Goa: A refined take on the hippie hangout

It has long been favoured by hedonists, but now the partygoers have grown up – and they're heading north, says Alison Smith

Birds of prey circle in the sky above a quiet stretch of beach where turtles nest. Below, under a canvas canopy with gold tassels, a handful of guests have left their luxury tents to lounge over breakfast on oversized flouro cushions amid spherical floor lights on decking painted in perfectly pitched blue. I am in Paros, the latest French-run boutique resort from Amarya. This is Goa for well-heeled hippies and aesthetes who delight in a well-chosen textile or objet d'art – no piles of rubbish or comatose dreadheads in sight.

Paros marks the start of a vast, continuous stretch of beaches in North Goa: Morjim, Ashvem and Mandrem. These have long been enjoyed by nature-lovers who want to get close to the elements and far from the hard-drinking hordes and package tourists at Baga and Calangute to the south. Development has trickled in since the bridge over the Chapora River at Siolim was built in 2002. However, in a recent surge, planning restrictions and lack of infrastructure are being overcome to capitalise on the growing numbers of visitors who want to explore the coastline north of the tourist masses.

The good news is, there has never been a greater choice of places to stay for people who love the simplicity of shack life, but don't want to rough it. I munch superfood salads in the grounds of Leela Cottages among wooden statues of Indian deities; enjoy a proliferation of plug sockets in a spacious thatched dome at Yab Yum; and meet friends on the veranda of their delightful bamboo-fronted hut at Little Palm Grove.

Those with a bit more to spend can find pure luxury with a sense of place. After wading across a saltwater creek, I stumble upon Elsewhere, the ancestral holiday home of a Mumbai-based fashion photographer, which he rents out to paying guests. And I hear tales of the design-led loft suites with cascading plunge pools at Kaju Varo.

Central to any laid-back bon viveur's experience of Ashvem is La Plage restaurant, where you can sit at a table, sink your toes into the sand and enjoy tender seared tuna and wasabi mash for under a fiver. A brief wander down the beach takes me to Jade Jagger's jewellery and beachwear boutique, where according to the sun-dazed, plummy shop assistant, everything without a price tag costs "um … about four thousand" (around £40). Behind the beach, Nana Ki peddles a Parisian take on Indian textiles and leather, while Bebel Boutique stocks glitzy numbers by Indian designers.

The decline of the rupee, and sheer choice of places to stay and eat, means you can live well on a modest budget here, but prices are rising. This is driven in part by conspicuous consumers from Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, who – judging by the reviews on TripAdvisor – are less tolerant of power cuts and insects in a luxury tent than European visitors. These savvy, well-travelled Indians are a key target market for two new Ibiza-style beach clubs that have sprung up this season. As Bardo prepares to launch, day beds are being rolled out on to the decking around the contemporary pools and white wicker pod chairs are hung from their hooks. Pretty PR girls take to the sands in the afternoon to hype its opening club night. A few plots down, the 30,000sq ft Sunset Ashram beach club has just opened with "a performance stage, VIP cabanas … and parties that rage after 10pm". It's hard not to have a great time in Morjim-Ashvem-Mandrem, and those who run the resorts and restaurants seem to enjoy the back-to-nature appeal just as much as the visitors. But in the drive to bring more comfort and higher returns, changes are inevitable. More permanent structures are being built, with steel posts and concrete cropping up alongside the grass, bamboo and clay.

A visit to Vagator, the first beach stop south over the bridge, gives a glimpse of what could be in store up north. As we approach the cliffs, corrugated panels are being erected around the huge site of the Sunburn dance music festival. The descent to Vagator beach used to be hazardous – I once twisted my ankle here on the way down. But this season, you can make a grand entrance down the steps of Chronicle – a multi-level, open-air-style bar hewn from the rock face.

As we leave the compound for the beach, a seller approaches. He shows his etchings with flaps that flip up to reveal scenes from the Kama Sutra. My friend states defensively that he doesn't want a sales pitch. "Please – whether you buy is your luck and my luck – why would I push you?" says the man, and he smiles a beatific smile that shows joyful Hindu fatalism towards money, luck and life, that so many Westerners in India have tried to embrace. It's the first time in two weeks that I have encountered it. He pulls a vial of scented oil from a little silk pouch and rubs some on my forearm. "Please, now – time to feel good."

Perfect for the sophisticated hippy in everyone Perfect for the sophisticated hippy in everyone

Travel essentials

Getting there

Fly direct to Goa from Gatwick and Manchester on Monarch (08719 40 50 40; monarch.co.uk) or Thomson (0844 871 0878; thomson.co.uk). Connecting flights from the UK are available on a wide range or airlines, such as Qatar Airways (0844 846 8380; qatarairways.com) via Doha and Air India (020-8560 9996; airindia.com) or Jet Airways (0808 101 1199; jetairways.com) via Mumbai.

British passport-holders require a visa to visit India; they cost £92.20 for a tourist (0905 757 0045; in.vfsglobal.co.uk).

Staying there

Paros, Morjim (00 91 7875224039; parosgoa.com). Tents from R7,500 (£75).

Leela Cottages, Ashvem (00 91 9326 103 486; leelacottage.com). Cottages from R4,500 (£45).

Yab Yum, Ashvem (yabyumresorts.com). Domes start at R4,200 (£42).

Little Palm Grove, Ashvem (00 91 96 57 06 30 46; littlepalmgrove.com). Cottages from €100 (£83).

Kaju Varo, Ashvem (00 91 90 11 07 11 911; shunyachi.com). Suites from US$100 (£63).

Elsewhere, near Ashvem (00 91 99 23 58 77 13; aseascape.com). Tents from £265 per week.

More information

whatsupgoa.com

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London