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Lying on the west coast of India, the tiny Goa is known as the 'Riviera of the East.' Apart from the splendour of nature's bounty lavished along the beaches, one can also witness the functional superiority of the ancient Portuguese architecture in old structures dotting the State. Ensconced on the slopes of the Western Ghats - Sahyadri - Goa is bounded on the north by Maharashtra, to the east and south is Karnataka, and is lashed by the Arabian sea on the western side.

Goa was a Portuguese colony for 450 years. It was liberated in 1961, alongwith Daman and Diu, and made a Union Territory and later conferred statehood in 1987. Panaji is the Capital, situated on the left bank of Mandovi river. North Goa and South Goa are two districts with Panaji and Margao as the respective headquarters.

On an average, around 20 lakh domestic and four lakh foreign tourists visit Goa annually. A Tourism Security Organisation has been created to provide protection and guidance to the travellers.

The people: Multicultural and extremely hospitable. Portuguese influence in every aspect of life is visible. There is religious harmony.

How to reach: Goa can be easily reached from Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram or Delhi or anywhere else by air, train or road. Dabolim is the international airport. The roads are good. Inter-State bus service is comfortable. Local transport is autorickshaw, motorcycle-taxi, cruise, bus and taxi.

Catamaran service: A Catamaran service links Goa with Mumbai. It takes seven hours as aginst 14 hours by bus and 45 minutes by air.

Accommodation: All types of accommodation available.

Apart from beaches, churches and temples and other monuments like old buldings in Portuguese style of architecture, there are also to be seen in Goa lakes, wildlife sanctuaries, waterfalls, springs, forts etc.

The major TOWNS in the state are: Panaji, the Capital of the state and headquarters of north Goa district, on the bank of Mandovi river; Margao (33 km), headquarters of south Goa district and commercial centre; Vasco-da-Gama (30 km); Mormugao harbour, 5 km from Vasco-da-Gama; Mapusa (13 km).

Beaches: North Goa: Miramar, Dona-Paula, Calangute, Anjuna, Vagator, Mortim, Mandrem, Baga, Arambol; South Goa: Majorda, Colva, Benaulim, Cavelossim, Paloleum, Betul

The well-known BEACHES are: Calangute (16 km); Colva, near Margao; Dona Paula (7 km), for water scootering; Miramar, near Panaji; Anjuna (18 km); Vagator (22 km).

Calangute beach: Calangute beach has been described by visitors as the 'queen of beahes.' Apart from the scenic beauty one can indulge in, there are also facilities for water sports such as parasailing, water skiing and wind surfing. Calangute beach is 20 minutes' drive from Panaji.

PLACES TO SEE: Miramar, Colva, Panaji, Margao, Vasco, Old Goa, Panjim, Mapusa, Calangute,Coco beach, Vagator beach, Anjuna beach, Mahalsa temple, Mollem, Dudhsagar waterfall, Tambdi Surla Mahadevar temple in Mollem (A Shiva temple built of black basalt in the 12th century in Kadamba-Yadava architecture.), Farmagudi, Britona, Loutlim, Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, Sinquerim

OTHER SITES:- Old Goa: Founded by Adil Shah in the 16th century and conquered by Alfonso de Albuquerque; Basilica of Bom Jesus: Most popular church, a World Heritage monument, and where St Francis Xavier is buried; Se Cathedral: The famous Golden bell is here; Brahma temple (7 km), built in the 5th century; Sri Chandranath temple (45 km), where the deity installed by the Bhoja kings gets moonlit during full moon nights; Sri Saptakoteswar temple (37 km); Safa masjid at Ponda; Aguada fort (18 km), built by the Portuguese; Dudhsagar waterfalls (60 km); Mayem lake (35 km); Bondla forest sanctuary (50 km); Cotigao wildlife sanctuary (60 km); Salim Ali bird sanctuary, near Panaji.

River Cruise: From Santa Monica jetty in Panaji, down the river Mandovi, past Adil Shah Palace. It was the summer palace of the Sunltans, and later of the Viceroy of Portugal and finally became the secretariat of the government of Goa. The new secretariat is acros the river. Adil Shah Palace has now become a cultural centre. Along the cruise one can see old colonial buildings, Miramar, Mormugao port where ships line up, Aguada Fort. On return, see Betim cottages. There is also entertainment on Govt conducted cruises like Goan dances: Goff, Jive, Fugdi, Curridinho, Mexican Hat.

Cruise fees: Rs 200 per head on Govt conducted cruise; duration: one hour

Backwater cruise: Choravo, Divar, Old Goa.

Mayem lake: 4-seater pedal-operated boats available for boating in Mayem lake. (Rs 140 per hour)

Wildlife sanctuaries: Bondla wildlife sanctuary - a popular destination (safari etc available) (Ph: 2935800); Mollem National Park (Ph: 2612211); Cotigao wildlife sanctuary (Ph: 2965601); Dr Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Chorao (Ph: 2228772); Abyss - Underworld Marine Fish Acquarium, Verna (Ph: 2887090)

RIVERS: Tiracol, Chapora, Mandovi, Zuari, Sal and Talpona - all navigable throughout the year. They all originate in the Western Ghats and flow westward into the Arabian sea, running about 60 km.

Folk songs and dances: Ghode Modni, Mando, Dekhni, Golf, Talgadi, Shigmo, Tonyamel, Dhangar dance, Mussal Khel, Jagor, Suvari, Fugdi and Dhalo, Lamp dance, Veerbhadra and Kunbi songs and dances.

Festivals: Divali, Christmas, Ganesh Chaturthi, Shirigao jatra, Fatorpa jatra. All the people take part in the festivals irrespective of faith.

SHOPPING: The exclusive shopping items are handicrafts like pottery, shell work, furniture, brass work, bamboo work, papier mache. The shopping centres are handicraft emporia in Panaji, Dabolim airport, Vasco, Margao, Calangute and Mapusa.

Cuisine: Xacuti, vindalo, prawn balchao, bebinca, dodol, doce; sea food is a favourite of Goans; port wines, red wines and white wines are common; local alcoholic drink, toddy.

Climate: Tropical; Summer max temp 34 deg C, mini 24 deg C, Winter: max temp 30 deg C, mini 20 deg C

Rainfall: Heavy during monsoon (June to Sept)

Clothing: Tropical. Light woolen in December and January

Languages: Konkani, Marathi, Hindi, English, Portuguese

Time to visit: Round the year: Best time: November to February; During monsoon there is flooding and traffic dislocation.

STD Code for Goa: 0832; ISD Code for Goa: ++91 832

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