The town of Saquelim in Goa has often been visited by tourists from all over, but a little detour off the approach road and you might find yourself in the midst of the majestic Arvalem Caves also known as the Pandava Caves as they are known to have housed the Pandavas (characters from Hindu Mythology) during their 12 year exile.
There’s not much to speak of in terms of architecture and sculpture at these caves are considerably small. Their origins can be traced back to as early as the 6th century and credit for building is still undecided.
Some believe the caves owe their origins to Buddhism, but the presence of Lingas on the walls is confusing. Laterite stone and some architecture resembling Buddhist architecture also lead us to believe that the Arvalem caves, are probably Buddhist.
Archaeologists have also been exploring some Sanskrit inscriptions found from the 7th century in the caves. Arvalem caves are often visited by Hindu tourists to marvel at their mythological importance, but apart from that these red bricked caves are awe inspiring even for the average tourist.
An ideal picnic spot, one might want to set aside an afternoon for a picnic at these caves and enjoy nature at its best. The best time to visit the Arvalem caves is in the monsoons. Getting to the Arvalem caves is a little bit of a hike. They’re located close to the town of Sanquelim inland, towards the east, from places like Vasco, Margao and Panjim.
Its best to ride down to the caves on a hired two wheeler or your own vehicle, although cabs are available from the city side and north Goa. Beware of the costs though, they might not charge you by the metre.
Home to the Saint Francis Xavier, the priest responsible of bringing Christianity to the region, this church in Goa attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, both Catholic and non-Catholic alike, to experience what can only be termed as divine intervention itself. It is said that the great Saint Francis Xavier had immense powers of healing which is still reflected in the remains of his mortal self.
Testimony to this claim is a public viewing of the Saint’s body that happens once a decade. It last took place in 2004. Bom Jesus translates to Good Jesus or Infant Jesus to whom it is essentially dedicated.
Having been inaugurated in 1605 by Father Aleixo De Menezes, the Basilica of Bom Jesus is over 400 years old and is open to tourists and pilgrims every day. Inside the church, pilgrims can worship and browse through the intricate artwork that speak volumes about the life and time of Saint Francis Xavier. The remains of Saint Francis are kept in a well-clad casket. Most of the mausoleum has been designed by Giovanni Battista Foggini, a 17th century sculptor. The entire church has been built on the principles of Jesuit architecture.
There has been talk that the Basilica of Bom Jesus Church is soon on its way to going green with a galvanised roof for a better experience for Church inhabitants, pilgrims and tourists. The galvanised roof will replace the current asbestos roof. This is a first of a kind move in India to preserve a 400-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Widely Opposed Professed House
The Professed house is a separate structure within the church compound and predates the church itself by around twenty years, having been built in 1585. Jesuit missionaries made this place their base for activities pertaining to the far east since back then. The Jesuits faced tough opposition from the Senate for which they were not permitted to build the church.
One night, against the opposition, the Jesuits threw open a small church on the doors of which was inscribed the work Jesus and invited the commons in to celebrate mass. Ever since the Senate was helpless but to let them go about with their activities. The Professed house, a separate building is still on the campus and a hot favourite amongst tourists.
How To Get There?
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is just a stone throw away from the capital of Goa, Panjim. One can easily hail a cab in the city or get on from Vasco da Gama city or Margao city. For pilgrims who are put up in North Goa, namely Baga, Calangute and Candolim, cabs are available, although if you’re doing a day-long tour, visiting various churches in Panjim and the south, it is best to be mobile with your own vehicle or a self-driven hired one.
Legend has it that the Lord Rama and his wife Sita, when exiled from the holy city Ayodhya, spent 14 years taking shelter in this fort. Some believe it to be important from the mythological standpoint, for a tourist it’s an ideal place for an afternoon out with a couple of beers, friends, good conversation and a view to die for!
Many Indian tourists often mistake this fort for one seen in a popular Hindi movie Dil Chahta Hai, for those of you living in the haze that’s fort Aguada, although Cabo De Rama with its non-Portuguese, non-traditional name has nothing less to offer in terms of tourist value.
