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Things to Do in Goa

In Goa, a western state on the coast of India, endless stretches of white sand melt into the Arabian Sea. It holds multi-faceted appeal that attracts everyone from escapists and pilgrims to thrill seekers and history buffs, so it comes as no surprise that the region is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Portuguese colonial architecture provides unique sightseeing opportunities, while the state’s spiritual reputation is easy to see, with its abundant yogis and shamans. There are tours specializing in pretty much every flavor of adventure: In Old Goa (Ela), formerly known as the "Rome of the East," World Heritage Sites such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral remind visitors of Portugal’s colonial rule. Panaji (Panjim), the capital of Goa, offers easy access to fragrant spice plantations and Dudhsagar Falls; while from Candolim in North Goa, visitors can cycle to the mysterious Fort Aguada and its lighthouse, or go kayaking on the Nerul River—if you can bear to drag yourself away from its golden-sand beaches. Other day-trip destinations popular with travelers include Palolem Beach—locally known as Monkey Island—for snorkeling and scuba diving; and Reis Magos, a village home to a 16th-century church and fort. Plus, revellers shouldn’t be deceived by Goa’s antique charm—areas surrounding Calangute Beach and Anjuna Beach attract ravers from around the world with legendary beach parties.
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Fontainhas
31 Tours and Activities
Situated on the banks of Ourem Creek in Panaji, Goa's capital city, the charming neighborhood of Fountainhas is dotted with charming old homes dating back to the mid 19th century. Fontainhas occupies land that was reclaimed in the 18th century and gets its name from the natural springs situated at the edge of the area.
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St. Catherine’s Cathedral (Sé Cathedral)
42 Tours and Activities
The largest church in Goa and the seat of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, this huge white Portuguese Gothic structure was constructed from 1562 to 1619 to commemorate a Portuguese military victory over Goa that was won on the feast of Saint Catherine. Inside, images of the saint adorn the cathedral walls.
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Shri Shantadurga Temple
9 Tours and Activities
This temple, dedicated to the goddess Shantadurga, dates back to the first half of the 18th century (though there was likely some kind of temple here for much longer). Its architecture is quintessentially Goan, with rust-red exteriors and white trim coupled with arched windows and stained glass.
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Reis Magos Fort
7 Tours and Activities
Situated on the banks of the Mandovi River, this scenic fort was built by the Portuguese in 1551 to protect the Mandovi estuary, and was reconstructed in 1707. It was abandoned for much of the 19th and 20th centuries before being turned into a prison. It was later restored and turned into the tourist attraction that it is today.
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Panaji (Panjim)
4 Tours and Activities
In 1759, when repeated bouts of malaria, cholera and finally Bubonic plague overwhelmed the magnificent city of Old Goa, the colonial capital was relocated to Panaji (Panjim). Today, the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, whitewashed churches, Mediterranean-style buildings in every shade of pastel, and the easy-going attitude of the residents make Panaji a perfect home base for exploring nearby Old Goa.
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Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary
3 Tours and Activities
Located a short drive from the capital city Panaji, Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is a compact reserve, spanning about 1.8 square kilometers (.69 square miles) of mangrove swamps. It's Goa's only bird sanctuary, attracting a variety of native and migratory birds, including kingfishers, coots, egrets, black drongos, and pintails.
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São Tomé
1 Tour and Activity
This traditional Portuguese-style neighborhood is home to many of Panaji's historic buildings, including the São Tomé Chapel, the old post office, and myriad colonial houses with red tile roofs and colorful facades. Sao Tome is best explored on foot and is often visited in tandem with the neighboring Fontainhas area.
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Fort Aguada
21 Tours and Activities
Built at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Mandovi River in Goa, Fort Aguada was once one of the country’s most important sea defenses. Nowadays, visitors can tour the remains of the buildings, enjoy panoramic views from the top of the walls, and learn about Goa’s history under Portuguese colonial rule.
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More Things to Do in Goa

Basilica of Bom Jesus (Borea Jezuchi Bajilika)

Basilica of Bom Jesus (Borea Jezuchi Bajilika)

67 Tours and Activities

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, a church dedicated to the worship of baby Jesus, is also home to the remains of Francis Xavier, Goa’s patron saint and one of the original seven founders of the Jesuit order. The church was erected in Old Goa, the former Portuguese colonial capital, between 1594 and 1605 by Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini out of red stone sourced from the area.

