Goa Tours
Goa Tours

Fun, feni, and palm fronds; sun, sand, sea spray and seafood; beaches, beaches and more beaches Goa, a little state with so much soul that your happiest holiday memories are probably going to be from here. Beach holiday paradise, honeymoon haven, family fun zone - Goa is different things to different people.

Goa's irrefutable appeal lies in its 105km long coastline divided by headlands, rivers, estuaries and bays into 40 plus beautiful beaches. Palm-fringed, rimmed by rocks, abutting rivers, outlined by laterite cliffs or approached through a tangle of vegetation, each beach is unique whether its sand is soft silver or coarse golden.

The easy going, relaxed air conjures up the magic to make Goa one of India's major tourist destinations, attracting over a million visitors annually, three quarters of them from overseas. Visitors are drawn to Goa for its joie de vivre and its warm and friendly people.

History of Goa

According to Hindu scriptures, this enchanting land was created by the sage Parashuram (Lord Vishnu, the Protector, in the sixth of his ten incarnations), and soon became a retreat for the Gods in times of stress. Understandable, Goa is the perfect holiday destination. Lord Shiva, the Destroyer visited Goa twice, after marital spats with Parvati, his divine consort. Unable to bear the loneliness and heartbreak, she followed him each time, made up and returned to live happily ever after in Kailash their heavenly abode or until their next row!

Legends apart, Goa's history goes back to the third century BC when it was part of the great Mauryan kingdom of the Emperor Ashoka. After his death in 232 BC, the region came under the suzerainty of various Hindu dynasties such as the Satavahanas, Kshatrapas, Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas. An indigenous dynasty, the Kadambas, rose to power in the 10th century. They ruled for over three hundred years and made Goa into a major maritime power using the natural harbours to make Goa a thriving centre of maritime trade. The 14th century was a turbulent phase in Goa's history when its control passed from the Yadavas of Devagiri to the Delhi Sultanate (1356-1378) and finally to the Vijayanagar kings who ruled it for almost a hundred years. Towards the end of the 15th century, the Bahamani Sultans of Gulbarga and the Adil Shahis of Bijapur held sway. Meanwhile, in their quest for new spice routes and driven by a proselytising zeal to spread Christianity, the Portuguese landed in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. Unable to get a foothold there, they captured Goa from the Adil Shahis in 1510. Before long they had established their maritime might in the Arabian Sea and controlled the most prosperous trade routes. Gradually Goa became the seat of the Portuguese Empire in Asia and the Far East. Its capital, Old Goa, became a centre of immense wealth and opulence, attracting vast numbers of Portuguese immigrants. By the end of the 16th century Old Goa had a population of around 300,000, much larger than that of Lisbon, Paris or London.

Though the Marathas posed a threat in the early 18th century, the Portuguese were able to retain control and continued to enlarge their territory further east. A fledgling independence movement began in the late 19th century, seeking self-rule or even merger with British ruled India. However, the territory remained under Portuguese rule till 1961 when a political movement, launched in the wake of India's independence in 1947, led to its liberation by India. After 26 years as a centrally administered Union Territory, Goa was granted full statehood on 30 May 1987. More than 15 centuries of Hindu rule, followed by a short span of Muslim control and then 450 years of Roman Catholic domination under Portugal, has left a hybrid of Eastern and Western cultures that makes Goa a unique experience. Happily, the large community has managed to neatly balance its Konkani roots with the dominant Christian influence.

Goa Tours

Sightseeing in Goa

Goa which is geographically divided into the North and South districts offers a wide range of places to visit.

The small and charming state capital, Panaji, lies on the southern bank of the Mandovi River in North Goa. A lot of its Portuguese heritage still survives in the oldest part of the town - Fontain has and Sao Tome, with old villas with wrought iron balconies looking down upon narrow cobbled streets and white washed churches in village squares. Dominating the square on which it stands, is the Church of Immaculate Conception (1541 AD), Panaji's main place of worship for the Catholics and one of the places to see in Goa. In medieval times, all sailors arriving from Portugal congregated here for thanksgiving mass for their safe passage.