Overlooking the Canacona and Colva beaches, which are just a walk away, this fort is very strategically located with tourists often making their way to these beaches for a short dip, especially on a day-long picnic at the fort. These beaches also have several shacks offering good Goan food with very affordable alcohol! The best time to visit the Cabo De Rama Fort is in the summer.
The fort offers a breathtaking view of the majestic Arabian coastline. The Cabo De Rama Fort has changed various flags having been under the Marathas, Portuguese and the Muslims at various times in history. At one point, the fort was clad with 21 guns by the Portuguese, clues of which can still be found in the remains of a damaged turret. The Portuguese also erected a chapel at the fort.
Cabo De Rama is located at the south end of the Colva Beach bay. A bike or a cab from any of the south Goan localities or towns, like Panjim, Vasco or Margao, is an easy way to get there. Tourists based in North Goa, Candolim, Baga and Calangute, including Vagator and Mapusa, get ready for a relatively long ride and make sure the cab fare is accurate.
At the foot of the fort is the church dedicated to the Saint Jerome and the fort is famous for hosting the annual 'Festa dos Reis Magos' which translates to the Feast of the Three Wise Souls on the 6th of every January.
The best time to visit the Reis Magos Fort is in summer. Getting to Reis Magos Fort is easy and being relatively small, sightseeing doesn’t take long. From Panjim, Margao and Vasco, tours can be arranged, and it takes just under an hour to get there.
From Panjim, of course, the travel time is a lot lesser. If you’re based in north Goa, Candolim, Baga and Calangute, respectively, a cab ride is often the best way to get there or one can decide to ride down on a hired bike.
The fort of Chapora like many others in Goa hasn’t had a very strict maintenance regime for the last few decades but does offer some spectacular views. Tourists still marvel at this algae- and moss-infested structure that once spoke of the grandeur of Portuguese architecture along with solid built quality.
Fort Chapora was built by the Potuguese in the year 1617 to protect their territory from Hindu invasion. It’s one of many that were built during the era including the famous Fort Agoda, but unlike Agoda, it fell in the hands of the Hindus eventually, and the ruins today speak of the struggle.
The fort was built on what was earlier a Muslim settlement called Shahpura; hence, an alternate name for the fort spells Shahpur. The fort was abandoned by the Portuguese finally in 1892, but one can still spot discernable remains of the two supply tunnels used during the attack and war.
Chapora is close to the Vagator Beach in the North Bardez district and is easily accessible from the town of Mapusa, being around 10 km away. Simply put, if you’re based anywhere near the Baga, Calangute, Anjuna stretch, getting there shouldn’t take long, just head north.
Getting a cab from Panjim or Vasco should not be an issue either, though it’s advisable that on a day out exploring forts, you hire a car or a bike so you can take your time exploring. The best time to visit Fort Chapora is in the summer.
A coastal fort, sprawled over 6 miles, built by the Portuguese in 1624 solely to offer them supremacy against marine attacks, Mormugao Fort is today situated among some of Goa’s most visited tourist attractions like Varca Beach.
Furthermore, it is very close to tourist locations like Margao, the port of Margao and Vaso da Gama. Marmugao Fort is geographically North West of the famous Salsete.
The Historical Significance
The Mormugao Fort was essentially built by the Portuguese to protect the harbour territorial waters in and around the port of Margao. The entrance to the fort, which is bustling with activity as against what is to be usually expected, is inscribed with names such as Dom Fransisco Da Gama and King Dom Fillip.
The inscription is a commemoration to the then Viceroy, and was carved in when the fort was inaugurated. The Viceroy moved into Margao which was essentially the capital of the empire in 1703.
Throughout history, this fort took quite a beating, before eventually being surrendered to the Marathas when the Portuguese decided to settle for Old Goa. The fort today boasts of well-preserved remains of three magazines, five jail cells, 20 bulwarks, a church and accommodation for the fort guards. The fortress is huge, measuring in at over 10 km if measured around the circumference.
Varca beach which is a stone's throw away from the fort is known for its traditional wooden fishing boats and makes for quite a sight!
