“At just 20-minutes away from the airport, Negombo is a convenient first or last stop on many itineraries. The beach is quite rugged compared to the golden sands further south, but the hotels that line the shore are well-suited for a short stop. During your stay, don’t miss a trip into Negombo town to see the lively morning fish market, brightly coloured wooden boats and ornate churches that have earned the town its nickname of ‘Little Rome’”.
On arrival into Sri Lanka, make a beeline for Jetwing Beach, the perfect place to retreat to after a long journey. Book in for a reviving spa treatment to ease away any jetlag, take a refreshing dip in one of the two pools and enjoy your first Sri Lankan meal in style at Black Coral, the signature fine dining restaurant.
“Spend a few days in the fortified coastal town of Galle, a great place for a stopover between the west coast beaches and Yala National Park. A stay here will appeal to both history lovers and foodies, with its artisan eateries and architectural gems: the star of the show being the UNESCO listed Galle Fort. Within the fort walls is a little slice of the Mediterranean, with narrow, colonial streets to wander, beautiful old buildings and chic boutiques. Along the Galle Coast, you’ll have the chance to observe the famous stilt fisherman waiting for their daily catch, go at sunset for the best photo of this iconic view.”
Fort Bazaar is a bijou bolthole hidden among the ramparts and colonial-era buildings of Galle Fort and is one of our favourite finds in Galle. A huddle of whitewashed buildings are arranged around a frangipani-scented courtyard; there's an inviting restaurant and just 18 Scandi-inspired rooms, creating an intimate vibe.
“Sri Lanka is a wildlife-enthusiasts dream and most of our visitors have a safari experience high on their bucket list. Although we have 22 National Parks, Yala is the most well-known, and for a good reason. You’ll likely encounter elephants, buffalo, sloth bears, many birds and butterflies, but the big-ticket sight is the elusive leopard – Yala has one of the biggest concentrations of these big cats on the island.”
Go wild and stay at Yala’s most luxurious property, Uga Chena Huts, set in sweeping dunes on the edge of the park. Each exquisite cabin is concealed among the dunes for complete privacy and has a plunge pool, deep soaking tub and lavish African décor. After a thrilling game drive, relax on your deck and listen to the sounds of the jungle or treat yourself to a massage at the spa.
“Known as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy is a vibrant city in the heart of the island, centred around a pretty lake. Visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth and the Royal Botanical Gardens, try fiery Sri Lankan dishes rustled up on the streetside and watch a hypnotic and colourful Kandyan dance performance. If you’re short on time, Kandy is an excellent base to explore the island highlights – the Cultural Triangle and tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya are both within easy reach”.
Around an hour’s drive from Kandy, the wonderfully secluded Santani Wellness Resort & Spa is the ideal place to unwind after exploring the bustling city. Expect breathtaking mountain scenery, exquisite food and pampering wellness treatments – this resort is home to Sri Lanka’s first destination spa.
“Many of our UNESCO World Heritage Sites are found in the Cultural Triangle, with its ancient ruins and relics offering a fascinating insight into the country's rich past. A journey through this part of the country will take you from serene temples and historic cities, to lush jungle and impressive rock formations, and we recommend around three nights here to fully appreciate the sights. The regions crown and glory is Sigiriya, a remarkable rock fortress topped with the ruins of an ancient palace. Scale the 1200 steps to the summit, and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views in the country.”
Jetwing Vil Uyana is nestled in a private nature reserve and has individual pavilions scattered among the trees, paddy fields and lake, home to an abundance of wildlife. Start your day with breakfast with a view – the waterside restaurant looks out onto Sigiriya Rock. After dark, head out on a moonlit wildlife trail with the resident naturalist.
“If you’re travelling during the UK summer months and would like to top up your tan on the sand, the East Coast is your best bet for beach weather. I highly recommend sleepy Arugam Bay, a tiny little beach town with an easy-going vibe, great surfing and a handful of rustic seafood restaurants. A must-do is a boat tour on nearby Pottuvil Lagoon, where you might spot crocodiles lurking among the mangroves, kingfishers in flight and even elephants, who are known to bathe and frolic in the emerald waters.”
Eco-friendly Jetwing Surf is in a knockout location right on the beach in Arugam Bay. With just 20 seashell-shaped cabanas – designed using sustainable materials such as wood, woven palm leaves and dried grass – this barefoot hotel is ideal for those looking to rest up and relax whilst leaving a lighter footprint. We love the local experiences on offer, like a trip to the farmers market, cookery lessons and birdwatching safaris.
“Bentota is one of the most popular west coast beach resorts. Cocooned between a mangrove-cloaked river and a ribbon of coastline known as the ‘Golden Mile’, you have the best of two watery worlds on your doorstep, making this town a hotspot for watersports. You can get on or in the water with surfing and diving or glide down the river on a nature cruise, where you may spot wildlife such as crocodiles, monitor lizards and a variety of birdlife. Along the beachfront, you’ll find a range of stylish beach hotels and tucked in the town are some great seafood restaurants – as you would expect from a Sri Lankan fishing town.”
Recently refurbished, Cinnamon Bentota Beach has incredible architecture, refined dining and artisan experiences. Spend your days lazing by the pool, jet-skiing or kayaking on the river or try activities like batik painting, coconut leaf art and traditional mask-making.
Our Personal Travel Experts are just that - experts in their chosen area. We combine our first-hand knowledge with local expertise in the destination to ensure your holiday is seamless from start to finish. Call us or visit your nearest Kuoni store for a relaxed chat and we’ll create a tailor-made Sri Lanka holiday that’s right for you.
This feature was published on 16th March 2022. The information within this feature is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of print. Feature by Heather Flanagan.