Panaji's Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is one of Goa's oldest, dating back to at least 1541. Built in grandiose Iberian style, its size – much bigger than the population of the time justified – is a sign of the wealth made by Portuguese traders.
Goa – Been There

Panaji is Goan tolerance at a glance

Photo by Ben Pipe

Goa – Been There Panaji is Goan tolerance at a glance

Goa’s capital of Panaji divides the state into the north, which is happening, touristy and developed. The south, which is calm, slow-paced and unexplored, captures the essence of “sussegad” – a belief in making the best of every passing moment.

Sheema Mookherjee
Sheema Mookherjee Travel Writer

Driving from the airport, I pass emerald green paddy fields, lined by coconut palms silhouetted against a cloudy sky. A solitary woman with a red umbrella stands out starkly, bending over to plant saplings in her little field. In places the road has overhangs of red laterite rock, which colors the Goan landscape so prominently. There is a dockyard with anchored ships on the Zuari River, while rusty barges haul in manganese ore headed for the nearby port of Marmagao.

The former Portuguese rulers have left their mark everywhere in Panaji. Impressive heritage structures line the boulevard along the Mandovi River, while the Latin Quarter of Fontainhas is a colorful jigsaw of brightly-painted, Iberian-style houses, dotted with shops and eateries, leading to the imposing Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This grand white structure, with wide stairs leading up to the entrance, stands testimony to the deep-rooted Catholic faith of the Goa region.

Rising above on a wooded hillside is the residential area of Altinho that houses the Bishop’s Palace as well as homes of the rich. Most are century-old, Portuguese-style villas, with the famous oyster shell windows and grand balcaos. In stark contrast are the garish, neon-lit casino boats docked at the Mandovi River - a novelty for Indians since it is restricted activity anywhere on land. Bishop’s Palace on a hill and casinos on the river below… Goan tolerance in a glance.

At the heart of Fontainhas is a cluster of heritage buildings, among which rests the 180-year-old Panaji Inn, an atmospheric contrast to the city’s many other characterless hotels catering to a corporate clientele.

Panaji is about an hour’s drive from anywhere in Goa, making it possible to stay at a beach resort but drive here to enjoy the nightlife and numerous fine-dining options.

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