. Amongst festivals, The Dindi festival of the Hindu community is held during the nights after Diwali where a procession is carried out from the different temples in Margao. The Holy Spirit feast is also another important celebration in Margao held before the monsoons. Margao is also located near the famous beaches of Colva and Benaulim and is a must visit to experience the unique lifestyle of this multicultural and commercial Goan town.Top
Mapusa, one of the main towns of North Goa is 13 km to the north of the capital Panjim. It is accessed from the capital by bridges over the river Mandovi and further on by the national Highway 17 which passes through the heart of Mapusa. Mapusa is the headquarters of Bardez talukas and has a bus stand which caters to buses traveling to nearby villages and towns. Buses traveling to or from Mumbai also halt at Mapusa to pick up or drop passengers. The nearest train station to Mapusa, Thivim, is 12 kms away from the city centre.
The main town of Mapusa is located at the foot of a hill and is a maze of modern construction and ancient buildings lying next to each other, showing signs of having borne the elements of the harsh sun and the heavy monsoons which hit Goa every year. Mapusa also has a number of important buildings and offices like the High Court, the police station, a number of educational institutes besides a number of temples and churches.
Goa has always had a well developed agrarian economy. Most villages formed associations which farmed the community land and shared the profits of the harvest. Market days were very important trading events, where goods from villages were brought to a central area or market to be traded. Mapusa was one of the most prominent areas for such a trade and the town derives its name from the local Konkani language where 'Map' means 'measure' and 'Sa' means 'to fill up'.
Even today, Mapusa is recognized for its market which takes place every Friday and is visited by customers from almost the whole of Goa. The items on sale are essentially local farm produce from nearby villages and range from, from fresh fish, fruit and vegetables with new inclusions like utensils and clothes. The farms produce which is very much in demand includes spicy Goan sausages, bottles of toddi and vinegar and large green bananas from nearby Moira. A visit to the market is an exciting experience into a tradition which forms the foundation of Mapusa.Top
Panjim or Panaji is the capital of Goa. Built strategically on the banks of the river Mandovi, Panjim is the head quarters of North Goa district and houses all the important political and administrative buildings. It has been the capital of Goa since 1843, replacing old Goa which was reeling under a plague epidemic. Panjim is connected to other Goan cities by the national highway 17 which touches the entrance on Panjim before turning northwards towards Mapusa. The Panjim bus stand and the reclaimed land of Patto which supports a number of high rise structures that house Goa's commercial entities lie at the entrance of Panjim. The main city of Panjim is separated from its entrance by a small creek of called Ourem; a couple of small bridges called Patto bridges connect the city to the mainland.The buses from the terminus connect Panjim with the surrounding villages as well as to nearby cities. Interstate buses also ply from Panjim to neighboring Mumbai and Bangalore. The railway station closest to Panjim is Karmali, which is around 11 kms to the east of Panjim.
At the heart of Panjim is the Immaculate Conception Church and the main square. The majestic church, a prominent landmark is built at a height and overlooks the whole city and even beyond. The city is a mixture of red roofed houses and modern concrete and glass structures interspaced with well laid gardens, statues and avenues lined with giant Gulmohar, Acassia and other trees. The little quarter near the church-Fontainhas still maintains its distinct feel with its little chapels, Portuguese architectural houses, and cobbled streets. Other popular places to explore are the river facing AdilShahi Palace or (Idalcao palace) from the 16th century, built strategically to observe movements of enemy ships entering the Mandovi river. It was once home to the Goan Secretariat and was the center of power, till a more magnificent structure was built across the Mandovi. The Menezes Braganza institute and the central library are just a couple amongst the innumerable buildings constructed by the Portuguese which now house the government or banks or commercial firm's offices. Even though weathered down, they still retain their proud heritage. Panjim also houses the chief minister's official residence on top of the Altinho hill, a majestic structure overlooked by an even grander palace which serves as the Goan Archbishops residence.
For the religiously inclined, besides the historic Immaculate Conception church built in 1541, there are a number of smaller chapels, Panjim is also home to a number of temples, the most prominent ones being the Mahalaxmi temple and the Hanuman temple which is built on the hill and looks particularly beautiful when it is light up during the nights. The Jama masjid, having Middle Eastern influences in its architecture is also located in Panjim.
