Now that we have an introduction to Goa, in the next two posts, I will take you in detail through the districts of North Goa and South Goa.
North Goa is one of the two districts that make up the state of Goa. The district is bounded by Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra state to the north and by Belgaum district of Karnataka to the east, by South Goa District to the south, and by the Arabian Sea to the west. Much of today’s North Goa was under the Kingdom of Sawantwadi. Hence these areas were seen as a safe haven for the Hindus who were living under continuous fear of the Portuguese Inquisition. These areas were conquered by Portuguese as part of New Conquest in the late 18th century and then remained with the Portuguese till 1961 when it was annexed by India.
North Goa is seen is the more happening and party place of Goa as compared to South Goa. The beaches here are very beautiful and crowded during peak times. Some of the best North Goa beaches include
Vagator Beach which is a a crescent shape beach offering myriad watersport activities. The stunning red cliffs and cracked rocks surrounding the beach is an Instagram hotspot as are sunsets from this beach. The three day Sunburn Music festival which will take place in 2020 in December is an annual electronic dance music festival. Since its inception, Sunburn has grown to become one of Asia’s largest music events. The beach is bifurcated into two parts; one where you will find the flea market and lots of shacks to eat. Vagator Beach is about 20 kms from Panaji. Ozran Beach is an extension of Vagator Beach, and this secluded beach is a standout amongst the most picturesque Goan beaches. This beach boasts of a postcard perfect view of the coastline. The rocky beach is an ideal spot for picnics where you can enjoy the scenic beauty under the shade of palm trees. Here you can enjoy the sunsets as the sky turns golden from the sundecks outside the beach shacks. One of the attractions on this beach is the rock sculpture which people popularly call the Shiva Face which was carved by one of the tourists.
Nesting between the Aravalli hills, Anjuna beach is among the cleanest beaches in Goa. The hippies were the first people to come here in the 1950s and since then Anjuna Beach is a hotspot in Goa for local and international tourists. Anjuna Beach grows on you as you take a stroll along the glowing white sands and enjoy the sight of gently swaying palms in front of you. This beach is also famous for its Wednesday Flea Markets where you can shop for souvenirs, knick-knacks, funcky jewellery, beachwear, sarongs, traditional handicrafts etc. The market is located in the southern end of the beach where there are also several food stalls, body piercing centers, live music, and other entertainment activities in and around the market. The market is open only from October to May, from 8 am to 8 pm, so plan your visit accordingly if you want to enjoy the market. The beach is around 22 km north of Panaji and lies between Vagator and Calangute beaches.
Named the ‘Queen of Beaches’, the sandy Calangute Beach is the perfect blend of adventure and beauty. The beach ticks all the boxes for a fun day, be it shopping, soaking in the picturequese sights or taking part in adventure water sports. This beach is often crowded with people swelling towards the sea, lazing around, taking sunbath and children making sand castles. Another spectacular features of Calangute Beach is its sunsets and sunrise. Calangute beach is about 16 km north of Panjim.
The scintillating Sinquerim Beach is an excellent shoreline that has a fabulous extend of sand. It is situated at the north of the well known shorelines like Baga, Calangute and Candolim. It is a perfect place for swimming and one ought not to miss going to this shoreline when vacationing in Goa to enjoy the beach activities. The beach offers the best opportunities to try water sports in Goa like scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing and much more. This beach also has some amazing night clubs and restuarants and is located about 14 km north of Panaji.
A calm and peaceful beach, Candolim Beach has no shops, restaurants or any commercial activity. Scrubs covered dunes at the back is the major attraction. Tranquil ambiance, thrilling water sports, and an enchanting nightlife make Candolim the perfect spot for honeymooners. Don’t forget to try a dolphin sighting trip and see if you spot this elusive yet friendly creature.
Another secluded beach known for its beauty and tranquillity, Arambol Beach , also known locally as Harmal Beach, is a rocky and sandy beach giving out a bohemian vibe. This beach is counted among the less-crowded beaches in Goa, which makes it ideal for you to spend some romantic moments with your special someone and indulge in some amazing water-based activities. You can even shop for knick-knacks and junk jewelry from the small shops lining the beach or have a drink or two at one of the shacks surrounding the beach. The beach is 35 km north of Panaji, close to the Maharashtra-Goa border.
Well known for it’s white sands, clear water and lines of palm trees that line the shoreline, Mandrem Beach is one of the less well known North Goa beaches. Visit this place during the high tides because that is when its beauty is at its peak. This beach is snuggled between Ashvem and Arambol beaches and lies around 20 km north of Panjim.
