A Heritage Walk through Fontainhas in Panjim, Goa

posted in: Asia, Cities, Culture, Goa, Heritage, India | 107

Goa has always enthralled us with its gorgeous beaches – so much that not many of us realize or even explore what is beyond these beaches. We forget that it has a fabulous history – one that still lives on and adds its charm to all that we currently enjoy here. I have visited Goa on several occasions. Luckily for me, I have also, managed to delve into the by-gone heritage and history of Goa but it was during this visit that I managed to trace the roots and walk through the living history of Goa.  It was during this  heritage walk through Fontainhas in Panjim that I experienced its actual culture – a blend of Indian and Portuguese, that makes Goa the colorful place it is.

Fontainhas in Panjim
Fontainhas in Panjim

Before I move onto this heritage walk, let me start with a quick history of Goa.

History of Goa

Goa has a long history that goes back to the mythological tales of Lord Vishnu’s Dashavatar. It is said that it was born out of Parshurama‘s arrow. Over years, Goa has seen several rulers – the Mauryan rulers, the Chalukyas and then the Muslim rule of Adil Shah. It was during this Muslim rule that the Portuguese first discovered Goa through its famed explorer – Vasco Da Gama. Having seen it once, it was quickly captured by them and Goa became their key Portuguese colony for all trade in Asia. For over 450 years, Portuguese ruled over Goa and after a long struggle, it was surrendered to Independent India on December 19, 1961.

It is the remnants of these 450 years of Portuguese rule that you find in the Fontainhas part of Panjim. These are the parts of Goa where history and culture of Portugese Goa still lives on.

Fontainhas – Heritage Colony of Goa

Fontainhas as you may have guessed has some connection to Fountain. In Portuguese, it actually means that and the name basically comes from the natural spring in this area called the “Fountain of Phoenix“. The spring was found at the bottom of the Altinho Hill, near the Mala area of Goa. The Mala settlement was a prominent Hindu settlement and is marked by the Hanuman temple here.

History has it that the Fontainhas area was reclaimed by a wealthy Portuguese called “Mossmikar”. He used it an area for his coconut plantations. In the later years, when Old Goa faced several epidemics, the Portuguese shifted their capital to Panjim. It was then that this became a residential area for the various administrative Portuguese officers. Today this area is considered to be a World Heritage site.

Fontainhas Area of Panjim
Fontainhas Area of Panjim

What is interesting is that after having understood this history, I could so believe it as I could still see parts of it here. From the vibrant heritage homes to the Fountain of Phoenix, it is all still here. We started our tour at the Ourem Creek end and walked almost up to the base of the Altinho hill. Here are the highlights of what I discovered through this heritage walk of the Old Latin Quarters of Panjim.

Colorful Houses of Fontainhas

There is no way that you will not fall in love with the cute, vibrant house in Fontainhas. I kept remembering this game that I used to play as a kid  – “Color, color, which color do you want” and once the person specified the color, we were to run and catch it before he caught us. To me, the Fontainhas area was the ideal area to play this. There was no way anyone would be ever caught. Name a color, and you will find it here.

One of the Old Heritage homes in Fontainhas
One of the Old Heritage homes in Fontainhas
Fontainhas, Goa
Fontainhas, Goa

The houses were made of egg-shells and chunna or limestone. The houses had a typical sloping roof, making the entire structure akin to the stick houses that we drew as kids. Adding to the charm were the artistic balconies and doors. I could do a completely different section on the various types that I spotted but for now, here is one of them.

Home in Fontainhas
Home in Fontainhas

There were some typical things about a Portuguese home that I noticed.

  • Some of them had these typical dolls like structures near their windows
  • Quite a few of them were denoted by the Portuguese rooster
  • The nameplates were on tiles with blue borders
  • Some of them had typical windows where sea shells were all pasted together in narrow strips to form a translucent pane.

See if you can spot them all in my pictures below 😀

Heritage home in Fontainhas
Heritage home in Fontainhas
Portuguese homes in Fontainhas
Portuguese homes in Fontainhas
Shell windows of a Portuguese Home in Fontainhas, Goa
Shell windows of a Portuguese Home in Fontainhas, Goa

Most of these homes are still occupied – people either live in them or have converted them into guest homes or shops. One interesting thing that our guide told us is that you could easily identify a Christian home from a Hindu one for the former had a cross on it while the latter had a Tulsi plant growing in its compounds. It is said that some of these families can still trace their heritage and roots to the Portuguese who had settled here.