Panjim has a large number of educational institutes and can be called a centre of learning. From schools and specialist educational institutes catering to students learning pharmacy, commerce, fine arts and many other disciplines to the centre for higher learning.The Goa University, all prominent educational institutes lie in Panjim or nearby. Panjim has its own cultural hub-The Kala academy which hosts a number of theatrical and musical activities. A number of grounds and a swimming pool cater to sporting enthusiasts. Popular shopping and eating areas in Panjim are the 18th June Road and the Mahatma Gandhi road, a busy cross section of the city of Panjim. The International film festival held in Panjim, gains inspiration from its counterparts in Cannes and is a big draw amongst celebrities and film lovers. River cruises with entertainment and Casinos are the new popular attractions in Panjim, which keep it buzzing with life, quite unlike the little fishing village it originally was.Top
The town of Ponda is located almost to the centre of Goa, around 28 km from Panjim and 17 km from Margao. It is the administrative head quarters and main market town of the talukas and is located along the national highway 4 A which connects Panjim toBelgaum in the neighboring state of Karnataka. The bus stand in the heart of Ponda is well connected by the state owned Kadamba Transport Corporation and private buses which connect Panjim and Margao and the surrounding villages in Ponda. The bus stand also serves buses traveling to the neighboring state of Karnataka
Ponda is famous for its Hindu temples which survived the various conquests in Goa, and continues on the legacy of being the temple town of Goa. Ponda was a part of the new conquests of the Portuguese. Since the Portuguese were more focused on establishing trade along the coast, the hinterland areas like Ponda were not initially conquered; most Hindus from the conquered parts who feared persecution shifted to Ponda with their idols and built new temples to house them. When the Portuguese finally conquered Ponda, they were more tolerant of the local religion and allowed the presence of the Hindu temples.
Ponda soon developed into an administrative center for the surrounding region and houses different government offices and commercial houses. Ponda is also well known for its educational institutions especially the Engineering and Pharmacy colleges. An industrial zone which was set up here created sizeable employment opportunities for the inhabitants of Ponda, including the famous Kingfisher Brewery which brings out India's favorite brew.
The temples of Manguesh, Mahalasa, Naguesh, Shanta Durga, Ramnath amongst others are well worth a visit for an experience into Hindu culture and traditions. Ponda is also home to Goa's only 16th century Islamic monument, The Safa masjid. The area to the west of Ponda called Khandepar has a thick forest growth and houses the local spice farms. These have become popular tourist attractions to see the natural grown varieties of spices grown in the back drop of the KhandeparRiver. The Bondla wildlife sanctuary and the Bhagwan Mahaveer sanctuary both located near Ponda offer insights intoGoa's wildlife along with the flora and fauna. Ponda is thus a nice temple town well worth a visit of a day, to cover most of its attractions.Top
Vasco Da Gama,Often known by its short form, Vasco, the town was of strategic importance to the Portuguese and so was named after the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama. The town lies at the mouth of the ZuariRiver and has an excellent harbour. The town initially housed workers of the harbour and developed into a hub for all activities related to transportation. During the Portuguese era, Vasco developed into thriving port especially for the export of goods and spices to foreign lands. Vasco is around 30 kms from Panjim Goa's capital and is well connected by the national highway 17A and the South Western Railway. Vasco's harbour called the MormugaoHarbour has a busy port, catering mainly for transportation of goods and the Dabolim International airport is around 5kms away from Vasco. This makes Vasco an easily accessible place by various modes of transport.
Even now Vasco still maintains its characteristic of being a port town, today the loading of Ore is one of the main activities of the port called the Mormugao port. Ore mined in the interior regions is brought to Vasco by barges that float on the Mandovi and Zuari rivers, and then deposited at theMormugaoPort to be loaded onto bulk carrier ships. The Mormugao Port Trust which operates the port is the largest employer in Vasco region and has a mini-township for its staff which includes schools, residential complexes and amenities. Besides the port trust there are a number of firms involved in ship building and repairs. The incentives offered by the Goan government have led to the development of an industrial zone in the areas surrounding Vasco. Most of the firms are production based and produce a wide range of things from edibles to electricity. However the industrial zone is also the cause for a lot of pollution and also for the rise of a huge hutment colony which accommodates most of the laborers from the zone. The sight can be a bit disturbing at times.
Vasco has a naval Aviation museum near the city center. The museum is the only museum of this type in India profiling the evolution and history of Indian naval aviation through exhibits and photographs. The 400 year old church of St Andrew is another landmark; the feast of the church is celebrated with a lot of active participation by the whole town. The Hindu community in Vasco celebrates the Saptah, a fair held before the monsoon season selling provisions and household items and is one of the most visited events in this little port town which still continues with its tradition of being a port town and shipping things near and far.Top
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