Top 10 boutique resorts and villas in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is a popular long-haul destination with holidaymakers. And the small island is awash with properties for relaxing in a spa, sipping freshly picked tea on a private terrace in the jungle, or dining on fresh seafood from the Indian Ocean, discovering Sri Lanka won’t get any more luxurious than staying in one of these 10 hotels or villas.
Sri Lanka has suffered a dramatic drop-off in tourism over the last few years due to a civil war and being victim of the 2004 Tsunami. But thanks to a truce since 2009, and a reconstruction of areas devastated by the tsunami the tropical island known as the “pearl of the Indian Ocean” is once again seeing many holiday makers returning.
And our friends at Ampersand Travel have rounded-up 10 of the best boutique resorts and villas in Sri Lanka has to offer. If you’re planning a winter escape or your next luxury travel holiday in South Asia you’ll want to read on.
Cape Weligama, southern Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is to welcome a superb new resort this October with the launch of Cape Weligama – a collection of 40 free-standing luxury villas and suites, located just 30mins east of Galle on the country’s idyllic southern coast. 270-degree panoramas of the Indian Ocean and rugged coastline are visible from every corner of the landscaped 12-acre property which is perched on a cliff top rising up to 36m above the sea. Breathtaking views can also be admired from the crescent-shaped infinity Moon Pool which has pathways that lead down to the secluded cliff top. Cape Weligama’s accommodation consists of stone encased Watts (gardens) and Walauwas (mansions), which each come complete with private butler service, bespoke dining and in-room spa facilities. The resort further boasts innovative cuisine to suit all tastes, from enjoying the day’s fresh catch to eating Sri Lankan style at the alfresco Kumbuk. Swimming and snorkelling in the sea below can be enjoyed all year round, while neighbouring coves can be explored by kayak or surf on Weligama’s famed waves. A Dive Centre will also offer PADI dive courses and exciting dives while further activities include big game fishing, seasonal whale and dolphin-watching trips and banana boating.
Gal Oya Lodge – a new eco-wildlife lodge in south east Sri Lanka
Set in Sri Lanka’s forgotten National Park Gal Oya in the eastern part of the country, the Gal Oya Lodge is situated next to the country’s largest lake and opened in June 2014. The nine-room lodge, which is constructed from natural materials, is spread across 20 acres of private forest, and is the ideal place to get back to nature. Eight spacious bungalows are nestled in the forest canopy, each one specially placed to take advantage of the spectacular views. For the ultimate luxury there is a two-bedroom villa perched at the highest point of the lodge, which has breathtaking views from its open-plan living room. Excursions include jeep safaris through the jungle to the mighty Nigala river which famously flows under a huge boulder field or meet the aboriginal people of Sri Lanka – the Veddas – in a private gathering for true Sri Lankan experience.
Clingendael, central Sri Lanka
Clingendael is one of Sri Lanka’s finest boutique hotels, which is surrounded by spectacular views and nestled beneath the ravishing Knuckles Range on a beautiful hillside setting. The five rooms are all individually designed, decorated with a fine collection of Dutch colonial artwork, paintings and antiques expressing old world charm yet combined with modern day luxury amenities. Clingendael is perfect for those keen on golf since the hotel neighbours Victoria Golf Course – rated as one of the world’s most scenic golf courses. Other facilities include an outdoor infinity pool, heated Jacuzzi, bird watching and jungle trails and horse riding at well-established ‘Victoria Stables’ located close to the hotel.
Castlereagh – tea trail bungalows set in the Bogawantalawa Valley
Castlereagh is one of the four bungalows which make up the Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka’s first Relais & Chateaux resort. Travellers approaching Castlereagh from the road can glimpse tantalizing views across the lake of this symbol of the glory days of colonial life. Situated in a wooded dell close to the water, this century old bungalow offers unrivalled water views and superb garden suites to suit every taste. Elegant parquet floors and open fireplaces in the dining and drawing rooms evokes recollections of the life and times of the tea planters who once lived here. Summerhouses can be found in the extensive grounds where tea and a good book can be savoured until the sun goes down over the water.
Kahanda Kanda House – a stylish boutique hotel
This stunning modern hotel in southern Sri Lanka is without doubt one of the most beautiful and luxurious on the island. Perched on the top of a hill in the middle of its own low lying tea plantation, it overlooks the surrounding tea gardens and jungle down to the nearby lake and the sea beyond. Built as a series of pavilions joined by paths through gardens and lily ponds, it has eight double ensuite bedrooms, an enormous living room and separate dining space and a 22-metre infinity pool.
