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Panaji – the capital of Goa

Panaji, also called Panjim, is the state capital of Goa. With a population of 40,017 according to the 2011 census, Panaji is also the biggest city in north Goa, and the third biggest city in the state after Vasco da Gama and Margao. It is on the southern banks of the Mandovi River. However, the greater Panaji metropolitan area also has a beachfront location with the Arabian Sea. It is the peninsula of the Mandovi where you will see floating casinos and cruise boats. Panjim is 27.8 kilometers from the Goa International Airport at Dabolim.

Panaji is less about beaches, though there is the Miramar beach at the southern end. The city is more about heritage buildings, churches, temples, architecture, walking tours, and fun activities like casino gaming and river cruising. There are many English cafes and French restaurants tucked away in small corners. Don’t forget to see the historic churches and the old residential quarters of Fontainhas.

The famous beaches of Goa are also not that far away. Just across the river to the north you will find the three most popular beaches of north Goa – Candolim, Calangute, and Baga. You can also visit the Aguada Fort at the confluence of the Mandovi River and the Arabian Sea.

Panaji’s other name Panjim is inherited from Portuguese influence. This name is more popular in the western world, though most locals refer to the city as Panaji.

Quick Facts About Panjim

Panaji is the state capital of Goa

The biggest city in north Goa and the third biggest city in the state.

Town area – 21.01 square kilometers, Metropolitan area – 76.3 square kms

Population – 40,017, census 2011

Closest airport – Dabolim – 27.8 kms.

Closest railway station – Karmali – 13.2 kms.

Vasco da Gama — 27.3 kms.

Panjim became the state capital when Goa was elevated to the status of a state of India in 1987.

Famous landmarks – Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa State Museum, Goa Science Center, Campal Gardens, Fontainhas.

The 1.25 kilometer long Miramar beach is the main beach of Panaji. It is at the confluence of the Arabian Sea and the Mandovi River.

Good places to eat, developed tourist infrastructure, banks, ATMs, shopping

Casino gaming capital of Goa – Deltin Royale, Deltin Jaqk, Casino Pride.

Best Time To Visit Panaji

Being the capital city, the Goa legislative assembly is based at Panaji, and also a bench of the Bombay High Court, and many offices. So there are always a lot of visitors here. However, for tourists, the best time to visit will be between the months of November and February, when the weather is milder.

Climate in Panaji
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high, °C 31,6 31,5 32,0 33,0 33,0 30,3 28,9 28,8 29,5 31,6 32,8 32,4 31,3
Average low, °C 19,6 20,5 23,2 25,6 26,3 24,7 24,1 24,0 23,8 23,8 22,3 20,6 23,2
Average precipitation mm 0,2 0,1 1,2 11,8 112,7 868,2 994,8 512,7 251,9 124,8 30,9 16,7 2926

March to June is the summer season. Temperature will range between 33°C and 35°C, with some days being even hotter. Humidity makes it worse. Monsoon between June and early September sees a lot of rain because of the sea. There will be occasional thundershowers as well. The winter, December and January, sees better weather. It is cooler with very little rain and humidity. You can visit the many tourist attractions in Panaji and also do a walking tour without sweating.

How To Reach Panaji

By Air — The Goa International airport at Dabolim airport is 27.8 kilometers from Panaji by the NH 66 and NH366. Air India, Indigo, Spice Jet, Go Air, Etihad, Air Arabia, Air Asia, Qatar Airways, and Jet Airways connect the airport to other Indian and international destinations. With average traffic, you will reach the Panaji city center from the airport in about an hour.

By Rail — The Karmali railway station (station code – KRMI) is 13.2 kilometers away. However, most express trains do not stop here. It is best to take the train to Margao, which is at a distance of 49.5 kilometers. All trains stop here as Margao is a major Konkan Railway junction. It will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes from here by road. Or you can take a local train from Margao and get down at Karmali station.

By Road — Panaji is well connected with all Indian cities by road.

Top 10 Things To See In Panaji

  1. Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception – Overlooking the main square of Panaji and the Mandovi River, a small chapel was constructed in 1541, and the larger church in 1619. Popular with the Portuguese sailors for thanksgiving prayers after a successful voyage! Services are performed daily in Portuguese, Konkani, and English. Very peaceful and nice architecture.
  2. Basilica of Bom Jesus – A short distance away from Panaji, this is probably Goa’s most famous landmark. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, here you can see the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier. The church is small, but it is more than 400 years old. There is a lot of religious artwork inside. The Basilica of Bom Jesus, also called Borea Jezuchi Bajilika, is a must visit.
  3. Church of St. Francis of Assisi – This church is located just across the garden from the Bom Jesus Basilica. It was constructed by the Portuguese in 1661. See the tomb of Saint Francis Xavier here. The cemetery is located just beside the church. Don’t forget to bring flowers and candles.
  4. Panaji Old Town – The Latin Quarter in the old town, called Fontainhas, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Goa. You will see some beautiful old Portuguese mansions here in the narrow streets. See the houses with protruding balconies, red tiled roofs, ornate windows, and intricate railings. Many houses have colorful walls and hand-painted blue-on-white plaques. Walk through the lanes. You will love the Portuguese influence and the old world charm of Fontainhas. Also visit the St Sebastian Chapel here.
  5. Goa State Museum – Also called the State Archaeology Museum, you can learn about the historical and archeological heritage of the state here. There are many art objects, cultural exhibits, and antiquities in the two dozen galleries. Go through the galleries of Christian art, sculpture, contemporary art, cultural anthropology, natural heritage, stamps, and more. It is very close to Fontainhas.
  6. Goa Science Center – On the Miramar beach, the science center is a good place to visit with kids. There are 3D shows, interactive science exhibits, laughing mirrors, floating balls, large dinosaurs, shows about space and astronomy, and even a section on marine science. Workshops and training sessions are also held.
  7. Campal Gardens – This big garden is located at the confluence of the Mandovi River and the Arabian Sea. Also called the Bhagwan Mahavir Children’s Park, this sprawling greenery is well maintained by the forest department. There are pedal boats, a big cannon, park for children, statue of Bhagwan Mahavir, and many sitting areas.
  8. Menezes Braganza Institute – This is the oldest established society in Goa for the promotion of culture and literary activities.
  9. Altino Hill – The hilly neighborhood of Panaji, this was once an elite residential colony. The Archbishop's palace and Goa’s Chief Minister’s residence are both located here.
  10. Idalgo Palace – A prominent landmark in Goa, this is the state’s Secretariat Building. This is also one of the oldest buildings in Panaji.

