Continued from my previous blog “Places to Visit in Goa – Day 2”

The past two days have been all about exploring the famous beaches in North Goa. From the mystifying beauty of Vagator and Anjuna beaches to the serenity of Arambol, by now you would have started appreciating as to why Goa is known for its beaches. Today our plan is to move towards Panaji and explore the famous monuments that exemplify the Portuguese culture in Goa.

Itinerary for the day:

  • 9AM – Start the day
  • 10AM to 1PM – Visit Bom Jesus Basilica and Se Cathedral
  • 1:30PM to 2:30PM – Lunch at “Ritz Classic”, Panaji
  • 3:00PM to 4:00PM – Visit Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception
  • 4:30 PM to 5:00 PM – Miramar beach
  • 5:30PM t0 7:00PM – Sunset at Dona Paula
  • 7:15PM to 8:30 PM – Dinner at “Mum’s Kitchen”, Panaji
  • 9:30 PM – Reach your resort

After spending couple of days exploring the beaches in North Goa, today you will be moving south and will be visiting places in and around Panaji. Panaji (also widely known by the Portuguese name Panjim) is the capital of the Goa and is located by the banks of the Mandovi river estuary. It is one of the busiest places in Goa and houses most of the prominent commercial and government buildings in Goa. The road leading to Miramar beach (alongside the Mandovi river) is the hub of nightlife with most of the prominent crusies and floating casinos located along this stretch. But if you are really interested in exploring Panjim, you should take a walk along the by-lanes of the city. This is where you will experience the footprint of Portuguese culture and the everlasting impact it has on the Goan lifestyle.

Have a good breakfast at your resort and plan to leave the resort no later than 9 AM. You will be visiting first, the twin monuments of Bom Jesus Basilica and Church of St Francis of Assisi. If you are camping in North Goa near Calangute, you will have to reach the “Edapally-Panvel highway” and start driving towards Panaji. It will take your around 45 minutes to an hour (drive of around 22Kms) to reach Bom Jesus Basilica and Church of St Francis of Assisi.

 

Route to Bom Jesus Basilica and Church of St Francis of Assisi
The 2 routes that you can take to reach Bom Jesus Basilica and Church of St Francis of Assisi.

As soon as you cross the Mandovi river and enter Panjim, take a left and continue driving towards your destination. You can take either the causeway road which is picturesque (shorter route but the road is narrow) or the Panjim-Belgaum road (a bit longer, but the roads are wider).

Bom Jesus Basilica

Opening hours: 7:30 AM to 6:30 AM

“Basilica of Bom Jesus” contains the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, the so-called Apostle of the Indies. St Francis Xavier was born in the Castle of Xavier, Spain on 7th of April in the year 1506. He was a brilliant student and excelled in both studies and sports. Ignatius of Loyola, his companion at college, kept repeating to him the words of Jesus, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but forfeit his soul?”, which led to his slow conversion.

As a priest, Francisco Xavier journeyed 13 months and arrived at the golden shores of Goa on 6th May, 1542.  After that, the Apostle of the Orient, undertook many arduous journeys. He embarked on his final journey – a journey to his heavenly adobe on 3rd December 1552. He sighed his last breath at dawn on the Island of Sancian in the Southern coast of China.

Construction of the monument started in the year 1594 and it took around 10 years for completion – around 1605. The facade of the monument is very unique and combines the elements of CorinthianDoric and Ionic design. As you enter the monument, you can find to the right of the alter, the body of St Francis Xavier himself. His body was moved into the church in the year 1622 and was installed in the current mausoleum  in the year 1698.  “Basilica of Bom Jesus” is the only church in Goa which is not plastered on the outside. The lime plaster was removed by a Portuguese conversationalist in the year 1950, with the assumption that the laterite stone of which the monument is built, would strengthen with exposure to the elements thereby increasing its durability. Not sure if this was a good idea as some of the intricate carvings are currently being exposed to the Goan monsoons which are very heavy.

