I have just returned from an amazing trip to Sri Lanka. As usual it was hectic & I inspected 56 hotels – in 10 days. But I also got to do some of the local visits & saw lots of gorgeous elephants.
I am often asked why we visit so many hotels- even those we do not tend to recommend. Well we think that we need to know why some hotels would not suit certain client’s preferences etc. The only way for us to know which the best hotel options are, would be to know as many of the hotels as possible. Clients will have different interests & budgets & it is a priority for us to provide each client with the perfect properties to suit them.
So to my recent trip. I took the direct flight with Sri Lankan airlines & it was completely full, but the service was very good, even in economy – no I was not upgraded. On arrival into Colombo airport I was met by Ramli, who was to be my driver for the whole time I was in Sri Lanka. Vehicle was very comfortable & he was a really knowledgeable, safe driver. I had such a hectic schedule but Ramli still managed to find me a great shopping opportunity at the end of the trip. Phew!!
It was an overnight flight & from the airport I had the short transfer to Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel. I really liked the hotel & managed to stretch out in the swimming pool before heading to the spa for a massage. That evening I had dinner with our ground agents in the hotels Thai restaurant – it was lovely, spicy but I coped.
The next morning I start my inspection tour of Sri Lanka- going in the opposite direction to a normal itinerary.. I went down the south west coast 1st, inspecting lots of beach hotel. Hotels along this coast that stood out for me were of course the more expensive options, like Anantara Kalutara, Shinagawa Beach & The River House was a lovely quirky forest property which would be great for wildlife lovers who do not want to be directly on a beach. The other hotels I saw were bigger resort type hotels- like Cinnamon Bey, Vivanta by Taj, Hikka Tranz by Cinnamon etc. they were also very good options & less expensive.
I absolutely loved Galle Fort & I would recommend having a couple of nights in one of the small boutique hotels within Galle Fort itself. The hotels within the Fortaleza group, No5 Middle Street, No1 Landesi & No50 Lighthouse Street were all really nice & unique. If there is the budget then my favourites was Fort Bazaar & Amangalla – both were beautiful properties, colonial & very comfortable.
Now here is an interesting piece of information for anyone that loved watching The Good Karma Hospital. This TV series was actually shot in Sri Lanka & the “hospital” is a teacher training school outside of Galle. They have been back apparently setting up locations for the 2nd series.
Outside of Galle, past the Good Karma Hospital, was maybe my most favourite beach hotel- The Fortress Resort & Spa. I absolutely loved everything about this property & next time I am in Sri Lanka & can be in this area I will definitely treat myself & stay a few nights. You can just stay here & a short taxi ride into Galle Fort as well.
Next stop was Yala National park, visiting Anantara Tangalle en route. Another nice hotel, top end hotel but I still preferred The Fortress. In Yala I stayed @ Cinnamon Wild & it was lovely The rooms were fab, pool gorgeous & the food wonderful- as it was everywhere in Sri Lanka. Something quirky with this property is that after I think it was 7pm you were asked to call reception to have a member of staff come & escort you to the main hotel area- bars & restaurant. Apparently as it can be dangerous with wildlife having access to the property!! The day we arrived they had some visiting elephants – I wish I had seen that. I also visited Jetwing Yala, which was also a good option. But also went to Uga Chena Huts – OMG this was an amazing property, with all 14 “huts” having a private deck & plunge pool. They have their own safari jeeps & guides to visit Yala NP. Guests are on an all-inclusive basis, even laundry (up to 6 pieces a day) is included in the price. Definitely a top end property for big budgets.
I got to take the Yala Safari & only saw a leopard in the far distance, up a tree sleeping. But I did see & get close up to some elephants – my 1st opportunity since arriving in Sri Lanka.
