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Mapusa in Goa

Margao is Goa's second largest town and a bustling commercial centre. Barely frequented by travellers, this central Goan town has an old-worldly charm about it because of its Old Portuguese churches, and fine country houses decked with dark rosewood furniture.

Surrounded by fertile farmland, the town has always been an important agricultural market, and was once a major religious centre, with dozens of wealthy temples and Dharamshalas - however; most of these were destroyed when the Portuguese adsorbed the area into their Novas Conquistas during the 17th century.

Today, Catholic churches still outnumber Hindu shrines, but Margao has retained a distinctly cosmopolitan feel, largely due to a huge influx of migrant labour from neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Prime Attractions of Margao (Madgaon)

13-km east of Margao across the fertile rice fields of Salcete lies sleepy Chandor village, a scattering of tumbledown villas and farmhouses ranged along shady tree-lined lanes. The main reason to venture out here is the splendid Perreira Braganza / Menezes-Braganza house, regarded as the grandest of Goa's colonial mansions. Dominating the dusty village square, the house, built in the 1500s by the wealthy Braganza family for their two sons, has a huge double-storeyed fašade, with 28 windows flanking its entrance. Braganza de Perreira, the great grandfather of the present owner, was the last knight of the King of Portugal; more recently, Menezes Braganza, a famous journalist and freedom fighter, was one of the few Goan aristocrats to actively oppose Portuguese rule. Forced to flee Chandor in 1950, the family returned in 1962 to find their house, amazingly untouched. The airy tiled interiors of both wings contain a veritable feast of antiques. Furniture enthusiasts, and lovers of rare Chinese porcelain, in particular, will find plenty to drool over, while anyone interested in religious relics should request a glimpse of St. Francis Xavier's diamond-encrusted toenail, recently retrieved from a local bank vault and enshrined in the east wing's tiny chapel. Visitors generally travel to Chandor by taxi but one can also get there by bus from Margao, or by train via Chandragoa station, 1-km northwest. While many people turn up without an appointment, it is still a good idea to call ahead through the tourist office.


Chaudi, 33-km south of Margao, is Canacona district's charmless headquarters. Packed around a noisy junction on the main Panjim-Mangalore highway, it is primarily a transport hub, of interest to visitors only because of its proximity to Palolem, 2-km west. Buses to and from Panjim, Margao, and Karwar in Karnataka Taluka trundle in and out of a scruffy square on the main street, from where taxis and auto rickshaws ferry passengers to the villages scattered across the surroundings fields. The area's only pharmacy stand just off the crossroads, handy if one is staying in Palolem


Peppered around the leafy lanes of Lutolim, 10-km northeast of Margao, are several of Goa's most beautiful colonial mansions, dating from the heyday of the Portuguese empire when this was the countryseat of the territory's top brass. Lying just off the main road, the village is served by eight daily buses from Margao, which drop passengers off on the square in front of a lopsided looking church. The cream of Lutolim's houses lie within walking distance of here, nestled in the woods, or along the road leading south. However, visits have to be arranged in advance through the Margao tourist office. Within Loutlim: Pick of the crop in Lutolim is Miranda house, a stone's throw from the square. Fronted by a plain classical fašade, the mansion was built in the 1700s, though renovated later following raids by a clan of rebel Rajput bandits. Today, it is occupied by a famous Goan cartoonist, and his family, direct descendants of the wealthy Areca planters who originally owned the surrounding estate. Route Caetan Miranda house, two minutes' walk south of the square, and Salvador Costa House, tucked away on the western edge of the village, are other mansions worth hunting out; the later is occupied by an elderly lady who only welcomes visitors by appointment. Lutolim's other attraction is the quirky model village cum heritage centre, a short way east of the square, called Ancestral Goa. Set up to show visitors a cross section of local village life as it was a hundred years ago, it's a well meaning but ultimately dull exhibition of miniature houses and dressed dummies.

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