Starry skies, endless stretches of sand illuminated by moonlight, the rush of waves as it breaks upon the seashore and the aroma of fresh seafood being grilled at a nearby shack! Goa, the land of beaches, carnivals and of course a lot of feni, is where I spent the last week. A gruelling phase at work, I just had to shake off the stress and thus planned an impromptu trip to this paradise off the western coast of India. For those planning a visit to Goa, this article will come handy when penning your itinerary. To make it even easier, this article makes mention of some of the best Christian and Portuguese pilgrimage sites, archeological wonders, sun-kissed beaches, flea markets and beaches you just have to visit when here.
Find a good place to stay
As for accommodation, I happened to come across some amazing weekend offers by Treebo Hotels and ended up booking a room here. Well, for those travelling on a budget or rather looking for affordable accommodation without compromising on quality and comfort, trust me, Treebo is what you ought to book.
Trod along the Pilgrim Path
Once a Portuguese colony, Old Goa served as an important market where merchants from Africa, China and Arabia would trade in incense, spices and silk. Some places that one ought to visit here include the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Panjim – an impressive structure reminiscent of Jesuit Baroque architecture. Deemed a World Heritage Site, the cathedral houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (since 1622). ‘Se Cathedral’ in Old Goa is a fine example of Portuguese-Manueline architecture and houses a baptismal font believed to have been used by St. Francis Xavier himself. Scores of tourists from the around the world visit these places and am glad that I included these in my itinerary. The Convent of St Cajetan, Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence and the Church of the Cross of Miracles are important religious establishments in Old Goa that are definitely worth a visit.
Of Monuments and Memorabilia
When on a trip, I make sure to cover as many places as I possibly can. The Archaeological Museum is a great place to while away some time while marvelling at artefacts and figurines that remind one of Goa’s colonial past. The museum houses two bronze statues – one of Luis Vaz de Camoes, a Portuguese poet and the other is of Afonso de Albuquerque, the first governor of Goa, and a number of portraits of Portuguese viceroy’s that have ruled the state. If you desire to know more about the Christian faith and its influence head to the Museum of Christian Art housed within Convent of St Monica. This museum houses sculptures, paintings and Goa Christian art from the Portuguese era. Viceroy’s Arch, the point that marks the entrance to Old Goa near the Mandovi river is yet another architectural marvel you wouldn’t wanna miss out on. Built by the Governor of Goa, Francisco da Gama in memory of his great-grandfather Vasco da Gama this monument reminds one of Goa’s resplendent past. St Augustine Tower built by the Augustinian Friars in Old Goa in 1602 should make to your list of must visit places in Old Goa.
Sun, Sand and Sea Shells
While most tourists end up visiting Baga beach, Calangute beach or Vagator beach, here are some more options you should explore. Extremely popular and thronged by locals, Miramar Beach is a famous for its street shops, restaurants and shacks that dish out mouth-watering local cuisine. If water sports is what you are looking forward to, Dona Paula Beach is where you should head to. Its rocky shores and harbour promise a day of fun and adventure. The rocky and sandy beach, Siridao, is close to the Chapel of Jesus of Nazareth and is considered a paradise for shell collectors.
From Spices to Trinkets
A visit to Goa is incomplete if you don’t visit its street shopping destinations and flea markets. Panjim Market is famous for its wines, cashew nuts, Goa spices and local handicrafts – perfect takeaways from your trip to Goa. Further North, the Saturday Night Market in Arpora is a famous weekend destination for both locals and tourists. From delicious food and herbs to carpets and spices, this market in Arpora has it all. At Mapusa Market you can lay your hands on antique items, clothing and textiles, Goan pottery, fresh fruit and vegetables, and even jewellery. However, do be prepared to bargain here.
Yummy for the Tummy
Fresh seafood, locally-sourced ingredients and aromatics, great wines and hand-crafted cocktails – that’s Goan cuisine for you. Being the foodie that I am, I made it a point to eat at a number of restaurants recommended by the locals of Old Goa. If I were to suggest a few, River Isle, Peep Kitchen, Simply Grills, Cafe Tinto, Riverfront Bar & Restaurant, The Black Sheep Bistro, Mum’s Kitchen, Viva Panjim and Corina Family Bar & Restaurant win hands down. I would recommend Kokam Kadi, Lobster Racheado, Tisrya Kaalvan and Bombil Fry.
Wish I had more time to Goa every nook and corner of this colonial paradise but alas, returning to work is a necessity and not an option. Till I hit the road again, my advice for those tripping along to Goa – Savour every minute of your getaway!
‘The sands may fade.
The salt may wash away.
The tans may fade.
But the memories last forever.’