Sri Lanka: Paradise found

Written by on July 3, 2015 in Hotels & Resorts, Travel - Comments Off on Sri Lanka: Paradise found

head-about-srilankaSri Lanka is a true paradise isle south east of India. In size less than 15 % of the surface of India, Sri Lanka offers an astonishing variety in landscape, cultural highlights and population, making the isle an absolute top destination for nature and culture loving travellers. The Sri Lankans are very fond of their natural environment and this becomes clearly visible in a strong tendency to organise tourism more and more on an ecological and sustainable basis. JetWing and Heritance run a number of outstanding hotels on an advanced ecological footing.

ceylon-tea-country-tea-trails-srilankaNature in abundance
Lush valeys covered in tea plants, impressive rainforests and cool mountains form the landscape of the inner part of the isle. Rivers and thousands of natural and man made water reservoirs form a keen irrigation system partly going back in time to days BC. The south east is the driest part of the island and is characterised by a savannah to desert like landscape. Finaly the coastal area offers a variety of white sandy beaches and rough cliffs. The vegetation in most areas is very rich and diverse as is the wildlife. A huge variety of birds, elephants , monkeys, snakes, alligators, water buffels and leopards can be encountered, even outside the many natural parks. Several coastal areas are famous spots for watching whales, dolphins and giant turtles, some of which are over 6 foot in length. There are many natural parks on the island, most of which can be visited.

Culture-History-sri-lankaTemples, palaces and forts
The cultural highlights of Sri Lanka are well spread out over the country. The oldest remains of the rich cultural history not to be missed for a visit date from BC and are mostly religiously inspired. Also the later temples are often many centuries old and beautifully decorated showing sacred Bhuddist or Hindu images and relics. They are, together with the less present mosques, places of worship and naturally treated with the highest level of respect. Besides these holy monuments, remnants of ancient royal cities can be visited, showing the high level of esthetical landscaping and architecture from centuries BC. Go to cities like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Sigirya, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya to enjoy the impressive items of the ancient Sri Lankan culture.
The port towns of Colombo, Jaffna and Galle offer very interesting historical sites from the 16th till the 19th century dating from the colonial times when Sri Lanka was first occupied by Portuguese, then Dutch merchants and finally English colonists. The latter occupied not only the coastal areas but most of the island, using the land in the mountenous area for tea and coffee plantations.
Sri Lanka became an independant state within the British Empire in 1948 and an independant democratic republic in 1972.

AHANGAMA-SCHOOL-PARADEA colourfull mixture of people
The population of Sri Lanka consists of various groups: Singalese, Tamils, Mores, Veddas, Malayans and Burghers. The Singalese represent 75% and came originally from India to the island some 2500 years ago. The Tamils is the second largest group (around 18%) and they originate also from South India. From the smaller groups the Veddas and the Burghers stand out. The Veddas were the original island inhabitants from pre-historic times. The Burghers finally are the descendants of the colonists from the times of the VOC, the successfull Dutch Trading Company in the 17th and 18th century.

Where to stay

1. Heritance Kandalama

This hotel is the realisation of a dream. Geoffrey Bawa, the celebrated Sri Lankan architect, was enabled to put his creative talent to work in combination with his far reaching views on the importance of ecological tourism. The result is amazing. The hotel is as it were “built into” its natural environment of rocks and rain forest vegetation. Rooms are spacious and comfortable with large windows – in some cases entire glass walls – offering a stunning view onto the rainforest or the lake.

kandalamaThe hotel maintains a strict sustainability policy. They even produce their own paper made of elephant dung!

The Hesitance Kandalama is ideally situated in the so called cultural triangle and therefor a great starting point to exploit the historic sites of Dambula, Sigiria and Polonaruwa.

2. Jetwing Warwick Gardens

jetwing-warwick-garden-07A very nicely kept 19th century planters house, high up in the mountenous area of central Sri Lanka, enclosed in a beautiful valley offering astonishing views of the greenest environment imaginable. Birdsong, the whistling of tree leaves and the soft tinkling of a nearby water spring as the only perceptible sounds complete the feeling of being in a shangri la environment.