Nine kilometres east along the river is the town of Old Goa - what 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, cathedrals, a monastery and convent that make for the interesting places to see in Goa. Do visit the imposing Se Cathedral of St. Catherine, the largest church in Asia, which has 14 altars, an 80m long aisle, and five bells including the Golden Bell, said to be one of the best in the world.

The late 16th century Basilica of Bom Jesus with its richly gilded altars is famous throughout the Catholic world. Take a sightseeing tour to this church as it is the venue for a pilgrimage for both Christians and Hindus who come to pay homage to the embalmed mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier enshrined in a silver casket since 1553. Also worth seeing, up on Holy Hill, are the Church of our Lady of the Rosary (one of the oldest in Goa), and Church and Convent of Santa Monica, reputed to be amongst the largest convents in the Portuguese empire.

This is the land of the magical trinity of sun, sea, and sand, and is most sought after for its captivating beaches. The turquoise blue water is shallow and safe for swimming, except during the monsoon months. Most five star hotels and resorts have their properties overlooking the beach but fortunately Goa does not have any private beaches - all beaches are open to the public.

Goa carnival is going to happen in February. You can get more information on Goa Carnival 2014 party and other activities to do in Goa.

BEACHES

Miramar Beach, closest to the capital Panaji (3 km), is conveniently located in the heart of the state capital which is also why it is rather crowded and often dirty, though you can watch some spectacular sunsets, as the sun sets at the confluence of the River Mandovi as it flows into the Arabian Sea.

A small, idyllic beach with the Dona Paula Beach Resort, and neighbouring Piranha cottages, Caranzalem is situated at a distance of nine kilometres southwest of Panaji. 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, which makes it an ideal sightseeing place in Goa. The Vaniguinim beach overlooks the Mormugao Bay but is accessible only from the Cidade de Goa Hotel.

Goa Tours North Goa:

The entire coast from Fort Aguada all the way to Goa's border with Maharashtra is a virtually unbroken 30 km stretch of beach, some rocky, hazardous and hidden in secluded coves and others that are long stretches of golden sand.

Calangute is the busiest resort in Goa and now the centre of the 'package' tourist trade and has a long beach of coarse golden sand but there is a dangerous undertow that restricts swimming time. There is plenty of accommodation available here and lots of fellow tourists for company.

Palm-fringed Sinquerim beach lies at the foot of Fort Aguada and is popular with tourist groups. So also is the nearby Candolim beach. All the beaches have beach umbrellas, loungers and plenty of shacks selling beer, feni, and aerated drinks and freshly caught fish right out of the fisherman's net.

A little further north along the coast is crescent-shaped Baga, a more picturesque beach, with better swimming. This beach is popular for the various water sports - among them are parasailing, jet skiing, body boarding and even surfing, though the waves aren't good enough for the professional surfers. Another hit amongst the tourists are the "dolphin rides" where a boat takes you out into the sea where one can see the lovely creatures gliding along the surface. 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 in Kashmiri and other Indian handicrafts.

Further north from Baga is the safe, though somewhat infamous Anjuna beach, which still has a little hangover of the 'hippy' culture of the 70s. However, don't miss the Wednesday flea market, which Anjuna is famous for throughout Goa. It is a fascinating blend of Kashmiri and Tibetan traders, tribals from Gujarat, Karnataka, and Andhra, and local traders selling a delightful range of handicrafts from all across India. So you could pick up mirror-work from Rajasthan, exquisite embroidery from Kutch or woodcarvings from Kerala. Also available are a huge range of furnishings in psychedelic, glow in the dark fabric, along with a wide selection of the famous Goa "Trance" music.

Another attraction of the flea market is the "Mehndi" or henna applications done by tribal women. These tribal women keep pace with contemporary tastes with very lifelike replication of a range of tattoos, made with a paste of henna leaves available in the green or black. These designs stay on for a good week before gradually fading off.

Travel a couple of kilometres onwards and you come to Vagator beach near Chapora fort. This is among the best sightseeing places in Goa, far more picturesque beach, empty and unspoilt as compared to the beaches close to Panaji and ideal for those in quest of a less commercialised atmosphere, greater seclusion, and better swimming. Little Vagator, towards Anjuna, tends to be a bit more crowded.

