Many of Goa’s visitors plan little beyond enjoying the sunshine on the golden sands of the numerous beaches. But it’s easy to explore this compact state; spend a day in Panaji (Panjim), the state capital, and at historic sites in Old Goa. Shoppers can seek bargains at Arpora’s Saturday night market. Trips to Mollem National Park bring opportunities to walk in the Western Ghats.
Panaji is a pleasant city to stroll. Symmetrical steps lead up the white façade of the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, one of Goa’s most photographed landmarks. Aficionados of military history can spend an hour or two clambering around the Reis Magos Fort, a restored gun battery overlooking the mouth of the Mandovi River. Birders should head for Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, on Chorao Island, where sandpipers and purple herons are among the many species that can be observed in the mangroves.
A buzzing Saturday night market draws many visitors to Arpora. Illuminated stalls sell souvenirs ranging from silver jewellery to hippy-chic clothing. An array of food vendors offer snacks while live music and potent cocktails, served at the Boutique House Bar, help bring a festival-like vibe to proceedings.
Grand buildings, including the Church of St Francis of Assisi, consecrated in the 17th century, stand as legacies of the Portuguese presence in the region. The remains of St Francis Xavier draw pilgrims to the Church of Bom Jesus.
Leopards and tigers roam this verdant region. Jeep safaris in Mollem National Park provide opportunities to observe giant squirrels and sloth bears, plus endemic bird species, such as the Nilgiri blue robin and flame-throated bulbul.
Second time around…
Rails and rafts
Rail enthusiasts will enjoy travelling on the Konkan Railway. The track, sweeps across numerous estuaries along its route of more than 460 miles. Connecting Mumbai and Mangalore, the track provides spectacular views of the Western Ghats and stretches of coastline by the Arabian Sea. Adventure travellers should try and time a visit to coincide with the monsoon and take to the Mahadei River to enjoy white-water rafting.