Beach Holidays In Panaji,goa
The church on the main square, the Baroque architecture, pretty villas, cobbled streets and interesting buildings give Panaji a distinctly Portuguese
ambience. The pretty town of Panaji lies along the left bank of the Mandovi River – piled up against terraced hills, a jumble of concrete buildings with whimsical balconies and red-tiled roofs, bleached clean churches and a riverside promenade that is just right for an evening stroll. The Old Portuguese quarter of Fontainhas, a charming section of Panaji with its narrow cobbled streets, quaint taverns, tiny pubs and bars, are a nostalgic kickback to the days of yore.
Panaji is known for its idyllic beauty and rich tradition and culture. A must visit by all— Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church on the main square, Menezes Braganza Institute, Kala Academy cultural centre, Old City and Miramar Beach where so many Bollywood (Hindi) films have been shot.
Panaji had been mentioned in inscriptions as early as the 12th century. The Kadambas, Chalukyas and the Satavahanas ruled over Panaji along with other areas of Goa at different times. Under the rule of muslim ruler Adil Shahis many palaces were built here. Old Goa was his administrative capital. With
the coming of the Portuguese colonizers in the 16th century Panaji was renamed Panjim and became the capital city of Goa.
Panaji is the place to shop for designer clothing, accessories and shoes – designer labels at a fraction of the cost of European prices. Besides the up-market boutiques, you can pick up local handicrafts, Indian antiques, restored antique furniture, wood carvings, terracotta pottery, embroidered
items, jewellery and leather products from shops in town.
One of the most remarkable features of life in Goa is its religious harmony. All communities participate in special events like the Carnival which is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety. The famous Winter Carnival is celebrated prior to Lent (February), when there is great fun & frolic,
music & dancing, lasting for three days. All night dancing on the streets with specially designed costumes and masks ends in a frenzied finale, with Momo, the King of Darkness, leading a colourful procession through the town. Not to be missed.
Panaji has a smorgasbord of eating out choices. The restaurants serve a whole gamut of cuisines, from fiery Gaon and Konkanese curries, Greek and Portuguese dishes to Italian and Indian food. Try the famous Goan vindaloo, prawn balchao, Xacuti and seafood specialities. European bakeries around town
whip up splendid deserts and confectionery. Many of them have little stalls by the roadside and seaside where you can pick up scrumptious pineapple upside-down cake, chocolate truffle, apple strudel, walnut pastry, bebinca., dodol and doce.
Panaji makes a refreshing break from Goa”s endless beaches. You can spend an enjoyable couple of days absorbing the Portuguese flavour of this town. Begin your tour of the city with the suburb of Pato , near the main Kadamba Bus Terminal. From Pato, you need to cross the Qurem Creek to reach
Panaji. At the heart of Panaji is a large park known as Church Square or the Municipal Garden . Close by, the 16th century Baroque Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception , the most prominent and elegant church in Panaji, is a whitewashed edifice with an enormous bell that was taken from an Augustinian monastery in Old Goa. Ramble around the government buildings on the riverside boulevard, beginning with the 16th century Idalco Palace of Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur. The Portuguese used it as the Viceroy”s Palace till 1759. When Panaji became the Goan capital in 1843, the palace became the Secretariat. The Statue of Abb Faria , a Goan priest who became a distinguished hypnotist, stands near the Secretariat. The 18th century domeless Jama Masjid and the Mahalakshmi Temple lie near the Largo Da Igreja Church Square , a beautiful example of the Portuguese Baroque style. The Braganza Institute has a frieze portraying the Portuguese colonisation of Goa. The Old Portuguese quarter of Fontainhas , a charming area west of Pato, is one of Panaji”s liveliest areas. This quaint quarter of town is hemmed in by the Qurem Creek and the Altinho Hill. Red-roofed cottages sprawl up the hillside and all the houses in this quarter have freshly painted facades. The haphazard