Goa - An Enveloping Horizon
Whenever we want, to ankle from beach to beach, to ride a motorcycle in a carefree mood, to join the Hippies and chat with them, to have a ride in a bedraggled bus, to get lost in tons of beer, to feel a sense of history and antiquity in the old churches and forts and the delightful Portuguese architecture, and finally, to slow down the pace of life; what straightway pops up in our mind is Goa: The smallest state of India - with the kindest heart.
Goa features a tropical monsoon climate under the Köppen climate classification. Being in the tropical zone and near the Arabian Sea, it has a hot and humid climate for most of the year. Most of Goa is a part of the coastal country known as the Konkan, which is an escarpment rising up to the Western range of mountains, which separate it from the Deccan Plateau. Goa has a coastline of 101 km (63 mi) and the main rivers are Mondovi, Zuari, Terekhol, Chaporakushavati and the Sal. The most interesting fact is that it has more than forty estuarine, eight marine and about ninety riverine islands with the total navigable length of 253 km (157 mi). Goa has more than three hundred ancient tanks built during the rule of the Kadamba dynasty and over a hundred medicinal springs.
Goa can be approached by all the four means:
Air: Goa International Airport is a civil enclave at INS Hansa, a naval airfield located at Dabolim near Vasco da Gama. The airport caters to scheduled domestic and international air services. Goa has scheduled international connections to Doha, Dubai, Sharjah and Kuwait in the Middle East by airlines like Air Arabia, Air India, GoAir, Indigo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways, JetKonnect and Qatar Airways. Theairport also handles a large number of chartered flights during the 'winter season', typically between November and May from the United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and Russia.
Rail: Goa has two rail lines — one run by the South Western Railway and the other by the Konkan Railway. The line run by the South Western Railway links the port town of Vasco da Gama, Goa with Belgaum, Hubli, and Karnataka via Margao. The Konkan Railway line, which was built during the 1990s, runs parallel to the coast connecting major cities on the western coast.
Road: Goa has four National Highways passing through it. NH-66 (ex NH-17) runs along India's west coast and links Goa to Mumbai in the north and Mangalore to the south. NH-4A running across the state connects the capital Panjim to Belgaum in east, linking Goa to cities in the Deccan. The NH-366 (ex NH-17A) connects NH-66 to Mormugao Port from Cortalim. The new NH-566 (ex NH-17B) is a four-lane highway connecting Mormugao Port to NH-66 at Verna via Dabolim Airport, primarily built to ease pressure on the NH-366 for traffic to Dabolim Airport and Vasco da Gama. NH-768 (ex NH-4A) links Panjim and Ponda to Belgaum and NH-4.
Goa's intra public transport largely consists of privately operated buses linking the major towns to rural areas. Hired forms of transport include unmetered taxis and, in urban areas, auto rickshaws. Another form of transportation in Goa is the motorcycle taxi, operated by drivers who are locally called "pilots". These vehicles transport a single pillion rider, at fares that are usually negotiated. Other than buses, "pilots" tend to be the cheapest mode of transport.River crossings in Goa are serviced by flat-bottomed ferry boats, operated by the river navigation department.
Sea: The Mormugao harbor near the city of Vasco handles mineral ore, petroleum, coal, and international containers.
Goa is visited by large numbers of international and domestic tourists each year. It also has rich flora and fauna, owing to its location on the Western Ghats range, which is classified as a biodiversity hotspot. The tourist attraction is because of all the wonderful sights which it possesses:
The Magnificent Symbols of Christianity, a legacy of Portuguese colonization, Goa's famous and awe inspiring churches are one of the Goa's important institutions.
Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa - The construction of the church was completed in 1604 AD and its 3-tier structure combination of Doric, Corinthian and Composite styles is what sets it apart from other churches. The fact that the church holds the remains of St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Goa, is what endears it to locals and tourists alike.
Mary Immaculate Conception Church, Panjim - This is the church with a halo, literally! The flame of the candles and the light from the many tiny bulbs is what gives the Mary Immaculate Conception Church in Panjim a specter like glow that would make one think that the church has been blessed with the Divine Light. To see the church in all its glory, visit it during the annual 3-day fete and the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.
Se Cathedral - One of oldest and most revered church in Goa, Se Cathedral Santa Catarina also holds the title of one of the largest churches in Asia. The church was built in the Portuguese-Manueline architectural style in 1510 AD to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese forces over the enemy. The church is famous for its 5 bells, one of which is celebrated and imposing Golden Bell – the biggest in all of Goa and one of the best in the world.
Church of St. Alex, Curtorim - Of all places to visit in South Goa, a trip to the Church of St. Alex is a must. This is one of the oldest churches in Goa and is the first chapel-church. The church is situated on the banks of the Angoddi Tollem lake which gives it a natural scenic background along with the peace and quiet that is an inherent characteristic of any church.
(There are so many other churches one can visit depending upon the time.)
The rugged Western Ghats make it an ideal haven for many species of birds and animals and also provide a corridor for migration. The Western Ghats called the Sahyadris in Goa; extend for a total of 600 kilometers in Goa of their total length of 3702 kilometers. The widest belt of forests along the Western Ghats is in Goa and neighboring Karnataka state.
