One of the most popular tourist destinations in India, Goa, a former Portuguese colony and the smallest state by area, is situated in the Western Ghats Mountain range in the Konkan region in the south western part of India. The capital of Goa is Panaji or Panjim. Sonsogor is the highest point in Goa with an altitude of 1,167 m or 3,827 ft.
The coastline around Goa measures 101 km or 63 miles. The state of Maharashtra borders Goa to the north and the state of Karnataka to the east and south. The western coast of Goa is formed by the Arabian Sea.
Goa was ranked first in terms of infrastructure and the best quality of life in India. Goa’s beaches, places of worship and world heritage architecture are well known all over the world and attract large number of Indian and foreign tourists every year. The important rivers flowing through Goa are Mandovi, Zuari, Terekhol, Chapora and Sal.
Teak, coconut, sal, cashew and mango trees grow in Goa. There are several wildlife sanctuaries in Goa which include Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Madei Wildlife Sanctuary, Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. The wildlife includes foxes and wild boars. Several birds like the kingfishers, mynas and parrots are found here.
Goan cuisine is unique with pork dishes like Vindaloo, Xacuti and Sorpotel and a vegetable stew called Khatkhate. An idli-like snack known as Sannas and dosa-like snacks named Amboli are also unique to Goa. Feni is a popular Goan alcoholic beverage.
Here are some of the major attractions of tourist interest in Goa.
1. Basilica of Bom Jesus
Situated in Old Goa, Basilica of Bom Jesus is a world heritage site and is more than 400 years old. The church is built in the baroque style of architecture and holds the body of St. Francis Xavier, venerated by Catholics as the patron saint of Goa. There is a mausoleum on which a silver casket is placed with the body of St. Francis Xavier. Once every 12 years, the body is taken down for paying respects and public viewing. The Basilica features marble flooring inlaid with precious stones and gilded altars. The church has paintings with scenes taken from the life of St. Francis Xavier.
2. Goa State Museum
Goa State Museum is located in Panjim. The museum boasts of 8,000 artifacts in its collection such as stone sculptures, wooden objects, carvings, bronzes, paintings, manuscripts, rare coins and anthropological objects.
3. Naval Aviation Museum
Situated in Bogmalo about 6 km from Vasco da Gama is the Naval Aviation Museum. This museum showcases the evolution of the naval and aviation forces. The museum is divided into 2 main parts, an Outdoor Exhibit and a 2 storey Indoor Gallery.
The Outdoor Exhibit is a large park displaying airplanes and helicopters such as the Sea Harrier, the Hawker Sea Hawk, the Breguet Alizé, the Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation, the Short Sealand, the de Havilland Vampire, the HAL Chetak and the de Havilland Dove.
The Indoor Gallery gives information about key battles fought by the Indian Naval and Air Forces.
4. Goa Science Center
The Goa Science Center is situated on the New Marine Highway, Miramar, Panjim. The center has a large park with verdant lawns and beautiful flowers. Interactive exhibits explaining the laws of physics are found here. Some of the other attractions include daily science shows for young children, 3 D film shows and science demonstration lectures. A multimedia computer lab is also present at this center.
5. Miramar Beach
Situated on the Mandovi River, Miramar Beach is the most popular beach in Goa. It is a gorgeous beach with golden sand and encircled by palm trees. Large crowds of people flock to this beach.
6. Dona Paula Beach
Dona Paula Beach is located at a distance of 7 km from Panaji. Water scootering, motor boating, windsurfing, parasailing and water skiing are some of the attractions offered by this beach. Donal Paula Beach also has toboggan ski-biscuit, skibob, sports fishing, snorkeling, harpoon fishing, kayaking and yachting.
7. Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
The Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is situated in island of Chorao and is named after the legendary ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali. It houses several rare and endangered species of birds and is well worth a visit. Flying foxes, jackals and crocodiles are also present in the Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary.
8. Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary
Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary is the second largest wildlife sanctuary in Goa. The sanctuary is covered with thick forests and open grass lands. Some of the birds found here are the Indian Pied Hornbill, Larger Golden Backed Woodpecker and the Great Indian Woodpecker. Animals like the gazelles, sloth bears, porcupines, panthers, hyenas, wild boars and Indian bisons make their home in the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary.
9. Dudh Sagar Waterfall
Situated in the Bhagwan Mahavir Wild Life Sanctuary at Collem in South Goa along the Western Ghats and bordering the neighbouring State of Karnataka is the spectacular Dudh Sagar Waterfall. It is one of the highest waterfalls in India. The meaning of Dudh Sagar is Sea of Milk.
Festivals & Events
1. Goa Carnival
The Goa Carnival is held for 3 days in the month of February before Easter. Street plays, songs, dances, parades and feasting are some of the attractions of this carnival. The Goa Carnival was introduced by the Portuguese. The parades with several colorful and differently themed tableaus from all parts of Goa are a grand sight to see.
2. Shigmotsav (Shigmo)
The Shigmotsav or Shigmo is a festival similar to Holi. This festival is celebrated by sprinkling coloured water and powders on people.
3. Procession of All Saints
Held in March/April in Old Goa, this is a picturesque procession where 30 statues of saints are brought out and paraded in the neighbouring villages around Old Goa.
4. Goa Heritage Festival
A 2 day festival, the Goa Heritage Festival is held in Panaji. Its attractions include music, dancing and traditional food.
5. International Film Festival of India
The International Film Festival of India is the largest film festival in India and is held in the month of November in Panaji. It showcases the best movies from all over the world.
6. Feast of St Francis Xavier
The Feast of St Francis Xavier is held on December 3 in Old Goa with great festivity and celebration. A large number of people attend this feast.
7. Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
The Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception takes place in Panaji on December 8. A large fair is held here to celebrate the occasion. A fair is held in Margao at the same time.
Location: Goa is the smallest state of India situated in the Western Ghats Mountain range in the Konkan region in the south western part of India.
Altitude: Goa lies at sea level.
Climate: For a large part of the year, Goa experiences a hot and humid climate. The summer season is from mid March to June, the rainy season from June to September and the winter season from late November to February.
The average annual temperature ranges from 25°C to 30°C. The average winter temperature is a minimum of 3°C and a maximum of 11°C. The average summer temperature is a minimum of 25°C and a maximum of 45°C. The average annual rainfall is 350 cm.
Best Time to Travel: November to March is the best time to visit Goa.
Accommodation: Budget hotels, luxury hotels, guest houses, apartments and villas are available.
By Flight: International visitors to Goa can fly to the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at Mumbai and then take a domestic flight to the Dabolim Airport in Goa. The flight from Mumbai Airport to Dabolim Airport takes about an hour. Dabolim Airport is at a distance of 29 km from Panaji or Panjim and 5 km from Vasco da Gama. International chartered flights operate from the UK, Germany and Russia to Dabolim Airport. International flights to this airport are also available from Qatar, Dubai, Sharjah and Kuwait. There are several flights to and from Dabolim Airport to a number of India cities. Taxis are available at this airport to travel to other parts of Goa.
By Train: Goa is connected to Mumbai in the north and Mangalore in the south by the Konkan Railway. The main railway station on the Konkan Railway line in Goa is Madgaon station in Margao. Trains run daily from Madgaon station to Mumbai. Direct trains also run from New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Kolkata to Goa.
By Road: Buses run from cities like Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, New Delhi and Mangalore to Goa. Daily bus services to Mumbai from Panaji and Margao are available. National Highway NH-17 connects Goa to Mumbai in the north and Mangalore to the south. National Highway NH-4A links the capital Panjim to Belgaum in the east.
By Sea:One can also take a catamaran from Mumbai to reach Panaji in 7 hours. (As per the recent reports this service seems to have been stopped).