Tea Trails Sri Lanka
Tea Trails Sri Lanka
Water Garden Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Water Garden Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Amangalla, Sri Lanka
Amangalla, Sri Lanka

...Insight

A jewel in the Indian Ocean

Culture Overload

Like a teardrop off India, Sri Lanka was championed by Marco Polo as the finest island of its size in all the world. Seven centuries on and we see no reason to contradict him.

Positioned along ancient trade routes, Sri Lanka blends a 2,000-year-old culture with a colonial legacy left behind by a potpourri of European traders, spice merchants, sailors and settlers. Here are a few of our can’t-miss experiences.



“Few countries on earth offer such variety in such a small space. From blue whales to Buddhist culture, cricket to curry, and tea plantations to timeless train journeys, Sri Lanka has it all.”

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climb Sigiriya Rock

The 5th century rock fortress of Sigiriya is surely Sri Lanka’s most famous attraction. Rising 200m straight up from the surrounding plains, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts ancient frescoes, beautiful walled gardens and – for those who climb the many steep steps to the top – breathtaking views amid the ruins of a once-royal palace.

Leopard in Yala National park, Sri Lanka
Leopard in Yala National park, Sri Lanka
Elephant, Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Look out for Leopards

"North of Sigiriya, Minneriya National Park sees more elephants returning to one single place each year than any single spot in Africa."

Sri Lanka offers an incredible array of wildlife. In the south-east, Yala National Park is one of the most likely places in the world to spot leopards in the wild, though the park’s popularity has made its trails a little crowded.

Far quieter is the wild and remote Wilpattu National Park on Sri Lanka’s west coast. The dense forest and general skittishness of the animals can make sightings rarer here, but that only makes it all the more satisfying when you do catch sight of a leopard, elephant, mongoose or sloth bear.

Tea pickers at a plantation in Sri Lanka

SIP TEA AT SOURCE

Tea has been grown in Sri Lanka since the 1860s and is as synonymous with the country as cricket and curry. Colonial-era trains still wind their way from Kandy to the misty peaks of the hill country, where beautifully restored plantation houses have been transformed into luxury hotels.

Meet with a resident planter to learn the age-old art of tea making, then enjoy a good cuppa while taking in the views of emerald peaks and hillsides carpeted in terraces of tea.

Sri Lanka. Gal Vihara Buddhist Statue
Sri Lanka Polonnaruwa

Uncover Ancient Capitals

Located in the centre of the country, Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle connects its three ancient capitals. In the south is Kandy, the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings, whose Temple of the Tooth is said to house a tooth of the Buddha.

Furthest north is Anuradhapura, the city that ruled Sri Lanka for more than 1,300 years. Its 3rd century Jetavanarama Dagoba was once the third tallest building in the world, beaten only by the pyramids.

In between the two and to the east is Polonnaruwa, whose temple ruins and giant recumbent Buddhas are testament to the city’s time as royal capital in the 11th and 12th centuries.

 

Sri Lankan curry

Cook up a Storm

Whether it’s a curry served in a private house or a succulent fish dish dressed to perfection in a restaurant, Sri Lankan cuisine is a true treat for the taste buds. Rice, spices and seasonal fruits and vegetables are at the centre of most meals.

Highlights include Sri Lankan curries, which usually comprise around eight to ten separate dishes; egg hoppers, essentially bowl-shaped crepes with an egg cracked into them as they cook, usually served with a sambol; and kottu, a stir-fry of chopped roti (bread), shredded vegetables or meat, soya sauce, spices, ginger and garlic – the ultimate Sri Lankan street food

Great Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka

TAKE A HIKE

Pilgrims and keen walkers have been heading for Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) in the southern Hill Country for over 1,000 years. Jutting skyward from lush jungle, Sri Lanka’s holiest mountain features a ‘footprint’ on its summit that’s believed to be Adam’s by Christians and Buddha’s by Buddhists.

