World Heritage architecture, fusion cuisine and pristine beaches in Goa
With a prime position on India’s west coast, the state of Goa in India is home to a huge variety of arts, culture, entertainment, and outdoor attractions. Despite being home to a population of almost two million people and an area of 3,700 square kilometres, Goa is the smallest state in the country, but has a GDP more than twice the size of the nation’s. Goa’s unique history includes 451 years of Portuguese occupation, from the early 1500s until the territory known as Portuguese India was commandeered by India in 1961. This fusion of two very different cultures has resulted in a collection of World Heritage architecture and peaceful places of worship that draw both Hindu and Catholic pilgrims. These architectural and spiritual wonders combine with miles of quiet beaches, interesting cities, quality hotels, and experience hosting the 400,000 foreign travellers that visit on a yearly basis to create a fascinating, safe destination offering something for everyone.
Linger in state capital Panaji
State capital Panaji is home to several museums, such as the Goa State Museum, the Kala Academy, Goa Science Centre, and the Central Library, and is picturesque with a Latin Quarter – itself an attraction – and a river flowing beside the metropolis. The river can be crossed by ferry with or without a car, and offers a gateway to several tranquil, unpopulated islands ideal for fishing. Panaji is a great place for a spot of shopping, particularly for food items such as spicy local sausages Choricao, handicrafts, and books, with a number of highly-recommended bookstores to be found in the city. The hottest items to buy around this area however, are cashews, which come raw, spiced and roasted with many different flavours available. Cashews are also used to make speciality Goan Cashew Liquor, which is available at most bars and hotels.
Konkan Hindu and Goan Catholic
The capital is an ideal spot to sample some local food, though there are two distinct types of the tropical Goan cuisine that mean more than one stop is required to tick off the must-taste dishes: Konkan Hindu and Goan Catholic. Konkan Hindu food features coconut and fish more heavily, while Goan Catholic favours vinegar, pork and beef. Both are made with intense flavours and spices, though the varied influences on Goan cuisine and culture mean there are more than just the two categories. The Catholic influences come from Goa’s history as a Portuguese colony, which kept the state isolated from the rest of India for more than 450 years and created the unique part of the country there to visit today. Traditional cuisine in this region has therefore been developed from both Portuguese and Indian dishes, as well as the steady influx of international ‘hippies’ and Goan expatriates that have helped shape the culture of the region. The result is a mix of fusion and traditional dishes that make food in Goa one of the highlights of a visit here.
Dining in modern Goa
The most popular Goan dishes include fish curry with rice, variations of fried fish with some such as Kismur eaten with coconut and onions, and different stews comprising seafood and lentil options such as Varan. The majority of seafood dishes are served with rice, and feature Kingfish, shark, tuna, shellfish and more. The Portuguese introduced ingredients such as potato, tomato and cashews, and though these are now included in various Indian dishes, are heavily favoured in Goan Catholic cuisine. There are many dishes to try from the Catholic menu, including adapted versions of the samosa: Chamuca; spicy pork dish Sorpotel, served with Goan bread known as sannas or pao; and Vindaloo with chicken, pork or lamb.
UNESCO World Heritage Listed Velha Goa
Only 10 kilometres east of Panjim on the Mandovi River is Old Goa, or Velha Goa, built in the 15th century by Bijapur Sultanate. A century later Old Goa became the capital of Portuguese India, but it would be abandoned in the 17th century after cholera and malaria epidemics slashed the population from approximately 200,000 to 1,500. Roman Catholic influences remain evident in Old Goa today, with buildings such as Se Cathedral, the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of Saint Francis Xavier can be found.
The beaches that grew Goa
With over 100 kilometres of coastline Goa is home to a vast number of beaches and luxury hotels, which were the drawcard that made the state such a popular tourist destination in the first place. Some of the most famous beaches include Anjuna, where visitors can enjoy a weekly flea market, Morjim Beach, with vibrant nightlife, and the particularly scenic Colva Beach.
Time your visit
Goa can get a little hot and a little wet at times, so be sure to plan your visit well to coincide with the best times to travel in the area. The temperature is most pleasant from the middle of November through to the middle of February, with a daily average around the mid-20s, while hotels in Goa are especially popular from October to January and in May. The monsoon season occurs from June to August, peaking in July, and though many choose not to visit at this time, hotels and tourist attractions are often less busy and operate at reduced prices.