snaking of narrow lanes amidst a scatter of gaily painted homes has a charm of its own. The town got its name of Fontainhas from the Fountain of Phoenix, a reservoir that watered the area when the Portuguese governors and viceroys lived in this area. At the south of Fontainhas, the St Sebastian Chapel is a stark, whitewashed church at the end of a small square. An annual street fiesta is held here in mid-November to celebrate the patron saint”s day. The tiny chapel of St Sebastian houses many religious relics, amongst them, the image of Our Lady of Livramento, the Confraria and the Crucifix of the Inquisition. Beyond Altinho Hill is the Old Quarter of Sao Tom with its pretty, ancient villas and cobbled alleyways. This is a colourful part of town with any number of quaint taverns, tiny pubs and bars where you can quaff a stiff feni. Across the Qurem Creek footbridge, the State Archaeological Museum is an enormous building that houses a motley collection of colonial artefacts, temple relics, prehistoric rock carvings and some beautiful Jain bronzes. Panaji spreads along the left bank of the River Mandovi as it wends its way to the sea. The waterfront is peppered by fancy hotels and the homes of Goa”s rich.Miramar is often crowded and dirty because of its proximity to the capital, but you can watch some spectacular sunsets on the Mandovi estuary. Beaches Miramar is the closest beach to Panaji, 3 km west along the Mandovi estuary as it opens into the Arabian Sea. Miramar is a commercialised beach that panders mainly to the tourists that flock the city. Bambolim , 7 km from Panaji along the Panaji-Vasco road to the airport, is a minor beach frequented by the local populace rather than by tourists. On the other side of the peninsula, Dona Paula , is a pretty and peaceful beach shaded by palms and casuarinas, 9 km southwest of Panaji. The governor”s residence, Raj Bhavan , is close by. There is a sweeping view of the coastline across the Mandovi River.Dona Paula is quite a hotspot, not only for its beauty but also because of a romantic legend that gave the beach its name. Dona Paula de Menezes was a viceroy”s daughter who jumped off a cliff when refused permission to marry a local fisherman. The hapless maiden is said to be entombed at the Raj Bhawan”s Cabo Chapel . Dona Paula beach offers water sports facilities, especially water scootering. To get to the beaches, you can take a motorcycle taxi or a bus from Panaji”s Kadamba Bus Terminal, or a ferry service from Marmagao. Though not very pretty, Caranzalem (between Miramar and Dona Paula) is quiet and safe for swimming; it has water scooters and other water sports facilities, as there is no undercurrent. The Vaniguinim beach overlooks the Mormugao Bay but is accessible only from the Cidade de Goa Hotel. North Goa North Goa has a number of great places to see and beaches to relax and party on. Visit the Chapora Fort , a 500-year-old Portuguese fort. It is the most prominent feature of the little fishing hamlet of Chapora. It is situated on a vantage spot overlooking the big Vagator beach and the blue-green waters of the Indian Ocean. The Portuguese built their fort over the ruins of the original fortification at Chapora, built by the Sultan of Bijapur – Adil Shah on the southern headland of the Chapora River. Tumble down and overgrown with grass and weeds, Chapora rewards those who come to visit with magnificent views of the sea. Beaches About 8 km from Mapusa and 16 km from Panaji, Calangute , Goa”s most popular beach, is a highly commercialised but sizzling beach that grapples with the mad tourist melee with lan. Though the beach itself is not spectacular, and the coarse golden sand drops steeply creating an undertow, there is something about Calangute that attracts the Indian tourist and Western sun-worshipper alike. Calangute”s flower power, weed-smoking and nude bathing days are long over, but high season revellers still crowd the beach. Busloads of visitors pour in from the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, some to splash in the sea and set up a raucous game of beach volleyball and others to simply stand around and drink in the ozone. Leading up to the beach is a glitzy road of shops and boutiques selling handicrafts, clothes and trinkets from other parts of the country. Calangute is flooded with places to stay, from the popular GTDC Tourist Resort and basic guesthouses to luxury hotels and