“A melting pot of glamour and Gaudi mosaics, an uber-cool hilltop retreat set in tropical forest, a few miles from Goa’s golden beaches”
Fashion stylist Claudia Derain, and her Indian husband engineer Hari Ajwani, created this hip resort in collaboration with celebrated local architect Dean d’Cruz. It’s built mostly from rough-cut laterite stone - a Goan speciality - but the style is an exotic mosaic of Mogul domes and Moorish arches, echoes of Arabian Nights, mixed with bit of Hindu temple, a dash of Barcelona (think Gaudi-esque pillars and crazy-paved ceramics) and a palette of dazzling Rajasthani colours (saffron, emerald, bronze, and, yes, lots of heavenly blues).
Lounge on silk daybeds in the mosque-like music room; dine under the stars by the lavish pool; sip a cocktail at sunset, peeping through a jungle of coconut palms, mango and papaya, laced with bougainvillea. You can see the sea glittering in the distance - so near, yet a world away.
- The fabulous pool - at the heart of the resort, it gushes waterfalls into a lagoon of lapis and aquamarine mosaic tiles
- Gorgeous rooms - each a romantic fantasy with a cosmic theme (Moon, Star, Water, Air…)
- Set in 20 acres of lush gardens surrounded by tropical forest, 6km from Goa’s Arabian Sea beaches
- The service: staff are efficient and discreet - on hand just when you need them (most of the time)
- A dedicated treatment centre offering relaxation therapies, including Ayurvedic massage
- Rates are high (though they include dinner and airport transfers)
- You will need a car or taxi to get to and from the beach - or to more or less anywhere. Even Arpora, the nearest village, is too far to walk on a hot day
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 11 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- Children of all ages are welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Tennis Court
- Bicycles Available
There are 11 unique and stylish rooms, each designed around a cosmic theme; some cut into the hillside and accessed via steps that disappear beneath the pool terrace; others in Hobbit-like cottages, scattered around the grounds. All except Ganga (a spacious suite at the top of the main building) have a small private terrace or sit-out space; most have big picture windows with views of the gardens; none of them conform to any standard shape or regular form. Star, for example, is housed in a round kiln-like laterite dome; Sun (or Surya in Sanskrit) is a subterranean womb of sculpted curves and light sunny yellows. Fire has a wide bed and a little balcony in the trees; Soul and Little Moon have adjoining balconies, and are ideal for family use.
In all rooms, expect an eclectic mix of colonial antiques and ethnic Indian furniture (from Gujarat or Rajasthan), four-poster beds draped with muslin, or kingside platform beds that rise from polished terazzo floors inlaid with swirls of colour. But for all the glamour, remember that this is the jungle: expect squirrels, the occasional monkey playing on your terrace or on your roof, or the odd frog in the shower.
Bathrooms are madly eccentric - some-semi outdoors and all crazy-paved with china mosaics in whatever colour scheme suits the room - but they are well-equipped with efficient showers, hairdryers, cotton robes, shower gels and shampoos and thoughtful little extras, like tubes of mosquito repellent. There are no phones in the rooms, but a call button swiftly summons room service; there’s no TV either, though you can order a DVD player and screen if you want to watch a film.
- Air conditioning
- CD player
- Cots Available
- DVD player
- Extra beds
- Internet access
Nilaya’s restaurant and bar sits on a shaded laterite terrace overlooking the pool - the latter beautifully illuminated at night. Dinner, included in the tariff, is a set menu and consists of 3 or 4 courses - usually fish or chicken dishes with an East-meets-West flavour. A typical menu might be seafood ravioli, or carrot-ginger soup, tandoori chicken with fresh vegetables (from Nilaya’s kitchen garden), or tuna steak with cucumber spaghetti and dill rice, then tropical fruits with ice cream. The evening's menu is displayed in reception in the morning, giving you time to request changes if the choice doesn’t suit, or if you prefer a traditional Goan curry among other spicy Indian dishes. Like the hotel, dining is relaxed and informal - and candlelit at night; you can turn up in a sarong if you like, though the setting inspires a bit of dressing up.
For lunch there’s a menu of light dishes and snacks (soups, pastas, club sandwiches). Breakfast is continental - muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit salad (the pineapple, papaya, banana and mango are all home-grown or local), breads, and preserves. Hot dishes are also available. It’s served at more or less any time, in a small garden pavilion furnished with tiled tables, but - as with all meals at Nilaya - you can ask to eat in the restaurant, in your room, in the garden, by the pool. And don’t miss a peek into the kitchen. Just behind the music room, it features ceramic mosaic worktops, a live palm tree and a hive of activity - everything here is freshly prepared.
There are a few restaurants a 10-minute drive away, should you want a change of scene. Le Poisson Rouge, J&A's, Little Italy, Sublime and Souza Lobos are all recommended; reception can book tables for you.
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
- Do nothing - just hang out. Nilaya is designed for indolent relaxation
- Book a massage. There is a dedicated treatment centre offering relaxation therapies, including Ayurvedic massage
- Head for one of Goa’s famous northern beaches: the nearest is Baga (6km), but Candolim, Calungute, Anjuna and Vagator are all within a short drive. Beach transfers can be arranged
- Take a day-trip to Old Goa, where St Francis Xavier's body lies preserved in the basilica of Bom Jesus. In nearby Panjim, Goa’s capital, stroll along the banks of the Mandovi River, or explore the backstreets, the wedding-cake Indo-Portuguese churches or the faded colonial villas of Fontainhas, the old quarter
- Go shopping: on Wednesday, head for Anjuna beach for the hippy flea market; on Friday, take a taxi to Mapusa - with its bustling weekly market (everything from spices to hardware). On Saturday, there’s a lively night market in nearby Arpora. If you like Nilaya’s style, head for Claudia and Hari’s own Sangolda ‘lifestyle store’, near Panjim
- Arrange a special outing, snorkelling and scuba diving, or a picnic: Nilaya’s travel desk can help with bespoke excursions to more or less anywhere in Goa
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Scuba diving
- Shopping / markets
- Well being
Children of all ages are welcome; extra beds or babycots can be provided; there is an extra nightly charge for children in extra beds. Those under 12 sleeping in their parent's bed only pay extra for breakfast and dinner.
Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
All rooms can fit an extra bed or babycot, but Soul and Little Moon have adjoining balconies so are especially good for families.