Our next destination within the beautiful state of Goa was the central Tiswadi taluka home to the current capital Panjim as well as the charming Old Goa, once the colonial Portuguese headquarters. Central Goa is also known to host the only state airport near Vasco da Gama city, making it a major tourist hub, especially around the beaches of Dona Paula and Miramar, famous for being in the backdrop of various Bollywood movies. The following is an overview of our two days stay in the area and the amazing attractions we visited around the state capital of Panjim.
Central Goa topics
- Day 1: Panajim and Dona Paula
- Day 2: Old Goa and Miramar Beach
- About Viva Goa International
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Panajim and Dona Paula
We arrived to the capital city by local bus from northern Goa’s Calangute town around midday. We were dropped off at the central bus station and had a long walk along the Mandovi river, passing by the old town on one side and the estuary with its Casino boats on the other, until we reached our hotel, the Viva Goa International. We check in, rested for a bit and moments later we were back on the streets of Panajim. We jumped on a city bus, and headed to westernmost suburbs of the city known as Dona Paula.
Dona Paula, once a small fishing village, has become a popular tourist destination within the central part of Goa. It is best known for being home to the Dona Paula viewpoint offering spectacular views of the bay with its colourful boats, unspoilt beach surrounded by palm trees. The area is also known to be the location of the Goa University, the National Institute of Oceanography as well as numerous luxury hotels such as the splendid Cidade de Goa. The crowded viewpoint often appears in a variety of Bollywood productions such as the Ek Duuje Ke Liye Hindi movie.
We spent most of the afternoon exploring the area, passing by weekend parties on the beach front villas and observing locals and Indian tourists enjoying their Sunday afternoon. We tried in vain to reach the Vainguinim Beach, known to be one of the most beautiful stretch of sand with crystal blue water and surrounded by lush green forest and luxury resorts (including the Cidade de Goa, the Vainguinim Valley and the Sandalwood resorts). Before sunset we jumped into a very crowded local bus and headed back to town.
Back in the heart of Panajim’s Latin Quarter, we went for dinner on the main Church Square street, in front of the Municipal Garden to the Kamat Hotel Vegetarian restaurant. We had a taste of various dosas (large pancakes with various stuffing inside) including the onion rava and the cheese masala one. It was almost dark when we left and the Church of Our Lady at the end of the road was now beautifully illuminated. We stayed for a while contemplating the splendid colonial heritage with its typical Portuguese set of stairs in the front. Exhausted by the day of sightseeing, we headed back to our hotel enjoying a cool breeze of the open window local bus.
Day 2: Old Goa and Miramar Beach
We started the second day of our Central Goa visit with a nice Indian breakfast at the hotel’s terrace, before renting a scooter and heading eastward into the state. We longed the Mandovi River towards the colonial town of Old Goa, once the Portuguese capital city. The small town is packed with a variety of sixteenth century churches, convents and monuments and those remains are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. We started our exploration with the Basilica of Born Jesus and its Art Gallery, then cross the main Old Goa road to explore the Se’ Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandra and its beautiful front facing garden packed with a variety of colourful flowers. We then passed by the unique Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi before exploring the Archeological Museum. Our last stop of Old Goa was the remains on the western side of town including the Covent and Church of St. Augustine, the Church of St John of God, the Church of Lady of Rosary and the convent of St Monica with its attached Museum of Christian Art.
Our plan was to continue explore the inland of Goa, and visit the exciting natural park of Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary home to wild boars and Indian bison, but finally decided to head back to the Panjim and explore the beaches surrounding the capital city. We went back with our helmet on (at least for my part as there was only one helmet) as on our way in we got pulled over on the 66 highways by the traffic police. We received a ticket for not wearing a helmet on the highway (a two lane busy road) and without a proper international driver licence (I had a French licence from Quebec).
[blue]On Goa’s highways one should should always wear a helmet on and carry a valid international driver licence when driving a 2 wheelers[/blue]
We came back to Panajim taking the southern 748 road, passing by the small village of Bambolim before reaching the Goa University on the Taleigao Plateau. The school, with a four stars Indian rating offers both graduate and post-graduate studies and a variety of research programmes. It is perfectly located near the southern coast next to the Carca village and unspoiled Odxel Beach.
After exploring the university area we headed back to the western end of the Panajim suburbs by the Dr. E Borges road before reaching the Raj Bhavan on the northern end. The name can be translated from Hindi to Government House and is currently the official residence of the Governor of Goa. This western tip of the city also offers spectacular view of the Mandovi estuary and the nearby Miramar and Caranzalem beaches.
Exhausted by all this motorcycle journey, we decided to spent the rest of the afternoon on the Miramar Beach, not far from the hotel. It is one of the most popular destination with locals in the evening with plenty of kids, youngsters and older colourfully dressed ladies come enjoying themselves with looking at the beautiful sunset. Before dark we were back at the hotel where we slowly prepared for our next day departure to the southern region of the amazing state of Goa.
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About Viva Goa International
The Viva Goa International was perhaps once a beautiful hotel, as suggested by its high ceiling entrance, but it isn’t living up to expectations anymore. The rooms are in need of renovation, with dirty floors, walls and bathroom. They offer large beds but with a sponge like feeling when you sat or lied on it, which didn’t make up for a good night sleep. The hotel itself was quite dirty as well, including the front, the stairs, the garden and the pool, which nobody dared to get in. Moreover, the staff wasn’t the friendliest and didn’t seem to put any effort.
It is worth renting a scooter from the hotel to visit the nearby Miramar beach and Dona Paula.
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