Goa is a state in Western India. It is the smallest state in the country situated on the coast of the Arabian Sea. Goa’s coastline stretches for 101 km (63 mi). The capital is Panaji while the largest city is Vasco da Gama.
Goa is known as the most popular beach destination of India. The state is renowned for its pristine, white sand beaches, Portuguese colonial heritage, historical churches, old forts, temples, places of worship, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, fresh seafood, numerous festivals and parties, Yoga classes, rich flora and fauna, forests and waterfalls, spice plantations, elephant camps, etc.
Goa is also famous for its tourist flea markets and local bazaars. The popular markets include: Wednesday’s weekly flea market at Anjuna, the Mackies Saturday Night Bazaar in Arpora, Friday market in Mapusa, local bazaars at Panaji (Panjim) and Margao. These and many other bazaars make for excellent wandering and picking up gifts and souvenirs.
The state is divided into two districts: North Goa and South Goa. North Goa is known for its trance parties, package tourism, shopping. It is more commercial and is suitable for the ones seeking active vacations and being in the centre of happening. South is more relaxed and quite with high-end hotels, private beaches and calmer crowds. The inland is known for its spice plantations, waterfalls, colonial and cultural heritage in the form of Portuguese mansions, cathedrals and Hindu temples.
Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years. Portuguese influence can be traced in architecture, Goa’s culture, cuisine and daily life of people. Goa has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Bom Jesus Basilica and Churches and Convents of Old Goa. The Basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier, making it a popular pilgrim destination for Christians. The cities of Panaji (Panjim), Old Goa, Quepem and Chandor are the remnants of Goa’s glory past.
Major tourist sites in Goa’s state include: Old Goa Churches, Panaji city with its basilicas, churches, temples, Old Latin Quarter and Forts, Sri Mangeshi Temple (Ponda), Fort Aguada (Sinquerim), Church of St. John the Baptist (Benaulim), Church of Holy Spirit (Margao), Mae De Deus Church (Saligao), Menezes Braganza House (Chandor), Fort Terekhol (Panaji), Palacio do Deao (Quepem), Dudhsagar Falls, Spice Farms and plantations (Ponda), etc.
Traditional Goan art forms are Dekhnni (semi classical Goan dance form), Fugdi (folk dance), Corridinho (a form of Portuguese dance), Mando (a musical form combining Indian and western musical traditions), Dulpod (Goan dance song ) and Fado (Portuguese music). Goa is also known as the origin of Goa Trance (electronic music of the 1980’s). Tiatr (musical theatre) and Zagor (performance combining elements of dance, drama and music) are the chief forms of Goa's traditional performance arts.
The staple diet of Goan cuisine is fish, rice and meat. Seafood such as shelfish, crabs, prawns, tiger prawns, lobster, squid and mussels are commonly eaten. The distinctive feature of Goan cuisine is a wide use of Kokum (berries), coconut, chilli peppers, spices and vinegar. Goan cuisine is divided in to Goan Catholic and Goan Hindu. The specialties of the region include Xacuti (spicy chicken or meat dish cooked in red coconut sauce), Vindaloo (spicy curry dish in a marinade of vinegar and garlic), Chourico (spicy pork sausage), Sorpotel (spicy pork dish), Khatkhate (vegetable stew). Traditional sweetmeats include Bebik (pudding traditionally eaten at Christmas), several types of Halwa such as Dali Kapa (halwa made of red gram), cashew nut halwa, mango halwa, banana halwa, pumpkin halwa, etc. The most popular alcoholic beverage in Goa is Feni (made from the sap of toddy palms or fermentation of the fruit of the cashew tree).
One of the most popular festivals in Goa is Goa’s Carnival (March). It is a four day festival with parades of elaborate floats and costumed dancers. Other popular festivals include International Film Festival of India (November), Shigmo (February/March), Feast of St Francis Xavier regarded by many Catholics as the patron saint of Goa (December), Christmas, etc.
Goa has many natural parks, rich fauna and flora and a wide variety of bird species. Popular National Parks in the state include: Salim Ali Birds Sanctuary, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem Wildlife Sanctuary, Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, etc.
Official language of the state is Konkani and majority of population are Hindus (65%) and Christians (27%).
The state of Goa experiences tropical monsoon climate. The average temperature in the summers is around 35 °C (95 °F) and winters between 21 °C (70 °F) and 28 °C (82 °F). Monsoon rains are from June to September.
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