Goa Tourism Destinations
Goa's history as a Portuguese trade center has given it a beautiful legacy, with its cities wide streets lined with colonial mansions and gilded churches. It is a heavily forest, natural state with a rich wildlife and is considered a biological hotspot, comparable to the Amazon or the Congo rain forests. There are largely two types of tourists in Goa: historical and beach. Goa has some of the most beautiful beaches in all of India and has many posh resorts, as well as affordable ones. The old Portuguese towns are a major tourist attraction as it is a unique experience to see India side by side with Europe.
One of the more picturesque and user-friendly state capitals of India, Panaji has a great old town to get lost in, with the Portuguese Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception baroque church and its surrounding gardens in the center of town. There is also the 16th century Adilshahi Palace, a great example of Portuguese colonial architecture, and the town is a locus of the Goan Carnival in February each year. It is the experience of a lifetime to attend Carnival in Goa, and if you come to the area during the festival be sure to come to Panaji.
Margao is the commercial center of Goa and is laden with old Portuguese churches and homes, and there are many shopping centers within its limits. At the town's entrance is the Largo de Igreja, a large church surrounded by old homes, vested with sheltered balconies and antique windowsills. Close to the church is the Sat Burzam Ghor, the biggest mansion in the city and a center of civic life. And not farm the Sat Burzam is the Praca Jorge Barreto park, where the best restaurants in town are. Most tourists choose to go Colva beach, famous for its white, silver sands, and Margao's colonial charm is often overlooked for the beautiful nearby beach, and trips can be made into the local wilderness to see elephants and the jungle.
The town of Old Goa, also known as Goa Velha, is a short trip from either Panaji or Margao and was the former capital of the state. It was the center of Goa for centuries, and was among the wealthiest cities in the world at one point. In 1543, it is estimated the population was somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 people, but malaria and cholera wiped out the population so that by the 17th century only some 1,500 people remained. Nowadays it is a small village, but there are hundreds of old buildings including the UNESCO World Heritage Site Basilica of Bom Jesus, one of the most influential buildings in Asia because of its role in spreading Christianity.
A famous and popular beach town, Vagator was a center of hippy tourism in the 60's, when many people came here for the hashish. While that still exists to an extent today, many young tourists come here for the parties during the tourist season, when the hill overlooking the beaches is a center for dance and trance music.
Another popular beach town, Calangute has some resort packages available for tourists and is a bit quieter than Vagator. It is an excellent place to whittle away the time and relax.
Baga, just north of Panaji, is a popular beach destination, and is a brown sand beach with a pristine creek running through it. Thousands of tourists come here each year.