The ascent is traditionally made at night to reach the summit for sunrise. If you don’t fancy the 5,000-plus steps, Little Adam’s Peak near Ella makes a great alternative and can easily be combined with a visit to the famous Nine Arches Bridge nearby.

fort Galle, Sri Lanka
fort Galle, Sri Lanka
fort Galle, Sri Lanka
fort Galle, Sri Lanka

Go shopping in Galle Fort

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle Fort was built by the Dutch in 1663 and is filled with historic houses, museums, churches, mosques, temples and old colonial buildings. You’ll also find a great selection of boutique shops, cafes, hotels, restaurants and artists’ galleries. It is an especially good place to buy jewellery and precious stones, as well as souvenirs, clothes and home accessories. The fort is surrounded on three sides by the ocean and we recommend walking along the top of the old fort walls to watch the sun set from Flag Rock, at the southernmost end of the battlements.

Water Garden Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Property Spotlights

Water Garden Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
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Water Garden Sigiriya

Water Garden’s spacious, free-standing villas are set either astride or beside interlinking pools crafted from former rice paddies. All have stunning views of the surrounding water gardens or, in the case of the higher room categories, the ancient Sigiriya rock fortress, just a 20-minute drive away.

All have separate living and bedrooms that open onto a private terrace, and many have private plunge pools. Food is of the highest quality and there’s a spa, fitness centre, and a large pool that looks out at distant Sigiriya.

Must do

Besides Sigirya, other nearby attractions include the ancient Buddhist cave temples at Dambulla and the ancient monastery at Ritigala. Day trips to the ruined cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, as well as elephant safaris in Minneriya National Park (best from late July to October), are also possible.

Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka
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Ceylon Tea Trails - Hatton

Our top choice in the Hill Country, Ceylon Tea Trails’ handful of plantation bungalows, lovingly restored in a hybrid colonial/contemporary style, are scattered along a valley overlooking endless tea gardens. Each is divided into separate suites or is available in its entirety.

Tours of the tea estate can be arranged, as can all manner of outdoor expeditions, from kayaking on Castlereagh Lake to climbing Adam’s Peak. Then again, so plush are the suites that it’s tempting just to sit back, relax and take advantage of the all-inclusive service.

Must do

Join the resident tea planter on a guided tour of the Dunkeld Tea Factory and discover the tea-making process from field to factory and finally to cup.

Chena Huts, Sri Lanka
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Chena Huts - Yala National Park

Sandwiched between a gorgeous beach and the wild grasslands and forests of Yala National Park, Chena Huts offers luxury, safari-style cabanas just a stone’s throw from the highest density of leopard in the world. The 14 cabanas all have large outdoor decks with private plunge pools and sun loungers.

Inside you’ll find safari décor in keeping with the jungle surroundings, as well as large, comfy beds and free-standing bathtubs. You can dine at the beautifully designed restaurant, in your cabana or at a private table set up beneath the stars.    

Must do

As well as doing game drives, we recommend the bush walk from Chena Huts, which allows you to encounter flora and fauna you wouldn’t normally see from a jeep.

Amangalla, Sri Lanka
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Amangalla - Galle

At the start of the century, this landmark building was in a sorry state of disrepair. But if anyone can bring light back to a faded star it’s Aman. Today the Amangalla is the best of two worlds – both the height of modern luxury and an authentic testament to colonial finery.

The contemporary décor is visibly colonial-inspired and the hotel’s location, within the walls of Galle’s old Dutch fort, brings a timeless sense of history. Butlers are on hand to see to your every need and when you’re tired of browsing Galle’s many shops, you can return to relax beside the 21m pool or at the Ayurvedic spa

Must do

Galle is one of the best places in Sri Lanka to buy jewellery and precious stones. At the last count there were at least 60 jewellery stores within the walls of Galle Fort alone. Serious shoppers should take their time, visit several and compare prices.

To get you started, try Lihiniya Gems on Hospital Street or MM Ibrahim on Church Street. There is also a great selection of individual cut stones and beautifully finished pieces at the Historical Mansion on Leyn Baan Street.

Have questions? Our knowledgeable team of experts are on-hand to take your call or if you prefer by Zoom. Talk to us about your holiday dreams or challenge us with your travel conundrums.

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