However, it offers an eclectic combination, from rustic and simple lodges with no electricity, lit only by hurricane lamps, such as the Mud House, beautiful colonial houses on the tea plantations, gorgeous, characterful boutique hotels and houses around Galle, to five-star luxury hotels and over-water bungalows situated in forests! Then there are rustic, tented camps for viewing wildlife in Yala National Park – there is so much on offer! The country can be broadly broken into these regions:
The English and Scottish Planters who created a little bit of England in Ceylon’s up-country have long gone but their legacy of meticulously managed tea gardens and the good planter’s life is alive and well; there are impeccably restored British colonial-era bungalows with high ceilings, polished floors, elegant pillared veranda’s designed for tea-sipping, and swimming pools in the garden to savour the magical tea valley views. Nestled in the hills of the Bogawantala region, one can walk through the plantations; learn about tea-making, making it perfect for either a couple or families and friends.
Visit the 17th century Dutch fort, a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site and the beautiful beaches around it that are dotted with luxurious villas and classy boutique hotels. Stay in a country house with spacious living areas and English tropical gardens, or in a perfect colonial property set on a narrow street where auto-rickshaws and cycles vie with the occasional linen-upholstered Ambassador. Experience a home that once belonged to a Scottish spice merchant or a charming hilltop house carefully restored and stylishly designed by lifestyle guru Geoffrey Bawa.
Palm-fringed beaches, snorkelling reefs, thriving fishing villages, turtle hatching grounds, whale migrations and beachside eateries all contribute to making Sri Lanka the best address in the Indian Ocean. The options are endless here. Stay in beautiful suites on a palm-shaded hillside overlooking a secluded sandy beach, in a striking villa opening directly onto one of the Serendip Riviera’s most unspoilt beaches, or in a highly romantic villa offering spectacular ocean views from the terrace and trips to nearby temples and fishing villages. The villas come with charming courtyards, an emerald pool amongst frangipani trees and pampering staff, making them elegant but informal.
The triangle of land between Anaradnaphura, Polonaruwa and Dambulla is Sri Lanka’s cultural heartland. Temples, pagodas, sacred bo trees and statue maidens’, or squares, make this an irresistible destination. Stay in a privately-owned nature reserve with luxury dwellings, plunge-pools and butler service, or in a boutique hotel surrounded by naturally landscaped gardens offering uninterrupted views of UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Sri Lanka, famous for having the highest density of leopards in the world and the largest elephant gathering, is a special place for viewing wildlife. Staying in the island’s main national parks will give you a unique experience in the comfort of customised tents, with queen-sized beds, toilets and hot showers.
Dine under the stars or on the bank of the river and enjoy a romantic al fresco candlelight dining experience in the middle of the jungle. Spend the night in the heart of the National Park in the midst of wildlife, gaze at the million stars glittering above, and listen to the occasional sound of elephants splashing water in rivers close by. See blue and sperm whales, and dolphins from December to April.