The best time to visit the Mormugao Fort is in summer. Marmugao fort is one that is closest to Goa’s Dabolim airport, around 4 km south of the city of Vasco Da Gama. Getting to the fort by cab, bus or rickshaw is possible, or one might even decide to rent a bike or a car and drive down.
If you’re the kind who loves to party, party hard enough to leave you wondering what you did last night, Paradiso is the place for you. Situated in the Anjuna and Vagator beach area in north Goa a little north of Baga, this place is famous or as some put it notorious for its crazy alcohol concoctions and cigarettes that have anything but tobacco in them!
It’s true, Paradiso while on the cop’s radar 24/7 is probably one of Goa’s naughtiest clubs with a primarily western crowd. The authorities have tried to shut this place down, even demolish it once, but it’s still active and still a fun place! Four levels make up this huge night club with several bars and a terrace cum patio leading onto Anjuna beach.
Each of the levels offer a view of the beach better than the other, and the place is patronized by some of the leading DJs of the world. The main level features a huge LED lit statue of Lord Shiva that tells tales of a possible hippie angle to the club.
Aside from all the controversy, Paradiso is a place well worth visiting, if not for the grey areas, the view and the loud, energetic percussive music. Head over to Paradiso by heading north from Baga. Ask around for Vagator or Anjuna beach. Getting there by cab is possible but your own vehicle is the best bet.
Paradiso is located right at the beginning of Anjuna beach, suspended over a cliff. It’s a huge clay like construction that cannot be missed.
Arguably one of the largest churches of its time, St. Augustine Church today is in partial ruins, no thanks to the religious bans imposed by an ever-so-fragile Portuguese social hold back in the 1600s. St. Augustine Church today is no more than a 46 m tall tower situated in old Goa on a hill aptly named Holy Hill.
St. Augustine Church is and has always been a pilgrim’s favourite owing to its rich historical and architectural qualities.
The Church of St. Augustine was built by twelve Augustinians against oppressive bans and opposition. Along with the church they also built a separate convent building. The 46 m tall tower was clad with a magnificent church bell which was subsequently removed and moved to the Church of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception where it still continues to remain active today!
In the early days, the church boasted of four altars, eight chapels and a convent. What’s left of the St. Augustine Church today is the tower and the forward façade; the rear end of the church is in ruins.
Despite this, the Church of St. Augustine attracts thousands of visitors each year and the magnificence of its hay days is hardly lost. Most of the church’s physical deterioration has happened in the 1900s which has sparked an outcry among various religious groups off late.
How To Get There?
The church of St. Augustine is located in south Goa and can be accessed via bus, cab or rickshaw from cities like Panjim, Vasco Da Gama and Margao. For tourists based in north Goa, Candolim, Baga or Calangute, its best to hire a vehicle and ride down, or use your own car to avoid a steep cab fare.
The St. Cajetan Church is undisputedly the most beautiful looking church Goa has ever housed. One can’t help but revive memories of other churches visited in European countries owing to its Corinthian and Goth inspired architecture. Everything from its pristine white appearance to the two rectangular towers on either side above the façade reminds us of its European architectural origins.
St. Cajetan Church has essentially been created on the basis of St. Peter Church in Italy and has been constructed using laterite blocks. For the well-travelled tourist or pilgrim, a very familiar connection can be made between the city of St. Petersburg in Russia and its churches including the Fortress of Paul and Peter and the St. Cajetan Church in Goa owing to their strikingly similar architectural principles.
The interior of the church is as massive as the exterior makes it out to be. Inspired by Corinthian and Baroque architecture there are multiple altars on the left and right with the aisle divided by huge pillars. To the left, the altars are dedicated to the Holy family of Our Lade of Piety and St. Clare.
To the right you can see the altars dedicated to St. Cajetan, St. John and St. Agnes, the one dedicated to St. Cajetan being the largest with a massive, well decorated wooden podium. The Italian paintings in the altars depict the life and time of Saint Cajetan. One can’t help but marvel at the huge dome, both from the outside and the inside of the church.
The Well Within The Church
Within the premises of the church, there exists a well which has lead historians and archaeologists to point at the possible existence of an ancient Hindu temple which was lost during Portuguese occupation. An opposing group of historians believe that the well was intentionally created to offer structural stability.
