Before I'd even arrived at our first hotel in Sri Lanka I had three words playing through my mind that stuck with me all the way to the end – green, lush and exotic.
I’d never seen so many palm trees in my life. The next week would also include caves, temples, tea plantations, a safari and beaches. All in a country the size of Tassie!
Our introduction to Sri Lanka began at The Wallawwa, a secluded retreat surrounded by lush foliage and perfectly manicured gardens. It’s certainly not your typical airport hotel, but a perfect start to the trip.
The first morning we departed for Anuradhapura via Dambulla Cave Temples, one of the country’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. The same day we enjoyed a delicious Sri Lankan lunch at Kalundewa Retreat, a remote property for those wanting relaxation in the country while still having historic sightseeing within reach.
After a big first day we reached the first Uga Escapes property of the trip – Ulagalla. The serenity at this eco resort – private plunge pools, bicycles to ride and many other activities – only made us wish we had longer.
The first of many Sri Lankan dinners together was by the infinity pool in the balmy air as a storm lingered. Our host was the property’s General Manager, Gitanjali, one of only a handful of female GMs in Sri Lanka (a statistic that will no doubt change with time).
Our trip continued with a visit to Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, before heading on to Kandy – a charming city where you can easily fill a day or two. Aside from Kandy’s Temple of the Sacred Tooth, you can take a cooking class in an old manor or enjoy morning walks in the nearby forest. We stayed just outside the city at The Kandy House and there are simply no words to describe this remarkable property.
We then travelled by train, riding comfortably in second class to Dickoya, where we transferred to the Relais & Chateaux Resort, Tea Trails. Each of the bungalows here are mesmerising, all so very different while tying in with the concept of the varied landscapes. We took an afternoon plantation walk and tea factory tour before enjoying the serenity of the countryside.
Next morning we boarded a private charter flight, taking off on water in tea country but landing in the jungle less than an hour later. It’s the only way to ease travel times, particularly when incorporating the east coast!
In our final days we searched for leopards on safari, ate at a local restaurant (an experience we were all craving and which didn’t disappoint), visited Galle, stayed at Cape Weligama (a luxurious resort perched high on the cliff tops) and Chena Huts by Uga.
Sri Lanka’s scenery, diversity, incredible food, the calmness without the tourists (yet!) and the beautiful, curious faces we passed through villages still play vividly in my mind. For those that have mastered the challenges of Asia but aren’t quite ready for India, Sri Lanka is the perfect stepping stone.
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