“A hidden Zen gem near Ashvem Beach, these design-led suites offer stylish minimalism in a dappled orchard”
Created by an Indian creative director-turned-social entrepreneur and his Scandinavian interior-designer partner, it (and sister Noi Varo) are pilot projects designed to boost rural employment and increase sustainable development in Goa. It's great for couples, friends or families (each sleeps 2-4), or book it all for a sociable group of 10-14; there’s an outdoor dining table big enough for all. Along with dappled shade, fans and air-conditioning, there are 3 cascading plunge pools to keep you cool, and 4 double lounge platforms on which to read, doze and dream.
- We loved the The Zen elegance, space and minimalism of the suites
- Excellent staff - attentive and kind
- The delicious and exotic fusion food - perhaps crab leek soufflé or mackerel in pomegranate and tequila
- A 5-minute stroll from Ashvem Beach, one of Goa's loveliest and yet quietest sandy stretches
- The wealth of well-thumbed books to read, from Benchley to Bach
- Rates are per room/house; no extra charge for children or additional friends
- Most of the pools are too small to do lengths in
- All the plastic rubbish on your 5-minute walk through village fields to the beach
- If your neighbours are noisy, you'll hear them
- Frequent groups of tiny ants trekking across the ochre floors
- The electricity can be a tad unreliable, but there are good back-up generators so you won't have to go without
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Guesthouse
- Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Plunge Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
There are 6 options for guests, all are different and they come in varying sizes and levels of luxury.
An old Goan house was reworked to make Poilo Gor. Its huge living area now soars right up to the mango-wood rafters and pink tiles, there’s an enclosed air-conditioned loft bedroom above the living area, plus a separate bathroom.
A second house was divided into 2 mirror-image, air-conditioned, open-plan spaces - Dusro Gor and Tisro Gor) - each of these also has its own spiral staircase leading up to the loft, where comfy kingsize beds await (no twins). Back below, divan bench beds in each lounge make room for teenagers or extra guests. Bathrooms are on the ground level, and have high pressure outdoor showers with 3 different kinds of jets; natural soaps are supplied. These rooms stay deliciously cool thanks to oblong air-vents, fans, rattan blinds and shady eaves.
For those who prefer a more modern dwelling there’s are also some newly built options. Shunya Gor is a prototype modular house, which is so light and airy its wooden walls feel as if they’re hardly there. Verandas provide views of the pool, paddy fields and mango trees. Drop-down canvas blinds lend some welcome shade and one bedroom is air-conditioned, but otherwise it feels like breezy treehouse-living.
Built using green materials, the Shunya Eco Bungalow also has a sense of openness; walls are pure white or are made up of foldable wood framed doors, which blur the distinction between indoors and outside. There’s a spacious double bedroom, a lounge and plenty of outdoor living space around the 2 pools (1 small, 1 larger). The bungalow is also suitable for families, as the lounge can be converted into a second (twin) bedroom.
The newest addition is Shunya Honeymoon Loft and, as the name suggests, it’s aimed at couples. Set amongst the treetops, the design is open-plan with a living area and a kingsize bed, plus plenty of enormous windows to help open up the space to the elements. But the real treats here are the enormous shower in the bathroom and the indoor spa pool overlooking the canopy.
- Air conditioning
- Coffee / tea making
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Plunge pool
- Safe box
You’re close to Ashvem Beach’s famous cordon-bleu La Plage, and umpteen restaurant shacks, but the food is so good at Kaju Varo it’s likely to kick everything else into touch. Their (already-boutique-experienced) head chef was specifically trained for 6 months before this fusion in-house menu (also available at Noi Varo) was born, and it really shows.
Meals are generally served at the shady outdoor 14-seater party table, though you can ask to eat on your veranda if you prefer. You need to order lunches and dinners the evening before or after breakfast. Cold soups and fresh salads are the house specialties, plus fresh local fish - ray, barracuda, banushi, shark and grouper - barbecued under the stars as tikka kebabs or whole at cost price. Meat is only served exceptionally and on request - when the chef will kindly ‘consider Country Chicken or mutton’!
The Shunya Eco Lodge has a private outdoor dining area which includes a barbecue, so this it's ideal for those whole prefer to cook for themselves.
We had a simple (but huge) fruit, yoghurt, rolls and omelette breakfast, perched Japanese-style at a low table on our veranda. Then a lunch at the 14-seater table, which was utterly delicious: mushroom and almond paté with crusty panini and fresh parsley sprigs; cold, creamy, light-as-air cucumber soup; tender calamari in chilli jam on a bed of salad; and, to top it all off, a rich, dark chocolate mousse.
Other exotic options included crab leek soufflé, mackerel in pomegranate and tequila, and ‘Rava-fried’ oysters/mussels/ prawns. You can even take a picnic hamper to the beach. A foodie heaven!
- Coffee / tea making
- Communal dining
- Dinner by arrangement
- Lunch by arrangement
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian menu
- Laze and read on the double loungers by the cascading plunge pools, listen to the birdsong and rustling fruit orchard
- Play chess, read one of the library of well-thumbed, often spiritual books, or just snooze
- Have an on-site yoga class or massage
- Walk across the fields to peaceful, almost empty Ashvem beach to explore, fly a kite or watch children playing cricket
- Swim and surf or sunbathe and read on a cafe/restaurant-provided lounger on Ashvem beach (though beach-sellers can plead for your custom rather too frequently)
- Go exploring by rented motorbike
- Sightsee in Goa’s river-mouth capital Panjim - particularly the wonderful old Portuguese Fontainhas quarter, which seems preserved in another age
- Visit the plethora of old forts and dazzling white churches left behind by the Portuguese
- Book a bird-watching, crocodile- or dolphin-spotting cruise; Kaju Varo can book you in with local celebrity naturalist Rahul Alvarez for bird and reptile trips
- Visit a Spice Farm and see Cashew Feni being made
- Go sailing, or parascending over the sea
- Take an (in-house organised) coastal angling trip, for a few hours or a day-and-a-night with a basic lodge sleepover
- Snorkelling trips can also be arranged; locals will point you to the best secret sites
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Farm visits
- Historical sites
- Motorbike rides
- Museums / galleries
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Well being
Children will love the plunge pools and back-to-nature setting, but the spiral staircases make it unsuitable for toddlers (or the old-and-rickety for that matter). Cots are available and each lounge has a divan sofa. Children stay for free if sharing with 2 adults.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
All units can take more than 2 people as there are divan sofas in every lounge, and an additional sofa in Poilo Gor. Note that both Dusro Gor and Tisro Gor have more of an open plan layout, where as Poilo Gor and Shunya Gor have enclosed bedrooms. A large family party should book both Dusro and Tisro Gor as these are semi-detached units.
Kids Activities nearby:
There’s lots of flora and fauna for them to learn about and all sorts of fun to be had on the beach, including kite flying, cricket and volleyball.