touring | sri lanka - dragonfly's at dawn in the land of unexplored wonders
epic vistas await in the pearl of the indian ocean
often overshadowed by its gigantic neighbour, india. sri lanka is not to be overlooked; it's a land of vast mountainous landscapes, 100's of miles of coastline, epic wildlife from the largest mammals to the smallest dragonfly's that dance in the morning light, this is a place where people & nature coexist in harmony.
our journey to this island nation was delayed by nearly a year due to the pandemic. still, we finally made it only a few days after they reopened to vaccinated tourists without quarantine. we only had a limited time on the island, so we had to choose our destinations carefully. from the west coast surfing mecca of weligama to the tea plantations in the misty mountains nearby kandy & finally finishing up the trip in the heart of cultural triangle getting our dose of wildlife & history in this land of wonders.
one of the most popular places to visit on the west coast is the surfing mecca of weligama. this resort town located centrally in the bay is the perfect place for beginner surfers to catch a few waves at dusk during golden hour when the light is at its most delicate, making for a surreal experience.
our home here was W15; a spectacular boutique hotel set right on the beach. with an infinity pool that has some of the best sunset views in the world, you are sure to be in awe of this place.
we stayed in the ocean view deluxe room that was located only a few steps from the infinity pool. the sizeable comfy bed made for some extraordinary sleeping sessions & the patio doors that opened over the pool to the ocean made for fantastic views directly from the comfort of our pillows. with a large seating area, bluetooth speakers & a vast bathroom, this room was a great place to rest for a few days.
the on-site surf school will take your wave riding to new levels & their events are famous with all the tourists in town coming here to party at the incredible beach bar every evening.
W15 hanthana estate
hanthana estate is not just a hotel; it's a multi-sensory experience that brings nature into one's daily routine. from the moment you arrive at this estate set in the hills 20mins from the beautifully chaotic kandy, a sense of tranquillity washes over you.
what first strikes you is the tranquil silence only broken by the sound of birds chirping along with the buzz of iridescent dragonfly's that seem to love the early morning light.
the all-inclusive concept is far beyond what most 5* luxury properties offer around the world. it is genuinely delightful; from the food to curated experiences, it makes life so much easier when practically everything is included in the initial rate.
your personal butler. yes, you have your very own butler throughout your stay who will take care of your every request to make sure that you enjoy every single moment at this dreamlike property.
we stayed in room no.3, a deluxe suite that was absolutely vast. our room was modern but classic, with handcrafted furnishing that seamlessly blended into the style of the estate. the luxury bedding was a nice touch, along with the pillow menu, inclusive mini bar, luxury amenities & complimentary laundry made for a remarkable experience. the private garden was a wonderful place for morning tea as to the lounge area in the evening.
the impressive main lounge is the central focus point of the estate. the classical interior style is tastefully decorated with period furniture that elevates your experience, especially in the evening when the candlelight casts a warm glow. from the piano to the period sofa, it feels like you have stepped back in time; it's a super cosy atmosphere that makes you feel at home.
outside, a covered terrace that runs along the side of the property offers spectacular views over the mountains, a truly breathtaking experience, especially as all your meals are served with this view.
only a few meters away, you'll find an elevated platform that offers spectacular views & a tree swing; not only for kids, but it also makes for an epic photo location. down the ramp, through the manicured gardens, the pool is a great place to cool off from the midday sun & for those who are a little more active, the tennis court is a fantastic place to work off some of the calories from their exquisite food.
behind the property, you can stroll through the tea plantation & onto the herb garden where the chef's pick ingredients for all your meals.
michelin starred quality cuisine awaits you here. the curated three-course menus for lunch & dinner take local & western food to the next level. from fish to meat & vegetarian offerings; we were blown away by the quality & inventiveness of the dishes. the gastronomical highlight had to be the high tea that harkens back to colonial ceylon. although a british tradition, i can honestly say this was one of the finest high tea’s i have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.
where this hotel excels beyond most five star properties is their activities. the amount of included experiences is mind-blowing; the fact they have a naturalist on-site to take you around the surrounding areas either by hiking, electric bikes or my favourite, the pastel-coloured series three land rover is genuinely beyond what most luxury properties offer.
rooms from: ($500) book here
the cultural triangle
our next stop took us to the heart of what is affectionately known as the cultural triangle. this is a vast area that encompasses some of the most spectacular natural & historic regions in the country.
our base for the stay was in dambulla, a town made famous by the royal cave temple built atop a massive rock that overlooks the city. the temples offer the most beautifully preserved cave paintings along with incredible golden statues depicting buddha; it's the most extensive cave temple in the country.
as you make your way down the rock past the troops of monkeys, you find yourself overshadowed by a gigantic golden buddha sitting on top of a beautifully intricate caricature of a dragon with its mouth open the tongue is the stairs leading to the temple opening. it's a very sacred place & also a unseco world heritage site.
sigiriya is the ruins of a 5th-century city anchored by a towering rock fortress that is by far the most popular site to visit in the whole country.
from a distance, the rock seems to be impervious, but as you climb up the somewhat perilous stairs to the top of what was once a fort, the majestic views over the lush forests of central sri lanka truly takes your breath away.
we spent a few hours at the top, taking in the incredible views at sunset.
the ancient city of polonnaruwa is another excellent place to visit. it was the second capital of sri lanka after the destruction of anuradhapura in 993. it comprises of ancient ruins that are dotted around a large area that is best explored by bicycle. a single unesco ticket will get you into all the sites. be prepared to spend the whole day exploring these magnificent marvels of engineering.
no trip to the resplendent isle would be complete without catching a glimpse of the sri lanakan elephant, the largest in stature of the asian elephant subspecies. there are a few national parks in the area around dambulla & we settled on kaudulla as the large lake gives an excellent opportunity to see abundant birdlife while waiting for the elephants to appear from the darkness of the forest to lap up fresh water in the late afternoon sun.
we truly had a magical experience on the island. from the people we met on the streets with their beaming smiles to the epic landscapes that are second to none. sri lanka has so much to offer any tourist from a pristine coastline to mountain retreats no matter what you are looking for in a vacation, this island has it.
how to get there & costs...
we flew with qatar airways via doha. sri lanka is very well connected with international airlines from all over the globe.
for a luxury experience, i would budget for approximately ($5,000) for a one week trip for two, including airfare.
- budget ($5,000) for two people, 7 days.
- if you travel often get yourself a curve card. it's the best travel card around, i have saved thousands of $$$ using it. get a free card & $/€/£5 in credit here.
- need an international bank account or transfer money at the lowest rates? i use transferwise. i make all my transfers with then and have even opened a remote eur, usa, gbp accounts for free. click here to get your first transfer for free.
country travel tips
atm: most banks offer withdrawals for ($3). don't accept the on-screen conversion.
sim card: dialog. 10GB is ($6) for 30 days. got an e-sim enabled phone, try airalo.
transport: private cars & Uber intercity are the best way to get around.
taxi: uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.
accommodation: get ($20) off your first booking.com reservation h