Panaji or Panjim, being the capital of Goa and a transport hub for the region, is only used by most people as a transit point before hitting their favourite beach. But the city of a lot to offer to a tourist who is willing to explore. 'India Explored' brings you some of the things to do in Panaji.
Overview. Option of things to do in Panaji are many. You can wander the surprisingly clean streets of Panaji admiring its old buildings and mansions from the days of the Portuguese, take a cruise on the river or sea, visit casinos - something you can't do anywhere else in the country, or just wander along the promenade that runs along the river.
Orientation. Panaji is strategically located at the center of Goa, close to the beaches of North Goa as well as South Goa. Its a small town where you can even walk from end to end of the town in just an hour's time. Public transport within the town and to surrounding areas is frequent and excellent, and you can also hire bike-taxis or auto-rickshaws to move from place to place.
Sightseeing and Activities
Evening Cruises. The government of Goa and a few private operators like Santa Monica organize evening cruises along Mandovi River that depart between 6.30 and 8.30. Most of the boats will have some entertainment programs on board, restaurants and discos. You can buy tickets at the jetty and get on board at Santa Monica Jetty, just below Mandovi Bridge. You can also ask for fishing boats and dolphin sighting boats that leave during the day.
Promenade Walk. The long promenade that runs along Mandovi River all the way from Mandovi Bridge to Miramar Beach is a great place to walk in the mornings or evenings. The walk-way is in excellent condition, clean and well maintained. See the river, the cruises and boats that float, watch fishing nets spread on the river, and stroll into Miramar Beach.
Fotainhas and Sao Tome. These are near the heart of the town, with beautiful old buildings colored in Red and Yellow that have stayed from the times of the Portuguese. Not to miss is the high court building close to the church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, and the church itself. Behind the high court is a large hilly area that is surprisingly quiet and green, and not affected by the booming tourist economy of the city.
Take a Ferry. All along Mandovi, Government of Goa has ferries to cross Mandovi or to get into one of the inhabited islands. Access to ferries is free. Take one of them just for the fun of it, and if you like it, go back and forth as many times as you wish! There is a ferry at Panaji near Captain of Ports Trust. Travel 4kms east of Panaji along the river, and you can find more ferries at Riabandar Village to take you to Charao and Diwar islands.
Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. Surprisingly, this is a less known and less visited destination in Goa despite being just 4km from Panaji. Access to sanctuary requires going in a boat into the Mangrove forest and is a worthy experience even if you don't find too many birds on the day you are there. The common bird population includes small and large egrets, brahminy kites, reef herons, red shanks, common sandpipers, white throated kingfisher and small kingfisher.
Food and Accommodation.
Although Goa is known for sea food, you would be surprised by the number of vegetarian restaurants in the town, in nearly every other street. Hotel Fidago(18th June Road, Panaji, 0832 2225061) has several restaurants, and they are all excellent value for money. You can see many restaurants on the other side of Promenade and in the main market that serve Goan food or vegetarian. The best budget accommodations in Panaji are all near 31st January Road. More expensive hotels and resorts can be found near Miramar and Dona Paula.
How to Reach. Surprisingly, Panaji is not on the main line of Konakan Railway. Take a train to Madgoan, and then take a bus or taxi to Panaji. The city is connected by direct buses from Mangalore, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai. Panaji airport is at Dhabolim, is nearly 30km away from city.