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
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.
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).
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!
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