Recently named Lonely Planet's Top Destination for 2019, Sri Lanka, once a mysterious unexplored hidden gem, has recently found itself in the spotlight and recognized as a dynamic and up-and-coming destination that appeals to adventure travelers and history buffs alike. Boasting 2000-plus years of culture and history, this small island nation, formerly known as Ceylon, off the southeast tip of India, also features pristine beaches, lush highlands and tea plantations, jungle-clad mountains, wildlife reserves with amazing safari opportunities, and historical towns filled with timeless temples. From the Cultural Triangle in Sri Lanka's historic heartland to its photogenic palm-fringed coves and sun-kissed beaches in the south, Sri Lanka offers something for everyone.
Known for its hospitable people, delectable cuisine, and diverse landscapes and geography, Sri Lanka is an all-encompassing destination requiring some planning to ensure you will be able to experience it all. The best way to do this is to seek out a tailor-made itinerary with a professional and reliable tour operator who can take care of the logistics of getting from place to place while arranging all your tours and needs based on your interests. Ceylon Escapes is one such highly-rated company that promises a customized and stress-free journey of exploration and boasts an excellent reputation with raving reviews. From day tours to complete itineraries, Ceylon Escapes provides knowledgeable and well-trained chauffeur guides who are not only drivers but qualified guides who understand the history and culture of each region and have insight and in-depth knowledge of Sri Lanka. They are also flexible and attentive to client requests and go above and beyond. Whether it is finding a particular restaurant you read about or that picture-perfect lookout point, to recommending the best times to visit particular sites, the Ceylon Escapes team presents a truly personal and customized experience. They also pride themselves on safety and comfort and ensure their cars are clean, stocked with water, and some even feature Wi-Fi and other amenities. Most importantly however is the responsiveness and reliability of Ceylon Escapes, which begins from the moment a request is sent. While itinerary planning can be overwhelming, Ceylon Escapes makes this process a pleasant one with their advice and attention to detail. You can trust they will coordinate all aspects of your trip for a seamless and unforgettable time. www.ceylonescapes.com
– Residence by Uga Escapes
The starting point to your Sri Lankan adventure, the vibrant capital city of Colombo, is a fusion of urban contemporary combined with remnants of its Portuguese, Dutch, and British past, which are reflected in the architecture of its colonial buildings and ruins. Wander past these colonial treasures and magnificent temples while you make your way over to one of the most up-and-coming areas, home to the Residence by Uga Escapes, a charming boutique hotel that is centrally located yet feels like a quiet haven. The perfect base to explore the city, the Residence is surrounded by charming gourmet shops, cobble-lined streets, and close to must-see attractions like the lakeside Buddhist shrine of Gangarama.
Built in the 19th century by a wealthy barrister, Sheikh Salehboy Moosajee, the halls and ballrooms of this grand Victorian townhouse once welcomed British governors, Indian maharajas, and European nobility. This becomes apparent as you enter the property and take in the authentic furnishings and décor, which feel luxe yet welcoming. A blend of classic Sri Lanka and contemporary design make for a wonderful ambiance. Its layout, along with spacious and luxurious rooms, ensures you will feel like you are at your home away from home. The 11 suites are perfectly designed and furnished in an opulent yet inviting manner with warm lighting, ornate furnishings and Belgian rugs. A private outdoor courtyard and impressive en-suite bathrooms make spending some time in your accommodations quite enjoyable. Later, laze by the delightful swimming pool, which is perfectly situated in the center of the property, or lounge at the adjacent Residence Bar for a fabulous cocktail before heading over to one of the finest restaurants in Colombo.
Rare, the Residence's in-house restaurant, serves up exquisite dishes which blend traditional Sri Lankan flavors with modern international cooking styles. The menu is truly creative and impressive with a unique gastronomic flair, each item thoughtfully prepared and plated, using only the freshest ingredients straight from their own organic garden. Overlooking the swimming pool and courtyard, Rare can seat up to 100 guests either indoors or al fresco. Regardless of your seating preference, you will have an unforgettable stay and dining experience.
– Theva Residency
After unwinding in Colombo from the long journey to Sri Lanka, it is time to explore the other amazing parts of this stunning country. The most highly- recommended itinerary would be to head up north to the Cultural Triangle, or if you prefer a shorter drive, spend some time in the hills of Kandy. Known for its verdant tea plantations and often referred to as the cultural capital, Kandy is home to the spectacular Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – the country's most important Buddhist relic. Here, in the elevated and misty hills of Kandy, you can find many charming boutique hotels and guesthouses. One of the most spectacular properties in this area is Theva Residency, which is perched high up in Hill Country overlooking Kandy and the mountains beyond. Upon arrival, you will immediately feel the tranquility and fresh mountain air, and the mesmerizing panoramic views will allow you to disconnect and recharge. A true haven, this family-run business understands attention to detail and provides excellent service and hospitality.