This place is very crowded during “The Feast of St Francis Xavier”, an annual event which is celebrated on December 3rd. Once in every 10 years, the Saints body is hauled around old Goa – the most recent event being in 2014. You will have to wait until 2024 if you want to be part of this ritual.

Se Cathedral

Church of St Francis of Assisi

Opening hours: 9 AM to 6 PM
Mass on Monday-Saturday: 7 AM and 6 PM
Ass on Sunday: 7:15 AM, 10 AM & 4 PM

The Se Cathedral was built in order to commemorate the victory of Portuguese leading to the capture of the city of Goa in 1510. The victory happened to be on the same day as feast of Saint Catherine – hence it was dedicated to her. The construction of the the Cathedral was started in the year 1562 and was completed in the year 1619 – the finishing touches were completed some 90 years from the start of the construction. Se Cathedral is widely regarded as one of the largest churches in Asia – roughly around 75m long and 55m wide.

One look at the Cathedral and you will notice the asymmetry in the overall structure – you will find only one bell tower. Initially the Cathedral did have 2 bell towers, but one of the towers collapsed in the year 1776 after being struck by lightening. The other tower still houses the famous Golden bell (the largest in Asia), which is know for its rich tone. The interior of the Cathedral is surprisingly simple. As you enter the Cathedral, you will find to the right a small locked room which houses a font made in 1532, said to have been used by St Francis Xavier.  After spending around 3 hours visiting Bom Jesus Basilica and Se Cathedral it should around 1PM and just about time for a perfect Goan lunch.

If you are in Goa and love sea food, there is no place better than “Ritz Classic” at Panaji – it will take you around 20-30 minutes to reach Ritz restaurant from Basilica. Finding a parking in Panjim is very tough (especially near the old secretariat area) and you should be prepared to park your vehicle wherever you find one and start walking – honestly, this aint a bad idea as the true spirit of Goa still resides in these small by-lanes of Panjim. The hotel is very famous amongst food lovers and you will find many Goan people enjoying their food. I met a person who mentioned that he loved their fish curry so much that he ensures that he has it at-least once a month. In a era where businesses are trying hard to retain their customers, I guess we need to learn from places like Ritz, where quality product (in their case food) is available at reasonable prices (compared to Goan standards prices are pretty nominal and their portions are large).

Though I do not each sea food, I could see why people were raving about this place for their sea food dishes. Literally everyone in the restaurant were having some sort of fish dish – fish curry, fish fry etc. Many of the dishes are freshly made and the best part was that the customer could select the fish (most of them were live) that they wanted to have. For me Non-veg dish means having a chicken dish and I looked like the odd one out there to order a chicken dish – which was perfect for me. I had a traditional Goan chicken curry along with rice and it tasted heavenly – the right blend of spices and the gravy seemed to have a subtle sweetness due to the coconut milk.  My friends have a platter of sea food and a variety of sea food dishes and they were enjoying themselves – will recommend this place to anyone who really wants to taste authentic Goan sea food.

After a heavy lunch, your next stop is a visit to “Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception”. The church is hardly 500 metres from Ritz hotel and is a short walk – saves you the pain of finding a parking again 🙂

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception

Opening hours
Monday-Saturday: 10 AM-12.30 PM & 3 PM-5.30 PM
Sunday: 11 AM-12.30 PM & 3.30 PM-5 PM

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is one of the oldest and most famous monuments in Goa. The church is centrally located in Panjim, Old Goa and was built in the year 1619 over an old and smaller chapel which was built in 1540. The Church is famous for the zig zag stairways and has been depicted in many tourist journals, movies and documentaries.

This church used to be the first port of call for sailors travelling from Lisbon and usually sailors used to stop to offer their prayers for the safe journey. By 19th century, as Panjim started expanding and developing into an important commercial port, the land in-front of the church was reclaimed and the criss-crossing stairways were added. The church also houses a huge shiny bell, which was saved from the ruins of the Augustinian monastery at Old Goa. The church is crowded and is focus of tourist attraction throughout the year and gets crowded during the Feast of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, which is held on 8th of December every year.

