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Dona Paula

Dona Paula Holidays

Dona Paula, Goa, is an atmospheric former fishing village offering beaches, restaurants and the Portuguese-Indian flavour unique to this part of India. Where the Mandovi and the Zuari rivers meet the Arabian Sea, Dona Paula is steeped in mystery and mythology – notably about how it got its name. You can choose the truth or the myth, depending on your romantic inclinations!

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Dona Paula Beach and viewpoint

There are several beaches around the Dona Paula headland, but the namesake also offers the viewpoint, and a local landmark: a white statue of two figures. This has become bound up in the mythology of Dona Paula, a 17th-century Portuguese viceroy's daughter who allegedly threw herself off a cliff when she couldn't marry her true love, a local fisherman. It's romantic, but dubious. The real Dona Paula was the daughter of wealthy Portuguese rulers who married a Spaniard and lived in Goa until her death in 1682. Enjoy the myth while wandering the beach, taking in the views, and eating in one of the many restaurants.

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Cabo Raj Niwas and Cabo Chapel

The Cabo Raj Niwas is the old Governor's house. The Portuguese left a strong legacy here. They first visited in 1498 and 12 years later, had their capital in Goa. They remained for 450 years, leaving only when the Indian army encouraged them out in 1961. The Cabo Raj Niwas is now the state government office, but a heritage attraction too. Along the promontory is the Cabo Chapel, where Dona Paula's remains are supposedly entombed. The myth continues that Dona Paula – the tragic version – can be seen emerging from the sea on moonlit nights wearing nothing but a pearl necklace.

Panaji

To gain a sense of Goa's unique history, your Dona Paula holidays should take you to the nearby city of Panaji (or Panjim), the state capital. Promenade along the banks of the Mandovi river and discover the historic buildings and churches. With its terraced hills and blend of Portuguese and Indian influences, Panaji wonderfully encapsulates the culture and heritage of Goa. In the centre of town, you'll find the Church Square, botanic gardens and the magnificent baroque church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. There's also the 16th-century Adilshahi Palace and the Fontainhas neighbourhood. Fontainhas is the charismatic old Latin Quarter, with colourful, Mediterranean-style villas and winding streets. Between Panaji and Dona Paula is the long stretch of Miramar Beach, popular for watching the sun set over the Arabian Sea.

Water sports

The National Institute of Water Sports is based at the southern end of Miramar beach in Dona Paula. It's a one-of-a-kind organisation in India offering training and education in sailing, kayaking, scuba diving and water skiing. It trains and certifies local organisations to offer services to tourists. At Dona Paula Beach and throughout the area, you can enjoy boat rides, sailing, scuba-diving, water skiing, parasailing and much more.

Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, Chorão island

As well as its unique history and culture, this part of Goa also boasts some special wildlife. Visit the Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary, 12km away from Dona Paula, Goa. Located on the small island of Chorão in the Mandovi River, you can reach the sanctuary by ferry or take a boat tour. Here, you'll encounter hundreds of bird species found in the mangrove swamp environment, from kingfishers to hawks. There are also mudskippers, bizarre fish that leave the water to run across the mud on limb-like fins. Somewhat off the tourist trail, the island also has picturesque villages and the ruins of Saint Bartholomew Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 18th-century.

Holidays to Goa wouldn't be complete without visiting Dona Paula. This special seaside town is charming in itself, but also a great base to explore central Goa, including visiting the state capital Panaji. The area exemplifies all that is memorable about Goa, blending ancient and modern India with four and a half centuries of Portuguese influence. Scenic, mysterious, steeped in history, and offering a good variety of restaurants and hotels, Dona Paula is an essential part of your Indian itinerary.