The layout and design of Theva Residency is welcoming and modern with all the luxurious amenities you would expect. With just fifteen rooms and suites, this truly feels like a boutique hotel. It is decorated in muted tones contrasted by bright colors and fabrics, further juxta posed by all the glass and high ceilings, which allow you to take in the sweeping views. Touches of local wood and hand-woven murals add an element of warmth while the public spaces feel more modern with light colors and clean lines. The impressive Penthouse Suite is a photographer's dream with a glass lounge area to further enjoy the landscape below. Luxurious and state-of-the-art, all the suites at Theva Residency are unique and designed beautifully, with Jacuzzis and privacy, which also make for a romantic getaway. Even the Superior and Deluxe Rooms are chic and modern with glass windows that make the most of the views. Be sure to wake up for a magical sunrise over the beautiful infinity pool, which has been featured on many Instagram posts, and for good reason.
The Theva Cuisine restaurant is designed with an east-meets-west fusion menu that combines the best bits of local and international cuisine. The restaurant also has huge floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor area where guests can dine while taking in the scenery below. Dreamy and stylish, Theva Residency offers a peaceful retreat above the hustle and bustle of Kandy and makes for a perfect spot to decompress before continuing onto your next destination.
Further exploration of Hill Country is a must, with several options depending on your allotted vacation time. Ella is a great stop, even if just for the day to hike Little Adam's Peak and to see the famous trains pass over Nine Arch Bridge. For the best tea plantation visits, a drive to Nuwara Eliya offers the best vistas of lush green countryside dotted with tea plantations for which Sri Lanka is so well known. One of the most unique hotels, Heritance Tea Factory, was actually the first tea factory to have been converted into a hotel, earning a UNESCO Merit Award for its restoration. This hotel offers the ambiance of colonial times while providing a luxurious and authentic experience. Discover the tea-making process with a Heritance Mini Factory Tour and learn first-hand how to pluck your own tea leaves, or opt to simply sample all the varieties with a tea tasting. You will discover why Sri Lanka is famed for producing some of best quality tea in the world.
– Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
Continuing even further southeast, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka's most popular wildlife destination, is a stark contrast to the lush highlands of Hill Country. Here, the landscape is a flat and arid expanse of bleached-white trees dotted with watering holes, interesting rock formations, and patches of green jungle (depending on the season). It has become the most popular wildlife destination in Sri Lanka because of the high chance of animal encounters and variety, particularly the elusive Sri Lankan leopard. One of the best ways to maximize your safari experience is to stay at a resort located near the park. Surrounded by virgin wilderness, Chena Huts is one of the premier resorts that rests on this jungle landscape on the boundary of Yala National Park. Just a several minute drive to the entrance gate and you are moments away from a memorable game drive.
Feel at one with nature as you drive up to Chena Huts by Uga Escapes where the design and decor are perfectly executed to embrace its surroundings while showcasing the unique location, which combines safari, tropical jungle, and beachfront experiences. This five-star exclusive property has a rustic motif yet it offers ultra-modern comfort and convenience, as well as luxe amenities and top service.
The "huts" are in fact luxurious detached, dome-shaped, palm-thatched private cabins that are elevated above ground and linked by boardwalks so nature can move around them. These 14 spaciously arranged huts are spread out amidst seven acres so you will always feel like you have enough privacy. Each hut is climate-controlled, high-tech, and contains a living area, bedroom, en-suite bathroom and shaded outdoor deck with its own private plunge pool from which you can observe the great outdoors from the comfort of your own paradise. If you venture out for a stroll, you may even spot some elephants, wild boars and water buffalo, especially by the watering hole located directly in front of two of the huts.
If all the game drives and jungle air have opened up your appetite, the Basses Restaurant situated on the seafront will not disappoint. Taking its name from the nearby reefs and lighthouse, the Basses Restaurant is decorated to an appropriately nautical theme and features fine-dining and delectable dishes. With the emphasis on bespoke and private experiences, guests can dine in their pavilions or have a private table set up under the stars for a truly unforgettable evening.
Room rates include all meals and morning and evening game drives to Yala National Park, but for those looking to venture out and explore, guided cultural visits to Katharagama, Kirivehera and Kirinda temples can be arranged. The rangers are highly informative and knowledgeable and truly love what they do. The entire staff at Chenu Huts offer amazing service to make each guest feel right at home. Whether enjoying the jungle pool area, spa, game drives or lounging in your private hut, Chena Huts provides an all-around adventure-filled experience.