Sri Lanka is well known to have it all – wonderful tropical climate, interesting temples and cultural sites, fascinating history influenced by the European colons and its Asian neighbours, wildlife and great birding, luxuriant vegetation, tea plantations, botanical gardens, welcoming people and golden beaches with swaying palm trees. And I could continue…
It is a fabulous destination for couples, families, single adventurers and honeymooners alike however with so much to do and so much choice in terms of accommodation it can all become quite confusing!
So I spent a bit less than 2 weeks in this stunning country visiting a lot of properties and enjoying some great sightseeing and some of my favourite properties are as follows:
Ulagalla is one of my favourite properties in Sri Lanka. This restored old mansion is within an hour and a half ‘s drive of Sigiriya so it is a bit more off the beaten track than many other properties we used for Sigiriya however Ulagalla really makes up for this with stunning huge rooms (all with private plunge pool), manicured grounds with paddy fields, fabulous food (mostly from their own organic garden) and the sweetest staff I have ever met… The staff’s relaxed attitude is contagious. On my last day I was picked up by a lovely elderly chap with a huge smile and who is so obviously loving the contact with the guests who gave me a big handful of jasmine flowers he had just picked…Now this is the way every day should start!
The focus of this stylish eco-retreat is on the guests and making sure that the guests follow their own rhythm and truly relax which makes it a fantastic place to start a holiday…and with horse-riding, mountain biking, Anuradhapura just around the corner (30 min drive) and a lovely spa I could have easily spent 4 or 5 days there.
If you prefer to stay close to the sites of the Golden Triangle (Sirgiya, Pollonaruwa, Dambulla) then Vil Uyana would my first choice. Conveniently located 5 min drive from the Rock Fortress, Vil Uyana is a stylish property with most rooms on stilts overlooking the manmade wetland and paddy fields. Some of the rooms have plunge pools where you can cool off during the height of the day! The main area has an attractive lounge area with cushions where guests can relax, have a read whilst enjoying views on the wetland…and if you like to keep busy and enjoy a bit of pampering then you will no doubt love the gym and the spa. Meals at Vil Uyana are a treat and fine dining is what comes to mind when I think of the meals I have had there. There is a fantastic choice of a la carte dishes ranging from carefully selected dishes for children to dishes for the health conscious…
Kandy House is a small boutique property ideally located about 20 minutes drive from Kandy a charming town where you can walk around, visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic and enjoy a show of traditional Kandyan dance. Being a wallawwa (old mansion) Kandy House has the style, quirkiness and charm that only old buildings have and no modern building can recreate. Each room has been uniquely furnished and tastefully decorated so no two rooms are the same and most share a section of verandah.
I took the train to the Tea country and would recommend it to those who feel a bit adventurous. The two luxury carriages that we use are tacked on to the standard carriages and offers a comfortable and fun ride for the two and a half hours journey up to the tea country. After spending so much time in the car it also felt like a great relief to be use a different mode of transport! On arrival at Hatton train station I was met by my guide and taken to my Tea trails bungalow.
Tea Trails, the only Relais & Chateau property in Sri Lanka, comprises of 4 bungalows (Norwood, Tientsin, Summerville and Castlereagh) in the heart of the Tea Country about 1250m above sea level.
Although the colour scheme and style of each bungalow differ slightly they all offer exactly the same high standard of accommodation. The bungalows are small with a very intimate atmosphere and to maintain impeccable service each bungalow has its own manager, butler and chef. The bungalows ooze “old world” charm in the style of the old English tea planters’ houses with beautifully kept lawns and gardens, croquet sets, large living room with old books, antique maps, old wooden writing desks, cosy sofas and large fireplaces. The cosiness of the bungalows really comes to its own during the colder months when air temperature can go down to 2 to 3 degrees Celius. Those who feel active can visit the tea plantation and the tea factory and it is also possible to go walking and mountain biking in the area. A very popular activity is to walk from one Tea Trails bungalow to another, enjoy a long lunch at the bungalow and then enjoy a transfer back. Or vice versa you can be transferred to the Tea Trails bungalow of your choice, have a long lunch and then walk off lunch by walking back to your bungalow.
With all meals, afternoon tea and pre-dinner cocktails included in the rate, Tea trails also offers a fabulous culinary experience!
Galle’s fort and its rich history, antiques shops and laidback atmosphere has long put it on the map of the must see places in Sri Lanka. On the South West coast it is only a 3 hours drive from Colombo airport and often the last stop before flying home.
Amangalla sits within the ramparts of the famous fort and is therefore an ideal base for exploring Galle. Every inch of this imposing Dutch House oozes history and this heritage property has been restored with huge dedication and love to bring the building back to its former glory and grandeur…the fabulous attention to detail is what struck me at Amangalla - in the rooms and suites the 300 year old rich polished floorboards, fine antiques, ornate door knobs contrast beautifully with the crisp white bed linen and the modern standard of the bathrooms. The Baths (spa) at Amangalla offer a great range of massages and treatments including Ayurvedic rituals making it a true haven to escape to after a hot day in Galle.
This blog is only a snapshot of a few of the exceptional properties that can booked in Sri Lanka however there are many others, please do call 01905 731 373 to discuss your Sri Lanka holiday. Sri Lanka can also easily be combined with the Maldives and other destinations…