The beaches of Goa has always fascinated me. The natural beauty of endless sea waters, gentle waves, the shacks on most beaches, you can spend enough time doing nothing 🙂 You can spend time by just sitting on the golden sand, and feeling the mild waves touching the feet. Or you can walk along the shoreline on a sandy beach. You can even enjoy the stunning colors of the sky during a sunset. Or just sit by the beach and watching the other visitors playing with water – splashing it on others who are around. And yes, you can even get adventurous with various water sports. With so many things to do, I am sure none of the beaches of Goa would fail to impress anyone. So much that people often forget that Goa has places other than beaches too. In fact, it has a rich and fabulous history that not many are aware of!
Colorful buildings at Fontainhas
Brief History of Goa
Goa has seen several rulers in the past few centuries. After the rule of Mauryan dynasty, Goa was under the mercy of Chalukyas, which was then taken over by the Muslim ruler Adil Shah. During this time, the famous explorer from Portugal called Vasco-da-Gama discovered Goa. Vasco-da-Gama was the first person from Europe to reach India (Calicut, Kerala) by sea, and was the key person to establish European trade in India. It was during this time that he discovered Goa, and it slowly started being the Portuguese headquarters in India. The Portuguese rule in Goa lasted for more than 400 years. It became part of India in 1961 when the Portuguese surrendered to Government of India. Today, when you visit Goa, you can see several remnants that reflect the Portuguese culture.
Fontainhas – World Heritage Site
Fontainhas is a small Portuguese settlement that is located in the heart of the state capital, Panjim. The area is a World Heritage Site as the true essence of the Portuguese architecture can still be seen here. As with the most European countries, you can see several narrow winding roads, with houses built till the edge of the roads! The rich vibrant colors painted on the walls of the houses, and lovely patterns around the doors and windows with contrasting colors brings a unique charm to this part of the town.
Designer houses next to each other 🙂
The whole area of Fontainhas has preserved the original architecture till today. All the houses in the area are painted regularly (about once in a year) to give a fresh look to the rich and vibrant colors all the time. The houses, other commercial buildings, and even the newer establishments that surround the area also follow the same architecture and style. Each cafe, bakery or eatout in the area has some or the other uniqueness that is definitely worth exploring.
Fontainhas Heritage Walk
A walk around the area of Fontainhas, exploring the vibrant architecture in every step, can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on your interest. While you may think that it is a good time to stroll around this area during the daytime to witness the rich and vibrant colors of the buildings, I must say that it is equally awesome during the night time too. In fact, I did walk around this area twice, once during the daytime, and once just before dinner, totally spending around 3-3.5 hours exploring a truly stunning place!
My walk started at the beautiful building that houses the office of India Post. From the post office, you can walk towards Querim Creek until you reach a bridge over a small water channel called Rio de Querim. After taking a right at the bridge, you can start seeing the glimpses of the architectural buildings with bright colors on one side, and beautiful water canal skirted with thick trees on the other side.
Post Office, Panjim
A small pedestal bridge over the water channel
Colorful buildings, illuminated by the lights!
Pedestal Bridge illuminated at night!
A little ahead of the pedestal bridge over the canal, you can take turn right to enter a narrow street to see the bright colored buildings on either side. Every building in this lane has a unique charm. The designs around the doors and windows in contrasting colors stand out! The doors and windows themselves are decorated with sea shells pasted to form a unique design. The nameplates of the houses too have an artistic touch to blend well with the colors and the designs of the buildings. Even the commercial establishments whether those are small shops, or big restaurants, each and every building retains the artistic design and architecture.
Narrow Roads of Fontainhas
Buildings built till the edge of the road!
The buildings usually have a sloped and tiled roof. While people still live in most of the houses, some of the others are now converted into guest houses. Some of the residents occasionally allow guests to stay in the house to experience the rich heritage and culture of Fontainhas. Over the years, even if the houses have changed hands or owners, the new residents still continue to add to the rich heritage. While you are admiring the beauty of the place, you will also hear some beautiful background music once in a while. If you try looking for the source of the music, you may find few residents sitting in their open balcony playing violin!
Designer House? 🙂
Colorful house, with colorful surroundings!
Some of the vacant spots in the otherwise narrow streets also have been utilized nicely. Several benches are built out of red stones or ceramic tiles on which you can rest for a while. As a pedestrian walking across the streets, I could use one of these benches to take some rest. Those few minutes of sitting on the bench, gently closing my eyes, feeling the light cool breeze, and listening to the awesome music from the violin (one of the residents was playing it), was so soothing that it cannot be expressed in words!
A few steps ahead, you will find St. Sebastian Chapel. The chapel is built in 1880, and the unique thing about this chapel is its crucifix that has its eyes open. Unfortunately, the chapel was closed when I visited. If you want to visit the chapel, you can do it on Sundays when it is open. A small community well is located next to the chapel, which was once believed to be the wishing well. I must admit that this well was one of the most colorful and artistic well that I had ever seen!
St. Sebastian Chapel
Community Well, or Wishing Well
When you walk around the narrow winding lanes of Fontainhas, you will come across several artistic cafes, bakeries and restaurants. Many of these places have special items in the menu that is worth trying. Whether you want to try a wine biscuit, or freshly baked Goan special bread, you can find all the specialities at one of these places. You cannot separate the art out of Fontainhas. You can find artistic designs on the walls of cafes, steps to a building, anywhere and everywhere!
Art on the steps
Art on the wall too… At a cafe
At the end of Fontainhas, you will come across a small but natural water spring called Fonte Phoenix or the Fountain of Phoenix. In fact, the area is named Fontainhas after this natural spring. It is believed that this spring was the main source of water for the residents of Fontainhas. You can also observe a Hanuman Temple in the vicinity that is located on top of a hill (called Altinho Hill).
Hanuman Temple, beautifully lit at night
Fonte Phoenix, and Hanuman Temple
Areas around Fontainhas
There are various other lanes in and around Fontainhas that you can explore if you have the time and interest. The buildings in those lanes are not that well preserved, but it still shows the glimpses of the Portuguese architectures.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
Walking around the narrow lanes, I came across “Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church”. The church was initially a chapel which was built in 1540s, and was converted into a church when the Portuguese settlement started growing in Goa. The church is built in the unique Baroque architecture, and houses the second largest church bell in Goa!
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
Overall, if you are around Panjim, and are interested in exploring the heritage and various architectures, I highly recommend visiting and strolling around the lanes of Fontainhas. I am sure you will not be disappointed. And if you have already visited the place, do you agree with me?
Garden on the median near Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
Where to stay?
Fontainhas is located at the heart of Panjim. You can find several options to stay here. Guest houses in Fontainhas are very popular. You can also find several hotels in and around Panjim that will suit your budget or comfort!
|From||Distance (in km)|
|Goa Airport / Railway Station||45|