Catriona’s 14 Favourite Travel Experiences in Sri Lanka
By Catriona Deredas, Ampersand's Sri Lanka specialist
After our annual trip to Sri Lanka, it is only fair that I share some of my favourite experiences on the island! Here are my top 14 highlights of Sri Lanka (and trust me, it was hard to narrow it down to this many!):
- 1. Afternoon tea at Tea Trails – This is an absolute must for anyone staying at one of the bungalows. It takes you back to an era where you can enjoy the simple pleasures of life; food, peace, beautiful scenery and of course tea!
- 2. Meals in your room at Ulagalla – It makes all the difference when you are on holiday and you know that you can dine at no extra charge in your room at any point during the day. Ulagalla have got this experience spot on, especially as you want to enjoy the living/dining room in your villa as much as possible (they are gorgeous!).
- 3. Visiting Ritigala – This gem of a site is regularly overlooked when visiting the ‘Cultural Triangle’, which is a shame as it allows you to turn into a bit of an explorer and adventurist. You get to splash through little streams, over rocky outcrops and climb up to discover the different levels and ruins of an old Buddhist monastery.
- 4. Dolphin watching in Trincomalee – This 5am departure is 100% worth it. On our trip we saw over 2,000 dolphins. It was incredible! If you get the season right, you can also see a variety of whales including sperm and blue whales.
- 5. Kumana National Park – Being in the know really helped here as we spent two nights camping in the forest with the former park warden and his son – they both know so much about wildlife it is unreal – they can talk to elephants! On our trip, we saw 7 leopards, one of which was only 3 metres away; we couldn’t have felt more privileged to have had this experience.
- 6. Weather in Sri Lanka – Travelling in April and May brings hot and sunny weather by night and incredibly thunder storms at night. The lightning is beautiful and mesmerising!
- 7. Re-discovering beautiful villas – Sri Lanka has a great collection of villas both inland and on the coast. A couple of our favourites were Indisch with it’s large proportions, fabulous antiques and furniture along with the incredibly stylish Habaraduwa House, which has been given the special touch by interior decorator and owner of Kahanda Kanda, George Cooper.
- 8. Lunuganga & Brief Gardens – Geoffrey Bawa’s influence on Sri Lankan architecture is apparent virtually wherever you go so a visit to his country home, Lunuganga shouldn’t be missed. The grounds are beautifully manicured with interesting features, a pleasure to explore. His brother Bevis had a home not too far away and his Brief Gardens are wild and exciting with hidden treats to be discovered. A complete contrast to that of his brother Geoffrey’s grounds.
- 9. Seeing Nero! – Our old friend, the black Labrador at Amanwella... He fits in perfectly and it wouldn’t be the same without him.
- 10. Sitting on the veranda at Amangalla – This is the perfect place for people watching and getting to see the local way of life. Early morning around 8am is one of the best times as you see all the children rush to school along with loved up couples dressed in their wedding attire taking it in turns to take photographs on the green. The perfect breakfast entertainment.
- 11. Rock Villa, Bentota – This has to be our favourite discovery of the trip. The staff were endearing and attentive, the food some of the best we had on the trip, the rooms charming and spacious and the pool and grounds beautifully maintained. The property is located steps away from one of the most gorgeous beaches in Sri Lanka and walking distance to both Club Villa and Paradise Road Villa Bentota.
- 12. Dinner at The Gallery Café, Colombo – The Gallery Café has some of the smartest and most sophisticated locals and expats dining, especially at the weekends, so you really feel like you are part of the crowd. An absolute dream for foodies as their international menu really has something for everyone. Great food to go alongside a great atmosphere!
- 13. Shopping in Colombo – Heaven for shoppers! There really is everything and anything you could want, but Paradise Road and Barefoot really do have stores to die for. I challenge anyone to walk in one of these stores and to not want to buy half of them! If you’re planning a refresh, Paradise Road is the perfect place to buy all your new home ware and decorative items (shipping can be arranged!!).
- 14. Travel news & hotel openings – Last but not least, Sri Lanka has so many new and exciting developments coming up over the next 12 months including Tri Lanka, Anantara Tangalle, Anantara Kalutara as well as Resplendant Ceylon, parent company of Tea Trails and Cape Weligama, who are opening multiple new properties including a new bungalow in the tea plantations. They have also started development on new properties in Yala National Park and on the east coast. Galle Face Hotel in Colombo are also nearing completion of a huge refurb – it already looks fab!
For more Sri Lanka travel tips or to start planning your own tailor-made Sri Lanka holiday please contact me directly:
+44 (0)20 7819 9770