Margao, a popular city in South Goa, is the commercial capital of Goa. It is located at a distance of 35 kilometres from the capital city, Panaji.
Well defined networks of road and rail make Margao well connected with the rest of Goa and India. Margao plays host to some of the best Portuguese architectural houses and tourism per se has not impacted Margao to a large extent as concerns the ethos, old buildings etc.
An important landmark in Margao is the baroquely ornamented Holy Spirit Church that stands solid despite the vicissitudes of time. In the vicinity of the church, fine Portuguese manors stand in full flamboyance and these too are within the confines of the designated heritage area.
The Margao railway station is touted and the best railway station in the whole of Goa. A state of the art railway station, it witnesses a constant flux of people on a daily basis. Located 33 kms from Panaji, Margao is Goa's second largest town and a bustling commercial centre. It is believed that the city derives its name from two Hindi words ‘Math’ (‘Hindu Religious Center’) and ‘Gram’ (meaning ‘Village’).
However, it is barely frequented by travelers despite having an old-worldly charm – a direct result of its Portuguese past – Old Portuguese churches and fine country houses decked with dark rosewood furniture. This central Goan town is surrounded by fertile farmlands and has always been an important agricultural market. It was also a major religious centre once, 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. Even today, Catholic churches still outnumber Hindu shrines. But Margao has retained a distinctly cosmopolitan feel, perhaps largely due to an influx of migrant labor from neighboring Karnataka and Maharashtra.
The prime attractions of Margao are the Colva Beach and the Benaulim Beach. The Covala Beach is a summer retreat for Margao's moneyed middle classes since long before Independence, Colva is the oldest and largest of South Goa's resorts. The Benaulim Beach (known in Sanskrit as ‘Banali’) it was later corrupted by the Portuguese to Benaulim. It lies in the centre of Colva Beach, 7-km west of Margao.
The Old Market is the other reason to come here. The town's excellent market stretches from the south edge of the main square to within a stone's throw of the old railway station, the Bazaar centers on a labyrinthine covered area that's a rich source of authentic souvenirs and a good place to browse. The Stately Church of the Holy Spirit, in the heart of a disheveled but picturesque colonial enclave, is another attraction. Presiding over the dusty Largo de Igreja Square, the church, built in 1675 by the Portuguese, is an example of late-Baroque architecture in Goa.
Roadways: Long distance bus services can be availed from the main Kadamba Bus Stand, on the outskirts of the town, 3 km north of the main town. This is also the departure point for interstate services to Magalore, via Chaudi and Gokarn, and for services to Panjim and North Goa. Local private buses to Colva and Benaulim leave from in front of the Kamat hotel on the east side of Margao's main square.
By Rail: Margao's train station is the only stop in Goa for most long distance express services on the Konkan Railway. It lies 3 km south of the centre. The Reservation office (Monday-Saturday, 8.00 am-4.30 pm, Sunday 8.00 am- 2.00 pm) is divided between the ground and the first floor. There is also a 24-hour Information Centre. Tickets for trains for Mumbai are in great demand so you are advised to make reservations well in advance. There is also round-the-clock pre-paid auto rickshaw stand outside the exit.
Places to Stay: The GTDC Tourist Hotel is standard budget hotel. However, plenty of accommodation options are available in Margao.