From the sixteenth to eighteenth century, Old Goa (Ela) served as the colonial capital of Portuguese-India and was one of the richest cities anywhere in Asia, with a population exceeding that of both Lisbon and London. While repeated cholera and malaria outbreaks eventually forced the capital to be moved to Panaji in 1843, the old, atmospheric churches, cathedrals and convents of Old Goa remain largely intact.
All the sites of Old Goa can be reached by foot, but give yourself at least a half-day to soak up the history and the atmosphere. Old Goa highlights include the Basilica of Bom Jesus, where the remains of Francis Xaviar, patron saint of Goa, are kept. Another must-see attraction is St. CatherineÃ¢ÂÂs Cathedral (SÃÂ© Cathedral), the largest church of those in Old Goa.
Major Old Goa Attractions:
Basilica of Bom Jesus:
The Basilica of Bom Jesus is famous for housing the tomb of St Francis Xavier. St Francis Xavier began his journey to spread Christianity among the Portugese colonies in 1541.
Divar Island is accessed by ferry on the north side from Old Goa. The ferries travel frequently during the day. The picturesque countryside of Divar Island features rice fields and wooded hills.
The Se Cathedral:
The Se Cathedral is the largest church in Old Goa, it is dedicated to St Catherine because Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa on her feast day in 1510. The Se Cathedral was completed in 1619 however the altars were not finished until 1652.
The Church and Convent Of St Monica:
The Church and Convent of St Monica is a huge three-storied building of laterite, which was originally lime-plastered. The original church was built in 1627 but burned to the ground 9 years later, the Church of St Monica began reconstruction the following year.
How to Reach:
The bus service from Panaji (9 km) is frequent and takes 15-20 minutes, dropping passengers right in front of the Basilica of Bom Jesus.