With its plethora of tranquil stupas, rainforests thrumming with wildlife and terrific spa resorts offering the most luxurious relaxation along with beautiful views, the teardrop isle is ideal for a fortnight of blissed-out vibes.
Begin with the 19th-century Galle Face Hotel (gallefacehotel.com; doubles from LKR19,210 or Rs8,180) in Colombo. Take a guided tour with the hotel’s historian, hit the in-house museum, eat at the fine-dining restaurant and wine cellar, The 1864, named for the hotel’s founding year, and wind down at the seafront Chequerboard terrace. The hotel also arranges excursions to interesting local spots like the Gangaramaya temple and its quirky museum near Beira Lake, which houses everything from Buddha statues to vintage cars. Return to the property for some quality time at the L’OCCITANE spa.
Leave early the next day for the 3.5 hour drive to the Dambulla rock cave temple complex, rich with Buddhist art. A half-hour ride away is Cinnamon Lodge Habarana (cinnamonhotels.com; doubles from LKR15,670 or Rs6,680), a chalet-style property spread over 27 acres dotted with trees; make this your base for the next two days. The rooms and suites have been built on elevated foundations in a nod to the nearby Ritigala monastery and retreat. A highlight of your stay here will be the Azmaara Spa, which gives the vibe of a tranquil Balinese garden and offers scrumptious body scrubs, wraps, facials and massages, which are perfect after a long day out. Speaking of which, tour the bones of ancient citadels in Sigiriya, Yapahuwa, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Visit the 40ft-high Aukana Buddha (Sri Lanka’s tallest), the ancient Mahakanadrawa stone bridge and Mihintale Hill, where Anuradhapura’s king is said to have met Ashoka’s son Mahinda and converted to Buddhism. Or spot elephants in Minneriya National Park, Hurulu Eco Park or Kaudulla National Park.
Monks watching over the land at Sigiriya. Photo: christianthiel.net / shutterstock.com
A three-hour drive away lies the cultural hotspot of Kandy. During the Kandy Esala Perahara festival, the sacred tooth relic of the Buddha is brought out of the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple in a grand elephant parade. Alternative stops include Lankatilaka Temple and Gadaladeniya Temple before checking into The Kandy House (thekandyhouse.com; doubles from LKR35,885 or Rs15,260). A manor from 1804, this nine-room stay has an infinity pool overlooking paddy fields.
Sunset at Adam’s Point. Photo: thetravellergirl / shutterstock.com
One of Sri Lanka’s newest hotels sits up in the central highlands: Camellia Hills (camellia-hills.com; doubles from LKR78,200 or Rs33,305), a four-hour drive away. The snazzy five-bedroom stay serves up a delicious planters’ lunch—which you would have well-earned after an early morning hike to Adam’s Peak, held sacred by many religions.
Ayurvedic spa treatment at Shangri-La’s Hambantota Golf Resort & Spa
Spend the next couple of days at Shangri- La’s Hambantota Golf Resort and Spa (shangri-la.com; doubles from LKR33,580 or Rs14,300), a five-hour ride away. With separate pools for adults and kids, as well as one where parents can be with their kids, and an 18-hole golf course, this 300-room property spells fun for everyone. The golf course often sees peacocks strutting around, lending the place an idyllic feel. After sunrise yoga, head to the signature CHI ayurveda spa, where the serene vibes continue.
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. Photo: Felix Odell
More serenity awaits at the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort (anantara.com; doubles from LKR43,620 or Rs18,640), an hour’s drive away. Think 152 exquisitely designed and furnished rooms and villas with coconut palm-framed views of the waves lapping at the white sands that are visited by sea turtles. There are many ways to unwind here, be it a cooking class at the restaurant or the spa, which has a dedicated yoga pavilion, ayurvedic treatment rooms and facial treatment rooms, as well as a wellness relaxation area.
Head out to the Buddhist sites of Mulkirigala Raja Maha Viharaya rock temple and the Kathaluwa Old Temple before stepping into Galle’s 53-key Fortress Resort and Spa (fortressresortandspa.com; doubles from LKR41,580 or Rs17,715), two hours away. Laze in the ocean-facing infinity pool and get those knots untangled with a relaxing massage that you can get under the stars in the garden. The spa also offers customised Ayurveda packages, which are based on your needs, problem areas and constitution. After all this, you’ll sleep like a baby in any of the plush rooms and suites, many of which come with direct views of the glittering blue Indian Ocean. Serenity guaranteed.
A similar trip can be organised by Qwest Destinations (qwestdestinations.com) from LKR32,2070 or Rs1,36,350 per person on double occupancy.
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