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Top 3 Spiritual Escapes

James Jayasundera, founder & MD of Ampersand Travel, opens up his Little Black Book… this time sharing his top 3 spots for a spiritual escape

NORTH INDIA - Ahilya Fort
Ahilya Fort, Maheshwar, India
Owned by Indore royal family, this palace hotel is as enchanting as they come. It is an un-commercial gem steeped in character, perched high above the River Narmada. I am so impassioned about Ahilya Fort I can never work out whether I’m frustrated or delighted that it is overlooked by most tourists! Away from the masses this location truly captures the “Essence of India” with its delightful quirky charm, stunning beauty and impeccable pedigree. The building itself has been perfectly restored: pale old stone floors, ancient shuttered doors, carved arches and unusual bathrooms. This fort is an extremely romantic and unique place to spend 3 or 4 nights, including a night on a sailing boat on the stunning Narmada river.

SRI LANKA - Kahanda Kanda
Kahanda Kanda, Galle, Sri Lanka
You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped inside the Garden of Eden with chic décor… KK is a sprawling hideaway perched on a ridge north of Koggala Lake. It is one of Sri Lanka’s most sophisticated boutique hotels, with just 8 pavilion suites, a gorgeous Living Pavilion bar and a great restaurant. If you love both nature and style, this hotel is perfect. Run by the eccentric and charasmatic George Cooper, you are guaranteed an intimate and exclusive experience. It is immaculately styled by him but still relaxed, as if you are staying in a private home. All through the property you can hear the sounds of nature – peacocks, cockatoos, crickets, leaves rustling and trees swaying. Awake to magnificent sounds of wildlife and towering, elevated views – rainforest, marshlands, Kogola Lake, cinnamon trees, tea fields – all just 15 mins by tuk tuk to the beach. KK is an amazing place to retreat to when you need to reboot your batteries and just take in the beautiful natural surrounding (…with the option of George’s witty conversation should you want it).

INDONESIA Surya Shanti Bali
Surya Shanti Villa, Bali  Our new secret discovery... this boutique resort offers the archetypal Balinese idyll that everyone is looking for on the island but simply can't find. One hour from Ubud if you want to go shopping but close to a very cute little village, Surya Shanti is otherwise completely surrounded by rice terraces, zero traffic, Mt Agung volcano views from every angle and dramatic valley views leading down to the sea. The property has just 11 villas (4 of which have panoramic views of everything from your bed), 2 swimming pools, a spa, a terraced restaurant and a dining balé in the garden. The gardens are the perfect blend of manicured and wild, and the natural colours of the flowers and plants are utterly kaleidoscopic. It is hard to imagine that a place like this still exists on this overcrowded island. Surya Shanti offers is the spiritual essence of Bali – as clichéd as that may sound!

For more travel tips or to start planning your own tailor-made escape, please get in touch at +44 (0) 20 7819 9770 or email

Client Testimonials

I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka

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