Goa is a tourist paradise and a favourite holiday destination for people across the globe. This is perhaps unsurprising considering the variety of options that it holds for holidaymakers. Although it is primarily known for its beaches, there are also a number of other options available to tourists from historical monuments to military museums, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries to religious relics and sacred places.
With all this variety and choice, deciding what to do in Goa can be intensely challenging and a daunting task indeed. Trying to fit all the sites into one holiday is a near impossible feat. We have therefore come up with a list of the 10 best places to visit in Goa to help make your stay enjoyable. Also view Activities & things to do in Goa
This is undoubtedly one of the first places that any tourist would like to visit. The Bom Jesus Basilica is famous the world over as being the resting place for the remains of St. Francis Xavier and the expositions that take place approximately every four years draw crowds of people to this shrine. Even in the years when the exposition is not held, thousands throng to the Basilica day in and day out, but most especially in December to celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier (3rd December).
The Basilica itself is a superb example of craftsmanship and architecture, both inside and out. Its location in the heart of Old Goa makes a trip here especially worthwhile since it is surrounded by a number of other old churches and is in fact adjacent to the famous Se Cathedral. Architectural buffs would enjoy a day strolling along the old boulevards of Old Goa taking in the various examples of Christian Art and architecture.
The Basilica is also home to an art gallery which houses about 30 odd paintings. This gallery contains some superb examples of Christian art from that period. The other churches around and about also contain many well-preserved old works of art in the form of paintings and sculpture. The Museum of Christian Art too is located in the nearby Nunnery of Santa Monica.
A visit to the Bom Jesus Basilica is sure to have plenty of impact on anyone, no matter their interests or religious beliefs. The Basilica is definitely a must see (at least once) on a Goa holiday.
The Palolem beach best place to visit for honeymooners is located in the deep South of Goa. Known for its peace and tranquillity this is a favourite with couples (especially honeymooners) who are looking for a romantic getaway, removed from the hustle and bustle of tourist Goa.
The beach is a long stretch of golden sand, washed by the blue waters of the Arabian Sea. For most of the year, this beach is safe to swim in the sea; however, during the monsoon season (June to September) this is discouraged due rough seas and extra high tides as well as the presence of dangerous undercurrents.
As with most other beaches in Goa, a day out at Palolem beach is made the more pleasant by the ubiquitous Goan Beach shacks which serve the most delicious Goan delicacies, authentically prepared and the freshest of seafood. There’s nothing quite like rounding off a day in the sun and surf with a cool drink and a tasty meal.
There are also accommodations available near the beach which can be rented for short periods of time, in case you would like to make an overnight stay in the area.
The Portuguese invaders made an indelible mark on the Goan landscape not just with the number of churches that they built (in every village and town), but also with their impressive and nigh impregnable forts. One of the most famous of these is the Fort Aguada , which lies on the peninsula at the mouth of the Mandovi River. This fort was of extreme strategic importance to protect the Portuguese trade routes to India from both foreign invaders and neighbouring kingdoms.
The fort still stands proudly on the headland today, with its red laterite walls a testament to the skill and fortitude of the Portuguese engineers, architects and of course the labourers. The massive ramparts and bulwarks look out over the serene waters of the Arabian Sea and make the perfect spot from which to enjoy the panoramic views or a spectacular sunset.
The fort is also home to the prestigious Taj Aguada hotel, a five star hotel situated on a lush 80acre property, within the original fort walls. The Fort Aguada also boasts an ancient lighthouse, which is one of the oldest in all of Asia. The upper portion of the fort can be reached via a short climb and is open to the public.
The Dona Paula jetty is located in Dona Paula, a suburb of the city of Panaji, the capital city of Goa. Dona Paulo lies at the confluence of the Mandovi river with the Arabian Sea. The jetty is a popular hotspot with tourists from all over. Vendors located along its length sell a variety of trinkets and touristy souvenirs.
The restaurant Menino’s located at the start of the jetty is famous for its Choris pao, an authentic Goan delicacy of spicy pork sausage in the traditional Goan bun.
The jetty is also a great place for those who are fond of adventure sports with a number of water sporting activities being held here. These activities range from jet ski rides to boat rides, windsurfing and many more. The jetty is also popular with the anglers and pleasure fishermen.
The jetty also has a pleasingly romantic legend that surrounds it and even its own resident spook. Night visitors would probably enjoy giving themselves the shivers retelling these old tales whilst watching a spectacular moonrise over the Arabian Sea.
The Naval Aviation Museum, situated at Bogmalo, near the South Goa port city of Vasco da Gama is the only one of its kind in all of India. This military museum has a number of aircrafts and helicopters that were and are used by the Indian Navy.
Its rolling grounds, house this spectacular and unique collection of military crafts and is definitely a must visit for military and aviation buffs. The interior of the museum is designed to look like the interior of a military aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant and INS Viraat. In fact the museum also holds massive replicas of these two famous battle ships.
The two-storeyed indoor gallery is quite as impressive as the aircrafts that grace the outdoor exhibit. With a sonar room and a reflection room, the indoor galleries have a number of interesting and unique exhibits. Best place to visit in Goa for youngsters
The tallest waterfall in India, with a cascade of over 1000 feet, Dudhsagar Falls which are located in the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary in the South East of Goa, should definitely be visited at least once on a Goa trip. The waterfall is at its best from the months of September to March, after the onslaught of the monsoons, when the maximum amount of water can be seen emptying down into the valley.
the Dudhsagar Falls are accessible by both road and railway, with the closest railway station being the Castle Rock railway station. Although it is possible to utilize a four wheel drive to get to within a kilometre of the falls, many people prefer to hike to the waterfall whilst admiring the vast variety of bird and animal life with which the wildlife sanctuary abounds. Some can even indulge themselves with an overnight camping trip to the famous waterfall in Goa.
The Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary is also famous for its variety of fauna which is endemic to the Western Ghats, and forms a safe haven for these inhabitants of what is a precarious and endangered eco-system.
Another popular spot to visit whilst viewing the waterfall is the Devil’s Canyon. This surprisingly placid and calm spot is proof of the idiom that still waters run deep. The collection of caverns that have been carved out of the rock by the passage of the river have not been explored due to the dangerous undertow. In fact, swimming here is considered dangerous and even suicidal, however, the aura of mystery and danger draws a number of tourists and sightseers, who want to experience the otherworldly charm of the place.
The Dr. Salim Ali bird sanctuary is located on the island of Chorao that lies in the middle of the Mandovi River, one of the major rivers of Goa. The Salim Ali sanctuary is home to a number of marsh-dwelling birds that are native to Goa and during the months of October to March a number of migratory species which fly south for the winter.
Located in the mangrove swamps of the island of Chorao, the Salim Ali bird sanctuary is best explored via canoe, rather than on foot, thanks to the myriad crisscrossing waterways and boggy ground. There are tour boats organized for this purpose with knowledgeable guides, who point out species of interest in the surroundings.
The fragile mangrove ecosystem is home to a number of marsh dwellers, besides birds including mudskippers and fiddler crabs. The unique ecosystem makes for a number of unique species of birds which are not otherwise commonly seen including the black bittern, jack snipes and pied avocet.
Lately the Government of Goa has also started duck tours, using amphibious vehicle which can travel over both land and water, to help tourists more comfortably explore the sanctuary. Best place to visit in Goa for youngsters
The beautiful and serene Shantadurga temple complex stands in the Kavalem village of the Ponda Taluka of North Goa. The Goddess Shantadurga is an important deity as she is the Kuldevi (family goddess) of many of the Goud Saraswat Brahmin families in the Konkan region. The Shantadurga Mandir is about 450 years old and was built up from a humble mud shrine into the glorious edifice that it is today.
The Goddess Shantadurga is colloquially known as Santeri. She is the mediator between Shiva and Vishnu and her statue is portrayed with her holding a snake in each hand, signifying the two warring deities. The highlight of this temple is the solid gold palanquin which is used to carry the image of the goddess.
The original Shantadurga temple stood in the Salcette Taluka of Goa, before it fell to the Portuguese invaders. The image of the goddess was then moved to its current home in the Kavalem village. The temple as it stands today was built under the aegis of the Maratha king Shahu, in 1738. The temple complex is vast and covered with lush greenery. There is one main temple and two smaller ones.
The main feature of these buildings is the sloping roofs and distinctive maroon and cream finish. Some of the windows have beautiful stained glass in their apertures. The temple complex also has a huge tank, deepstambha and agrashalas (guest houses)
The Arvalem waterfall is not as impressive as the Dudhsagar waterfall but is a popular tourist and picnic spot in the Sanquelim village of the Bicholim Taluka of North Goa. The waterfall is at its zenith during the monsoon months (June to September) and then later in the year dries up to a small, silvery trickle. However, at this time (October to March) a serene and calm lake is formed at the base of the falls and this a favoured haunt of veteran swimmers, who enjoy taking a dip surrounded by the wilds of nature.
Close to the waterfall is another famous landmark known as the Arvalem Caves or the Pandava caves, which were carved out of solid laterite rock. These five, rock cut caves are of either a Buddhist of Brahmin origin. A large, headless statue of Lord Buddha, located nearby gives credence to the Buddhist origin theory, (the head of the statue can be seen in the Goa Museum) however, the presence of shivlings in the caves point to a Brahmanical origin.
Some believe that the five Pandava brothers used the caves to take shelter during their exile. Either way, the caves have been dated back to the 6th century, and a simplistic and rustic in their appearance. The shivlings bear a resemblance to similar artefacts found in Ellora and Elephanta. The absence of carvings on the walls and floor of these caves, make them unique amongst other such finds.
Other attractions in this area include the Rudreshwar temple. The rock cut temple step spiral up the cliff face on the side of the Arvalem falls.
Among the most ancient artefacts that Goa has to offer are the Rock carvings at Usgalimal. These carvings are believed to date back to the Stone Age. These carvings are located on the bank of the Kushavati River, in the village of Usgalimal in the Sanguem Taluka of North Goa. They were discovered in 1993 by the villagers who were dredging the sand of the river bank. Since then they have created quite a stir in the archaeological community and have been studied extensively.
They are believed to have been carved by members of the ‘Kush’ tribe and have been dated back to approximately, 8000 BC. The carvings themselves are unique amongst other similar works that have been found across the world since they have been carved into unyielding laterite rock. These kinds of carvings are known as Petroglyphs.
The Petroglyphs have been carved into the stone base of the river and more than a 100 carvings can be seen in the 5000 sq. m. site. The carvings depict a variety of subject matter including, animals, birds, dancing girls, mother and child, child’s footprints, peacocks, etc. The most often seen and anachronistic carving is that of the triskellion which is more commonly associated with the Celts from the British Isles.