A Christian Home in Fontainhas, Panjim
A Christian Home in Fontainhas, Panjim

The one thing that is bound to strike you is that all the homes seem to be painted fresh. The reason for that is a rule that was laid down by the Portuguese –  every home must be painted fresh every year. A tradition that did not die and still lives in Goa. Here is a unique area where I found three different colored homes next to each other. I have nicknamed it the Tri-Colored Chowk or the Tri-Colored junction. What do you think of this name? 😉

My "Tri-Colored" Chowk in Fontainhas, Panjim
My “Tri-Colored” Chowk in Fontainhas, Panjim

Winding Streets of the Old Latin Quarters

In some parts of the Fontainhas area, I felt like a hamster trying to find its way through the winding passages of a maze. Really! Take a look.

Winding roads of Fontainhas
Winding roads of Fontainhas

Here and there you can find some old rusted bikes and cars. The most unusual thing was that quite a few streets here have been named after dates – like the 18th June Street, which was named so owing to the revolution that started in Goa on that day. Of course, today this is a major shopping area. Also, the 31st January Road, named after the day Portugal got independence from Spain.

The Wishing Well in Fontainhas

Somewhere along the twists and turns of the winding streets of Fontainhas, we reached this wide corner with a bright red well. It really stood out against the bright green backdrop and evidently told us that it was built by a Portuguese – remember the Portuguese roosters. 🙂

The Old Portuguese Well in the Old Latin Quarters of Goa
The Old Portuguese Well in the Old Latin Quarters of Goa
The infamous Portuguese Rooster at the Well of Fontainhas
The infamous Portuguese Rooster at the Well of Fontainhas

Somewhere later, I read about this being a wishing well. Sadly, I forgot to ask the guide and more importantly, if that being the case, I forgot to wish 🙁

Chapel of St. Sebastian

Chapel of St. Sebastian, Fontainhas, Goa
Chapel of St. Sebastian, Fontainhas, Goa

A prominent church that was built in 1800s, this one is right next to the Wishing well. As I understand, the church is still functional and the guide told us that it has several prominent artifacts inside that makes it unique. One unusual thing was a cross that was kept in Old Goa with the statue of Jesus. As I understood, what makes it even more unusual that the eyes of Jesus are open, unlike most other statues. Sadly, the church was not open when we went and hence, I could not see it for myself.

The church as I understand, also has some more treasures from a church in Diu. Someday, I will be back to find out more about this. For now, I just continued capturing this piece from the outside.

Old Bakeries and Cafes

31st January Bakery in the old Latin Quarters
31st January Bakery in the old Latin Quarters

As i had mentioned earlier, a lot of the homes are fully or partly converted to shops and lodging houses. Some of these shops are Bakeries and Cafes. Our guide took us to one of the oldest ones here – called the 31st January Bakery. A small shop with some really yummy Goan goodies  – the three-layered cake called Bebinca and wedding sweets like the Bol. My fellow blogger Indrani checked on how old the bakery was and we discovered that it was over 70 years old. Epic indeed!

Another interesting cafe was this one with some cute Street Art.

Street Art at a Cafe in Fontainhas
Street Art at a Cafe in Fontainhas

The Fountain of Phoenix

Fountain of Phoenix or Fonte Phoenix in Goa
Fountain of Phoenix or Fonte Phoenix in Goa

Where exactly this fountain is, we did not know but the same was channelized through an underground tunnel into small tanks. We visited one of these. I could see the water gushing in from the outlet. Our guide informed us that there was a small chamber at the far end but nothing really there. The steps to the doors at the far end confirmed the same but there did not seem any way of reaching those unless you waded across. For what purpose these were used, is not clear.

Continuation of the Underground tunnel for the Spring with the Hanuman temple in the background.
Continuation of the Underground tunnel for the Spring with the Hanuman temple in the background.

The underground passage continues along the periphery of the Altinho hill and here and there, you can see the moss covered done. This one specifically made a nice picture, signing the end of the Fontainhas area and the beginning of the Mala area with the famed Hanuman temple atop.

Technically we ended the heritage walk here but as a bonus, the guide took us to one more stop before we called it a day – the area of the rich and the famous – Altinho Hill.

Altinho Hill

House of the Arch Bishop at Altinho HIll, Goa
House of the Arch Bishop at Altinho HIll, Goa

A short drive away from the Fontainhas area, this was home to the affluent. Right now, it is home to the Chief minister of Goa and the Arch Bishop. We stopped by the house of the Archbishop to have a quick look at it from the outside.

View of Goa from Altinho Hill
View of Goa from Altinho Hill

A drive around and you know why this area is so sought after. The spectacular views of Goa from here are of course, the topmost reason for it 🙂

We returned back to Panjim to make a quick stop over for some pictures of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church. What is special about it, well, you can see it for yourself. 🙂

Our Lady of Immaculate Concession Church, Panjim, Goa
Our Lady of Immaculate Concession Church, Panjim, Goa

We could not go inside given that it was closed. For now, we were content with what we saw for that itself alone, was lots to absorb. This heritage walk through Fontainhas in Goa was indeed a culturally vibrant experience for me. We have always tried to know what the Royals did, for once, we were exposed to what mere mortals like us, lived in. If you are heading to Goa, this is an experience that I recommend you to make time for. What say you? Comment in and let me know.