Onwards up to the Cultural Triangle but en route I visited Udawalawe & the really wonderful Elephant Transit Home – ETH, which is a Born Free project. They rescue baby elephants that have been orphaned or separated from the herd, as they would not be able to survive on their own. They keep them until they are 5 years old (which is how long the mother would feed them for) & then they are freed into Udawalawe NP to live a completely free life. They have to be feed every 3 hours & from 9am to 6pm it is open to the public to come in to watch during feeding. The best times to be there are for the 12pm or 3pm feedings. It was wonderful to watch. The elephants know when it’s feeding time & queue up at the entrance gates into the large enclosure where they would be feed the milk. A few are let in at a time but they are cheeky & will try to go back to the “milk bar” thinking the feeders won’t realise they have already had their milk. It was quite funny to watch. The cutest one was a tiny 2 week old elephant & all the “aunties” gather around him to protect him. The feeders went to him to feed him as he was too small to reach up to the funnels they use. This was a definite highlight of my trip & I highly recommend it.
I then broke my journey with a night in the region of Ella, which is perfect for clients that like to take some hikes- of varying degrees of difficulty. There are several easy ones, like the 7 Arch Bridge walk & of course there is the Little Adams Peak walk which I was told only takes 45 mins to 2 hours. I stayed at the lovely 98 Acres hotel which was lovely- lots of steps though for me to negotiate with my bad knee. In the town of Ella there is the famous Chill Restaurant. Advance booking are essential as it is always full.
Next is my visit to Nuwara Eliya– the tea plantation area. I saw several hotels in this area but the top one for me has to be the Heritance Tea Factory, which is a converted tea factory & still has the original steam engine which they start up at 7.15 pm every evening for 30 mins. I also liked the Grand Hotel & Araliya Green Hills & Langdale by Amaya.
Kandy is the next destination & here there are lots of hotel options to suit all budgets. I stayed at the Cinnamon Citadel but for a higher budget then I really recommend Mountbatten Bungalows, which is steeped in history & Amaya Hills, which has a Sri Lankan Ayurvedic spa. For clients preferring to be in the city then Secret Kandy is a lovely option.
Habarana is a great base to stay to visit Dambulla & Sigiriya with 3 great National Parks that can be visited- Minneriya, Kaudulla & Eco-Park. Evening safaris are a good idea as the elephants come out to bathe. September sees “the gathering” at Minneriya when the reservoir water levels are lower & full of the elephant’s favourite vegetation, which they love to feast on. There can be between 300 & 400 elephants – so an amazing thing to witness. Early booking is essential for accommodation during this time.
Hotels in the Habarana / Dambulla/ Sigiriya area include Cinnamon Lodge, Heritance Kandalama – build into the rocks, Amaya Lake, Water Garden Hotel & Aliya Resort & Spa. The last 2 having fabulous views of Sigiriya. But my wow factor hotel has to be Jetwing Vil Uyana – this property was stunning & ideal for honeymooners or clients interested in nature. I recommend a visit to the Golden Buddha in Dambulla. The story is interesting & it is a fabulous photo opportunity- although selfies are not allowed as you do not turn your back on the statue out of respect.
I am now very near the end of my trip & heading back to Colombo – but en route I pop into Negombo to check out a few hotels.. 1st is the Jetwing Blue hotel – which is a good standard grade hotel. The top hotel is the new Heritance Negombo Hotel- that is on the demolished site of the Browns Beach Hotel. Negombo is a great option for the 1st or last stay in Sri Lanka- it is only a 20 minute transfer.
I however carried on to have a final night in Colombo, this time at the stayed at the Cinnamon Grand – which is next to a shopping centre. I also visited the Paradise Road Tintagel & Uga Residence- both more unique, smaller properties. Staying in Colombo does mean you have the opportunity to go to the fabulous restaurants they have to offer. A popular choice is Ministry of Crabs, which is owned by 2 famous Sri Lankan cricketers.
To give you an idea of lead in prices for a 7 night Cultural Triangle tour- with a private driver of course- we can offer the following, based on travelling in September / October for:
£738.00 per person, plus international flights – based on 2 people sharing a room.
1 night Colombo @ Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel BB
3 nights Habarana @ Cinnamon Lodge BB, with visits to Polonnaruwa, Hiriwaduna,
Sigiriya & Anuradhapura
2 nights Kandy @ Amaya Hills BB, with visits to Dambulla Rock Temple, Matale,
Kegalle Millennium Elephant Foundation (MEF) & Kandy city
1 night Waikkal @ Suriya Resort Hotel BB
We can of course re-quote to change the hotels, number of passengers, time of year, extent the trip etc. etc.
Give me a call on 01202 232335 to discuss Sri Lanka in more detail.