If youíre planning a trip to Sri Lanka, the best way experience the islandís rich diversity is to circumnavigate the country on a round tour. Sri Lanka is famed for golden beaches, elephant-inhabited wildlife reserves and ancient temples, yet there is so much more to see if you step a little off the tourist trail: cloud-capped mountains for trekking, hills ringed by tea bushes and historic homesteads set in magical rural surroundings. The following is our guide to five of Sri Lankaís best hidden hotels, in the natural order of a typical round tour itinerary.
Although just 15 minutesí drive from Sri Lankaís international airport, this historic manor house-turned-boutique hotel feels worlds away. †Set in three acres of 200-year-old tropical gardens amidst idyllic rural countryside, this is the oldest manor house of its kind in the area, and dates back to the eighteenth-century Dutch colonial period. †Having been beautifully refurbished and extended, it now has 17 stylish rooms and suites, a superb restaurant supported by produce from the hotelís organic garden and an indulgent spa.
Just 40-minutesí drive east of Kandy and the islandís famous Temple of the Tooth is the Bougainvillea Retreat, a serene 8-room hotel set amidst a personable Tuscan-style villa. Despite the well-stocked library, spa and underground cinema, the biggest draw here is the idyllic pool, views of the mountains and the experiences that can be enjoyed in the surrounding area: trekking in the Knuckles or Hantane ranges, or perhaps enjoying the hospitality of a renowned local artist at his home in Kandy.
Travel south from Kandy over the islandís highest ranges to the south-easterly edge of the Hill Country to little-known Koslanda, a hillside hamlet ringed by ancient rubber plantations.† Itís also home to one of the islandís most secluded retreats. Living Heritage Koslanda is a four-bedroom boutique hotel immersed in 60 acres of gardens and wildlife-filled forest. This is the perfect place to relax and unwind, or explore the rich surroundings. We love the walk down to a secret waterfall where, if you’re lucky, you might glimpse passing elephants.
When it comes to Sri Lankaís beach-blessed south coast, many opt to stay right by the sea, but step inland and you get the best of both worlds.† Just inland from Koggala, and a 30-minute drive from Galle, is Kahanda Kanda, a boutique hotel set on its own 12-acre hilltop tea estate. Tea is grown abundantly on Galleís lowland hills and a stay here lets you experience the islandís tea culture just 30 minutes from the beach.† The lavish suites and living and dining areas perch in pavilions on a ridge enjoying views across tea fields, jungle and Koggala Lake.
Sri Lankaís capital Colombo is no secret, however many bypass the city on their way in or out of the country. †In the last few years, the city has improved dramatically, with its share of sights, exciting shopping, diverse restaurants and bars, and is well worth a stop of a night or two. Where to stay? At Casa Colombo in downtown Bambalapitiya, a unique hotel famed for its retro-chic interior design. †Itís housed in a 200-year-old Moorish mansion and promises indulgences in the form of private butlers, spacious suites and a pink pool.
Katie Cosstick is the PR Manager at†Cox & Kings.