St. Sebastian's Church in Fontainhas, Goa

Getting here:

  • Goa has an airport of its own and has a fairly decent frequency of flights linking to most major cities in India.
  • One can also, reach Goa by road or rail.
  • Panjim is the center and capital of Goa. You can reach Panjim with any of the local transport available in the state.
  • Fontainhas is quite a well-known area of Panjim. You can do this walk yourself by starting from the Panjim Post office in Fontainhas.

Travel Tips

  • Here is the official website of Goa Tourism. You can refer to this for all the general tips on Goa.
  • Goa is pleasant throughout the year. Anytime of the year is the best time to visit it.
  • While you can do this walk yourself, you can also, opt for a guided tour with the various tour operators of Goa.
  • Flat shoes and comfortable cotton clothes are recommended. Goa is quite humid throughout the year.
  • These are still living quarters of various families in Goa. Hence, please be respectful of their privacy.
  • You can take a break at any of the restaurants and cafes in this region. Remember to try some of the Goan delicacies that I had mentioned earlier. One spot that I suggest is the heritage Goan bakery – 31st January bakery,  🙂
  • The walk can take you anything between one and half hours to two, all depending on your interest.
  • It is a good idea to visit the Houses of Goa museum either before or after this walk. It adds a lot of perspective to what you have seen,

Thanks to Goa tourism for hosting me and guiding me through this wonderful piece of heritage that we have.

Share the Thrill of Travel

107 Responses

  1. Jatin Chhabra

    Wow, I must say that this is the 1st post on Goa which I have read and there isn’t a single image of a beach. Plus every city has its own heritage and you did an fabulous work on narrating it. The houses looks amazing and quite peaceful. If you remove cars with Goa name plate, I wouldn’t even guessed that this is in India.

    • Ami

      Indeed, it sure is a different part of India. Unique and nice. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Preeti

    Lovely, it was like a Goa heritage tour I took myself. Will experience it in my next visit

  3. Corinne Rodrigues

    So beautifully covered, Ami. I love the colourful houses. Did you manage to visit the Velha Goa Galeria? Lots of great buys there. And what about George’s for some authentic Goan food? 🙂

    • Ami

      Thanks Corinne. I saw the Galeria from outside but did not get in. Did not know about George’s. Got to go again now 😀

  4. Ramya

    Ami, pics are beatiful and you have shown us the other side of Goa. Got tired seeing beaches. How lovely the homes are decorated! Thanks for sharing info on it’s heritage.

    • Ami

      Thanks Ramya. It is a fantastic tour of its history. You must do this the next time you are there.

  5. Dipanwita

    This is such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing Ami. Each time I visit your blog, my list of to visit keeps getting longer. 😉

    • Ami

      Thanks Dipanwita. I hope you get to start ticking it off now :D. Hoping you get there soon.

  6. vishalbheeroo

    Been to Lady Imaculate..it was close on that day. I too wasn’t aware of the rich background and history but you’ve sprinkled wisdom. Gorgeous pictures. I remember the walk fountain at Panjim and love being ferried on bike doubling as taxi:)

  7. vishvarsha

    I love Fontainhas!! It is such a colourful happy place and has so much to explore and understand about old Goa! 😀 Loved the post.

  8. siniciliya

    I think it was in Panjim that I was invited to a sikh temple for a Sikh-Hindu wedding ceremony! The city is so not similar to the relaxed beaches and villages of the rest of GOA

    • Ami

      It is not too different nor that similar. But fun either ways. Am sure you had a good time. Thanks for stopping by.:)

  9. gobeyondbounds

    Fontainhas looks so amazing with those colored houses and winding alleys. Some of the historical buildings are beautiful especially Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church is incredible!

  10. Evanne

    This is so interesting, I love reading about the diverse culture of Goa. The houses are so unique!

  11. Sona Sethi

    This is Goa from a completely different angle. Never saw it in this fashion. Glad to see the coverage of really bright and colorful houses.

  12. Andra

    I love the colors of the houses. Heading to Goa in November so your article definitely helps me a lot. I love places filled with history.

  13. Anamika Ojha

    I went to Goa many times ago during my college days when I was in India but never visited Fontainhas! I’d love to visit Fontainhas if ever I will get a chance to visit Goa again!

  14. Komang Ayu

    colorful buildings there, looks very beautiful and unique.
    road there looks small. Eemmm … but good article and interesting to read.

  15. Lance

    So colorful. And quite an interesting history. I never thought Goa was colonized by Portugal. I always thought that it was the Brittish who had whole of India.

