Sri Lanka's DIMINUTIVE SIZE belies its enormously varied landscapes and the multitude of experiences on offer; from climbing ancient rock fortresses, wildlife viewing in National Parks and unwinding on sweeping Indian Ocean beaches.
With all the colour and vibrancy of India but with a gentler pace and more manageable distances, Sri Lanka is perfect for anyone wanting to take in world-heritage sites, exotic beaches, vast temples, colonial splendour, leopard and elephant safaris, and breath-taking scenery. Our Sri Lanka itineraries are likely to include time in the Cultural Triangle – which includes Kandy’s Temple of the Tooth, Dambulla Caves, Sigiriya Rock fortress and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa – the lush, green hills of the Ceylon tea country, Tangalle’s warm Indian Ocean beaches and the UNESCO world heritage site of Galle Fort.
For all our tailor-made Sri Lankan honeymoon and holiday tours our carefully selected Sri Lankan drivers and guides will be on hand to ensure that you travel in comfort. Boutique accommodation is plentiful in Sri Lanka, ranging from restored colonial mansions to minimalist luxury resorts on palm tree-fringed beaches, canvas safari tents set in the dense jungles and forests of remote National Parks to tranquil bungalows set on stilts and spread across paddy fields. Here we mention just a few of our personal favourites...
THE S&A TO DO LIST
- The ‘Gathering’ from late August to October (onset of the dry season) at Minneriya National Park is the only place in the world to see wild elephants in groups of 100+ converging on the Minneriya Tank, an ancient reservoir
- Whale watching can be done year-round in Sri Lanka across three locations; Mirissa (Nov to April), Kalpitiya (also Nov to April – much quieter than Mirissa) and Trincomalee (May to October)
- Rent a surfboard and take to the water, Sri Lanka is emerging as a worldwide surfing hotspot!
Hidden away amid green hills at the heart of the island, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second city and undisputed cultural capital of the island, home to the Temple of the Tooth, the country’s most important religious shrine, and the Esala Perahera, its most exuberant festival. Here you can enjoy the relaxed elegance of Kandy House, a beautiful colonial style house with intimate corners and a riad-style inner courtyard. Despite being just twenty minutes from the historic city centure, you’re in the thick of nature here - a walkway through the jungle leads to the pool which overlooks a rice paddy. Explore Sri Lanka’s diverse cultural triangle from Water Garden Sigiriya designed by the renowned Sri Lanka architect, Channa Daswatte in tribute to the ancient water gardens that once occupied the area, with Sigiriya rock as the majestic backdrop. Nearby Vil Uyana is a peaceful retreat which lies in 23 acres of paddy fields. Here the emphasis is on open spaces and nature, the paddy and marsh dwellings are on stilts and split level and have a modern Thai / Balinese feel. Slightly removed to the north but still convenient to visit all the main cultural sites is the glamourous eco-resort Ulagalla, where raised log-cabin chalets with plunge pools are dotted around vast paddy fields and enclosed by jungle.
Sri Lanka’s hill country is a must-see for its spectacular scenery and lush tea plantations. The Ceylon Tea Trails is home to five plantation bungalows, set around Castlereagh reservoir in the heart of Tea Country. The smallest, Summerville has a cosy cottage feel and is perfect for exclusive use and like Castlereagh has fabulous lake views. Set up in the hills, Norwood is set close to the tea factory and has a large pool surrounded by roses and huge bamboo trees, whilst Tientsin’s stunning tiered gardens offer plenty of hidden places to sit and relax. Their latest addition Dunkeld Bungalow is poised high above Castlereagh Lake at 4,750 ft altitude with an infinity-edge swimming pool and awe inspiring panoramic views. Guests will have the opportunity to partake in activities including croquet on the lawn and hiking or mountain-biking the many trails winding through the hills of the working tea estate. Expect high teas and four-course dinners, and lots of old-fashioned and elegant touches throughout. For a more affordable but equally spoiling alternative, Teardrop Hotels have recently opened Camellia Hills which also overlooks Castlereagh reservoir.
