The state capital of Goa, Panaji, or Panjim, sits proudly on the banks of the Mandovi River, watching over the floating casinos which light up the waterways by night.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church
High on a hill in the centre of the city, you can find Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, originally built in 1541. You can walk up the beautiful (and plentiful) steps to the front of the church, or if you’re in a car, you can get dropped off in the car park round the side.
When we arrived, the Saturday evening service was in full swing and we were unable to go into the church, and the security guard was very strict about people taking too many photos through the door. He was especially angered by selfies. Instead we enjoyed the outside, saw part of a play which we didn’t understand, and partook in a spot of people watching.
Standing on another hill, across from the church, you can find the Maruti Temple, dedicated to the monkey god, Hanuman. The temple itself is beautiful, and the views over the city are also worth making the trip up here for. We visited on a holy day, which meant that the streets surrounding the temple were filled with cars, and people were queueing throughout to pray. The atmosphere made the temple seem almost like a Bollywood film set, with incense everywhere, and families walking around in their smartest attire. While we would have been welcome inside parts of the temple, we decided to look on from the gardens and enjoy the ambience.
Other Things to See and Do
Arriving in darkness and leaving again an hour or two later, we didn’t get much time to see Panaji, but what I saw made me keen to return one day and spend a couple of days exploring.
I’d love to see Fontainhas, the old quarter, with its faded colonial charm, as well as the State Archaeological Museum. I like the idea of seeing how people used to live at the Houses of Goa Museum. I’ve also heard good things about the restaurant scene in Panaji.
Where to Stay?
Try out the colonial charm of Hospedaria Abrigo de Botelho, located close to the church in the city centre.
For something closer to the beach, try Amonkar’s Boutique Hotel.