I read the two recent "On the road" columns about Goa but you did not recommend any places to stay. I am planning a weekend in the state next month and I like the look of north Goa, as it seems less developed than the south. However, although I want to stay near the beach, I want to avoid grungy, backpacker-type places. Is there anywhere small, clean and quiet that you can recommend?
There are parts of both south and north Goa that have escaped relentless development and parts that have become very crowded. In north Goa, Calangute and Baga have expanded hugely in the past 15 years and are not the places to head to if you want to get away from it all. Partly thanks to the recent construction of a fixed road bridge, the coastal belt north of the Chapora river has been increasingly developed over the past decade and even Arambol in the far north now has a long strip packed with hundreds of small hotels. The two places which seem to have escaped overdevelopment, partly thanks to their rocky geography, are the coastal villages of Vagator and Chapora.
Roads in Vagator have been freshly asphalted and flushing lavatories are now the norm, but the place retains a spaced-out sleepiness. There are no beggars or large, ugly hotels here, and, with little through traffic, cows wander the streets and vendors sit outside their shops without hassling you to buy. There are still only a handful of small cafes and restaurants and Ayurvedic massage is carried out in makeshift tents; clifftop restaurants are lit by candlelight and you can rent a scooter for $4 a day. The beach is located below Chapora Fort and is in a pretty bay backed by cliffs and coconut trees; there are a couple of low-key restaurants on the beach itself. Best of all, however, is the fact that Vagator now has a small-ultra-modern boutique hotel, Casa Vagator (www.casaboutiquehotels.com; 0091 832 241 0962). It's an exquisitely designed, eight-room property owned by a businesswoman from Delhi: the same company now has several out-of-the-way properties across Goa. The Vagator hotel is unobtrusively positioned in a small valley between the beach and the village, bordered by forest and the landscaped cliff edge. The large rooms have a Balinese feel, with sumptuous beds, designer sofas and natural slate bathrooms. The pool and outdoor lounging areas are ideal to hang out in. The only possible threat to your peace will be the sound of music from the nearby Nine Bar; however, this is only audible between 6pm and 10pm. Double rooms cost from $128 (Dh470) per night, including tax and breakfast.
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