Kahanda Kanda owner George Cooper has now opened KK Beach near Galle. The hotel boasts uber chic and contemporary style which is very much in keeping with the KK brand. Why House is another lovely option near Galle, a country house hotel with spacious suites and a huge pool, and just a five-minute drive to the gorgeous Dalawella Beach. For those that love to have a range of facilities close by and enjoy conviviality this is a great option. For more of a resort feel the nearby Cape Weligama is perched on top of a cliff top with sprawling views over the Indian Ocean. Further along the south coast The Last House near Tangalle is a beautiful villa-hotel located on a long swathe of sand, virtually devoid of people except for the odd fishermen. The house was designed by Geoffrey Bawa and its colourful, arty vibe is romantic and restful. Those seeking a luxurious resort stay should head to soak up the zen-like vibe at Amanwella situated on a breathtakingly beautiful palm-fringed beach near Tangalle. Being an Aman property, expect minimalist style with large, open-plan suites, high ceilings, infinity pools and an overall zen-like feel (the best rooms are the Ocean Suites where you have fabulous ocean views even from your bathroom). On the east coast of Sri Lanka, Uga Bay by Uga Escapes is the ultimate laidback retreat overlooking what is arguably one of Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beaches at Pasikuda. Uga Escape’s other east coast property Jungle Beach at Trincomalee incorporates surrounding jungle in to the hotel’s design to give a romantic treehouse style to guestrooms, which either face the beach, the lagoon or are fully immersed in the jungle.
Bougainvillea Retreat near Kandy is a serene home from home located within the grounds of the Victoria Golf & Country Resort with a one-acre garden and nature walks, treks, canoe rides and mountain bike rides on offer. Living Heritage Koslanda is another inspired choice for those seeking blissful seclusion - with just four rooms within 80 acres of grounds, privacy is almost guaranteed. Further south just outside of Galle on the banks of serene Koggala Lake, Tri is the perfect choice for those looking to escape the buzz of the south coast beaches and Galle town. With a spa, yoga and nutritious fusion food (plus a no kids under 12 policy), this private lakeside hotel focusses on wellness. Nearby in the hills above Koggala Lake is one of our all-time favourites Kahanda Kanda, a small boutique hotel run by charming owner George Cooper. Surrounded by a small tea plantation, this hotel is also firmly aimed at adults, with super stylish suites, friendly staff, and delicious homemade cuisine. Each of the suites are unique and beautifully designed. we loved the Peacock Suite for its space, lovely views, two outdoor showers and private garden. The pool faces Koggala Lake (where you can do boat trips) and there are two open pavilions with lots of comfy sofas and mountains of coffee table books. Once you’ve had enough tea and tranquility, visit nearby Galle to discover its restaurants, hidden trinket shops, and history as a fort during the 17th century.
Yala National Park boasts the highest density of Leopard in the world - there are estimated to be around 35 leopards – along with 400 wild elephants, as well as wild buffalo, musk deer, mongoose, pangolins, macaques and jackals. Yala is home to a variety of safari accommodation, from tented mobile camps Leopard Trails and Noel Rodrigo’s Leopard Safaris, to the more luxurious Chena Huts by Uga Escapes, 14 luxurious cabins all with private plunge pools. Those looking to go further off the beaten track should head to the remote wilderness and seldom visited Gal Oya National Park in the east of the country for a stay at Gal Oya Lodge. Gal Oya National Park boasts Sri Lanka's largest inland body of water, the Senanayake Samudraya Lake, meaning that wildlife safaris can be taken by boat rather than solely by jeep, which is unique for a Sri Lankan national park and means guests have the chance to witness Asian elephants swimming the lake. Guests can also spend time walking in the park and potentially meet the Veddas, Sri Lanka's aboriginal people, who live in the park. For a marine safari, base yourself at Casa Collection Mirissa, an intimate six suite boutique retreat on a beautiful stretch of sand. Mirissa Bay is famous for its marine activities and here boats depart in search of blue whales, dolphins and even killer whales which have been spotted off the Sri Lankan coast on their migratory routes. For an added dose of luxury, Casa Collection also own a 33ft fly-bridge yacht named Miss Elle, who can be chartered for sundowner cruises or whale watching voyages.
Built over 200 years ago in the traditional ‘Dutch warehouse’ colonial design, The Wallawwa is a boutique retreat nestled amongst acres of exotic tropical gardens. Close to Colombo’s airport, The Wallawwa offers the perfect beginning or end to any Sri Lankan trip - the legendary ‘rice and curry’ served in their in-house restaurant is worth the journey alone. Those looking for a base right in the heart of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo should head for the beautifully renovated heritage home Maniumpathy. In the UNESCO heritage site of Galle Fort the grande dame Amangalla is the perfect place to soak up the colonial splendour of bygone days (with the welcome addition of an excellent Ayurvedic spa). For something more contemporary, The Fort Bazaar is another of our favourites, sister property to The Wallawwa and with the same thoughtful design and excellent in-house restaurant.
LOOKING TO EXTEND YOUR TRIP?
Combine a cultural itinerary in Sri Lanka with time lazing on the white sand beaches of the Maldives – just a one hour direct flight from Colombo...