A boutique beachside resort is ideal for exploring the historical and epicurean offerings of southern Goa
Thanks to its hippy vibe, Goa is famous among gap-year students and thrillseekers who come for the wild club scene and beach parties. But visitors of a calmer mindset can rest easy – and peacefully – knowing such antics are largely confined to the north.
Eager to wiggle toes in the famous Goan sand, Director made a beeline for the Leela Goa, which occupies 72 acres of unspoilt, club-free southern coastline. A member of the prestigious Preferred Hotels and Resorts Legend Collection, which consists of carefully curated independent properties, the Leela is spectacularly picturesque thanks to its lily-studded lagoon – onto which the resort’s terraced rooms face – pristine beach just a stone’s throw away and abundance of tropical plant life.
The Portuguese occupation of Goa in the 1500s left a lasting impression on the state, and its influences remain plentiful today. The Leela’s terracotta-pink guest houses – nestled between lush coconut groves and blossoming flora and the striking blue, purple and yellow painted houses in the villages further inland – would look equally at home in Lisbon (an unwritten rule of the Portuguese occupation was that no private house or building could be painted white – only churches enjoyed this privilege).
There is plenty of culture to absorb outside the parameters of the resort too, and history aficionados would do well to explore the nearby Old Goa. Only 90 minutes by car, fascinating sites such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus, the 16th-century Catholic church that holds the tomb of St Francis Xavier, and the disused Church of Our Lady of the Mount, are both must-sees. From the vantage point of the latter, you can see miles and miles of dense foliage that was once a bustling metropolis, but which, after outbreaks of cholera and malaria led to it being abandoned in the 1600s, is now ruled by nature.
Sahakari Spice Farm in Ponda is essential for cookery buffs: see where the countless fruits, spices and herbs that play an essential role in Indian cuisine are cultivated and harvested, before enjoying a buffet of sweet rice, fried fish, coconut shrimp curry and fresh bread in the bustling ‘food court’ – little more than wooden benches and tables heaving with domestic tourists and locals.
While you can venture further afield, Director spent the remainder of the stay soaking up the tropical sun and refuelling at the Leela’s six restaurants and bars, safe in the knowledge that a 12-hole golf course, Ayurvedic spa and miles of beach were on hand to explore if desired.
The Leela Goa gallery (click to enlarge)
Other Preferred Hotels resorts
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