  16. Subhadrika Sen

    Have never been to Goa. But love the ambience you built up from your post. the colourful houses have definitely made this place on my list when I visit Goa.

  17. Jen Morrow

    It looks like a really nice area to walk around, and stop into a bakery for a snack.

  18. Stella the Travelerette

    I love those colorful houses! I’ve been to Portugal but I had no idea that the Portuguese had settled in Goa. Did they have Portuguese style egg tarts at the bakeries in Goa too?

    • Ami

      Thanks Stella. It was fun. I did not check those out, will keep an eye for those tarts the next time I head there.

  19. Krithiga

    Would love to explore all these places when in Goa.Love the vibrant colours of Fontainhas.

    Sriram & Krithiga

  20. Roberta

    I love towns like this. Towns that still contain the history of its origins. I fell in love with Goa with just reading you experience and seeing your pictures!

  21. Sriparna

    Oh, I always called Panjim as the best thing that happened to Goa, after Anjuna… Lovely pics and very descriptive post 🙂

    • Ami

      Thank you Sriparna. Goa in general is beautiful. And with its heritage, even more interesting.

  22. Alina Popescu

    I love how colorful Fontainhas is! Lovely photos and such an interesting history. I love it when destinations blend history and culture like that, it gives you a real feel of the place you’re visiting.

    • Ami

      Thank you. I agree, the blend of culture and heritage is what makes this even more interesting.

  23. feetdotravel

    When I visited Goa, I only made it to the South but have heard a lot of good things about the Centre/North, mainly the history and the culture which is clearly evident from this blog and your photos. I didn’t realise it would be so colourful, love it! So much information is here, thank you!

    • Ami

      Thanks. Goa in general is amazing. Maybe the next time you should visit the other parts of Goa. You are sure to have a lovely experience.

  24. iamsuanlee

    What beautiful and rustic homes full of colour and character! You’ve perfectly described the egg shell houses that match the photographs.

  25. wanderingwagarschristina

    Wonderful photos. When I think of Goa I think of beaches so it is nice to read about other places to explore in Goa as well.

    • Ami

      Thanks Christina. Most of us face that…we are so enamored by the beaches that we forget that there are other interesting aspects to Goa. Now you know what you need to visit the next time you are there 😀

  26. Liz

    I’m only learning about this side of Goa just now. I thought it was more of a beach destination (which I absolutely love) — but this heritage walk certainly adds another layer of color and culture to the city!

  27. Blair Villanueva

    I love these beautifully colored houses, and the well-paved streets. It still looks and feel the Portuguese-ambiance which admittedly adds to its beauty. Its very interesting to know Goa’s history 🙂

    • Ami

      Thanks Blair. I have not been to Portugal but from the pictures that I have seen of it and the stories that I hear, I understand that this part of Goa is just like the original country.

    • Ami

      Thanks Cathy. India is a blend of a lot of cultures. It is fun discovering them. Have not been to Azores but have seen and read about it. Those rock formations really fascinate me.

  28. Kevin Wagar

    Goa seems so beautiful! I love the mix of culture and architecture in this area. We are hoping for a chance to visit friends who live there!

  29. 2traveldads

    Wow, a totally different side of Goa. So cool! I do love wandering through neighborhoods, so a guided wander is just my thing. And this place is also really interesting in that the Catholic history and sites make it more relateable, at least to me. Everything in India fascinates me, but this feels familiar and draws me. I don’t know… 🙂

    • Ami

      Thanks Rob.I am sure you will relate to a lot of sites in Goa. Thanks to the European influence here. Remember to combine this with the Houses of Goa museum. It will add a lot of perspective to the walk.

  30. Sandy N Vyjay

    I love this part of Goa. So colurfully vivid and vibrant. Walking on these streets is such a pleasure, you fine something beautiful and rich in heritage round every corner.

  31. Carlos Manuel Meneses

    Thank you Ami for bringing out the real essence of Fontainhas. Being a resident of the area (right next to St. Sebastian Chapel) I know that every thing you have written is absolutely true. I am also extremely glad that so many readers are enjoying a different side of Goa – away from the beaches that has always seemed like the identity of Goa. Thank you so much!

  32. Himali Chauhan

    Hey Ami! I just came across your blog post. I am going to visit Goa in a few days and after reading your post, I am really looking forward to visit Fountainhas.
    I just have a small quick question.
    Is taking our own private vehicle over there recommended? Can we park it somewhere and then walk by the streets of Fountainhas?

    • Ami

      Parking is limited but available. You can park it around there but best to leave it in a public parking in Panjim and take an auto or walk done Fontanhas.

  33. Danial

    I love heritage buildings and quarters and Fontainhas is right up my alley. I’d explore this before hitting Goa’s beaches!

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