The teardrop shaped island sits just to the east of India, with a very similar climate to Southern India. On my recent research trip to the island, I visited the west coast, famous for kite surfing and dolphin watching, the landscape is flat with many wind farms, the beaches long and sandy. I stayed on the Kalpitiya peninsula, the area is unspoilt with no large hotels-yet. I stayed at Dolphin beach with fabulous posh tents, perfect barefoot living. The area is a two-hour drive from the airport and close to Wilpattu national park.
I then travelled to the cultural triangle, via Anuradhapura, here I visited Forest Rock garden, built in the style of the ancient city nearby, with a superb swimming pool resembling an ancient tank, the rooms are all elevated above the forest, beautifully appointed-perfect for honeymooners. I then stopped at the recently refurbished rest house, called the sanctuary, a perfect location to explore the ancient city, a delightful heritage property.
Next to the area known as the cultural triangle, near Sigiriya, here I stayed at the fabulous Vil Uyana, the cottages are situated amongst reclaimed forest land with a large lake, wonderful birdlife, peacocks sitting in trees and a family of mongoose living near my cottage. They also arrange night-time loris spotting trips in the forest, there is an excellent spa to revive you after climbing the rock fortress at Sigiriya.
I saw several recently opened properties, loved Wild Grass, luxury tree houses set in thirty acres of un-spoilt forest, ideal for nature lovers. Mainstream tourism has engulfed Sri Lanka, now it is even more important to choose your accommodation well in advance at the smaller properties where the coaches filled with package tours cannot access. I also visited Back of beyond, tucked away in the forest at the base of Pidurangula rock, this can be climbed to see the Buddhist temple half way up, and a superb view of Sigiriya from the top, without having to queue! The newly opened Aliya hotel reminded me of terminal 5-grim. The Camelia was the nicest of the resort hotels in the cultural triangle area.
From here I went east to Polonarruwa, the smaller ancient city, the old rest house by the lake has been refurbished unfortunately, the character has been spoilt. From here to the east coast to stay at Pasikudah, a beautiful bay of golden sand and shallow water, several large hotels have been built along the bay, some in keeping some ugly modern blocks, such a shame. I stay at Uga bay, very stylish but next door is a half-built hotel, there is very little else to do in the area and the nearest town of Batticaloa is 40 minutes’ drive.
Here I saw the Cinnamon air-sea plane land, Sri Lanka now has a good internal flight network, saving long car journeys. I spent two days in this area trying to find a small interesting property for my clients and failed.
From here I drove back inland to Kandy the former capital, now a major tourist destination, they all come to see the Temple of the Tooth, where a remnant of Buddha’s tooth is kept. There is an excellent Botanical gardens near the town at Peridenya. I visited several properties in the town, Kandy is very much on the main tourist trail, unless one is interested in temples and gardens I wouldn’t bother staying here. I staying in the countryside nearby at a charming country house called Elpitiya Walauwe, the house is owned by the Panabokke family, eminent Sri Lankans, and full of fascinating memorabilia. There is a small tea factory run by the family, the hospitality was excellent here.