The withered remains of the saint, known throughout the Catholic world, are kept in a silver casket housed within an ornate three-tiered marble tomb to the right of the altar. Once every ten years, the church hosts an exhibition of the remains of the body - save for one arm on display in Rome – and they are made visible to the public.

This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the oldest and most ornate churches in all of India, complete with gold gilded altars and white marble floors inlaid with precious stones.

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Old Goa (Goa Velha)

Old Goa (Goa Velha)

17 Tours and Activities
From the sixteenth to eighteenth century, Old Goa (Goa Velha) served as the colonial capital of Portuguese-India and was one of the richest cities anywhere in Asia, with a population exceeding that of both Lisbon and London. While repeated cholera and malaria outbreaks eventually forced the capital to be moved to Panaji in 1843, the old, atmospheric churches, cathedrals and convents of Old Goa (Goa Velha) remain largely intact.
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Dudhsagar Falls

Dudhsagar Falls

12 Tours and Activities

The 1,017 foot (310 meter) tall Dudhsagar Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in India, and making the trek to the falls is a great way to get away from the beaches for the day and experience a wilder side of Goa. Bring along snacks and a beach towel and make a day of it.

According to legend, Dudhsagar, meaning “Sea of Milk,” was created when a princess bathing beneath the falls poured a jug of sweet milk in front of her body to hide her nakedness from the eyes of a prince hiding in the trees. Today, the rushing waters of the fall appear milky white as they cascade down the four tiered cliffs into a pool below.

Those who weather the bumpy jeep ride and somewhat strenuous trek to the falls will be rewarded with a refreshing swim and some spectacular views. The best time to visit is between October and March when roads are less likely to be washed out from monsoon rains, and the falls are at their most impressive just after a late monsoon season rain.

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Palolem Beach

Palolem Beach

4 Tours and Activities
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Sahakari Spice Farm

Sahakari Spice Farm

4 Tours and Activities

Indian food is known the world over for its distinctive and rich spice profile, and taking a tour of the Sahakari Spice Farm gives visitors a comprehensive understanding of the importance and impact of these spices in India. Get a crash course in the history, medicinal and culinary uses of a wide range of spices, nutmeg, curry leaves, turmeric and cardamom to name a few. Unless you plan to travel to Kerala, where spice farms abound, a stop at the Sahakari Spice Farm is a must for food loving travelers.

Upon entering the farm, you’re greeted with a flower garland and a cup of spiced tea. The knowledgeable guides are thorough with their explanations, so you’ll be able to brew up your own cup upon returning home. During a walking tour of the farm, you’ll see where the spices are grown and hear about the growing process and how they’re used.

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Ancestral Goa

Ancestral Goa

The Ancestral Goa Center, known by locals as the Big Foot Museum for its large foot-shaped dance floor, is one of the main attractions in the Goan village of Loutolim. Local artist Maendra Jocelino Araujo Alvares, the man behind the museum, created the mini nineteenth century Goan village to help preserve the culture and traditions of the region for generations to come.

For visitors unfamiliar with Goan culture, a visit to the Ancestral Goa Center offers a window into some of the area’s unique past times like brewing feni, a local spirit made from coconut or cashew fruit. The museum is also known for housing a giant sculpture of Sant Mirabai, the longest laterite sculpture in India.

If you’re in the area of the Ancestral Goa Center, be sure to pay a visit to the Miranda House, one of Goa’s oldest country homes, and stop in for a Portuguese-Goan lunch at Fernando’s Nostalgia, considered one of the best restaurants anywhere in the state.

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