pretty villa complexes. The restaurants and bars along the beach and the Baga road dish up an amazing variety of seafood and hearty breakfasts. From Mapusa you can take a bus, motorcycle taxi or even rent a bicycle to get to Calangute. Baga , a happening beach 10 km west of Mapusa is less crowded than Calangute, but it can get terribly congested during the peak season around Christmas and New Year. Baga has soft white sand and a green backdrop of paddy fields. This crescent shaped beach is safer for swimming than Calangute. Baga is popular for water sports – parasailing, jet skiing, body boarding and surfing, though the waves aren”t good enough for the professional surfers. Another hit with tourists are the dolphin cruises on a boat out at sea, bringing you within touching distance of these smiling creatures. Baga”s nightlife is more sophisticated than Calangute”s, with music, dance and wine. The flea market at Baga has recently sprung up (Saturdays from around 4 pm), north of the tiny river that joins the sea, where you could strike some fancy bargains as you pick up Indian handicrafts. Anjuna , the “hip” beach that has lived up to its swinging reputation since the 70s, is visited as much for the atmosphere that it sports, as for the flea market every Wednesday. Anjuna has traditionally been a rave centre and attracts partygoers, revellers and backpackers for its famous beach parties. Don”t miss the famous Wednesday flea market at Anjuna. It is a fascinating medley of Kashmiri and Tibetan traders, tribes people from Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra, and local traders selling a delightful range of handicrafts from all over India. A little ahead of Anjuna lie the two Vagators – the big and the small Vagators. Both are secluded, palm fringed quiet places tucked away in the northern most tip of Mapusa. Small Vagator is a small cove – its fine silver sands and rocky sea shore surrounded by black laterite cliffs.The main Vagator beach ( Big Vagator ) is overshadowed by the 500 year old Portuguese fortress of Chapora that sits atop a rocky outcrop. Vagator is barely 9/10km from Mapusa but could be further away as only the determined tourists actually make it there. So, the villages continue to be small fishing communities with a few shacks that do double duty as bar-resaturant for the intrepid traveller. Not that it is all that difficult to get to the Vagators – regular bus services connect it to Mapusa and Panaji. South Goa Margao is th chief town of south Goa. At the heart of the Largo de Igreja Square in Margao is the 17th century Church of the Holy Spirit , a wonderful illustration of Goan Baroque architecture. The church has a brilliantly carved pulpit depicting the apostles. Near the square is the Portuguese mansion, House of Seven Gables and another important landmark, the Calcada de Nossa de Piedade that leads up to Monte Hill, offering a stunning view of the Salcette area. You can make day excursions to visit the surrounding countryside, farm villages, temples and colonial monuments. The Pandava Caves at Aquem Alto, near the Chapel of St Sebastian is a reminder of Goa”s cultural duality. Beaches Colva, Goa”s pulsating beach, the tranquil Benaulim and the exclusive Majorda are all within easy reach of Margao. Colva (6 km from Margao) and approximately 40 km from Panaji has a throbbing nightlife and a somewhat downmarket ambience by day. Colva is highly commercialised with resort complexes, large holiday crowds, trinket stalls, discos – the works! A few hundreds of metres walk along the beach in either direction takes visitors to the quieter spots that offer greater privacy. If one can get away from the main beach, the jam-packed market area, Colva is a great place to shack up In peak season, Colva is crowded with busloads of visitors, rows and rows of souvenir and food stalls, snack bars and shacks. As dusk settles over the sand dunes, Colva comes to life with techno, Indian raga and the odd rave party. There are good accommodation options and restaurants, the waterfront is clean and the waters safe for swimming. If Colva is too crowded for your taste, head for Benaulim , right in the centre of Colva, 7 km to the west of Margao and about 41 km from the capital city of Panaji or Panjim. Benaulim”s beauty belies its hallowed beginnings as the spot where the sage Parashurama, an incarnation of Vishnu, shot an arrow to make the waters