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Goa; the tourism hub of India is called affectionately by various names such as “Rome of East” or “Pearl of the Orient” which aptly describes its perception in the eyes of an international tourist. The majority chunk of the tourism in India is accredited to Goa whose exclusivity lies in bringing in international revenue, much more than any other state in the country. The smallest state in India in terms of area and fourth smallest in terms of population, Goan people welcome each of its tourist with open arms to its land of sun, sand, temple, churches, forts and beaches.

Located along the western coast of India, just below the state of Maharashtra, this state started achieving tourist popularity mostly due to its past hippie culture from the ’70s. Renowned for its rich cultural history and delectable cuisine, its happening nightlife and buzzing flea markets soon caught the attention at the international level. 

Sun and sand have always ruled & supported the lush green paddy fields and exhilarating adventure activities of Goa. Thousands of local and international tourists every year flood the coastal areas of Goa, to have the best time of their life.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Zerohund

While the official capital of Goa is Panaji; (attributed also as Panjim), Vasco (Vasco da Gama) is the largest city. 

With most of Goa influenced by local Konkani culture, Portuguese rule of 450 years has had a long-lasting effect on its people and their lifestyle which can be lived through by visiting the churches, conversing in Portuguese dialect, taking part in the Goan carnival or by savouring the traditional recipes.

After India achieved independence in 1947, the Portuguese were amongst the last of the foreign rulers to leave the country’s soil in 1961. Thus, their cultural impact has been much more than the English, which differentiates the standard lifestyle of a normal Goan and thus sets them apart from the rest of the population.

This uniqueness in its deep-rooted culture plus its favourable geographical location has made it a much loved tourist destination in India.

CountryIndia
StateGoa
CapitalPanaji
Largest cityVasco da Gama
Area3,702km² (1,429sq.mi.)
Population (2011)1,458,545
Time ZoneUTC+05:30 (IST)
Official languageKonkani

People & Lifestyle

Goa is a multi-religious, multi-cultural state. Yet its people bond with each other, notwithstanding religious or cultural differences which is worth noticeable. 65% of Goans practice Hindu ideology forming a majority while 30% sizeable Christians form the minority. The remaining 5% belong to people from different faiths. Cultural diversity is bound to be experienced at every stage of your trip where festivals and carnivals are celebrated together by people blinded by a variety of beliefs. 

While a conservative mindset still exists to some extent in India, the Goan public is outgoing and flamboyant by nature & mannerisms. You can see a Goan woman dressed in a typical western attire shopping for her daily needs. Their love for dance and music is legendary and the tradition of Latin carnivals brought by the Portuguese is still celebrated in Goa. Hospitality is inborn in Goans and therefore no tourist is bound to feel homesick as his every need is taken care of. Living life to its fullest and enjoying its every moment is something that everyone should learn from a Goan while on his / her trip to this angelic place called “Goa”.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Zerohund

Towns

Geographically Goa is a very small state; therefore, its towns are also not dispersed away like others. However, they form an integral part of the cultural richness of the state and the local’s lifestyle act as magnetizers for foreign tourists. For administrative purposes, the state is divided into two districts; North and South, each with its own distinct individuality. Every town in Goa protects its own identity concerning Portuguese architecture, beaches, and lifestyle. 

Panaji/Panjim

Panaji is the official capital of Goa and the centre of attraction for all arriving tourists. During the Portuguese Era, it was called Panjim that formed an important economical triangle along with Margao and Velha. In 1843, it was declared as the capital after its separation from Velha, Goa.

One of the smallest capitals in India, it still has old Portuguese influence that can be witnessed in its small, narrow lanes having thatched red roofs and hanging balconies. Even today, some bars and cafes have signboards in Portuguese.

Vasco-da-Gama

Vasco da Gama or only Vasco is named after the Portuguese explorer by the same name. Dabolim Airport, Goa’s main international airport is located in Vasco making it a significant gateway point to Bogmalo Beach and other Goa attractions. The town along with Mormugao harbour is an important shipping and mining centre.

Margao

The second-largest city of Goa and the commercial capital of the state, Margoa is an alteration of its Konkani name Mathagram. The pre-Portuguese era consisted of nine Maths or temples. Later on, the Portuguese destroyed all the temples in favour of churches. Some of the attractions in Margao include Pimpalakatta, Anna Fonte, Holy Spirit Church and colonial mansions. 

Ponda

Ponda is the capital of Ponda Taluka in North Goa and lies about 28 kilometres away from Panaji. It is the cultural capital for Goan Hindus when they fled inland during the Portuguese inquest. The Mangeshi Temple, Mahalsa Narayani Temple, Shantadurga Temple, Nagesh Temple, Mahalaxmi temple are worth watching more than once for their aesthetic beauty. It can be rightfully called the ‘land of temples’.

Mapusa

Capital of Bardez taluka, Mapusa is mainly known for its Flea market where vendors from all over Goa come to sell their wares at a discounted price. Its closeness to Anjuna and Chapora beach and proximity to Rio de Mapusa river has made it a gateway point, but otherwise they're not much to see.

Velha Goa

Old Goa or Velha Goa is a historical city that served as the capital of Portuguese establishment from the 16th century until the 18th century. Founded by the Bijapur Sultan on the banks of the Mandovi River, today, it is marked by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Notable churches such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the Church of St. Caetano Se Cathedral (the seat of the Archbishop of Goa) and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi are found in Old Goa.