Situated on the whimsical Divar Island in Goa, Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat is a stellar example of the state’s growing popularity as a wellness destination. By Adila Matra
I land in Goa for an unconventional holiday—no sand, no seafood, no parties. Instead, I am whisked off to an obscure island, for a weekend of wellness and luxury. As I board the ferry from Old Goa, I spot the Divar Island at a distance. Home to around 4,000 dwellers, the island lies on the banks of the serene River Mandovi, and is largely unexplored. Everyone knows everyone here, I am told.
Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat is the only five-star property on Divar Island, and offers Ayurvedic aids, Naturopathy, and yoga sessions under one roof. There are 57 rooms and 28 luxurious therapy rooms here. As the car drops me off at the imposing gate of the property, I come to terms with the weekend that is ahead of me—yoga and meditation every day, vegetarian meals, no smoking, and no alcohol. A club car takes me through long winding lanes dotted with modest Portuguese-style villas, mud huts, and gurgling streams. I check into a villa with a Superior Room, which opens to a vast field and the shimmering river.
The day here begins with a yoga session by the river at sunrise. As I drag my lethargic self out of bed and step out of my purple villa, I see energetic men and women making their way to the waterfront, chatting and exchanging pleasantries. By the end of the session, I, like my counterparts, am ready to take on the day.
Breakfast is served by the river, at Manos, one of the four dining venues at the resort. I climb up to the deck of the restaurant and notice the generous use of wood and the terracotta tile roof. It is open on all sides, letting a light breeze in. Thanks to the early morning yoga session, I am famished, and help myself to copious servings of their gluten-free, vegan dishes—idli, utappam, Goan breads, poha, and so on.
A heavy breakfast warrants a walk, so I decide to explore the property. I pass a jogging track and a medicinal garden. There’s also a reflexology track for those battling arthritis and central nervous system disorders. Above all, I am impressed by the silence, interrupted only by the babble of the Mandovi, the rustle of palm leaves, and the occasional call of a bird. Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat is a world away from the cacophony of mainland Goa.
The doctor’s consultation at the resort determines your dominant biological energy according to Ayurveda—vata, pitta, or dosha. The property chalks out treatments and diets for every guest based on the category their body falls into. Since my body energy leans more towards vata, I am prescribed a kizhi massage and a naturopathic mud bath. The kizhi massage is hypnotic—satchels of hot oil and herbs are used to relieve pain and stress, and the mud bath leaves my body supple and glowing.
For lunch, I head to Amboi, the poolside restaurant. Rice, bajra roti, beans poriyal, and raw banana kodhel—a Goan delicacy made from plantain and coconut—line the buffet table. For dessert, I pick two slices of Goan sweet dodol, made from coconut milk and palm jaggery. The meditation room at Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat is echoing with chants of ‘Om’ when I walk in. I attend the half-hour session, by the end of which I feel as light as a cloud. As evening gives way to night, the moon casts fractured shadows of palm trees, which seem to be in deep slumber. The guests too have turned in for the day. And I find myself alone by the Mandovi, looking forward to yet another day of wellness at Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat.
Mercure Goa Devaaya Retreat is located on the Divar Island, which is a five-minute ferry ride from Old Goa. Goa International Airport is well-connected with the major Indian and international cities, and is 26 km from Old Goa.
Divar Island, Goa
Starts from INR 11,000. Book here.
Divar Island enjoys good weather between February to April, and October to December.
Wellness getaways, nature walks, and slow holidays.
Divar Island is home to many ancient churches such as the 200-year-old Our Lady of Piety Church and São Matias Church. Drop by the quaint bakeries on the island, and stock up on coconut macaroons and Bebinca.