For something even quieter, wander south to the next beach along, Patnem. A single dive costs a very reasonable V C Rs1,700 (£20), while Rs14,000 (about £180) buys an overnight excursion to Pigeon Island. Barracuda Diving, based in Panaji (00 91 8 14; barracudadiving.com) is accredited with five stars from the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (Padi) and charges Rs18,000 (about £230) for a full Padi Open Water Diving Certification course.If you prefer to remain above the surface then Day Tripper Tours and Travel in Calangute (00 91 8; daytrippergoa.com) organises a two-day safari and white-water rafting trip which costs around £75. India's smallest state – slightly bigger than Devon – is tucked into the south-west coast of the sub-continent.It makes up for its diminutive size through the diversity of its 1.4 million-strong population and the wealth of experiences on offer in the region.The church is the most visible symbol: Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception perches on a hill, keeping a maternal eye on the once-splendid villas that clutch at her skirts.Their pastel colours fade deliciously in the hazy sunshine, while their residents ascend for services in English, Portuguese or Konkan – the local language, and also the name of the high-speed railway line from Mumbai that has helped put Goa on the map for Indian visitors. Six miles upriver is the original Portuguese capital, now called Old Goa.In the 16th century it was one of the most opulent places on earth; today the wealth belongs to nature.The sight of a miraculously preserved Portuguese city rising from the jungle is remarkable.
The sanctuary is on the eastern boundary of Goa, accessible by road or rail from Panaji or Margao.Calangute and Baga, for example, are prime destinations for tour operators.While lacking much authentic Indian charm, they do cater for all tastes and also house some of the most luxurious hotels.The dome may not be quite as vast as the one in Rome, but the Vatican cannot boast Islamic masonry outside the front door.The only evidence of the palace of Adil Shah, who ruled Goa before the Portuguese arrived, comprises a lonely arch propped up in the churchyard.