There are some temples you can also visit like the Mahalakshmi Mandir, and the Maruti Temple. These historical and cultural monuments are worth your time.

Miramar Beach

Miramar is a 1.25 kilometer long golden sandy beach in Panaji. The beach was called Porta de Gaspar Dias during the Portuguese rule. The Portuguese also constructed a fort here in the 16th century, but it was razed to the ground later. You will find the Miramar twin sand statues at the northern end, and throughout the beach there are joy rides and eating stalls. There is also one cannon that points to the sea. Sometimes public events are held here.

Miramar is not the best beach in Goa for swimming. But you can take a leisurely stroll here to relax and enjoy nature.

Beaches Close To Panaji

Caranzalem Beach – This is a 1.5 kilometer long beach just south of Miramar. It is actually the same stretch of sandy shore that extends from Miramar. However, Caranzalem is a better beach for swimming as there are no undercurrents. The Cabo Raj Niwas, full of heritage furniture is at its southern end. There is also a park and the National Institute of Watersports here.

Bambolim Beach – The Bambolim beach is on the other side of Panaji, on the city’s southern fringes. It is lined with palm trees and remains serene and quiet as there are few visitors. There are a few rocks on the beach. The most notable landmark here is the luxury Grand Hyatt hotel and the Strike Casino.

Vainguinim Beach – A very relaxing and peaceful 230 meter long beach south of Panaji. It is lined by trees that are home to many species of birds. Rocky outcrops at both ends of the beach, but the main section has white, soft sand. A good place for a serene vacation! There are good hotels around Vainguinim, but you won’t find any beach shacks.

Dona Paula Beach – A good beach close to Panaji for sunsets. Go to the Dona Paula viewpoint where you will see an oceanfront promenade. It forms a nice bay, one of the best in Goa. Many sail boats take off from the Adventure Breaks Sailing Base. There is also the Dolphin Adventure Sports where you can learn water sports and ride on speed boats. See the old statue of Dona Paula here.

There are some other beaches too, like the Dias beach, Nauxim beach, and the Marivel beach. They are all in the southern fringes of Panaji and very small.

Casino Gaming In Panaji

Casino gambling is legal in Goa. The first casino in the state opened in the late 1990s, and since then many have opened up. Today, there are both offshore and land-based casinos. Many of them are in Panaji, mostly on the Mandovi River.

Top Casinos In Panaji

Casino Royale – Also called Deltin Royale, this is the most popular Goa casino. It is on a vessel on the Mandovi River and offers 50 classical board games, slots machines, blackjack, teen patti, American roulette, baccarat, Indian Flush, and a room only for poker. Entertainment shows, VIP-rooms, helicopter platform.

Carnival Casino – Located at the Goa Marriott hotel in Miramar beach. Games include American Roulette, blackjack, baccarat, 5-card poker, slots machines, progressive jackpots. The largest selection of slots in Goa! There is an offshore casino too on the Mandovi.

MV Caravela – Just off the Barco jetty in Panaji! This casino is also owned by the Deltin group. Plenty of games, guest suites and rooms! There is an on-deck Jacuzzi, spa, fine dining, an outdoor swimming pool, and a bar on the sundeck as well.

Casino Pride – Another popular casino on the Mandovi River on a 30,000 sq. ft. vessel! Spread over 3 floors, you can choose from flush, mini flush, 5-card poker, Texas Hold’em poker, rummy, roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and slots machines. They also organize poker tournaments.

The Best Places For Walking And Shopping

There are many good places in Panaji like the Campal Boulevard, the 18th June Road, Mahatma Gandi Road, Mala area and the Largo da Igreja.

Top 5 Cafes And Restaurants In Panaji

  1. Viva Panjim – This is a small street-side eating place in an old Portuguese house. There are only a few tables, but the food is some of the best you will find. Try their Goan classics, pork dishes, kingfish vindaloo, marinated chicken, and the desserts.
  2. Black Sheep Bistro – This is a boutique restaurant with a dark-wood bar, dining lounge, and pale-yellow façade. Try their pasta, seafood, salads, lamb dishes, and the tapas.
  3. Hotel Venite – A rickety balcony overlooks cobbled streets, offering great ambience! Venite serves traditional menu with pepper steak, fish curry rice, spicy sausages, and feni.
  4. Cafe Bodega – A café in the Altinho Hill neighborhood within a Portuguese mansion. The best here includes fresh-baked cakes, sandwiches, pizza, juices, and coffee.
  5. Cafe Mojo – The cozy English pub that serves mostly the young crowd. There is an LCD screen and beer tap in each table. Just buy a card, swipe at your table, and the drink starts pouring. The cocktails and food are good too.

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