Sri Lanka is a country that I have always longed to visit; its stunning landscapes, rich history and multiculturalism make it a unique island country, and, for a small nation, there is so much to see and experience. This pull for me, has become even stronger since the terrible events of Easter 2019, which has since seen a 57% drop in tourism in June 2019, compared to the previous year. Therefore, when Perowne International offered a place on a trip, to experience some of their portfolio firsthand, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to see for myself the effects that these events have had on the country, as well as experience the overall feel that Sri Lanka has, almost 6 months on.
Our first stay on our whistle-stop tour was Wattura Resort & Spa, a beautiful property located on both Waikkal beach and the Gin Oya estuary, on the south west coast of Sri Lanka. This boutique property has just 27 villas and suites, and is designed with a contemporary and minimalist Sri Lankan style. Wattura means ‘water’ in Tamil, one of Sri Lanka’s official languages, and you see this wherever you look, from the water features throughout the resort, to the river and sea that border the property. This place is perfect for honeymooners, as it’s remote and private, and all villas offer their own butler service, which gives a really special experience.
For me, I loved how much there was to do here – we headed out on a boat trip down the Gin Oya river, and were surrounded by so much wildlife including King Fishers and Monitor Lizards. As well as this, we really got to see a glimpse of local life – from children playing by the waters edge, to fishermen catching an evening meal just outside of the mouth of the river. Unlike other areas of the country, which can feel touristy, this region felt extremely authentic. Four nights here at the end of a Sri Lankan itinerary, would give the perfect balance.
Our next stop was the tea country, a scenic 6 hour drive east. We avoided the most popular areas of Ella and Kandy, and instead headed to the town of Haputale. Beyond the town, are fields and fields of tea, stretching as far as the eye can see, amongst a stunning mountainous landscape.
We had the absolute honour of staying at Thotalagala, a traditional house that used to belong to the assistant manage of the tea plantation. It’s a property of just 7 rooms, and from the moment you step over the threshold, you’re made to feel at home. We arrived to steaming mugs of hot chocolate, out on the terrace, watching the night creep in, and the mist settle over the hillside. The rooms are all individually designed, and named after an influential individual from the time of British rule. I would really recommend the Sir Thomas Lipton Suite.
While the location is incredible, the staff excemplary and the food out of this world, it’s the experience that you receive here, that really goes above an beyond. We headed out on a hike through the tea fields, where we got to speak with locals who still pick the leaves by hand, the landscape too steep for machines to navigate.
Our final destination was Lipton’s original tea factory, Dambatenne. This was built in the late 1800’s, and while some newer machines have been added, a lot of the processes haven’t changed for hundreds of years. Watching as the unremarkable tea leaf, is dried, ground, sieved and fermented, to create black teas of varying consistencies and flavours is truly fascinating.
I would recommend at least 4 nights here, preferably in the middle of a trip, to make the most of everything this region has to offer.
Finally, we stayed in Galle, a city in the south west of Sri Lanka, famous for its fort, which was built by the Portuguese in the 16th Century, and since changed and adapted by the Dutch and the British. The walls of the fort protect a maze of quaint streets within, and this is where you’ll find boutique shops and souvenir shops. Galle Fort Hotel, is a stunning building that dates back to the 18th Century. Its mansion that has been utilised in many ways over the years – from an RAF barracks to a post office. With just 13 rooms, all designed with their own nod to a part of the buildings history, it’s a stunning example of a luxury boutique done right. This was such a fantastic way to end our time in Sri Lanka, and I wish we were able to stay another night!
I must say that throughout my time in Sri Lanka, I felt completely safe. At no point did I feel threatened or on edge, and every single person I met, greeted me with warmth and kindness. On almost everyone’s minds however, were the events of Easter – eager to find out our thoughts and to stress how disappointed they are as a nation that this has happened.
All I can say is go – don’t allow a very small group of individuals to dissuade you from experiencing such a fantastic country.