You may be surprised to learn that Goa is blessed with some fascinating historical sites, which are an excellent diversion from the state’s beautiful beaches. This means fans of history will certainly be in their element, while they also provide a welcome change for beach lovers on a holiday to Goa.
The main places of interest from a historical point of view are Goa’s churches, temples and forts. While there are many of these dotted all over the state, there are definitely a few that should make it on to your must-visit list. We’ve put together a bit of information about these below.
As Goa’s most impressive Christian place of worship, the Se Cathedral should be one of the first historical sites you travel to. It’s located in Old Goa (which we’ll describe in more detail in a minute), and both its exterior and interior are breathtaking. As you approach the building, you’ll be struck by its huge Corinthian columns, while inside the vaulted ceilings and beautiful paintings are just as stunning.
Another of its unique features is the Golden Bell – the largest in Goa – which is one of the five bells housed in the cathedral.
Church of St Francis of Assissi
This is another monument in Old Goa and what makes this one worthy of your time is the Archaeological Museum in the convent next to the church. There are displays that showcase artefacts recovered from the sites of former Hindu temples – many of which were destroyed during the period of Portuguese rule. In addition, there are two large bronze statues, one of which depicts the first governor of Goa, Afonso de Albuquerque. Don’t forget to explore the church as well, because in here are some amazing tombstones featuring coats of arms.
Old Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses many buildings left over from the period of Portuguese rule. What makes this location so fascinating, however, is that the city was abandoned in the 18th century and has since largely fallen into disrepair. There are the ruins of dozens of churches here, as well as the buildings mentioned above. Another notable site in Old Goa is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of St Francis Xavier are interred.
Wandering around the former Goan capital will give you a brilliant insight into the colonial era and how the Portuguese shaped the state into what it is today.
As the best preserved example of a Portuguese fort in Goa, Aguada is a must-visit if you’re interested in this period of the state’s history. It is situated on the estuary of the River Mandovi (which flows past the current capital Panaji) and is in a reasonably good state of repair.
One of its standout features is the lighthouse, although this was added more than 200 years after the fort was initially constructed. The 5 m high and 1.3 m thick walls that surround the enclave are certainly impressive, with Aguada the only fort in Goa that was never captured by invading forces during the Portuguese rule.
Our final suggestion is one that will give you an insight into Goa’s Hindu heritage. This is the main religion in the state and although many of the Hindu temples were destroyed by the Portuguese, there are some that remain and predate European colonial rule.
Among them is the Brahma Temple that actually dates back as far as the 5th century. It is also remarkable in that it is one of the only places of worship in India dedicated to Lord Brahma.