Last Updated on March 14, 2019 by Fiona Maclean
Nilaya – an idyllic hotel retreat in the hills of Arpora:
This year was my third visit to India. I have slowly fallen in love with this beautiful country (and who wouldn’t?) with its stunning beaches, bustling towns and cities bursting with activity and colour, not to mention the wonderfully hospitable and friendly people.
Prior to visiting Nilaya Hermitage, Goa, I had been travelling around and was more than ready to put my feet up, relax and unwind in what turned out to be the most idyllic resort.
Nilaya Hermitage is tucked away high up in the Goan hills of Arpora, and it’s here you’ll find a unique haven – a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of North Goa’s busy beach resorts.
Up a winding road we drove, to a secure gateway which opens onto this stunning boutique hotel; a cluster of rustic-coloured laterite stone buildings, sitting effortlessly on the lush hillside, surrounded by verdant forest. I knew as soon as we arrived in this picturesque resort that we were in for a treat…even more so when we were given such a personal and professional welcome by the attentive staff.
Nilaya Hermitage was designed by renowned Indian architect Dean D’Cruz; its striking reception area is decorated in a bold shade of Royal Blue, furnished with low tables, dark wood furnishings and simple brass pots and ornaments. Large pillars, arches and domes, and Moorish architecture give it a feel of the Arabian Nights.
An archway from the reception leads directly on to the beautiful pool area, whose large kidney shaped pool and relaxing waterfalls create an oasis of bright turquoise. Perfect for a dip or keeping up an exercise routine, it is surrounded by low- level stone buildings, elegant wooden slatted sun loungers with a fabulous view over the hillside.
We enjoyed a delicious freshly prepared salad by the pool, before discovering our beautiful accommodation where we would be staying for the next two nights (really not long enough, I can assure you).
Scattered throughout the grounds are a selection of twelve guest rooms and two elegant tents, each uniquely designed and named after elements of nature. All the rooms are air-conditioned, with king-sized beds and beautiful terrazzo flooring. The average size of each room is 600 square ft, and each one has been individually furnished with handpicked pieces, many of Indian origin.
Ours was a ‘standard’ boutique room – although ‘standard’ really doesn’t do justice to such lovely accommodation. Set into the stony hillside, just a few steps away from the pool area, painted a luscious shade of blue and aptly named ‘Air’, with a bay window and lounge area; from here we looked out over hills and trees and into the forest.
It was impressively spacious, with a smooth marble stone floor, alcoves and arches, and a sumptuous king size bed… soft and inviting, with luxurious crisp white linen; just waiting to be sunk into. The intelligent lighting is mood-evoking, and a simple desk made me feel like settling down to write my first novel (if only!).
We were provided with access to WiFi, fresh flowers, a small fridge, a safe, a hairdryer, bottled water and a platter of fresh fruit.
The bathroom is sympathetically moulded into the stone with a double sink and a walk-in shower. There was a good selection of toiletries and soft white towelling gowns and slippers. The beds were turned down every evening and we had fresh towels daily. I was especially impressed when a member of staff, without even asking, took my travel-creased dress to be ironed and returned it to my room.
Nilaya Hermitage Goa is the kind of place where you will probably arrive and want to stay. So, it matters that the food works well. What we were offered was delicious, fresh and simple …
Dinner at Nilaya Hermitage, Goa was enjoyed by candlelight, overlooking the fairy-lit pool, with music and chanting floating over the hillside – because on Mondays in India Hindus go to temple, and the sounds resonate far and wide.
We ate a light and fragrant creamy carrot soup infused with warm ginger, served with freshly baked bread, which was like a thick pitta, and a creamy garlic and herb butter.
Some delicious Sea Perch followed; meaty yet tender and flaky white fish, cooked to perfection in garlic, light spices and herbs, served with beautifully fresh simply streamed carrots, courgettes, green beans and broccoli.
Having eaten such a healthy meal, we couldn’t resist indulging in something sweet – and vanilla ice cream hit the spot perfectly.
Early nights are just the thing at Nilaya Hermitage Hotel, and from a deep and peaceful sleep we awoke to bird song, followed by a rejuvenating, gentle yoga class, after which we were ready for breakfast overlooking the pool. Forest surrounds the whole area, fruits growing on the trees – and on our second morning, much to our delight, the monkeys paid a visit.
We enjoyed plates of fresh fruit and juices, a jug of black coffee and a choice of eggs cooked to order.
I can highly recommend the masala omelette, which is an Indian version of the old favourite, with onions, fresh chilli, tomato and herbs.
The joy of this magical place is the tranquillity combined with the ambient sound of tropical birds. The staff were absolutely divine, we were especially well looked after by the charming Mitoo, who has worked at Nilaya since it first opened 23 years ago.
So…we swam, we sunbathed, we read a lot: we did a daily morning yoga class, we had a good steam in the Spa, and resident yoga teacher and masseur Jomy George gave me one of the best full body Ayurvedic massages I have had in India. And then we sat with a cold beer and watched the sunset over the hills. Magical!
Looking for more? At Nilaya Hermitage Hotel you can also relax in the resplendent music room, play a game of tennis, visit the small gym – or take a walk along the stone-lined pathways, canopied by majestic trees, and re-discover the rhythms of nature.
If you feel like leaving heaven, take the shuttle service from the hotel and explore the world outside, heading to the beautiful beaches at Candolim and Calangute. I have heard that Arpora’s famous Saturday Night Market is a lot of fun and well worth a trip, but unfortunately, we weren’t there at the right time.
If you’re looking for a buzzy, party atmosphere, NilayaHermitage is definitely not the place.
However – if, like me, you want some time out in a place of beauty and tranquillity, where you can rejuvenate and take stock, it’s absolutely perfect. I can assure you won’t be disappointed.
Goa Experience offers 7 nights B&B at Nilaya Hermitage from £999pp, including flights, in-flight meals, luggage and private airport transfers. To book, visit Goaexperience.co.uk, or call 01489 866986.
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Looking for a livelier side of India? read our guide to visiting Chennai in Tamil Nadu