The house itself is very nicely furnished. The master bedroom is stunning with a fourposter and a large en suite victorian style bathroom and offering the nicest view into the valley covered with the lush looking tea plants and boarded by the typical vegetation of the wilderness further away.
The staff is marvellous and the food excellent. The hotel keeps its own vegetable gardens and the food offered is organic and mostly of the hotel’s own produce, as is the excellent tea and coffee.

From here it is easy to visit the Horton Plains Unesco World Heritage, but beware: it is overcrowded with tourists and if you prefer tracking in absolute quietness, take one of the various tracks you can pick up from the hotel (ask the staff for information).

There are only 5 rooms in this hotel, so hurry to get one if you are interested.

3. The Galle Face Hotel, Colombo

2The Galle Face Hotel is a remarkable 4 to 5 star hotel with “green” intentions still to be further developped. This hotel opened in 1864 on the sea shore and is within walking distance of the city center. Excellent service in a beautifull restaured interior straight from the best movie scene depicted in colonial times. The Galle Face Hotel once was by far the most exciting and cosmopolitain “place to be” in Colombo and Sri Lanka. It is easy to sniff the atmosphere of those days treading in the footsteps of Richard Nixon, the Duke of Windsor, Ché Gevara, Ghandi, the King of Sweden, Duke Ellington or Cole Porter. A lovely hotel!

4. The Sinharaja Rainforest Ecolodge

landing-ecoA totally different experience was offered in the Sinharaja Rainforest Ecolodge, high up in the mountains, with a 3 star accomodation in a most original concept, very much along the principles of sustainability and environmental friendliness. Roughly 20 written-off steel ship containers have found a second life as lodges in this National Park. These are remarkably spacious and, although fairly basic, they offer all the comfort you need including air conditioning and a hot shower all operated by solar energy.

The central building offers a loungy atmosphere and spacious restaurant and is another example of the successful integration of beautiful modern architecture in a natural environment. The road leading towards the lodges over some 20 kilometers climbing a small path, just wide enough for a car or SUV, offers breath taking views of the marvelous surroundings. Unforgettable!

The Lodges staff offer guided hikes through the impressive vegetation of the rainforest. Although there are plenty leaches around, the guide will supply you with some special accessories to complete your attire and make it basically leach proof, so you can enjoy the amazing vegetation all around.

A one night stay in these very “green” lodges including the ride to the center and a guided tour into the forest is garanteed one of those unforgettable experiences no true nature loving traveller will be prepared to miss.

Awarded the ‘LEEDS PLATINUM for Sustainable Tourism’ through Eco Management, The Rainforest, Deniyaya, Sri Lanka is proud to be the 1st in Sri Lanka, 5th in the world and 4th in Asia to be crowned with this rare honour.

An important tip to get the best out of your trip

Traffic in Sri Lanka is chaotic and I strongly recommend to book a good driver/guide and car combination for your tour. Touroperators can book these for you. Insist on high quality in this respect. We booked a SUV and asked the touroperator for an experienced driver/guide and were very lucky. We were thrilled by the way he mastered the traffic including cows and lazy dogs that are everywhere on the streets. He also was an amazingly caring and wise companion to us during a 12 day trip. Found us beautifull and quiet roads and remarkable places to see between the “hot spots”. Told us so many interesting things about the history of Sri Lanka and today’s life on the island. When we came to the end of our trip it felt like saying goodby to a warm and wise friend. Has everything to do with Bhudisme lived in its finest form by this great man. The name of this excellent driver/guide with SUV is Sri Lal Munasinghe who can be contacted at .

If he is available, book him for your journey in Sri Lanka and you will undoubtedly be as happy as we have been. If he is not free, Sri Lal can no doubt bring you into contact with one of his recommendable colleagues.

About the Author

Frank de Voogd

Family man. Seasoned traveller. Adventurer. China expert. Wine lover. Plays a rather decent round of golf.