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Things to Do in Goa

In Goa, a western state on the coast of India, endless stretches of white sand melt into the Arabian Sea. It holds multi-faceted appeal that attracts everyone from escapists and pilgrims to thrill seekers and history buffs, so it comes as no surprise that the region is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Portuguese colonial architecture provides unique sightseeing opportunities, while the state’s spiritual reputation is easy to see, with its abundant yogis and shamans. There are tours specializing in pretty much every flavor of adventure: In Old Goa (Ela), formerly known as the "Rome of the East," World Heritage Sites such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus and Se Cathedral remind visitors of Portugal’s colonial rule. Panaji (Panjim), the capital of Goa, offers easy access to fragrant spice plantations and Dudhsagar Falls; while from Candolim in North Goa, visitors can cycle to the mysterious Fort Aguada and its lighthouse, or go kayaking on the Nerul River—if you can bear to drag yourself away from its golden-sand beaches. Other day-trip destinations popular with travelers include Palolem Beach—locally known as Monkey Island—for snorkeling and scuba diving; and Reis Magos, a village home to a 16th-century church and fort. Plus, revellers shouldn’t be deceived by Goa’s antique charm—areas surrounding Calangute Beach and Anjuna Beach attract ravers from around the world with legendary beach parties.
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Fontainhas
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Situated on the banks of Ourem Creek in Panaji, Goa's capital city, the charming neighborhood of Fountainhas is dotted with charming old homes dating back to the mid 19th century. Fontainhas occupies land that was reclaimed in the 18th century and gets its name from the natural springs situated at the edge of the area.

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Dudhsagar Falls
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At 1,017 feet (310 meters), Dudhsagar Falls is among the tallest waterfalls in India. At the base of the four-tiered falls is a huge swimming area—that’s as as far as most travelers go. A railway bridge crosses right under the falls, and if you happen to visit when a train is passing by you're sure to get some great photos.

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Basilica of Bom Jesus (Borea Jezuchi Bajilika)
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Built at the turn of the 17th century by Florentine sculptor Giovanni Battista Foggini, this red-stone church is one of the oldest in India. It's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While it's dedicated to the baby Jesus, many people choose to visit because the basilica holds the remains of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa.

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Fort Aguada
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Built at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Mandovi River in Goa, Fort Aguada was once one of the country’s most important sea defenses. Nowadays, visitors can tour the remains of the buildings, enjoy panoramic views from the top of the walls, and learn about Goa’s history under Portuguese colonial rule.

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St. Catherine’s Cathedral (Sé Cathedral)
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The largest church in Goa and the seat of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, this huge white Portuguese Gothic structure was constructed from 1562 to 1619 to commemorate a Portuguese military victory over Goa that was won on the feast of Saint Catherine. Inside, images of the saint adorn the cathedral walls.

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Calangute Beach
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The largest beach in North Goa, Calangute is a lively, popular beach town that attracts domestic tourists and international visitors alike. The beach is lined with hotels and shacks serving seafood, Indian fare, beer, and cocktails, while the adjacent town offers a mix of handicraft shops and bars.

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Old Goa (Goa Velha)
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Goa is a historic site and former capital of the state of Goa. Visitors come to tour the impressive buildings and learn more about the fate of this town that was abandoned in the 18th century.

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Shri Shantadurga Temple
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This temple, dedicated to the goddess Shantadurga, dates back to the first half of the 18th century (though there was likely some kind of temple here for much longer). Its architecture is quintessentially Goan, with rust-red exteriors and white trim coupled with arched windows and stained glass.

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Candolim and Sinquerim Beaches
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With red sands and rocky headlands in the distance, the twin beaches of Candolim and Sinquerim provide a relaxing alternative to some of the busier beaches just north. Candolim and Sinquerim Beaches are frequented by travelers staying at upscale hotels nearby, though many visitors make special a trip out to explore the beachfront at Fort Aguada.

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Anjuna Beach
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Popular among international backpackers, Anjuna has long been associated with the hippie lifestyle. It's more laid-back than some of the livelier beaches a few miles south, though. Its big draw is the numerous beachfront shacks serving delicious, affordable Indian and international fare well into the wee hours.

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More Things to Do in Goa

Reis Magos Fort

Reis Magos Fort

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Situated on the banks of the Mandovi River, this scenic fort was built by the Portuguese in 1551 to protect the Mandovi estuary, and was reconstructed in 1707. It was abandoned for much of the 19th and 20th centuries before being turned into a prison. It was later restored and turned into the tourist attraction that it is today.

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Panaji (Panjim)

Panaji (Panjim)

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Panaji is Goa’s capital city. Built alongside the Mandovi River as it flows into the Arabian Sea, many visitors start their vacations in Goa with a day or two in Panaji city.

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Sahakari Spice Farm

Sahakari Spice Farm

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Sahakari Spice Farm provides an excellent first introduction to India's spice-growing and production. Here you'll get to see where your spices come from and learn about how they’re grown, dried, and processed. If they’re daring enough, guests can also try their hand at swinging from betel-nut palms.

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Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary

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Located a short drive from the capital city Panaji, Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary is a compact reserve, spanning about 1.8 square kilometers (.69 square miles) of mangrove swamps. It's Goa's only bird sanctuary, attracting a variety of native and migratory birds, including kingfishers, coots, egrets, black drongos, and pintails.

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Palolem Beach

Palolem Beach

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Nicknamed Paradise Beach, Palolem is among the most popular South Goa beaches, and for good reason. Its beautiful, clear waters and pale sand appeal to those searching for relaxation. Though there are certainly plenty of beach shacks, a few minutes' walk down the shore will bring you to quiet, uncrowded stretches of sand and sea.

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Ancestral Goa

Ancestral Goa

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The Ancestral Goa center offers an excellent introduction to Goan life. This living history museum was set up by a local artist. Included are a typical 19th-century Goan village, featuring traditional homes, displays of handicrafts such as pottery and cobbling, and even a replica of a sacred spring, plus lots of activities for kids.

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São Tomé

São Tomé

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This traditional Portuguese-style neighborhood is home to many of Panaji's historic buildings, including the São Tomé Chapel, the old post office, and myriad colonial houses with red tile roofs and colorful facades. Sao Tome is best explored on foot and is often visited in tandem with the neighboring Fontainhas area.

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Baga Beach

Baga Beach

The golden sands at Baga Beach have been popular with backpackers since the hippy heyday of the 1970s when western tourists made a second home for themselves along the beaches in this part of Goa. In the years since it has become a thriving beach resort that welcomes domestic and international travelers in equal measure.

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