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Goa

» A TRAVELER'S PARADISE
"The pearl of the east," Goa is known for its Gothic churches, crumbling forts, palm-fringed beaches, coconut groves, ferry rides, bubbly folk music… the list is endless! With its 131-km-long coastline, Goa is an important locale in every tourist's itinerary. Sun, sand and sea being the major attractions, Goa is a perfect heaven for the ones who need and want relaxation.

» LOCATION
Situated on the western coastline of India, the Union Territory of Goa is sandwiched between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. The capital Panaji is at a distance of 592 km from Bangalore and 593 km from Mumbai. The waters of the Arabian Sea wash the coastline of Goa. It is split into two districts-North Goa (STD Code: 0832) and South Goa (STD Code: 0834). North Goa includes the capital city of Panjim, the former capital of Old Goa, Fort Aguada and Candolim, Chapora, Vagator, and the beaches Calangute, Anjuna, and Baga. South Goa includes Vasco da Gama Bogmalo, Margao, Colva and Benolem. Being near to the sea, Goa enjoys a maritime climate, with April and May being very hot.

» SITES TO VISIT
In the local dialect, Goa is often referred to as "Goa Dourada," (meaning "Golden Goa") because of its beaches, forts, churches, waterfalls, seminaries, and caves. Goa Beach Tours are famous world over. In order to enjoy Goa vacations, one can find various options of Goa holiday packages offered by travel agents and hotels.

"The queen of Indian beaches," Calangute is a stretch of 7 km. Baga beach is a handy commuting point to Anjuna. At a distance of 7 km from Panaji is the beach of Dona Paula, which is a good site for relaxation and sunbathing. At a distance of 6 km away from Margao is another beach, Colva, which offers good accommodation. Calangute, Baga, Candolim, Colva are dominated by package tourism. Anjuna, the traditional rave center is popular with the bag packers. Benaulim falls between hype and hip, and is filled with beach shacks and low-key resorts. Arambol in the north and Palolem in the south are idyllic by nature. Other famous beaches include Miramar and Agonda.

The Dudhsagar waterfall and Arvalem waterfall attract many tourists every year. The rock-cut caves of Khandepar and Arvalem are also worth mentioning. The Pilar monastery, Saligao seminary, and Rachol seminary attract the religious minded travelers.

While nature has been so generous to Goa, man too has contributed a lot to Goa's beauty. The strong Roman Catholic community, with the active support of the erstwhile Portuguese rulers, has had a number of churches built in this picturesque locale. In Panaji, one must visit the church dedicated to our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and the Chapel of St. Sebastian. The Goa State Museum, the Secretariat, the statue of Abbe Faria in the capital is a must see for lovers of art. The largest of the churches in Goa, the Se Cathedral is in Old Goa and is flocked by thousands of tourists every year. The holy shrine of Basilica of Bom Jesus, also in Old Goa, houses the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. It is a famous pilgrimage center among the Roman Catholic world. Other famous churches are the Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of St. Cajetan, Church of St. Augustine Ruins, Church and Convent of St. Monica, Church of Our Lady of Rosary, Chapel of St. Anthony and Chapel of St. Catherine-all of which are in Old Goa. Fort Aguada is worth a visit to savor the nostalgia of the Portuguese regime, especially in its lighthouse and the Aguada jail. Terekhol Fort in the Arambol beach has been now converted to a hotel. The Museum of Christian Art in Rachol Seminary and church and the Braganza House near Margao are also worth a visit. Besides these, to get a glimpse of the Hindu population in Goa, one has to visit Ponda. The Kerkar Art Complex in south Calangute is also an important tourist center. The Wednesday flea market at Anjuna is an important trading center for handicrafts from Kashmir to Gujarat.

» FAIRS AND FESTIVALS
Being a predominantly Roman Catholic society, most of the festivals of Goa are Christianity-specific. Feast days, thanksgiving, monsoon celebrations, processions-all mark the Goanese calendar. Shigmo, the Goanese version of Holi, is celebrated in the month of February and March. The Feast of Our Lady of Miracles, celebrated 16 days after the Easter, is secular by nature and is celebrated with pomp and show by both Hindus and Christians. Igitun Chalne, held at Sirigao temple in Bicholim during May, is one of Goa's most distinctive festivals. The main attraction of the festival comes when devotees of Goddess Lairaya walk across burning coals to prove their devotion. The Feast of St. Anthony in the month of June is also significant as it marks the beginning of monsoon. Besides such religious festivals, Goa is also known for its arts and crafts fairs, and food festivals.

» WHERE TO STAY
In Goa, the accommodation rates differ according to the seasons. From mid-December to late January, it is the high season. The middle season is from October to mid-December and February to June, and the late season from July to September. Prices may reach sky-high limits during Christmas. The range of hotels is vast. One can obtain specific details from the information bulletin of Goa tourism.

» WHAT TO EAT
Goanese cuisine is world famous, especially the popular pork vindaloo. Other pork delicacies include chourisso (Goan sausage) and the liver dish called sarpotel. Xacuti is a meat/chicken specialty and bangra is Goanese mackerel. Sanna are rice cupcakes soaked in toddy before cooking; dodol and bebinca are special Christmas sweets; moira kela are cooking plaintains. Feni is the widely known liquor made from cashews and coconuts. Wine and other hard drinks are easily available.

» HOW TO REACH
Goa's international airport is Dabolim, at a distance of 29 km from Panaji, on the coast near Vasco da Gama. Most domestic airlines operate here apart from the chartered private airlines operating from UK and Germany. Getting round the place is quite easy several ferry services are also available.

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