Kandy House – a showcase of the island’s architectural renaissance
Surrounded by lush vegetation and vibrant paddy fields this colonial mansion is just four miles from the bustle of the ancient city of Kandy. Kandy House is a wonderful example of understated Hill Country splendour. Built in 1804 by the local chief Ratwatte Adigar, it has been renovated sensitively to blend traditional Kandyan architecture with Dutch colonial furniture, luxurious Sri Lankan hand loom fabrics, inviting sofas and ottomans, beautifully appointed bathrooms, and elegant touches of colour. The rooms are fan cooled rather than air conditioned. The new and the old complement each other to create an atmosphere of sophisticated comfort. The architecture is solid but inviting with its wide arches, stone pillars, steep-pitched roofs and chairs with brightly upholstered cushions. Airy walkways connect the various parts of the house as it cascades down the gently sloping site. On the lowest tier, an expansive infinity pool fringed by dappled lawn and jungle give way to sublime views of the Kandyan countryside.
Ulagalla Resort – 20 private eco-chalets spread across 58 acres of tropical terrain
The Ulagalla Resort is a wonderful 5 star resort with 19 chalets spread across 58 acres of natural woodland. The chalets offer panoramic views of the lush paddy fields and peaceful reservoirs and are designed to make the most of their surroundings. 17 of the chalets have a private plunge pool and each chalet comprises a living area, bedroom area, dressing area and bathroom. This resort is pure luxury and has been designed and decorated with impeccable taste and delicate grace. The resort also offers a large swimming pool, fitness centre and spa along with other optional acitivities such as archery and horse riding.
Sun House – 1860s colonial house that’s been converted into a small luxury hotel
Set in the hills overlooking the historic town of Galle, this stylish colonial house was built by a Scottish nutmeg merchant in the 1860’s and was converted into a welcoming and elegant private residence by a leading interior decorator 130 years later. It has subsequently become a small boutique hotel, considered one of the best-kept secrets on the island. The predominantly white rooms are tastefully furnished in a medley of colonial styles ranging from the Portuguese to the predominantly Dutch and British. A beautiful library furnished with over sized sofas and huge vases of tropical foliage and flowers add a more contemporary feel. The seven bedrooms vary in size and all have four poster beds and ensuite bathrooms. The well-tended garden is filled with perfumed frangipani trees and a solitary mango tree with a flight of weathered steps leading to a small but exquisite pool. Rooms can be rented individually or alternatively the hotel can be taken in its entirety.
Maya Villa – five suite villas boasting modern luxe with tropical charm and style
This stylish and soothing property is incredibly charming. With five en-suite suites, this property is perfect for a chilled out getaway and can also be rented out as a villa. Hidden away within 2 acres of lush gardens near the village of Aranwella, an hour’s drive from Tangalle, guests enter the driveway past ancient trees and a small Buddhist shrine to discover this beautiful 110-year old colonial house. It was renovated into a hotel in 2012 with homage to its Dutch and British roots – the historic building exterior and intricately carved windows have been maintained – and the interior has been given a chic facelift by Niki Fairchild, an interior designer with an impeccable eye for style, detailing and subtle colouring. The house cradles a 20 metre L-shaped pool and faces out onto a savannah-like landscape bordering lush jungle, attracting a large number of birdlife. There is a cool outdoor dining & bar area and a secluded hammock in the garden to admire the views. The perfect balance of colonial and modern, Maya will impress the most style conscious and well-heeled clients and is great for families with toddlers or ideal for honeymooners.
Amangalla & Amanwella- Sri Lanka’s Sublime Aman experience
Amangalla, oozes sophisticated luxury and old-world charm with its antique furniture, polished teak floors and high ceilings. The Amangalla’s architect, Kerry Hill, has maintained the unique history of the building allowing guests to step right back to Galle’s colonial heyday with all its genteel ambience. The suites are simply perfect, with soothing muted colours, colonial furniture, swing jazz music wafting through the room and freestanding bathtubs. Next drive two hours east of Amangalla to find Amanwella. Set in a mature coconut grove fronting a crescent-shaped beach, Amanwella is one of Sri Lanka’s leading understated beachfront resorts, located just two hours drive east of Galle. Home to 30 contemporary suites, each boasts either a pool or ocean view and come complete with private plunge pool and terrace. Linked by pathways along a landscaped rise, each suite showcases chic oriental design while the excellent resort facilities include a 47m infinity pool and beach club making the perfect spot for a private lunch or dinner surrounded by coconut palms. The seaside town of Tangalle is situated nearby and the resort’s superb location further allows guests to take a leisurely, short stroll to discover local village life and the country’s beautiful yet diverse flora and fauna.
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