Re-opening Sri Lanka

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 40 / February 2020

Happy late winter greetings to you all,

January is not my favourite month in the UK and this year I escaped the gloom for much of it by paying an overdue return visit to Sri Lanka.  Long one of our most popular destinations, Sri Lanka experienced wholesale cancellations last year following the Easter Sunday bombings. A family travelling to Sri Lanka over Christmas with Laterallife said that “the important message to get across is that we felt 100% safe and comfortable all of the time, such lovely people and not one hint of danger”.   I wanted to go and see for myself how things are there now and I’m delighted to say that it feels as safe as anywhere and was as bright, sunny and all round gorgeous as I remembered.  The tea country, the national parks, old Galle Fort, swaying palms, golden beaches – Sri Lanka has it all.  Please see below for some of my favourite destinations on my recent trip, which you can view here.

Yours laterally,

Kegalle: Rosyth Estate House

Just over 2 hours’ drive from Colombo airport resides the tranquil abode of Rosyth Estate House.  A more perfect place to stay at the start of a holiday, a post-cultural triangle tour or at the end of one’s travels would be hard to imagine.   Fabulous cycle rides, a scenic train journey/day out to Kandy, a fascinating tour of the working Rosyth tea factory, not to mention Sri Lankan cookery lessons and sumptuous food.  Pictured below is the amazing new Rock Villa at Rosyth.

Ulagalla, Anuradhapura

Two hours by car from Rosyth and one arrives at UlagallaThis smart resort south of Anuradhapura encompasses 58 acres of working paddy fields, organic vegetable plots and ornamental gardens.  The main building, above, was the owner’s private residence and is now the reception, bar and main restaurant.  The enormous pool is one of the many great features of this hotel and the rooms are most luxurious.  It offers easy access to the wonders of Anuradhapura, yet is only 45 minutes from Sigiriya.  In the summer months, Wilpattu National Park is well worth a visit from Ulagalla and great for leopard sightings.

Water Garden, Sigiriya

Heading back to Kandy from Ulagalla I went to see Water Garden Sigiriya.  Its location is perfect for those wanting to visit or climb Sigiriya Rock – you can even see the Rock from the pool.  Its location is also great for visiting Minneriya to see wild elephants, also Polonnaruwa and Dambulla Caves.  These are the other essential destinations to see in the famous cultural triangle.  The more rustic Vil Uyana is also to be found on the outskirts of Sigiriya.  A great place for nature lovers as they have charming Lorises on site as well as a plethora of birds.

Nine Skies Bungalow, Demodera

A scenic train ride from Kandy to Nanu Oya and a hour or so’s drive brings you to Nine Skies Bungalow.  With far-reaching hill country views, this stylishly refurbished five-bedroom hotel is majestically perched on a tea-fringed hill near Demodera. After a long but enjoyable journey ‘twas bliss to arrive at this total chill out of a hotel.  For those wanting mountains, great food and service and lots of peace and quiet in a magnificent setting it ticks all the boxes.

A train journey to Ella

Taking a train is a must-do on any trip to Sri Lanka!  I travelled by train to Ella and went over this famous viaduct known as the Nine Arch Bridge.  I visited 98 Acres (shown below) on the most perfect day weather wise.  It’s a great family hotel based in the buzzing town of Ella itself.  Zipwires and climbing Adam’s Peak are amongst the popular activities here.  Ekho Ella is another contender which I thought was ideal for younger couples.

Chena Huts, Yala National Park

Yala National Park has been made famous by the huge number of leopard sightings.  By way of proof, the picture above was taken by my guide.  The flipside is that the Park can feel overcrowded with too many vehicles bringing in visitors to look for these big cats. Nestled among dunes and trees at the ocean’s edge, you will find Chena Huts. Overlooking a beach where sea-turtles come to lay eggs by moonlight and elephants wander down from the nearby jungle to play in the surf, it’s fringed on one side by  tropical jungle and on the other by a saline lake where ibises, painted storks and even flamingos may be seen wading in the shallows. Alternatively, stay at the fabulous new property Wild Coast Luxury Lodge which is close to Chena Huts.

Taru Villas, Tangalle

Taru Villas, above, is on Mawella Beach (below), the quietest and safest beach I’ve seen on the south coast of Sri Lanka.  Taru Villas consists of three properties, Mawella, Kurumba and the Tangalle Social Club.  You can stay at one of the former and eat and be entertained at the Social Club.  Driving down the coast from Yala you pass Amanwella where I’ve stayed previously, a lovely property though stick to the huge pool as the sea is pretty wild.  Near to Taru Villas is the funky and quirky Buckingham Place.

Sri Sharavi, Mirissa

Sri Sharavi is a fantastic beach property located on Sri Lanka’s rugged South West coast, facing azure waters and just a short drive from historic Galle Fort.  There’s a vast pool right by the beach and you can enjoy yoga against an ocean backdrop every morning. There are some other great places to stay along this stretch of coast including Parrotfish Bay, the Lantern and the Beach House.  From all these properties you can take a boat trip to see blue whales, or spend the evening at one of the many beach restaurants to enjoy fresh seafood.

KK Beach, Thalpe

Heading towards Galle from Mirissa Bay you soon reach the popular area of Thalpe.  Here you’ll find KK Beach which is the new addition to the KK Collection mini-brand which also recently added Leopard Safaris to its portfolio.  We really liked the feel of this stylish beach boutique hotel.  It has beautifully designed rooms including two fab penthouse suites.

Why House & Tanamera Estate, near Galle

Why House is located inland a few minutes from the beach at Thalpe.  This stunning, family orientated boutique hotel sits within a beautifully landscaped three acre walled garden of tropical plants, fruit and spice trees. It’s another world up here – authentic and quiet, close to paddy fields and local villages.  This is the perfect choice if you want to stay a short distance from the beach but be able to reach it in 5 minutes. The food is superb and they offer regular performances of a local troupe performing an amazing fire dance by the pool.

Alternatively you can stay at Why House’s sister property Tanamera Estate, a truly luxurious 3 bedroom villa set in 3 acres right by the sea.  It has a huge, warm pool from which you can gaze out over the blue seas beyond.  Your concierge can bring you a nice cold beer whenever you like! As the villa is run by Why House you can choose from their excellent menu.

Amangalla, Galle Fort
Main Entrance

Amangalla is Aman’s historic outpost within the walls of old Galle Fort. It is a beautiful property with all the luxury and comfort to be expected from an Aman, including top notch service.  Alternatively, stay a little further down the road at the Fort Bazaar or Fort Printers, both central, full of history and all round fabulous.

Up Periscope: Ranvas, Nagaur, India

Words cannot convey how special this place is!  I was absolutely blown away by it and would recommend anyone going to Rajastan to take the time to visit it, even though it’s rather out of the way – it’s really worth the effort.  Ranvas is a heritage hotel at the heart of Attrachgargh Fort, an extraordinary 36 acre bastion of history. On arrival you are given a tour of the group of buildings which form the core of this magnificent place.  At the centre is a series of palaces, courts and havelis, the latter of which now form the hotel.  These were the houses inhabited by the ranis (queens) who lived in the complex.  Ranvas is truly amazing!

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