Too often overlooked, Sri Lanka is slowly putting itself back on the map with each visitor that is charmed by its people, history, landscape, wildlife, and wonder. This small island off the southern coast of India is picking up the pieces from the 2004 Tsunami and a long civil war – both of which have kept visitors at bay – but not for long! After my recent visit in May, I can confidently say that my time in Sri Lanka is my most cherished travel experience to date!
I began my journey with a four hour drive from Colombo bringing me to the Heritance Kandalama. Perched on a mountainside, this eco-friendly hotel’s location and exposed rock interior made me feel like I was in a secret hideaway within the mountain itself! I found it was the perfect launching pad to experience local excursions such as an elephant ride through the surrounding jungle and an action-packed excursion to Sigiriya. The 1,002 steps to the top of Sigiriya’s 5th century rock fortress offered sweeping views of the surrounding countryside – I promise the views are well worth the sweat and guaranteed sore muscles!
We continued to the cultural capital of Kandy, where shopaholics (including myself!) delighted in the selection of precious gems, particularly sapphires. We journeyed on through a maze of rolling green hills teeming with tea trees and dotted with tea pickers until we arrived at the absolutely stunning Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton’s hill country. Each of the four bungalow sanctuaries is equipped with a private butler, chef, and a magnificent staff that make you feel at home. My tour of a local tea factory led by a tea planter (included for all visitors) truly brought the hills to life. Other activities in the region include bike and walking trails, rafting, and for the more active, a trek to Adams Peak, regarded as the holiest mountain in Sri Lanka. But despite all of the exciting excursions, what I will remember the most was high tea at my bungalow (Norwood), complete with a silver platter of delicious scones covered in jam and cream, cakes, petite sandwiches, and of course plenty of tea! Ceylon Tea Trails should be included on everyone’s Sri Lanka itinerary!
As I neared the final days of my visit, I stayed at both the Amanwella in Tangalle followed by the Amangalla in Galle – both properties are spectacular in their own way which makes for a perfect combination. The Amanwella is a chic, modern retreat located on one of the worlds most unspoiled beaches. Its open design blends inside and outside, allowing the ocean breeze to sweep across you wherever you may be. Just a 2.5 hour drive brings you to the charming Amangalla, a historic landmark located within the heart of the Galle fort. The Dutch Colonial interior brings you back in time and sets the mood for your entire experience. Another plus to the Amangalla? Complimentary use of their hydrotherapy spa room complete with a sauna, steam room, warm bath, and cold bath. The hotel also offers programs in Ayurveda and offers daily complimentary yoga classes; a true escape for the mind, body, and soul.
And for wildlife lovers, Sri Lanka offers a wide-range of conservation efforts (elephants and cheetahs to name a couple) but my time at the Turtle Conservation Project in Rekawa hit home with me. They play a major role in protecting five of the world’s seven species of marine turtles and I even had the opportunity to hold a sea turtle, hatched just the day before!
Sri Lanka will undoubtedly touch your heart and open your mind as it did mine. Contact me for more details on a customized trip to Sri Lanka!