To the south of Maharashtra lies Goa. The 100km- (60 mile-)
long coastline offers some of the finest beaches in the
subcontinent. Goa was under Portuguese rule until 1961, and
there is also a charming blend of Latin and Indian cultures.
Panaji, the state capital, is one of the most relaxed and
elegant of India’s cities. The town is dominated by the huge
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but the shops, bars
and pleasant streets are its main attraction. ‘Old Goa’, only
a bus ride away from Panaji, displays a bewildering variety of
architectural styles. Buildings of note include the Basilica
and the Convent and Church of St Francis of Assisi. In nearby
Ponda is the 400-year-old Temple of Shri Mangesh, which is
said to be the oldest Hindu shrine.
Goa’s infamous hippies are being replaced by backpackers,
Indian visitors and package tourists. Full moon parties still
take place in Anjuna but are smaller and less authentic than
in the heady days of the 1960s. Anjuna is also famous
throughout Goa for its Wednesday flea market. If you are
looking for beautiful, quiet beaches head for the South
between Benaulim and Palolem.
Accommodation in the region includes the
luxury resort of Aguada, the Taj holiday village and the
Aguada hermitage. There are also good, simple hotels and
cottages for rent in villages along the coastline, notably
Calangute, Baga and Colva.
Goa also has several wildlife sanctuaries,
including Bondla in the hills of western Ghats, where wild
boar and sambar can be seen in their natural habitat. The
region is famous for its food – an array of dishes, both
Indian and Portuguese – as well as for its colorful festivals,
including the spectacular Carnival held on the three days
leading up to Ash Wednesday.