recede. Benaulim remained a sleepy hamlet for centuries. Today it is a popular tourist hotspot with a crop of luxury resorts, time-share apartments, guesthouses and moderately priced hotels. Dozens of restaurants and beach shacks dot the seafront, serving authentic Goan seafood besides a variety of other cuisine. Despite its popularity, Benaulim still has an air of tranquillity: the beachfront is beautiful, with silver sands, shady palm trees and safe waters. Old Goa The town of Old Goa lies 9 km east of Panaji, along the Mandovi River. Old Goa once was the hub of Portugal”s empire in the East and Far East. Virtually abandoned after the river silted up and the new capital was set up at Panaji in 1843, all that remains of this once grand city are half a dozen churches and cathedrals that are considered amongst Asia”s largest. The Archaeological Survey of India has converted Old Goa”s ancient buildings into museums and the once glorious town has been granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO. The JMb Arch of the Viceroys near the Chapel of St Cajetan, which was modeled on St Peter”s basilica in Rome is worth a visit. This architectural style, reminiscent of Lisbon, gives Old Goa a grand, Portuguese feel. The imposing Cathedral of St. Catherine lies southwest of St Cajetan”s. The church is larger than any church in Portugal and is the largest church in Asia. It has 14 altars, an 80m long aisle and 5 bells including the Golden Bell, said to be one of the best in the world. Amongst the few surviving edifices are the Church of St. Francis of Assisi and the Se Cathedral , which are built in the Baroque and Manuline style. The Archaeological Museum and Portrait Gallery functions in an abandoned convent in the compound. The museum is open daily except Friday, from 10am to 5 pm. Close to the convent of St Francis, the late 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus with its richly gilded altars is famous throughout the Catholic world. This cathedral is the venue for a pilgrimage for both Christians and Hindus who come to pay homage to the embalmed mortal remains of Goa”s most famous saint, St. Francis Xavier, enshrined in a silver casket since 1553. Also worth seeing, up on Holy Hill, are the Chapel of our Lady of the Rosary (one of the oldest in Goa), and the Convent of Santa Monica, reputed to be amongst the largest convents in the Portuguese empire, with a Miraculous Cross at the altar. Old Goa can easily be reached from Panaji and is usually done as a day trip.
How to get there by Air
Goa”s airport, Dabolim, is 29 km south of Panaji, bordering the city of Vasco da Gama. Chartered flights come in from Europe and from major Indian cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Thiruvanthapuram and Kochi. From the airport, you can take a pre-paid taxi/shared taxi into town.
How to get there by Rail
Goa has an international airport at Dabolim, 29 km from the capital, Panaji. Several overseas charter companies as well as most domestic airlines have flights to Dabolim. The regular domestic connections are from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kochi and Chennai. From the airport to your hotel or to any
of the towns, catch a cab, a metered taxi, city buses or airline coach to their city offices.
How to get there by Bus
The Kadamba Bus Terminal in Pato, 1 km east of the main square, is a busy bus junction with buses coming in from neighbouring Goan towns and long distance buses from Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Best time to Visit
The best time to visit is between late October and early April. The peak season is from mid-December to mid-January, when the weather is near perfect, with daytime temperatures rarely going beyond 32 C. The nights tend to get cool in December-January, especially if you are on the beaches, so carrying
a light wrap is a good idea. The carnival period in the month of February through early March is another peak time, attracting a lot of tourists to North Goa. It is a great time, a lot like the Christmas season with parades, pageants and lots of merrymaking late into the night.
Hotels in panaji,goa
There are a number of accomaodation options available in Panaji. The Hotel Sun Village and Hotel Vista Do Rio are good places to stay. If you”re planning a visit in peak season ensure that you book before hand to avoid being disappointed.
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