For a while now, Goa regulars have been eschewing the chain hotels, fancy as they are, in favour of boutique villas, and recent entrants like Postcard Hotels have put them back in the limelight. It&rsquos easy to see why. If you&rsquore a bunch of friends, or two couples or three, it provides privacy and intimacy in a space you can call your own, with bedrooms to withdraw into and convivial common&mdashyet exclusive&mdashspaces to chill out in. Basically, a home away from home. There&rsquos flexibility in terms of where and what to eat. Goa&rsquos bustling bar and restaurant scene beckons. You can order in. You can cook your own food or have someone cook it for you. Hotel food, in comparison, is overpriced and limited in choice. You can definitely BYOB to the party. Very likely, you&rsquoll have a private pool. Each villa is unique and, therefore, memorable, unlike a hotel room, however nice. What&rsquos not to like
But there are villas and villas. And then there is Vianaar Escapes, which currently offers a clutch of fully-furnished options in two real estate developments, La Maroma and La Viola in Vagator and Anjuna, respectively (going forward, there will be more). I checked into one of their breathtakingly plush Vagator villas recently, arriving at the magical hour of dusk. Twinkle, the sprightly guest relations manager, was at hand to settle me in.
Vianaar has been in the real estate business in Goa for around a decade now, the brainchild of brother-sister duo Varun and Naina Nagpal. Varun looks after the business side of things, while Naina is an architect and the creative force behind the gorgeous holiday homes they specialise in. While the Delhi real estate market seems to have tanked, Goa is just warming up. This is where the action and the opportunity is now.
That evening, I dined by candlelight in the garden of an old Portuguese house at Sublime, with Varun and his wife Caroline. Over their bestselling dynamite prawns, Varun laid out the rules of the game for me. Houses thrive best when they are lived in. Vianaar has built over 500 of them in Goa so far. Since these are holiday homes, they&rsquore shut most of the time. A way to ensure they are filled with life and laughter for more than a few days a year is to rent them out to holidayers. And, of course, make money for their owners and for Vianaar in the process. Even on the consumer side, once you divvy up the rental between six people, it seems like a fair deal, if not exactly a steal. There&rsquos an estate manager to ensure everything runs smoothly. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a win-win situation all around.
I found no evidence of scrimping in the creation of the villa or the experience either. It&rsquos all top-notch stuff. Think Villeroy & Boch sanitary fittings, GU aluminium sliding windows, Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker, Bosch refrigerator, Nespresso machine, paraben-free Neroli toiletries, and so on. There&rsquos housekeeping, and a sumptuous complimentary breakfast. The location of the villas too is not incidental&mdashthe area is peaceful but not comdead, buzzing but not frenetic.
Vianaar also curates special experiences for its guests. One of them is a traditional Goan meal, cooked by the in-house chef in your own villa. I was treated to a lavish spread consisting of chicken xacuti, rava prawns, mackerel fry, bhaaji, raita, and a prawn curry to boot. I also booked a massage through them and Natalie, with magic healing hands, came from nearby Siolim to administer some tough love shiatsu. Her little lecture on work-life balance was a welcome bonus.
But mostly I enjoyed being by myself, lording over my villa. Sunlight poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, bouncing off the shiny furniture, and lightened my being. In the morning, I took an invigorating walk over a hill behind the property down to Ozran Beach (also known as Little Vagator), well loved for its secluded setting and sunsets to die for. I appreciated the unhurried pace, even if the respite was temporary. Time should have no meaning in a place so beautiful. And that&rsquos what un-hotels are for.
LOCATION Vagator, Goa. Approx. 45km/1.5hrs from Dabolim Airport
ACCOMMODATION 12 to 15 villas across La Viola and La Maroma (6 guests per villa)