Back open for business, stunning Sri Lanka combines captivating coastlines and colonial cities with expansive tea plantations and tropical forests, making it a wonderful and diverse destination for a luxury Indian Ocean escape.
There’s never been a better time to visit, either – many of our favourite hotels and resorts are currently offering superb values on holidays to the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, so you can enjoy the holiday of a lifetime at a fraction of the cost.
To ensure that you have the best Sri Lankan experience possible, our Travel Specialists have compiled a list of the top 10 things to incorporate into your luxury trip. From incredible wildlife sightings with experts in the field and luxury boat trips to historic city tours and high tea with Sri Lankan literary royalty, get ready for a truly unforgettable adventure…
Time for tea?
Sri Lanka’s breathtakingly beautiful Tea Country produces some of the finest tea in the world, as well as showcasing seriously stunning landscapes. Head to Ceylon Tea Trails – a Relais & Chateaux property comprising just five colonial-era tea planter residences – and meet the prominent and much-loved national author, Ashok Ferrey. The biggest selling Sri Lankan writer in English, choose three of his incredible books (often satirical, hilarious and discussing Sri Lanka’s people and landscapes) to review and discuss with the man himself. In addition, stop and watch Sri Lankan tea pickers at work, visit a functional factory and learn the art of creating exquisite Ceylon tea, before enjoying high tea with a selection of delicious treats.
Explore Galle Fort
Join a resident expert as you embark on a walk around the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Galle Fort. Built-in 1588 by the Portuguese, it was later colonised by the Dutch and still features an eclectic array of monuments, museums, religious buildings and towers.
Visit the Old Dutch Hospital, now a vibrant retail and dining precinct, before spotting the 1640 Dutch Reformed Church, home to the historic belfry. Once a warehouse built in the 17th century to store ship parts and spices, the National Maritime Museum houses a variety of fascinating marine artefacts, while the 17th century New Oriental Hotel, once used by the Dutch Governor, is now the ultra-luxurious Amangalla resort. Our other properties in and around Galle include the elegant, boutique hotel The Fort Bazaar and the traditional-style Cape Weligama.
Meet adorable baby turtles
Located on Sri Lanka’s south coast, not far from the town of Tangalle, Rekawa Beach is a turtle hatching hotspot, with five of the world’s seven marine turtle species laying eggs here – including leatherback, hawksbill, green, olive ridley and loggerhead. They visit these shores all year round, though the main nesting season is between April and July.
On a truly unforgettable excursion, watch experts as they release baby turtles safely into the Indian Ocean, having helped them to hatch and prosper. The Turtle Conservation Programme is an ongoing project that aims to protect these precious nesting sites and ensure the best possible chance of survival for these spectacular creatures.
Wilpattu National Park’s wonderful wildlife
With four published wildlife books under his belt - and having attracted BBC Natural History, Ocean and Earth teams to Sri Lanka - Chitral Jayathilake is a true wildlife veteran. Vimukthi Weeratunga, meanwhile, has visited nature hotspots all over the world, once working as the Head of the Biodiversity and Species Program at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)! Join one of these unrivalled experts as you embark on a glorious Leopard & Bear Safari through Wilpattu National Park – known as the Land of Lakes – as you spot Sri Lankan leopards (the largest in Asia) and omnivorous Sri Lankan sloth bears in their natural habitat.
Bird watching in Sinharaja Rainforest
Joining the same renowned wildlife veterans as in the previous experience, head into the lush Sinharaja Rainforest in search of an array of bird species. Located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Wet Zone, this UNESCO World Heritage reserve is home to 21 varieties that are endemic only to this location, as well as over 100 more species – including the Sri-Lanka white eye, the Yellow-eared bulbul, the dusky blue flycatcher, the Sri Lanka red-faced malkoha and the Sri Lanka blue magpie.
A cycling tour to remember
The World Heritage city of Anuradhapura - once the centre of Theravada Buddhism - houses beautifully ornate temples, monasteries, palaces and monuments, as well as the oldest dated tree on earth (the Sri Maha Bodhi tree, planted back in 288 BC!). Join a local host as you embark on a cycling journey along the backroads, exploring hidden treasures and lesser-known spots, as well as learning plenty about the history of this enchanting ancient city.
Discovery and luxury combine atop the Indian Ocean
From the coastal town of Mirissa, around an hour’s drive from Galle, hop onboard a private luxury yacht and sail off over the Indian Ocean. Joined by a knowledgeable marine biologist, look out for playful dolphins and graceful whales, discovering more about this area of the Indian Ocean’s precious and unique underwater wildlife. Swapping crowded tourist boats for a stunning yacht with plenty of space, and receiving expert answers to any questions you may wish to ask, this is truly the best (and most luxurious) way to spot the largest mammal on earth, the blue whale!
Take a walk through captivating Colombo
Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo comprises tree-lined boulevards, colonial architecture and sandy beaches. An increasingly cosmopolitan metropolis, contemporary restaurants, art galleries and shops are easy to come by. Discover the colourful city’s hidden treasures as you join Mark Forbes – wildlife expert, researcher, curator and founder of ‘Colombo City Walks’ – on a tour of pretty churches, iconic buildings, bustling streets and wonderful shops. Mark will continue to share fascinating facts about Colombo and Sri Lanka as a whole, before the tour ends (over a beer if you fancy!) at the heritage Old Colombo Dutch Hospital, now a popular spot for shopping and dining. Our luxury properties in Colombo include the boutique hotel Residence and The Wallawwa, once a colonial manor house.
Gorgeous gardens with an expert botanist
Located in Peradeniya, just outside of the city of Kandy, Sri Lanka’s stunning Royal Botanical Gardens are spread over 147 acres, featuring a staggering 4,000 species of flora. Unique varieties of trees include the century-old Javan fig tree, the giant bamboo of Burma, and the aptly-named cannonball tree, blooming with spherical fruits from its trunk. Join an expert botanist as you tour the beautiful gardens, learning more about the unique and varied plant life here. As well as flora, the gardens are home to countless fruit bats and many charming monkeys. A small, laidback property nestled in the mountains, Ellerton is our closest hotel to these glorious gardens.
A tour through Negombo
A charming city on Sri Lanka’s west coast, just north of Colombo, take a walk through Negombo with a friendly and knowledgeable resident host. Spot Dutch colonial buildings and churches as you stroll through the enchanting old quarter, visit the bustling beachfront fish market or grace the picturesque paths of the Hamilton Canal. The Old Dutch Fort, dating back to 1678, houses a renowned cricket green, while the Angukuramilla Temple and its striking 6m-long Buddha lies just outside of the town centre.
Have you been inspired to experience a luxury Sri Lanka escape including one or more of these unforgettable activities? Contact our Travel Specialists on 01244 355 600 for first-hand information or to book, or browse our Indian Ocean portfolio online today.