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Vasco da Gama Tourism and Travel Guide

History of The City

Vasco da Gama was the first European to open a sea-based trade route to India. In an epic voyage, he sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope and succeeded in breaking the monopoly of Arab and Venetian spice traders. The RoyalVasco da Gama Geographical Society's Shane Winser explains how da Gama changed the world.

Vasco da Gama's pioneering sea voyage to India is one of the defining moments in the history of exploration. Apart from being one the greatest pieces of European seamanship of that time - a far greater achievement than Christopher Columbus's crossing of the Atlantic - his journey acted as a catalyst for a series of events that changed the world.

By the middle of the 15th century, Portugal was the leading maritime nation in Europe, thanks largely to the legacy of Prince Henry the Navigator, who had brought together a talented group of mapmakers, geographers, astronomers and navigators at his school of seamanship at Sagres, in southern Portugal.

'Henry sponsored voyages of exploration south along the west African coast... but the southern extent of the continent remained unknown to Europeans.'

Henry's intention had been to find a sea route to India that would give Portugal access to the lucrative trade in spices from the Far East. He had hoped to be aided by an alliance with the elusive Prester John, whose Christian empire was thought to exist somewhere in Africa and who might have provided assistance to Christians in any fight to overcome Muslim dominance of the Indian Ocean trade. For 40 years, Henry sponsored voyages of exploration south along the west African coast, resulting in a lucrative trade in slaves and gold - but the southern extent of the continent remained unknown to Europeans, and the Prince's dream was not realised.

It was not until 1487 that Bartholomew Diaz set off on the voyage that finally reached the southern tip of Africa. By rounding the Cape of Good Hope, Diaz proved that the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were not landlocked, as many Vasco da GamaEuropean geographers of the time thought, and rekindled the idea that a sea route to India might indeed be feasible.

To complement the sea voyages of Diaz, the Portuguese monarch King John II also sent Pedro da Covilha, a fluent Arabic speaker, out on a dangerous overland journey to India. Disguised as an Arab, Covilha gathered vital information on the ports of the east African and Indian coasts during his three-year journey.

It would, however, be a further ten years before the Portuguese were able to organise a voyage to exploit the discoveries of these two explorers. In the meantime, Christopher Columbus, sponsored by the Spanish, had returned to Europe in 1493 to announce that he had successfully found a route to the Orient by sailing west across the Atlantic.

How to Reach Vasco da Gama

Vasco da Gama is located 30 km from Panaji, the state capital of Goa.

How to Reach Vasco da Gama by Road: Vasco has good road connectivity to major cities of Goa. The Interstate Kadamba Bus Terminus, 3 km east of the town centre, lies on the National Highway 17A. Local minibuses carry passengers from the main bus stand to the city area.

How to Reach Vasco da Gama by Rail/ Train: The south-central Vasco da Gama railway station is located at the south end of Dr. Rajendra Prasad Avenue and is connected to many major destinations of south and central India.

How to Reach Vasco da Gama by Air: The Dabolim Airport, Goa's only airport, is located 4 km southeast of Vasco-da-Gama. A number of national and international flights cater to the perennial flow of tourists to Goa. There are pre-paid Vasco da Gamataxi counters inside the airport and private taxis are also available. Local buses are also available from the intersection immediately outside the airport to go to Vasco.

Discover the ancient part of the city, having as stopping points the monuments associated to the life of the navigator Vasco da Gama in Sines.

Who was Vasco da Gama

The navigator Vasco da Gama (ca. 1469-1524), discoverer of the Maritime Way to India, is one of the major figures of the Portuguese and world history. He was born in Sines and it was the county of Sines that he wanted as a reward for his deed in India, to the end of his life. It is possible to draw a route in the city of Sines based in the monuments of Gama. That route begins in the Castle (where he spent his childhood and where he was supposed to be born), passes down the Mother Church (where he was ordained), stops in the Statue of Vasco Gama (testimony ofCastle the love of Sines for its most famous child) and ends in the Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas (that he rebuild and by whose saint he had a special devotion).

Supposing that his father, Estêvão, was already alcaide of the village in 1468/1469, the second floor of the donjon may be, as suggested by historian Arnaldo Soledade, the place in Sines where the navigator was born(the place shown by tradition is a house in the present Rua Vasco da Gama). There is no doubt that he spent his childhood here and that the monument is full of memories and traces of the Gamas. However, little was needed to make it the most important monument of Sines. Built in the first half of the 15th century, in the most noble and strategic point of the city, hanging over the bay, the Castle - a defensive fortress - was the condition imposed by King D. Pedro I to grant the charter to Sines, in 1362. Today, as it no Parish Churchlonger defends the city from the pirates, it remains the most amazing belvedere to the bay.

The Mother Church of São Salvador

The Mother Church of São Salvador is practically leaning against the east wall of the Castle. It is here (that is, in the early building of the church) that, at 11 or 12 years old, with three of his brothers, Vasco da Gama receives the first tonsure and becomes a member of the Order of Santiago. In the 18th century, the medieval church, already too small for the number of believers that wanted to go to mass, had to be completely transformed, acquiring its present look, typical of the baroque of theVasco da Gama's statue time of King John. Inside, behold carefully the high altar with a shrine of the Holy Sacrament, the azulejos of the chancel, the images of St. John the Baptist, of Nossa Senhora da Graça, of Santa Catarina and of Senhor Jesus das Almas and the panel in the ceiling, painted by Emmerico Nunes.

Statue of Vasco da Gama

Twenty metres south of the Mother Church, close by the west tower of the Castle, is the statue of Vasco da Gama. Inaugurated in 1970, still on the occasion of the celebrations of the navigator's five hundredth anniversary, it was a population claim since at least 1898 (the 400th anniversary of the Discovery of the Maritime Way to India). Looking at the Atlantic, in a place of insurmountable beauty, it can be said Church of Nossa Senhora das Salasthat the best view of Sines is the one of its most famous child.

Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas (and Treasure)

The route of Vasco da Gama ends in the west side of the city, in the "modern" Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas, which replaces the original church built, in the beginning of the 14th century, by Dona Betaça, maid of honour of D. Isabel (to be married with King Dinis). Perhaps to celebrate the success of the voyage to India, Vasco da Gama decides to rebuild the chapel completely, in the 16th century. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Order of Santiago, the work progresses, and two tombstones that show the position of the navigator are placed close by the gateway of the new temple, with a Manueline style: "This house of Nossa Senhora das Salas was built by the most magnificent Dom Vasco da Gama”. Inside the temple, behold carefully the high altar in golden carving with an image of Nossa Senhora das Salas (17th century), the panel of azulejos alluding to the life of Mary and the retable of Senhor do Vencimento. Its magnificent treasure is open to visitors since 2006.

Hotels in Vasco da Gama

Casa De Goa
Goan Holiday Resort
Mapple Viva Goa
Neelam’s The Grand
Resort Ronil Royal
Riviera De Goa Resort
Silla Goa
Soul Vacation By Shalom