The first lighthouse was Pharos of Alexandria, built in 280 BC in Egypt. A huge bonfire was lit every night at the top of the tower and it was visible from more than thirty miles away! At over 450 feet tall, the lighthouse was so huge that it was named one the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Despite advances in technology, lighthouses are still considered aids to navigation, warning ships of danger and guiding them safely on their way in the pitch black of the night.
In 2021, India’s over 90-year-old Lighthouse Act 1927, was replaced by the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021, which aims to convert heritage lighthouses in the country into tourism spots.
Considering that Goa is located on a coast and has significant maritime traffic, it comes as no surprise that there are lighthouses in the state, many of which are centuries old.
1. FORT AGUADA LIGHTHOUSE
Located between Mormugao peninsula and Calangute beach, this is perhaps the most famous lighthouse in Goa, and sits atop Fort Aguada, in Bardez. A curving staircase leads to the top from where you can see the Arabian Sea and Raj Niwas, which was once the Fort of Cabo.
Initially, the 13-metre high Portuguese lighthouse was lit by an oil lamp, which was replaced by an electric one in 1976. Built in 1864, the lighthouse is one of the oldest of its kind in Asia. Prior to this, ships were guided into the safe harbour by means of huge bonfires that were lit on the ‘Hill of Pilots’ above the place where the Church of the Immaculate Conception now stands, in Panjim.
The lighthouse was also home to a gigantic bell retrieved from the ruins of the St Augustine Monastery, at Old Goa, and which is now housed in the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Panjim.
The popular historical structure has featured in many Bollywood movies, too!
LOCATION: Sinquerim, Bardez
GETTING THERE: Entry is via Fort Aguada
BEST TIME TO VISIT: November through March
2. BETUL LIGHTHOUSE
The Betul lighthouse is situated atop a steep hillock in Quitol , South Goa, and is flanked by tall grasses on one side and the shore on the other. Situated 20 km from Margao, and approx 6 km from the Assolna-Cavelossim Bridge, it offers a panoramic view of Betul beach, Quepem, other surrounding villages and the sea.
This lighthouse in Goa is located on the Betul Fort, which was built in 1676 on the orders of Shivaji Maharaj. The octagonal cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, is painted with red and white spiral bands, which makes it easy to spot.
Betul Fort now lies in ruins, and the shore below is rocky with palm and casuarina trees. Occasionally, you might be able to catch a glimpse of visiting dolphins, too.
LOCATION: Quitol, South Goa
GETTING THERE: A 30-minute uphill walk from the Holy Cross Chapel
BEST TIME TO VISIT: October through March
3. ST GEORGE LIGHTHOUSE
St George Island (Ilha de São Jorge) is situated roughly 6.5 km from Mormugao Port and is accessible by a mechanized boat (launch) from the port. The lighthouse is approx 100 m tall and is located right in the middle of the sea. It is painted in black and white horizontal stripes and 85 steps run outside on the cylindrical building.
There is a deep well near the light house, and in the olden days, ships would dock at the island to get drinking water from this well. Unfortunately, the well is now in an abandoned and sorry state.
The original light was on a skeletal tower. In 1956, a fixed oil wick lamp was placed on it. Following several modifications over the next few years, an electronic flasher was placed in 1999.
LOCATION: St George Island, Vasco
GETTING THERE: Via boat from Mormugao Port
BEST TIME TO VISIT: October through March
4. CAMPAL LIGHTHOUSE
This largely neglected lighthouse is located near the Children’s Park, in Campal, Panjim. The cylindrical, white concrete structure is in danger due to soil erosion of the riverbank, where it stands.
The 41-year-old lighthouse lies on the south bank of the Mandovi River and is 22 m high. Although it is barely noticed by passers-by, it has long served as a beacon to barges, trawlers and other vessels moving in the River Mandovi.
LOCATION: Near Children’s Park, Campal, Panjim
GETTING THERE: A few minutes walk from the park
BEST TIME TO VISIT: Any time of the year, preferably mornings