Looking for a cute place to stay in Goa? Our local Goa expert, Jules, recently stayed at the very cool Olaulim Backyards in North Goa. Here’s what to expect if you want to stay.
Jules has started this Staycation Series to bring some love to businesses around the state. She’ll be taking some staycations in both North and South Goa to highlight the cool, quirky, and sometimes slightly secret options Goa is lucky to have.
I am attempting to keep the beauty and excitement of travel alive whilst still realising the danger of it during the Covid-19 Pandemic. There are different rules all over the world to do with travel restrictions and all countries and places should be checked before you decide to travel, if you do. India has banned all International flights since March 2020 which is a big (and unfortunately necessary) blow for a lot of businesses who depend on foreign tourism.
Here in Goa, life is slowly trying to get back to ‘normal’ as businesses and people try to make the most of the monsoon season and reach out to the main crowd of domestic tourists. I want to help people realise the importance of supporting your local communities, businesses, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and boutiques during this difficult time. This doesn’t mean you need to travel far and wide to find them, they could be on your doorstep, down the road or a little drive away.
** Please note that all staycations should be taken responsibly. Wear your mask, sanitise your hands, and don’t go if you are feeling unwell.
Checking into Olaulim Backyards: A Jungle Paradise
Olaulim Backyards, a jungle paradise, has been up and running for over 10 years now. It is run by the most lovely couple, Pirkko from Finland and Savio from Goa. Their passion for the place, the sleepy village of Olaulim and their crazy animals (more on this later) is apparent as soon as you step on to the property. It literally is a hidden gem in North Goa with no signboard outside just a strange ‘Beware’ sign on the gate that will help you know you have arrived at your destination.
Rachel loved this place and it was one of the first places she wrote about when starting her blog. Both Savio and Pirkko knew Rachel and Ben very well, even giving them their famous cat, Kitkat!
Olaulim, is in what I would like to call the ‘country side’ of Goa. It’s on the opposite side of the highway to the beach and is a very green and tranquil village with not much going on at all. There are no nightclubs, no supermarkets, no late night bars and very few restaurants. This part of Goa is not meant for the typical party Goa tourist but for the tourist or resident who loves nature, enjoys peace and quiet and is in need of actual R&R. Olaulim Backyards is the perfect place for this. With only 5 rooms available on the very large property, they have chosen quality over quantity. Each room is different and is named after a different type of bird species which can be spotted on their property if you are lucky. All rooms are large wooden huts with outdoor bathrooms and the option of doubles, triples or quadruples. Two rooms are located at the same level as the bar and dining area and 3 are located a bit further up at the back of the property up some steep steps. Myself and my friend Nishtha, stayed in one of these which had a beautiful view of the glorious green jungle below. Don’t expect a 5 star luxury stay, expect nature and comfort and homely feels. Rooms don’t have air conditioning, but the fan was very sufficient when I stayed in the hot month of April.
It is open throughout the year usually with a few weeks or a month of closure for maintenance or a break. Choosing to stay during monsoon amongst the non-stop rains and luscious green grass would most definitely be amazing!
When you first enter the property you will see their very beautiful and very blue swimming pool neatly placed under the palms and between their dining area, chill area and the backwater in front of their property. You will then also realise why they have a sign telling you to ‘Beware Dog/Donkey’ as their resident Donkey, Mantra, is likely to be grazing by the bar or taking a little drink from the pool. You genuinely should be a little bit aware of the donkey as he has been known to be interested in humans and want to give them a little love bite. They also have a beautiful shiny brown horse, a goat and 4 or 5 dogs.
Behind the pool is the backwaters which separates Olaulim Backyards from the fields and neighbours across the way. When sitting in the pool the silence of the place is pretty unbelievable especially when you live on the other side of the highway in the thick of it, like me!
Breakfast is included in your room rate and is served in the cute dining area by the pool. They have communal benches where everyone can mingle and serve themselves some of the homegrown fruit, homemade juices and delicious eggs they have to offer. The pineapple, jamun, melon, papaya, guava and mangos are all grown on the property and the freshly made cashew fruit and bimbli juice I tasted, were delicious.
They have a honesty bar just near the pool which is stocked with beer, wine and most spirits. You can write down what you drank and pay for it later. If there is a specific drink you want then you can let them know and they will source it for you. In the months of April and May they may have some delicious Urrak which is served with Limca, salt and chilli. A delicacy in Goa!
For lunch and dinner they have a new addition which is the Backyard Cafe by Nikita. This is located just between the main entrance of Olaulim Backyards and the little gate you use to enter. I had the most delicious iced coffee and a very refreshing kokum spritzer. The mushroom burger was amazing and the specials – falafel with pesto hummus – change weekly. The cafe is for anyone and not just guests at Olaulim Backyards so you will be likely to see lots of residents who live locally popping by.
There are lots of options for cool activities here. Things you don’t usually get to do living or staying in Goa.
I think the most exciting activity is the kayaking which can be done on the backwaters behind the property. It is a large body of water which goes around the property and into a nice big open space. There are a few fishermen with fishing nets so these need to be avoided but the views and the peace and quiet are amazing. You can kayak and see both sunrise and sunset which are the best times to beat the heat. For sunrise we were out in the kayak by 6:30am ready to see the big pink ball of fire in the sky. It is definitely the most beautiful and satisfying way to start the day, though you may need a little nap afterwards like me. They also have a rowing boat and a surfboard that can be used as a paddle board.
You can swim both in the pool and the lake. I would say lake swimming is for adventurous people unlike myself who is terrified if anything touches my leg. However, for others it may be the refreshing dip you have been waiting for. My sunrise kayak session meant the water in the lake was hot, like really hot, and could have easily been a jacuzzi if bubbles were added! The pool was the cool off that was most definitely needed in the heat of April.
They have quite a few bicycles available for guests to take out and explore the local village. It is definitely worth taking one out and riding to the neighbouring villages of Aldona and Nachinola to see their local churches, beautiful houses and sleepy streets.
Pirkko, who honestly knows everything about all the plants, flowers and area surrounding Olaulim Backyards, if available can take you on a very cute walk around the village and neighbouring houses. Along the way there are beautiful flowers, lots of vegetables being harvested and dried out in the sun (see chillies below) and the views and experience of proper Goan village life. All the neighbours know Pirkko and Savio and it is very obvious they are all very fond of them and what they done with Olaulim Backyards.
Chill and Chat
Take some time to chill. Take a seat on the swing, the sunbeds or the lounging chairs and immerse yourself in the peace and quiet. Read a book, play some of the board games and if you feel in the mood for it, meet the other guests. With only 5 rooms, this place can be as intimate or secluded as you want it to be. The communal bar and dining area is perfect for getting to know the stories of other guests and the very interesting story of Pirkko and Savio and their journey to where they are now. I am still amazed and very jealous to know, Pirkko speaks 10 languages and Savio speaks 5!
How to Book
You won’t find Olaulim Backyards on any third party sites and so the best place to book is directly through their website which can be found here.
Also check out their instagram @olaulimbackyards which has more pictures and updates of their jungle life!
- Take extra mosquito spray and be prepared for the annoying creatures to come out at dusk and dawn – best to keep your room doors shut when possible.
- Don’t stay here if you are scared of nature and wildlife. You don’t have to be a huge fan, I am a born and bred city girl, but you need to be accepting of frogs in the bathroom, an occasional spider and a few noises out in the wild at night time.
- Speak to Savio and Pirkko about their lives, about the village, their kids and about the future of Goa. They really make the homestay feel like home!
- Get up for sunrise! It is difficult but it is so so rewarding!