More controversy is added to the equation with the existence of carvings of Hindu deities on the Basalt doorway. This is the only remaining part of what once used to be a palace of Emperor Adil Shah.
How To Get There?
The St. Cajetan Church is located in Old Goa around 10 km from the capital city of Goa in the midst of other prominent churches like the Basilica of Bom Jesus and the ruins of St. Augustine. It's best to plan a day out at all these churches since the distance one has to travel from the city or from North Goa is quite a lot.
Cab services to old Goa are available from all over including the cities of Vasco Da Gama and Margao. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to hire a two-wheeler and see all these marvellous architectural creations in your own time and pace.
Tiracol Fort was built and for a very long time was under the ruler of Sawantwadi, Maharaja Khem Sawant Bhonsle. It’s a southern Maharashtrian township and the last town one crosses in Maharashtra before entering Goa.
Historically, the fort underwent various changes of flag, right from being taken over by the Portuguese in the year 1746 to being used by freedom fighters as the base camp during the operation in 1961 to liberate Goa and assimilate it into India.
The Tourist Value Fort Tiracol Offers Today
Tiracol as a location is one of the last few untapped localities of Goa, completely novice to commercialization and as pretty as possible in its natural form! Many western tourists prefer Tiracol as a picnic spot on a day off from the beaches.
The fort has been built on a hilltop overlooking the Querim beach on the other side of the river Tiracol. It has been built perpetually on the mouth of the river Tiracol. The views, needless to say, are breathtaking!
The best time to visit the Tiracol Fort is in the summer.
Getting To Fort Tiracol
The fort is located way up North. Tourists based in Panjim, Vasco and other parts of south Goa may find it a little far and you might have to hire a cab since riding down all the way takes a lot out of you.
Although tourists based in Candolim, Baga and Calangute, including Vagator and Bardez can enjoy the short drive past Mapusa. Renting a bike if you’re in one of these places is worth it because you might end up spending the day at Tiracol. Make sure you ride safe; the roads are winding, and the route is hilly.
Housed on what is now known as the famous Tito’s lane in the Baga vicinity is one of Goa’s best night places, crowd, food, alcohol and music. Ask anyone around the Baga area about where to head for a decent party, and the reply in most cases is quick, Tito’s.
Notwithstanding the fact that the famous Tito’s lane has various bars, night places and pool parlours that are all well rated, one just has to visit the mother ship!
Don’t get let down by the steep entry fee, pitched at 1500 bucks, and sometimes Tito’s might not allow stags. Once you get in you are greeted by amazingly energetic music, very comfortable temperature and an A La Carte Menu to die for. What’s better, the entry fee you paid gets you unlimited alcohol.
Some may argue the brands are very basic, but hey, 1500 bucks for all you can drink booze is completely worth it now, isn’t it? The crowd at Café Tito’s is a mix of all ethnicities, which is enjoyable.
The club features high ceilings and feels very roomy with its multiple levels. It does tend to get a little crowded on the weekends, but nothing the place can’t handle. Also, the in-house security is more than competent to handle large crowds.
Tito’s also features Celebrity DJs now and then. Now here’s the real downside; the discotheque is reserved for people who are willing to pay an additional fee. It isn’t much at 300 bucks for couples, but it still doesn’t go down to well with many patrons.
Nevertheless, no complaints on the quality of service once you’re in. The Tito’s lane is crowded on weekends, so you might want to find yourself a parking spot away from the lane. Furthermore, try not to take a cab and be mobile. The Tito’s lane is just a walk down from the Baga Cafe Coffee Day and once you’re in the lane, Tito’s itself is hard to miss!
Finally, a club in Goa which seems to have solved the vehicle parking issue! Margarita, one of the few up and energetic places in South Goa among others like Paradiso is a stand-alone club close to Colva beach and boasts of night long parties, world-renowned DJs and a huge, strikingly attractive neon-lit bar table.
Furthermore, this is one of the only places in the region that makes it very easy for stags to get in at around 300 bucks on weekdays and 500 on weekends. Apart from a roomy dance floor they sport a multi-cuisine restaurant and an exciting selection of cocktails.