Morjim Beach is located in what is locally known as Little Russia, so expect to see many Russians expats here. This beach is the nesting and hatching habitat of the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, so is an amazing place to just chill, relax and unwind as this beach is a protected area. If you want to see the turtles come here to nest and return to the ocean, come between September to April, but do take note of the exact dates as environmentalists say the nesting season has become later in the last few years.
Miramar Beach is famed for its alluring palm trees and lies close to the confluence point of the Mandovi river and the Arabian Sea. This beach is just 3 km south of Panjim city centre and lies between Panaji and Dona Paula.
Also known as Shiridon, the coarse sand Siridao Beach is famed as the “Shell Collectors Beach” and lies at the mouth of the Zuari river. Shell collectors can find the most unique shells and a wide range of oysters and pearl shells as well as some mysterious caves nearby.
When you think of Goa, temples are not what comes to your mind, but there are many temples in Goa with rich history and culture. Some of the best temples in Goa are:
One of the important temples of North Goa, the Temple of Bogdeshwara is an exquisite structure and is a masterpiece in its own right. Located in the verdant greenery, the temple is dedicated to Kanakeshwar Baba or Bodgeshwar, also known as Bongini. In complete contrast to the hip and happening façade of North Goa, this small shrine exudes tranquility and is an ideal place to spend a few hours soaking in the serene vibes. This temple is famous for fulfilling the desires of its devotees and evry year, thousands of people visit this temple to get their prayers heard. The annual fair called ‘Zatra’ is held at the temple during the month of December or January. The temple is located in Mapusa, on the Calangute-Mapusa road, about 12 kms from Panaji. The temple is open from 6 am to 8 pm daily.
Located in Mangeshi village, about 22 km from Panjam, the 450-year old Mangeshi Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the largest and most frequently visited temples in Goa. The temple is built in the Goan temple architecture style consisting of several domes, pilasters and balustrades. There is a prominent Nandi Bull and the temple has a unquie Deepastambha which is a seven storey octagonal lamp tower, painted white with golden arches inside the temple complex. When the deepstambha is illuminated at night, the sight is simple awe inspiring. The temple also has a magnificent water tank, which is believed to be the oldest part of the temple. The temple is open from 6 am to 10 pm.
The village of Bandode or Bandivade is the location of a number of temples among which is the large and beautiful temple of Goddess Mahalaxmi. The temple of Goddess Mahalaxmi has been in existence since at least the year 1413, when information about the rituals of the temple is found on stone plaques carved during the reign of Nanjan Gosavi Pratihast over Goa. As is the case with most Hindu deities in Goa, the idol of Mahalaxmi from this temple was also smuggled away in the middle of the night to avoid persecution by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. Adorned with a pillared hall and a silver arched doorway, the temple features an idol of Goddess Lakshmi crafted out of black stone. Adding to the beauty of the temple are twenty-four wooden panels displaying scenes from the Bhagavata Purana. The temple is open from 6:30 am to 8:30 pm every day.
Because of the more than four centuries of Portuguese rule in Goa, there are many interesting and architecturally forts which have stood as sentinels over the centuries.
One of the most famous of Goa forts, Fort Aguada is located at the mouth of the river Mandovi. The fort offers gorgeous views of the Arabian Sea. This beautiful fortress constructed in 1612, also boasts of a four-storeyed Portuguese lighthouse, the oldest one of its kind in Asia, which has beautiful sweeping views of the sea and the nearby Aguada beach from a height. Don’t miss the series of prison cells in the fort. Fort Aguada is so large it sweeps along the entire peninsula of the southern tip of Bardez. It is one of the best places to visit in north Goa during the monsoons. The fort is free to enter and is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm.
Dating back to 1717, the Chapora Fort overlooks the dazzling Vagator Beach, Morjim Beach, Ozran Beach and the mouth of the Chapora river. The Portuguese built this fort with the purpose of keeping a check over the Hindu raiders. This place, which is partly in ruins is a nice photography spot due to the sweeping views it offers. There are also two tunnels that Portuguese constructed to escape in case of an emergency in the fort. The fort is open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm daily.
The most well-preserved of forts In Goa and standing on a hilltop, the Reis Magos Fort was constructed by Afonso de Noronha, a Portuguese Viceroy between 1551 and 1554. The fort is located on the hill onlooking the magnificent Reis Magos Church, at the merging point of the Mandovi river. From serving as a residence for viceroys and other significant personalities to being a prison and then lying as an abandoned fort, Reis Magos Fort has seen many chapters of history unfold within its walls. Today, the fort serves as a cultural center and draws in a large number of tourists. The fort is located in Bardez and is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm on all days except Mondays when it is closed.
