Waking up to a steaming egg-hopper—a bowl-shaped pancake with an egg cracked in the batter and served with tangy sambols—is one of the simple yet deep pleasures of being in Serendib. It is second only to the joy of knowing that between Sri Lanka’s rugged coasts and lush hill country, this is a holiday where you can indulge and have a good time working it off, too.
While the famous Ministry of Crab, housed in a gorgeous heritage building in Colombo, is an obvious bet for any seafood lover, you should also not miss the top-notch cashew curry, stringhoppers of red or white flour and seafood buffet at Curry Leaf at the ocean facing Hilton Colombo (doubles from LKR22,430 or Rs9,530). The hotel has six great eateries, but if you’re in a large group, head to Graze Kitchen, which features live counters for Sri Lankan (think country pork curry, lamprais and kothu roti), Japanese, Italian, Turkish, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and Chinese cuisines. Conveniently, it also has a separate kids’ menu, so picky little eaters will be well taken care of.
A dish at Ministry of Crab. Photo: Tom Parker
Rise early to view Negombo’s famous fish auction at Lellama market, an hour away. Shack up at the 55-key Jetwing Lagoon (doubles from LKR21,620 or Rs9,190), which was built in 1965 by Geoffrey Bawa. It is bordered by lagoon and ocean—so you can lounge in the outdoor pool mirroring the lagoon or hit the hotel’s dedicated water sports centre—think canoeing, jet skiing, windsurfing—followed by a rejuvenating session at the ayurveda spa. The six signature dining experiences can be set up at a variety of venues on the property—poolside, over the lagoon or in the garden, for example. Plus there’s a healthy menu offering ayurveda based and vegan dishes.
Kandy, home to a multitude of cultural riches, is just short of a four-hour drive away. Start your visit by hitting the formerly royal Peradeniya Botanic Gardens and Sri Dalada Maligawa, the Buddhist Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Settle in for two nights at the Santani Wellness Resort & Spa (doubles from LKR76,830 or Rs32,710), a 90-minute ride, for an endless loop of massages, yoga and delicious food (everything from juices to vegan, raw and traditional local fare). The property can also plan a variety of trips to nearby spots. Hike to Hulu River and further, to the Kukul Oya waterfalls, both of which are great picnic spots and offer gorgeous vistas.
You could also head out to the hanging bridge of Narampanawa, a walk that will take you past small tea plantations and paddy fields. Back at Santani, chalets with mountain or garden views are designed to tread lightly on the land and on its residents—including no TVs. There is wi-fi, though, so you won’t feel completely cut off from the world. Stay awake for the waterfall and valley views on the four-hour drive to tea country in Nuwara Eliya, called Little England for its colonial feel. Bed down at Heritance Tea Factory (doubles from LKR35,235 or Rs14,970). The 54-key hotel offers sessions with a trained tea-taster, tea plucking on the organic estate and a visit to the factory to witness how the beverage is created. Order a traditional high tea, take picnic hampers into the forest and dine at the hotel’s restaurant in a former railway carriage. Hike up to Lipton’s Seat to view the gorgeously lush terraced tea estates catalysed by Sir Thomas Lipton. And make sure you don’t leave without hiking to the spectacular drop at World’s End in Horton Plains National Park. This is the Instagram-worthy view that everyone wants, #nofilterneeded.
Elephants on safari in National Nature Park Udawalawe. Photo: Getty Images
Drive down from the moorland and cloud forest to the scrubland and riverine forest of Udawalawe National Park. Check into the 79-room Grand Udawalawe Safari Resort (doubles from LKR22,430 or Rs9,530) for the next two nights, for languorous naps, poolside lunches and safaris to spot elephants, leopards, deer as well as sloth bears. Neighbouring Yala National Park draws more safari vehicles for it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world. En route, halt at Kataragama, a jungle shrine revered by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Over the next two nights at Wild Coast Tented Lodge (doubles from LKR1,12,105 or Rs47,640), a Relais & Châteaux property that borders Yala National Park, get pampered in luxe tents fitted with teak floors and handmade copper bathtubs, tuck into haute cuisine and gear up for safari drives and trips to Ravana Falls. May—August is best to spot leopards and sloth bears.
Spend the next morning in the company of the gentle giants of the sea off the coast of Mirissa
The ocean beckons at Cape Weligama (doubles from LKR60,540 or Rs25,720), a Relais & Châteaux stay with 39 suites and villas, an infinity pool reflecting the sea, and fresh produce at its five restaurants and bar. The focus is on seasonal and sustainable fare, whether at the cliffside Tableau or at Ocean Terrace. At Cape Club, order a traditional Ceylon high tea—it was opened by Dilmah Tea’s leisure arm Resplendent Ceylon, after all. The tea menu is extensive, and accompanied by scones with clotted cream and jam, egg and cress sandwiches and Battenburg cakes; return for sunset cocktails and a nightcap under the stars. Unwind with a massage on your private veranda or sign up for the five-hour Cape Ayurveda experience that includes lunch, a massage and a herbal bath. Spend the next morning in the company of the gentle giants of the sea off the coast of Mirissa; November—April is ideal to sight blue whales, sperm whales and dolphins.
Stroll through the heritage precinct of Galle Fort, with its quirky shops, lovely restaurants and cricket grounds, or go surfing in Hikkaduwa. Check into the 172-key Amari Galle (doubles from LKR21,770 or Rs9,270), where every room has ocean views, and linger over sundowners at rooftop bar Bommu. Freshly caught seafood is a highlight at the hotel: think seer fish ceviche with coconut foam, barramundi with Maldive fish dashi and tequila-infused crabmeat in a glass of tomato shorba-style gazpacho. Chow down on superb egg-hoppers accompanied by meat curries and spicy sambals for breakfast at the all-day diner, and later in the day, sink your teeth into a comforting and hearty Philly cheesesteak at the Shoreline Beach Club, with electronica and the sounds of the gushing pool providing the soundtrack to go with your meal. And end your day with a beautiful dinner experience under the stars. PS: The hotel is a great base for beach-hopping or staying in to unwind at the spa and secluded shore.
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