If you are looking for peace and quiet, and don't mind living with basic amenities, then the Arambol (also called Harmal) would be an ideal place for you. Located far north near the border with Maharashtra, it has stretches of soft white sand that will soothe your senses and give you the peace of mind. It is also the paradise for the ''hippies'', as there are regular trance parties and even "full moon" parties.

You could even walk on from there to Querim beach (pronounced 'Keri') lying closest to the Maharashtra border, for perfect peace but with barely any facilities or supplies available there, so you'd have to carry them. Equally peaceful and bereft of logistics are Mandrem (just south of Arambol) and Morjim (Morji), on the Chapora estuary and particularly a great sightseeing place for bird watching. Mandrem is a lonely stretch of white sandy beach with one a couple of beach shacks, and is frequented mostly by tourists who want to get a full body tan, away from prying eyes of interested locals.

Goa Tours South Goa:

This area is quieter than North Goa and has several beaches as well as up-market resorts. Between Mormugao and Cape Rama lies a 20 km stretch of white sand with calm sea, starting from Velsao and ending at Mobor. Just 4km from the airport is the small cove at Bogmalo, not easily accessible, and, therefore, fairly empty. Good for swimming. Velsao is quiet and clean. Majorda is wider and dotted with beach shacks against a backdrop of resort complexes.

Colva, further south, is highly commercialised with resort complexes, large holiday crowds, trinket stalls, and discos. However, you could walk along the beach in either direction to reach quieter spots with greater privacy. Going south you would reach Benaulim (2km), relatively peaceful and empty, shallow and safe.

Further south is a seemingly never-ending stretch around the up-market resorts at Varca, Cavelossim, and Mobor, with pristine sands, wide beach, and shallow sea. If you are mobile (car or motor bike), you might like to venture south beyond Cape Rama to explore the isolated beaches there, which are among the good places to see in Goa. However, you'd need to carry your supplies for the day. This extra effort is well rewarded by the lovely drive, the peace, and beauty of the beaches at Palolem and Galgibaga. Agonda and Rajbag beaches lack shelter from the sun, making them rather isolated and inconvenient.

For some excitement, you can skim over the River Mandovi on hovercraft, or try the pedal boats and aqua bikes at the Dona Paula jetty (Panaji), Ourem Creek at Patto, Panaji and at the Mayem Lake.

If that sounds too tiring, take a leisurely river cruise on the Santa Monica luxury yacht that includes a cultural programme of Goan folk songs and dances. You can choose a cruise to suit your schedule -- an hour-long cruise at sunset (6 pm) or sundown (7.15 pm); two-hour island pleasure cruise; the 5-hour pleasure cruise starting at ten in the morning along the course of the Mandovi and Zuari rivers, or, if you are lucky to be there, the enchanting full moon cruise!

Also available are the range of water sports at the Baga beach. There is a lot of variety to choose from - para-sailing, jet skiing, motorboat, water scooters and so on. The latest attraction is the bungee jump!

Goa Tours

Culture of Goa

The culture of Goa is an amalgamation of Indian and Portuguese culture. The long Portuguese rule has influenced the culture in more ways than one and many of the Portuguese traditions are reflected in the Goan culture even today.

Dance and music is deeply embedded in the Goan culture. The most popular dance forms in Goa are Fugdi and Dhalo, which are traditional dances, performed only by women. Some dances are specific to an occasion or festival they are performed in. The Dhangar is performed during the Hindu festival of Navaratras and during the Shigmo festival women perform a lamp dance. Goa comes alive in the festive season and it is then that you see the splendid blend of cultures that coexist beautifully over here.

The crafts and arts of Goa also reflect Hindu, Muslim and Christian origins. Handicrafts are mainly made of materials easily available here like- clay, seashells, paper, bamboo, brass, wood, jute, stone and coconut shells amongst others. With the heavy inflow of tourists the handicrafts industry has also witnessed a boom. The Government of Goa has taken additional steps to further the handicrafts industry in Goa and has set up the Goa Handicrafts Rural and Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (GHRSSIDC) that has provided employment to many craftsmen.





