Goa is actually squeezed between the seas and the lush forested hills. It has beautiful beach strips fringed with coconut palms and ultra fresh seafood. It was a Portuguese colony until 1961. Sometimes known as "Rome of the East", "Tourist Paradise" and "Pearl of the Orient", the state of Goa is located on the western coast of India in the coastal belt known as Konkan. Panaji (Panjim) is the state capital located on the banks of the Mandovi river and Vasco, Margao, Mapusa and Ponda are the other major towns. The magnificent scenic and serene beauty and the architectural splendors of its temples, churches and old houses have made Goa a firm favorite with travelers around the world. The best time to visit Goa is the winter season, when the whole city is decorated with lights and balloons and the people are in festive mood. Goa has a blend of western and the Indian culture.