All said and done, for a metropolitan club experience in Goa, Club Margarita is definitely worth a visit. The costs are very affordable and the crowd as cosmopolitan as it gets. To get to Club Margarita, get a cab from Panjim, Vasco or Margao. If you’re based in North Goa, ask for Colva beach, though the ride is a little long.
The Holy Spirit Church in the Margao township area in Goa was originally constructed in 1564 before being destroyed as a consequence of a war with the Muslim army in 1571. In 1645, once things stabilised, funds were raised and the church was rebuilt and consecrated.
Towards the end of the month of May, the Holy Spirit Church celebrates a feast day along with a late afternoon session of Mass, which is pretty famous all over Margao. Set to coincide with the onset of the rains, people from all over Goa flock to the feast but with their supplies of dried fish, vegetables and other staples. The fair generally goes on for around five to six days.
Inspired by Baroque architecture, this church features tall towers, a clean white façade and interiors decorated with various works of crystal. The church also features well-decorated altars and a huge centrally located dome. This church is home to almost 3000 Christian families.
Pilgrims and tourists can visit this church all seven days of the week. Getting to the place is easy enough, cabs and buses from Panjim and Vasco Da Gama are available to Margao.
For pilgrims and tourists based in North Goa, namely Candolim, Baga and Calangute, even Mapusa, the ride is a little long but well worth it. One can also spend the rest of the day exploring Margao which has grown from a small Goan village to a full-fledged city!
Mae De Deus, which literally translates to Mother of God is a Gothic style church and a very famous one in North Goa. In a city where most of the prominent churches are located in the South, Mae de Deus is a pleasant addition to the list of North Goa attractions and tourists around the Baga, Calangute and Candolim areas will surely appreciate how strategically it is located.
Mae De Deus is a relatively small church, and it doesn’t take more than half an hour to get a good look at it and get done with some praying, inside the church or out in the lush green surroundings. Mae De Deus church is an ideal place to spend some time sitting and pondering after a long day at the beach or shopping.
Being a relatively new church, having been inaugurated in 1873, upkeep has never really been an issue. The large pristine white appearance and the Gothic inspired spires are sure to turn a head or two. This coupled with the large entrance and silver bell makes for quite a sight. The church also makes for a photographer's dream canvas.
The church houses the famous shrine of Nossa Senhora, which was transported from the ruins of the old Mae De Deus Church in Old Goa. Getting to Mae De Deus is easy enough. It’s situated around 13 km from Panjim on the way to the North Goa town of Mapusa. It’s just a stone throw away for North Goa tourists and residents.
The best way to get there from cities like Vasco Da Gama, Panjim and Margao is to get a cab. You may also want to consider renting a two wheeler if you’re based in the North. This church also goes by the name Saligon Gothic Church.
A truly awe-inspiring view of the city of Panjim, clean white appeal, contemporary architecture and as accessible as it can get, these are just some of the traits of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the most famous church in the capital city of Panjim in Goa.
When one approaches the church, you can’t help but notice the immaculately maintained streets with cobblestone sidewalks and the huge idol of the Virgin Mary atop the entrance to the church. The church was originally built in 1541 but received a complete makeover in 1619 owing to the huge amounts of wealth available to churches back then.
Ever since, its grandeur has known no bounds. As compared to the exterior the interiors are relatively humble. The main altar is dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, Mary with two subordinate altars dedicated to Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Rosary, respectively.
The main building also houses a chapel dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. While this church is quite a sight to see in the day, most pilgrims swear by its beauty at night with all the lights decorating the white building!
The locality around the church is bustling with commercial activity, so tourists and pilgrims are in for a treat shopping wise as well. Getting to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception is as easy as it gets. Regular bus services are available from within the city and from Vasco Da Gama and Margao.
For North Goa residents and tourists put up in the Baga, Calangute and Candolim areas, a cab ride is the best way to get there followed by a rickshaw followed by hiring a bike. If you’re visiting churches in the afternoon, it is best to hire a bike and see the churches of North Goa.