You can spend around an hour at the Church and then head towards Miramar beach.

Miramar beach

Miramar beach is a short drive (around 15 minutes) from the Church and is situated at the confluence of the Mondovi river and Arabian sea. The beach faces the Aguada bay and you will not find it as beautiful as the beaches of North Goa and South Goa. You will not find many tourists at this beach though – considering that Goa has so many beautiful beaches, Miramar is usually overlooked by the tourists. You can spend around 30 minutes exploring the beach and the monuments around the beach area and head towards Dona Paula which is a further 10 minutes drive from Miramar.

Dona Paula

Dona Paula is one of the most famous tourist spots in the Panjim, Miramar, Dona Paula stretch and is very crowded during the tourist season. The place is named after Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior, the daughter of Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam (in Srilanka). She arrived in Goa in the year 1644 and was a women of charity who helped many local folks. Her charity touched the hearts of local folks to such an extent that after her death they renamed the village which was called Oddavell as Dona Paula.

One of the key attractions in Dona Paula is the Jetty area which is heavily commercialized. You will find many eating joints and stalls selling all sorts of stuff – from hats, trinkets to T-shirts and beach wear. It will take a good 15 minutes walk from the parking area to reach the Jetty. During peak season, the place is so crowded that you will literally find it tough to wade through the crowd. It is also a hub of water sports activities and you will find many tourists enjoying a boat ride or trying their hand a Jet Skies and speed boats.

One of the curious structures at Dona Paula are the 2 statues which are near the ferry jetty. The statues are painted in white and was Sculpted in 1969 by Baroness Yrse Von Leistner. I could not get much information about the sculptures from the locals around the place and had to Google and find out the details in Goa tourism website. According to the website, the sculpture is called the “Image of India” which depicts the figures of a Mother India and Young India – unfortunately there is not much information about the historical significance of these sculptures though.

Dona Paula has been highlighted many a times in Bollywood movies – most of the shooting for the famous movie “Ek Duje keliye” were shot at this location. Recently the movie “Singham” was also shot here and few local guides have started calling the jetty as “Singham spot” :). Dona Paula also houses some of the important buildings in Goa like, The National Oceanography Institute (NIO), which conducts research on all the major branches of coastal and marine oceanography. The official residence of the Governor of Goa is also located in Dona Paula.

You can easily spend around couple of hours hear at Dona Paula and can enjoy the sunset before heading back. I am sure by now you will be pretty tired and craving for some good food. You can head back towards Panaji and have your dinner at “Mum’s kitchen”. I happened to find this place during my trip in 2007 and ever since have made sure to visit this place during my subsequent trips to Goa.

The restaurant was setup sometime in late 90’s and has been serving great food for almost 20 years now. The ambiance of the restaurant is great and you will have to walk through a beautiful garden which also has a great fish pool. The entire setup is beautiful and the layout of the restaurant is very relaxing and welcoming. The service is top notch and the staff go that extra mile to explain the local dishes in detail so that you can choose the right dish. I usually have their Chicken Xacuti & steamed rice. Chicken Xacuti also comes with Goan bread basket. The food is very tasty and the only down side that I can point out is that, the portions are not large. But if you can overlook that aspect, this is one beautiful family restaurant where you can unwind yourself after a tiring day.

Try to have your dinner done by around 9 PM so that you can start driving back to North Goa. It will take you an hour or so to reach your resort.

Day 3 of your trip took you to the roots of the Goan culture. Many of the places that you visited today highlight the Portuguese heritage that Goa retains. I am sure after today’s sightseeing, you will no longer associate Goa only for its beautiful beaches, as there rests another side of Goa which is traditional and rich in culture & heritage.

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