Available by the room or to book as a whole, Kahani Paradise is an oasis of tranquillity perched on a hilltop above hippie haven, Paradise Beach, in Karnataka’s coastal town of Gokarna. Replete with bespoke decor, sprawling grounds and beautiful views, it offers the top-notch service of a boutique hotel with the warmth and comfort of a private villa.
A “labour of love” is how Anthony Bellm describes his passion project, Kahani Paradise, a boutique property in the coastal town of Gokarna in Karnataka. Bellm and his family, who are based in the UK, bought the land in 2005 and began constructing the expansive villa in 2014. “It started as a home and continues to be a home for our family,” he says of its origins, though it is now also available to book either as a whole or by the room.
As evidenced in part by its façade, Kahani Paradise is both luxurious and understated. Its colonnaded, pan-Asian architecture borrows loosely from Keralan, southern Indian and Thai styles. The loving tribute to India continues indoors, with artful arches, hints of jaali work and several objects’ d’art, sculptures and other antiques sourced from across the country, punctuating the décor.
Imposing antique doors guard each of its six, airy guest rooms, which offer stunning views of the surrounding greenery and the sea. “Every corner, every little piece of the house is completely bespoke and designed for our family. And that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular as a hotel, because people arrive here and they feel at home. Everything is so well-considered and built to the highest European standards in terms of the material we have used and how everything works,” explains Bellm.
What sets Kahani Paradise apart from a regular homestay is that it marries the exclusivity and creature comforts of a boutique luxury hotel with the warmth of a home. The property comes fully staffed, many of whom are locals. An in-house chef will treat you to local cuisine, but will also whip up Italian, Mediterranean, Thai or Sri Lankan should you find yourself in the mood. The property may be a short distance from Paradise Beach, one of the quieter of Gokarna’s beaches, but it might as well be miles away from the town altogether. Spread across 20 acres, the grounds warrant their own map.
Besides the main villa, there are three pavilions, one of which houses a spa; an infinity pool; a temple; a farmhouse; a cricket pitch (which doubles as a helipad); a tennis court; and a meditation space. The lush landscaped gardens are as well-considered as the house itself. Filled with as many as 3,500 varieties of flora, they’re a tribute to the villa’s location in the Western Ghats, one of the most biodiverse places in the world. The best way to take it all in is on a stroll with a local guide. There’s also a vintage jeep and Enfield motorbikes to amuse yourself with.
A town that’s largely known for its temples and mythological significance may seem like an odd location for a luxury property such as Kahani Paradise. Every year millions of devotees flock to its Mahabaleshwar Temple, which is dedicated to Shiva. Over the last decade, several small homestays and hostels have sprung up to cater to the newer crowd of tourists, mostly foreign backpackers and Indians looking for a quieter alternative to Goa’s crowded beaches. “We’re trendsetters. Gokarna is a wonderful part of our Kahaani but we are in our own microcosm,” asserts Bellm, who is of the opinion that Karnataka is primed for luxury travel and an alternative to more popular locations such as Kerala and Goa. “Let’s look at Hampi for example. It does require private players to come push again, but you’ll see the big players arriving in time.”
The coronavirus pandemic might have also bestowed an unexpected silver lining on the boutique property. While pre-COVID, the clientele would be split almost evenly between Indian and international travellers, over the past year, Kahani Paradise has welcomed travellers from major metros such as Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. “We’ve never been so busy. When you’re in lockdown, you realise there are so many gems at your front door. We are perfectly positioned next to Bengaluru and people are coming in flocks and they’re loving it,” says Bellm.
Getting there: The closest airport is Dabolim Airport in Goa. Gokarna is also accessible by road from Mumbai, Goa and Bengaluru.