Rent a car and drive around the amazing locations Goa has to offer. From beautiful scenery to curving roads, renting a car can make the journey as special as the destination. Read on for places and tips for a smooth adventure by car in Goa.
Goa’s geography makes it an ideal place to explore by car. Spread across almost 3,700 square kilometres, Goa’s scenic roads are lined with palm trees and dotted with towns and villages. Having your own car gives you the freedom to halt for a quick snack and capture spontaneous shots for your album.
Drive to the Old Goa Church complex
A car makes your journey easy when heading out to the Old Goa complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that spreads over a wide area (see photo above). Some structures are located atop a hill, like the Monte Chapel, where the annual Monte Music Festival is hosted in early February. Not far from here, you’ll find the Convent of Santa Monica, home to the fascinating Museum of Christian Art, and the ruins of the Church of St Augustine, where Georgian Queen Ketevan’s relics were found in 2013.
The complex’s focal point is two magnificent edifices; the Sé Cathedral and the Basilica de Bom Jesus, built in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Sé Cathedral’s shining white-plaster finish contrasts with the laterite structure of Basilica de Bom Jesus across the road. Basilica de Bom Jesus houses the remains of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries. He was the first missionary to land on the shores of Goa nearly five hundred years ago.
The Novena leading up to the Feast Day of the highly-regarded Goencho Saib (Lord of Goa, as the saint is fondly known) is celebrated in December. Once every decade, St. Francis Xavier’s embalmed body is unveiled for public viewing, drawing hordes from around the world. The central square of Old Goa is a short 10-minute drive from DoubleTree by Hilton Goa – Panaji. You can park your car in the square and cover both landmarks on foot.
Pull over to admire the Temples of Ponda
Way before the churches were built, Goa was ruled by Hindu dynasties, which explains the diversity of temples. The town of Ponda welcomes visitors to stunning Hindu temples and is a scenic 30-minute drive from Panaji. Given the scarcity of public transport, and the numerous temples strewn over a largish area, having a car on rent is the best way to get around.
The Shri Mangeshi Temple in the village of Mangeshi, is the largest and most-visited temple in the state. Dedicated to a manifestation of Lord Shiva, the temple has ‘pujas’, or Hindu services every day. Tip: Visit on a Monday to see the idol tour through the village in a palki – a decorated palanquin.
Steer to the Houses of Goa Museum and Mario Gallery
Having a car at your disposal, you can pullover to admire Goa’s charming houses, with little shrines for idols of Mother Mary and Baby Jesus on their exteriors. Learn more at the Houses of Goa Museum in Porvorim, just 15-minutes from the newly constructed Hilton Goa Resort.
As the brainchild of famous Goan architect Gerard da Cunha, this museum is housed in a structure resembling a ship. Just next door to the museum, the Mario Gallery is a treasure trove of the creatively detailed and amusing work by the famous Goan illustrator Mario Miranda, making it the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.