Where to Stay in Goa

There is no dearth of places to stay in Goa - in fact you will be spoilt for choice. Depending on what your needs are and how much you want to spend you're sure to find something that fits your bill. Just to give you a sense of the range we are talking about, at the top end, you could pick a plush villa with a sea view all to yourself or maybe check into one of the many deluxe five-star resorts and on the other end pay a pittance and stay at a local's home, sometimes even with a sea view, if you are really lucky!

Goa Tours Ok, now we're going to try and assist you in choosing the right accommodation depending on your preferences and budget and we have further divided the places to stay by region: south Goa and north Goa. Private beaches are not allowed in Goa, but many of the five star hotels in south Goa are located by the beach and since these beaches are secluded and not overrun by tourists, they are practically private!

For your information all the hotel properties in North Goa will be 30 to 50 kms from the Airport while the ones in South Goa will be approximately 10 to 65 kms from the airport. Many of the hotels also offer pick up and drop off service from the airport, so do ask regarding this at the time of booking your hotel.

South Goa Hotels:

Most of the luxury five star resorts and hotels are located in the South of Goa and all of them are on beaches that are virtually private. A typical five-star hotels all these properties feature everything you would expect with most even providing free airport transfers, but be sure to check this while booking your stay.

From the ones located in South Goa, the Park Hyatt, is the closet of the luxury hotels from the airport, at a distance of only 15 minutes. The Park Hyatt offers massive private space with well-appointed swimming pools and has the award winning Sereno Spa or cooking lessons in Goan cuisine with master chefs. The Taj Exotica is another luxury hotel that is the perfect place to spend a lavish and luxurious holiday. Check out the Leela Kempinski hotel in the deep south, that offers a tranquil stay in serene settings. The Intercontinental Lalit Goa Resort is at the far end of South Goa and is a good option if you are looking for true seclusion on your holiday.

Other deluxe hotels in South Goa include the Holiday Inn Resorts, Zuri White Sands Beach Resort and Casino, the Retreat by Zuri and the Alila Diwa Resort which is located along Majorda Beach just 20 minutes from Dabolim International Airport.

Colva beach is an area popular with tourists and in the budget accommodation, try the Silver Sand Beach Resorts or Bay Watch hotel located here; Goa Beach House that is built on a beach front is just south of Colva.

North Goa Hotels:

If you want to be where the action is then choose to stay in the north. The luxury hotels here are the Vivanta by Taj Fort Aguada and Taj Holiday Village that has 142 cottages and villas and is close to Candolim. Both these hotels are located adjacent to each other and are roughly 50 kms from the Dabolim Airport.

Calangute and Baga beaches are popular haunts for tourists and some deluxe hotels that are quite easy on the pocket in this area include the Lemon Tree, Whispering Palms, Resort Terra Paraiso and Estrela Do Mar amongst others.

There are very many small hotels catering to budget travellers in North Goa. No hotels are actually located on the beach, but most are within spitting distance. 3-star and 2 star hotels are dime a dozen, and most of them offer packages that are reasonably priced and almost all are near the beachfront.

If you are a business traveler and looking to stay in the town of Panjim then the two luxury hotels there are the Goa Marriott Resorts and Vivanta by Taj Panaji, which is close to Miramar beach and is 28 kms from the airport. In the 3-star category, Ginger hotel is a decent option and is located in the town area of Panjim.

If you are looking at a little quiet and away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds look at staying at the various hotels in Vagator or Morjim areas.

Experience Goan culture by stay with a Goan family as paying guests, where you can share their customs and get to know Goa better or you can just opt for a dormitory set-up. Goa is well-visited throughout the year therefore it is better to book your choice of hotel well in advance so that you don't end up having to narrow your options too much.



How to Reach:

Air:
Goa has an international airport at Dabolim, 30 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.

Rail:
The two main railway stations are Margao (Madgaon) and Vasco da Gama. The major connections are to Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Rajkot and Thiruvananthapuram. From other places in the north, east and southeast you can travel to Londa Junction and then transfer to a connecting train to Margao/Vasco da Gama.

Road:
Renting a car and being independent is really the best thing, but the buses are pretty good too. Bus connections are available to Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Pune, and other important tourist destinations in the region, operated by the Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra Road Transport Corporations and some private operators. Air-conditioned bus services are also available on some of the routes.

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