The Goa of the past: Madgaon and Chandor

Margao (Madgaon), one of Goa’s biggest cities filled with unrestored colonial buildings gives you the feel of authentic Goa. Meanwhile, the surrounding villages (such as Chandor and Loutolim) offer a unique insight into the lives of the Portuguese elites of the past. The surviving members of old aristocratic families maintain their impressive ancestral residences by offering guided tours. Margao is an off-beat alternative to Old Goa and Panjim.

A long, two-storied colonial Portuguese building of a Braganza palace in Chandor with multiple balconies, surrounded with a garden
Enormous residence of the Braganza- Pereira family in Chandor

Why is it worth stopping by in Madgaon?

Most people stop in Madgaon long enough to change buses or trains. It’s rarely mentioned in blogs and guides, perhaps because the level of maintenance of its colonial architecture is a far cry from the polished Panjim. Yet, this is where you can see the authentic Goa. The more and less affluent Portuguese-era residences still serve simply as homes, not hotels or restaurants. The neglect and dilapidation slowly creep in, making the place more interesting than the stylised perfection of the Panjim’s Latin Quarter. If you’re more interested in sightseeing, history, culture and tradition than beaches, you should definitely make Madgaon the focal point of your trip.

A dilapidated colonial building with a half collapsed roof over the portico in the town square of Margao
Dilapidated residence at the Madgao town square

Even more importantly, Madgaon is a great base to explore treasures of the colonial architecture, scattered in a couple of villages a short drive from the city, most notably Chandor and Loutolim. It is possible to visit those places by bus, but it might take more than a day. Renting a scooter would be far more efficient.

A luxurious interior of the Braganza mansion in Chandor, filled with carved wooden chairs, marble top tables, Belgian mirrors and chandeliers
The time stands still at the Braganza Pereira mansion in Chandor

Madgaon on a budget

Madgaon, like any large city, is a place where you can eat out and buy things cheaply. I was amazed at the quality of the 80 rupee veg thali I ate just a few steps from the town square. Unfortunately, there aren’t many accommodation choices whereas the budget offer is virtually non-existent.
We solved this problem by visiting Madgaon and Chandor in a day, starting from Palolem. We took advantage of the fact we’re taking a night train from Madgaon to Mumbai. The facilities at Madgaon railway station are really good – we could even have a free shower in a spotlessly clean bathroom before the journey.

A thali or steel plate with bowls filled with multiple vegetable dishes salad and a semolina dessert
Delicious 80 rupee thali from a simple eatery in Madgao

Madgaon attractions

The first place to head when you arrive in Madgaon is the town square with the Holy Spirit Church. The 17th-century Portuguese church dominates the square. Old houses and mansions (in various stages of dilapidation) flank the empty ground with a large white cross. Information boards give ample background on the purpose and history of those buildings. Just around the corner stands the old Municipal Building.

A white facade Baroque Portuguese church in Margao, Goa
Imposing Holy Cross Church at Madgao’s town square

Many streets surrounding the square comprise Madgaon’s Latin Quarter. We walked all along Abade Faria rd, which was filled with Portuguese- style architecture. It led us to the municipal park and another impressive building of the Margao Municipality.

An old colonial-style house with a portico, surrounded with a garden
One of many old buildings in Madgao

If you have time, go up Monte hill, where you can find an old Chapel of Our Lady of Piety and you get a nice view of the city.

Chandor

The 9 km journey to Chador took us a very long time since we had to wait for the bus 50 minutes. The ride itself was short, though. We were lucky to come back with another tourist who came by car.

A dusty square with a small white Portuguese church and a large cross and white large mausoleums in the centre of Chandor village
The centre of Chandor village with Chandor Church and mausoleums of the Braganza family

Things to see in Chandor

The first thing you’re going to notice when you arrive in Chandor is the white mausoleum of the Braganza family and the Chandor Church. Unfortunately, the church was closed when we arrived so we headed straight to the Menes Braganza-Pereira house, just one minute’s walk from the square. A man sitting at the window beckoned us in.

A marble floor ballroom with blue painted ceiling and a few Belgian crystal chandeliers at the Braganza palace in Chandor
Grand ballroom with Belgian chandeliers at the Braganza- Pereira mansion

Although a bit pricey, the guided tour of the house, performed by one of the family members, is worth every rupee. The sheer luxury and splendour of this enormous mansion make a lasting impression. Room after room, the place is filled with Belgian chandeliers, European furniture, ivory decorations, etc. The highlight is a large ballroom with crystal chandeliers. There is even a small family chapel. Our guide was knowledgeable, therefore we could ask him many questions about the history of his family and Goa.

I was feeling tempted to check out another mansion in Chandor, the Fernandez House, for comparison. However, as it’d be undoubtedly similar, I satisfied myself with seeing the building from the outside.

A double storied large colonial style Fernandes house in Chandor with a balcony running all along the second floor
Slightly less affluent Fernandes heritage house in Chandor

Other attractions around Madgaon

It’s a shame we were limited to using public transport. Otherwise, we’d definitely visit Loutolim village as well. Loutolim is 10 km from Madgao, though in the opposite direction from Chandor.
Similarly to Chandor, you can have a guided tour of the Figueiredo Mansion with a family member. You can also visit less opulent Casa Araujo Alvares. And if that’s not enough, there is also the Ancestral Goa museum (aka Big Foot museum) which explains more about the life in Goa.

Another place showing life in Goa is an ethnographic park called Goa Chitra, located halfway between Benaulim beach and Madgaon. Colva and Benaulim beaches are the closest beaches to Madgaon (8 and 10 km from the city respectively).

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Madgaon?

Madgaon is the main transportation hub in Goa. You can get here directly from any place inside Goa and from the neighbouring states.

By train
Multiple trains from Mumbai (10h) and Mangalore (6h) stop in Madgaon. There are also direct trains from as far as Banglore (15h), Cochin (13h) and even Delhi (24h). Pretty much every train passing through Konkani Railways stops at Madgaon Junction.
Local trains from Thivim (north), Karmali (for Panaji), Dabolim (airport) and Canacona (for Palolem) are few and far in between. However, the journey by train is sometimes faster than by road (eg from Thivim.

By bus
A few interstate buses, both from Mumbai (16h) and Banglore (11h), stop in Madgaon.
State Kadamba buses create a dense network across all Goan towns and cities (incl. Vasco-da-Gama, Panaji, Canacona, Karwal). This includes express shuttle service Panaji-Madgao (45 min).

Margao KSTC bus stand is in the city centre, while the Madgao Junction is 2 km outside the centre.

How to get to Chandor?


The only way to get to Chandor is by bus. You can get it from the Madgaon bus stand. However, if you’re starting the journey at the railway station, it’s more convenient to get to Pandava cave bus stop, at the clock tower at the fork of Power House Rd, Baba Naik Rd and Martires Diaz rd. It’s just 400 meters from the station if you take a Fire Station Rd. Unfortunately, the bus runs just once an hour. The journey is shorter than half an hour, as Chandor is only 9 km away. The bus drops you right at the centre of Chandor village.

Prices [in Indian rupees as of Feb 2022]:

444 INR sleeper class train fare Madgao – Mumbai
200 INR minimum fare for a guided tour of Braganza – Pereira Mansion in Chandor
100 INR poor quality dal and 2 chapatis at the railway canteen in Madgaon
80 INR high-quality veg thali at a cheap eatery near Madgaon town square
40 INR coconut near Madgaon railway station
35 INR regular Kadamba (state) bus Cancacona – Madgaon
30 INR storing one piece of luggage at Madgaon railway station (whole day)
20 INR private local bus Madgaon to Chandor

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