Discover India - Goa & Varanasi

Goa assembles a collection of cities customize each one, that do not have the same look, reason why the region enjoys a special charm. Divided into two parts, the South, which is the countryside, a quiet area away from the noise and frenzy, and the North, where are the popular cities like Chapora, Anjuna or Vagator, famous for their beautiful beaches, being a lively area. Among the most popular beaches are Candolim, Arpora and Baga. Also, Agonda is famous for the sea turtles that come here each year to lay their eggs.

A small region that is easily to explore, with forested bread trees and mahogany groves, a gentle sun penetrating the green hills, crowded bazaars, white churches sheltered by palm trees, extraordinary temples, and strong Portuguese influences which dominates for over 400 years...Is it somewhere in Portugal? Maybe India?...Well, we are in Goa, a small region in central India, located on the west central coast, a stretch of golden sand which merges with the greenish blue of the Arabian Sea, an accessible and exciting Asian paradise, with a rich history & culture, which attracts annually millions of tourists. An economical way to visit the attractions of Goa is renting motorcycles or scooters.

The best time to visit Goa is from January to April, noting that in December, is filled with tourists attracted by the excellent climate in winter, especially around Christmas, for which starting from February is not quite so crowded.

From a visual standpoint Goa is surprisingly a Catholic state, since its roots, being under Portuguese domination until 1953, for which you'll see altars and portraits of Jesus almost everywhere. Although Hindus occupy two thirds of the population, in Goa will meet the most liberal people across India!

To admire the architectural perspective, the unique mix between Baroque, Renaissance and Portuguese elements, you should visit Old Goa, considered the spiritual heart of the country, located about 25 km from Anjuna, with its baroque churches and high altars, the most impressive being the Basilica of Bom Jesus and one of the largest Roman Catholic edifices in Asia – Se Cathedral. Moreover, here you will find restaurants, tattoo centers, shops and a few centers of ... hypnosis, but I think you can ignore the last part. :-)

You can visit the markets where spices abound, with so many flavours, textures, colours ... or to buy a velvety silk shawl, to cover your bare shoulders in a sunny day or to bathe in the wonderful Arabian Sea.

In the culture of Goa lots of religions were assimilated, which is reflected in the way how temples were constructed, with Hindu architecture. Some of the most remarkable are: Shree Kamakshi Temple at Shiroda, Shree Laxmi Narsimha Temple at Nagueshi, Shree Shantagurda Temple at Dhargal, Shree Shantagurda Temple at Fatorpa and Shree Shantagurda Temple at Kavlem.

Panaji is the state capital, with his palms and colonial-style houses stretching one side and another of the road, being a green, peaceful and lively city, in a sharp contradiction to other cities in India. Located on the banks of River Mandovi with very nice houses, with red roofs, reflecting the Latin influences and avenues full of trees, Panajin is a charming little town worth visiting.

Spices & rise plantations, palm trees dancing in the wind, or riding on an elephant...these are trips that you can buy from local travel agencies for a great visual & spiritual experience.

For bird lovers, Reserve Salim Ali, a kind of mangrove delta, is a great place to explore and also the reserves Bondla, Mollem and Cotigao, where live the Indian elephants, deer, holes, leopards.

Remember to relax listening Goa trance music, having its roots in the years 1960-1970, when Goa was the hippie global capital and seems to still continue to be, given the fact that is the kind preferred by most youth.

Goa is a blend of different worlds and cultures, extremely interesting, waiting to be discovered and to learn their secrets. A truly wonderful place that combines the coolness of the ocean, the hot golden sand and the sun sometimes too gentle, the fascinating architecture and Indian influences merging with the Portuguese, make this corner of India to be one of the most spiritual and peaceful places where you could find your own being.

Varanasi is located in India, about 1 hour flight from New Delhi, representing one of the oldest settlements in history and shows mostly, just like in the times in which it was founded, about 3500 years ago. The city is located right at the confluence of Varuna and Asi that flows into the Ganges or ‘Ganga’, as Indians call it, having the belief that it brings their immortality.

Varanasi is one of the seven Holy Cities of the Hindus, the most holy place on earth where every Hindu should reach at least once in life. Also, Varanasi is a center of the silk industry of very high quality, being globally recognized as having the finest fabrics, as it is an art carefully cultivated for thousands of years. The weavers of Varanasi are the ones who created ‘Benares brocade’, a very seductive silk, embroidered with gold and silver, which you can admire or buy from the bazaar Thatheri.

Hindus called Varanasi, Kashi (City of Divine Light) or Kashika (The one who shines), both being related with Shiva's sacred fire. Shiva is the God of destruction, a sort of God in Hindu religion. Although this represents destruction, he is considered by Hindus as a positive force in the universe, because the destruction is, in Hinduism, the natural consequence of creation.

Shiva is adored in temples by 'lingam', a kind of cylindrical column supported on a base of stone, glass, metal or glass, symbolizing the male sexual organ and the feminine one, meaning the union of opposites, the negative and positive parts, underpinning the creation.

Despite its cruel misery and poverty, the city was the inspiration of the most sublime Hindu creations, such as the famous Indian music that was born in the temples here, making known all over the world, its famous artists.

According to Hindu scriptures, Ganges flowed from Paradise, having the mission to wash away the sins of the people, and from these reason, every morning, millions of Hindus from India and around the world, come to bathe in Ganges, so purifying himself, in one of the most spectacular rivers of the world.

Precisely because of this ritual, Varanasi has become a magnet for tourists from around the world fascinated by the habits found here. Do not imagine that the river Ganges is spectacular because of the way it looks. Absolutely not! It is considered spectacular because it is believed that its absolute purification confers eternal life. Otherwise, it's creepy, the place where thousands of people come to die and be cremated, but also the place in which you can see, in some parts, a view scary enough, like animal and human bones, feces, a lot of cows and an unbearable smell. Perhaps, that’s way these factors transform this location into one unusual and mysterious.

Varanasi is like an experience almost detached from a parallel world. Women dressed in colorful ‘saris’ (the oldest piece of Indian clothing for women), cows lounging on the streets, blackish barefoot children, relaxed or sleeping people on the street, poor but fulfilled, dead cremated and thrown into the Ganges, the bustle and noise, mix colors, the smells, the people who bathe in the river, monkeys stealing food…everything it’s a hard life lesson, that changes the concept of life and survival and its entire significance.

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