Chuches and Basilicas
The Portugese occupation of Goa means that there are many churches in the state, some of which are very famous and are on every tourist’s itinerary.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus needs no introduction as it is one of the most photographed places in Goa. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Basilica, dating back over four centuries, is characterized by baroque architecture and fine detailing, carved from basalt embellishments, it is one of the richest facades in Goa. The Basilica of Bom Jesus is most famous for holding the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The basilica also has a collection of paintings related to the life of the St. Xavier and relics of other saints such as Jesuit Rudolf Acquaviva and Antoni Francisci. The church is open from 9 am to 6:30 pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 10 am to 6:30 pm on Sundays.
Marked by its spectacular double flight of steps zigzagging its way upward, the Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception which is located on a hillside, overlooking the city of Panjim, boasts of a majestic structure. It houses the ancient bell that was once a part of the Church of Our Lady of Grace. It is said to be the second largest bell of its kind in Goa. The church is open everyday between 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:30 to 7:30 pm.
The Chapel of St. Catherine exhibits a simple renaissance style architecture, but it has immense historical significance. This edifice owes its origin to the Portuguese general Afonso de Albuquerque, who commissioned its construction in 1510 to commemorate his victorious march into the city. Located in Taleigao, the chapel is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm.
Housing the the miraculous statue of Mae de Deus which brought the church back to life post its ruin state, the Church of Mae De Deus is a bright white building with neo-gothic architecture is so peaceful, you will not feel the time time spent here. With imposing interiors and carved ornamentation on ceiling and walls, the church is a nice place to spend an afternoon peacefully. It is located in Saligao and is openevery day from 9 am to 12:30 pm and then again from 3 to 5 pm.
Museums, Casinos and Islands
Goa is much more than beaches, temples, forts and churches. Below are some of the other interesting activities you can do in North Goa.
The Goa State Museum is a treasure trove of more than 8000 artifacts and antiques depicting the glorious past of Goa. Of all museums in Goa, this one exhibits items pertaining to religious expression, history of printing in the state, lottery printing, cultural anthropology, contemporary and Christian art, furniture, sculptures as well as information on Goa’s struggle for freedom. There are also screenings of short videos of various cultural, heritage and anthropological facts about Goa. The museum is open from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday.
If you are fascinated by the architectural beauty of Goa, you must visit the Houses of Goa Museum. Unlike other museums in Goa, this museum offers a peek into the evolution of houses in Goa and its surrounding areas. Interestingly, the museum itself is shaped like a ship and stands right in the middle of the road. The museum is located in Torda, Salvador Do Mundo and is open from 10 am to 7:30 pm. It is closed on Mondays. The entry fee is Rs 100 for adults and Rs. 25 for children.
Christianity has played an undeniable role in the history and culture of Goa and the Museum of Christian Art is where you can get a glimpse into this rich history. The museum showcases many relics that are as old as the Portuguese invasion of the region. From statues and furniture to ivory, paintings, and precious metals, you will find a wide range of interesting exhibits here. Located in old Goa or Velha Goa, the museum is closed on Sundays and open from 9:30 am to 5 pm. Entry fee is Rs 30 per person.
Located in Calangute beach, Casino Palms is the most famous casino in Goa. Try your luck playing roulette and other games. The casino is open 24 hours daily. There is also a bar and plush lounges inside the casino to enjoy the nightlife.
Chorao Island’s name is is from Sanskrit which means ‘Stunning Precious Stone’. The largest island in Goa, it is located just three km from Panaji and has grown from a settlement for Portuguese noblemen to a quaint island with churches and old villas.
Cascading from the height of 50 m or 24 feet, the Harvalem Waterfalls is one of the those places where you can have a relaxing picnic. These falls make a plunge pool at the bottom where one can swim in and relax with cold waters. A temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is nearby along with a well-maintained park where one can just sit and observe the deep beauty it possesses. If you plan to visit this waterfalls, try to reach right after the monsoon as the water gushes in the highest amount during the time making it beautiful more than ever. The falls are located about 8 km from the town of Bicholim, which is around 25 km from Panjim and is open daily between 9 am and 6 pm.
This was all about North Goa. In the next blog post, we will go down south and see what South Goa has to offer.