Sri Lanka, a beautiful island located off the coast of India, has long captivated the imagination of travellers. Thick mashed potato sands fringe its carpets of tea plantations and jungles, and its towns and cities are steeped in culture and colourful history – the Portuguese, Dutch and British colonised the island itself. Despite being greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent political struggles, the beautiful island of Sri Lanka is well and truly open for tourists, its beautiful hotels welcoming travellers from across the world. With easy and affordable flight routes from the GCC, and a long weekend approaching, here are the best hotels in Sri Lanka to check into now.
Ultra-exclusive and luxurious brand Aman has two outposts on the verdant Indian Ocean island offering two distinct experiences: a beachfront, clifftop resort overlooking crashing waves and a colonial townhouse in the charming town of Galle. The former, Amanwella, is located on Sri Lanka’s sunny south coast, hidden in lush tropical jungle and backing onto golden sands dotted with coconut palms. The stunning hotel is home to a small number of private pool villas and suites: on the beachfront, in the garden and on the hilltop. Interiors are neutral with soothing wood touches, fawns and green tones, and a private spot to listen to crashing waves and feel the warm winds on your face is also a spot for private dining. Three other on-site restaurants serve Sri Lanka and international cuisine. There’s also the signature Aman Spa – an enclave of utter peace offering signature Ayurveda treatments.
Tangalle; villas from about AED2,940 per night; aman.com
Wild Coast Lodge
Wild Coast Lodge offers an experience very few hotels can offer: the chance to feel totally alone and connected with nature, but still enjoy luxuries like a private pool, four-poster bed, private bathroom and air-conditioning. One of three Relais and Chateaux hotels in the country, this luxury tented ‘camp’ is a dream for wildlife and nature lovers, sandwiched between the jungle and a rugged, isolated beach bordering the Yala National Park. The site offers accommodation in charming and sustainable ‘Cocoon tents’, with canvas walls hiding dark leather furnishings, sleek copper bathtubs and teak. Four Cocoon tents come with private pools, whilst the remaining 16 are dotted around the site next to watering holes attracting local wildlife from the national park. Dining follows a similar safari-inspired theme, including a jungle afternoon tea and even cookery classes.
Yala; tents from about AED3,270 per night; resplendentceylon.com
Aman’s second property in Sri Lanka offers a distinctly different experience from its beachfront sister, making it ideal for a two-part escape of both city and beach and one of the best hotels in Sri Lanka. The boutique, Dutch-colonial hotel lies within the rampart of Sri Lanka’s 17th-century Galle Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and is a peaceful sanctuary in the midst of a vibrant local town and community. Wander past the old Dutch Fort, now housing cafes and boutiques, and whizzing tuk-tuks to experience a hotel of colonial grandeur with rooms having sash windows, original wooden flooring and four-poster beds. A charming tiled dining room, a walled garden, a huge 21-metre swimming pool, spa and beauty salon elevate the hotel to the Aman standard its guests are accustomed to.
Galle; doubles from about AED2,390 per night; aman.com
Ceylon Tea Trails – Norwood Bungalow
Sri Lanka is as known for its lush hillsides and hinterlands as it is for its golden beaches, and a superb way to explore these landscapes, and the famous tea plantations they call home, is with a stay at Ceylon Tea Trails’ Norwood Bungalow. Perched at an altitude of 1,250m in the thick of the Ceylon tea region, this charming hotel comprises five beautifully restored tea planter residences (or bungalows), that date back to the colonial era. Each bungalow has its own charm – named after the planter who lived in the bungalow and with teak furnishings, antiques, crisp white bedding and four-poster beds – and offers 26 rooms and suites in various categories, from master and garden suites to the owners’ cottage. All of them offer truly breathtaking views of the tropical countryside and butler service: on hand to pour you tea in the morning as you wake up to the gold-dipped valleys and enjoy the cooler climate away from the coast.
Hatton; doubles from about AED2,110 per night; resplendentceylon.com
Luxury Sri Lanka-based Resplendent Ceylon has some of the most exclusive and beautiful properties on the island (Wild Coast and Ceylon are in its portfolio), and each brings its own charm and identity. Perched on Sri Lanka’s soaring southern cliffs is Cape Weligama and sitting in 12- acres of tropical garden overlooking the Indian Ocean, the hotel has just 39 rooms across 23 Villas and 16 Suites and three dining outlets. Villas have private infinity pools shaded by lush greenery and the property boasts rugged coastline views, a sweeping swimming pool, a private beach and three dining outlets (along with a host of dining experiences from cliff-edge to cove water dining). Spacious rooms and suites are inspired by the hospitality of a Sri Lankan village and the island’s maritime heritage and have terracotta-tiled roofs, colourful walls and verandas looking out onto the gardens.
Weligama (near Galle); doubles from about AED1,415 per night; resplendentceylon.com
Anantara Kalutara Resort
Anantara Kalutara Resort is a high-end resort just an hour’s drive from the capital Colombo, offering a much-needed dose of island life but with close links to the city and international airport. The hotel sits on a secluded beachfront where the Kalu Ganga River meets the Indian Ocean and boasts a design-led aesthetic inspired by famed architect Geoffrey Bawa – lots of shiny teak reminiscent of the Thai brand’s signature aesthetic. Of the 141 rooms, suites and pool villas, a large chunk comes with private terraces and pools, a necessity when surrounded by the beach and the hotel’s tropical gardens. Anantara’s signature spa specialises in Ayurvedic treatments while dining and drinking options include authentic Sri Lankan and Mediterranean fare.
Kalutara; double from AED595 night; anantara.com