Goa is endowed with over 1512 documented species of plants, over 275 genera of birds, over 48 genera of animals and over 60 genera of reptiles. Bhagvan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park,Bondla Forest, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, are the places where one can enjoy the flora and fauna of Goa.
Shaped like the new moon, Goa's beaches are known the world over. Fringed by swaying palm and coconut trees with cool and comfortable shacks offering a variety of refreshments, Goa's 103 km coastline is blessed with the most enchanting beaches lapped by the Arabian Sea. And almost all of them are swimmer friendly with the assured presence of lifeguards on all the popular beaches.
Calangute beach in Goa is one of the more popular with foreigners. This area has upscale restaurants and popular gathering places for nightlife such as Club Tito and Cafe Mambo. Because this area is popular with foreigners, amenities like air-conditioning and wireless Internet access are available.
It is located 6 miles from Mapusa and 10 miles from Panaji. Thivim is the closest railway station.
Anjuna beach used to be something of a hippie haven, but not so much anymore. There is a flea market and a disco with some shacks for accommodation.
There are many restaurants here and rentals such as bikes, rooms, and houses. There are also unique gathering places like Curlie's and art produced by locals for sale.
It is located 5 miles from Mapusa and 11 miles from Panaji. The closest railway station is Thivim.
Arambol beach is the new hippie center, though still fairly subdued and somewhat natural. There are many food choices from cafes and restaurants. Some say it is the best beach in North Goa, while others used to share that opinion but say it has become too commercial.
It is located 20 miles from Mapusa and 31 miles from Panaji. The closest railway station is Pernem.
Palolem beach has been said by some to be the most beautiful beach in Goa. Most of the people staying here are locals so there are a number of cattle, chickens, pigs and other animals wandering around at times.
If you like a little more natural and rustic beach setting Palolem may be your best bet. There are places to stay here starting at about $10 per night.
It is located 27 miles from Margao and 47 miles from Panaji. The closest railway stations are Margao and Canacona.
Agonda beach is known for being quiet and near dense forests, so it may be good for nature lovers. There are also cows on the beach at any given moment and fewer people than some Goa beaches.
Simple accommodation like bungalows and shacks are available. It is one of the top-rated beaches online. Marine turtles can also be found on this wide, very long beach.
Swimming is not so popular here because of a steep drop-off in the sea floor once you go out a short distance. This deeper water makes for rougher surf and can make swimming difficult.
It is located 26 miles from Margao and 47 miles from Panaji. The closest main railway station is Margao.
Canacona is the local railway station nearby.
Benaulim beach is also a quieter one with boat rides, dolphin spotting, wind surfing and jet skiing available. There is less accommodation available than at some of the other beaches. It may be necessary to stay at a hotel at the nearby Colva beach.
This area is fairly sedate compared with beaches like Anjuna. It is rated very highly online, probably because it is one of the more relaxing beaches.
It is located 5 miles from Margao and 25 miles from Panaji. The closest railway station is Margao.
Descending from the temple of Rudreshwar, one catches sight of a majestic waterfall cascading from a height of about 70 ft. to form a sizeable lake at the bottom, Arvalem Waterfalls -a tempting sight to seasoned swimmers.
The magnificent Dudhsagar Waterfall is perched in the high peaks of the Western Ghats and is a sight to behold especially in the monsoons when it is in full and furious flow. From a distance, the waterfall appears like streams of milk rushing down the mountainside. The exhuberent and spectacular waterfall is located in the Sanguem taluka.
Kesarval Spring, located 22 kilometers away from Panaji, near the Verna plateau, off the main National highway road which goes on towards the town of Margao. The spring has a reputation among the locals and the bathers who come from faraway places, of having medicinal properties in its waters. It is a very popular spa, where bathers go to wash out ailments once a year by a course of "healing waters."
Mayem Lake, the most famous lake in Goa and also one of the most popular tourist destinations on the itinerary of all the conducted sight-seeing tours is located in Bicholim taluka in north Goa, east of the market town of Mapusa. The lake itself sits on wooded shores in a landscape of low hills. Birdlife is plentiful here, with a variety of birds making their home on the shores of the lake. The placid waters of this lake are ideal for boating. Small pedal operated boats are available for a charming boat ride on the lake. The lake has in its grounds a shady park which boasts of an excellent cafeteria and several other stalls, the most popular of which are the soft drink ones.
One can also get around in the few Museums, Forts, Turtle Nesting Sites, Caves and Spice Plantation sites. Other things in the not-to-miss list can be Go Carting, Splashdown Water Park, Handicrafts, Night Clubs, and last but not the least Casino(s).
The foodies can take their delight from Beach House, After Seven, A reverie, Amici, Pastelaria and many others.
One place which needs a special and separate mention is Club Tito’s – The heavenly Place which one cannot skip at all.
Goa is a multifarious jewel in the crown of India; it is a vivid picture of mind and body, spirit and soul, it is an indelible part of the memory. It is joy and Shangri-la, Goa is Eternal. Come – Know Thyself Again – Goa.