Sri Lanka is one of the hottest go-to destinations right now, with a deep cultural background filled with interesting history and traditions, gorgeous diverse landscapes from tea plantations in cold climates, to beach vibes for surfing, monument sites rich with tradition and significance and desert national parks for safari, just to name a few. To polish it off, there is an amazing selection of accommodation emerging to suit all budgets and tastes, from five star luxury and boutique hotels to quaint B&Bs, villas and hostels, there’s something for everyone.
Here at I Ate My Way Through we have aimed to create a guide for you, showcasing some of the best and favourite places we visited during our time in Sri Lanka last month. Enjoy!
The Lookout, 2 Villas Sri Lanka, Dikwella Beach
Luxury has met new heights in this thoughtfully designed villa dedicated to personalised touches for each of its guests. A 3.5 hour drive from the capital Colombo, 2 Villas Sri Lanka sits nestled behind the main road, on the beachfront of the quiet yet gorgeously beautiful Dikwella Beach. With one large lodging home to two villas under the same roof, we were lucky enough to be the first guests to experience The Lookout at 2 Villas Sri Lanka.
Styled by the owner Nicola in an elegant beach chic meets ultra luxe, this private villa features a huge 17m pool, four lusciously spacious rooms sleeping up to 12, a private butler and your own personal chef hailing from the seven star Burj Al Arab. Ideal for a secluded vacation for those who don’t fancy staying in a busy resort, anyone wanting complete privacy, family holidays, conferences, yoga retreats or even perfect for a wedding when combined with the its neighbouring villa The Boathouse which sleeps 10. Visit the nearby surfing Hireketiya Beach, one of the coast’s best kept secrets whose beauty will just take your breath away. Take a walk down Dikwella beach at sunset and feel the serenity of this amazing country as the waves wash against your ankles. Be home just in time for dinner, where Chef Premil will make you anything you desire from traditional Sri Lankan to Italian or French!
The Lookout, 2 Villas Sri Lanka
Dickwella Beach, South Coast, Sri Lanka
Shangri-La Hambantota Resort & Spa
One of Sri Lanka’s newest luxury 5 star resorts, this gigantic property on the South Coast is an impressive feat. Spread over 58 hectares with 300 guest rooms, 3 pools, 3 restaurants, multiple bars and an exquisite 18-hole golf course. Palm trees fill the grounds, whistling in the wind, whilst hanging pods and cabanas decorate the huge lawns spanning the resort. Perfect for families or couples alike, there is a kid’s club to keep them entertained, and plenty of secluded areas for adults to enjoy as well as Shangri-La’s signature Chi Spa allowing for complete relaxation.Be transported to pre-Colonial Sri Lanka and visit their quaint Artisanal Village filled with traditional treasures. Watch as the craftsmen create pieces before your eyes such as cooking utensils from coconut husk, batiks, elephant sketches, ancient masks, wooden boxes and artworks. For those more adventurous there is plenty of activities including yoga, aqua aerobics, mountain biking, river safari and an outdoor waterpark. Furthermore, you will be spoilt for choice with the amazing food at their restaurants with a daily international buffet and the more upmarket Asian inspired Sera eatery.
Shangri La Hambantota Resort & Spa
Sittrakala Estate, Chithragala, Ambalantota, Sri Lanka
Galle Fort Hotel, Galle
Strolling into this splendid boutique hotel, we were instantly transported to colonial Sri Lanka. Greeted by manager David, we were taken on a journey through time as he recounted the history of this amazing old building. Now a glorious boutique hotel it has been transformed throughout time from RAF barracks to post office, to even bakery. With a breezy terrace on the street perfect for an evening drink, it greets its guests with grace and finesse. I loved the traditionally styled interiors that remind you of the distinguished history so rich in the hotel, town and throughout Sri Lanka.The calm and tranquil courtyard is a hidden sanctuary you would never know existed- lined with palm trees, blossoming frangipanis scattered around, and an enticing azure pool in the centre teasing you to take a dip. Our split level loft style suite contained one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in! Meanwhile the food doesn’t disappoint, with their new restaurant humorously named Galle Things Roti set to become one of the fort town’s hottest new eateries, as well as their fine dining restaurant offering amazing food and pretty high tea. Definitely a gem in the crown of Galle Fort.
Galle Fort Hotel
28 Church St, Galle, Sri Lanka
Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
The moment I walked into our safari ‘hut’ my jaw dropped, not so much a hut but more so an enormous luxury lodge set amongst the bushes of Yala National Park in South Sri Lanka. The hut itself is stunning, every detail attentively curated, with ultimate guest comfort in mind. The interiors are exquisite with amber coloured timber, hanging campsite lanterns illuminating the room, a sweeping high ceiling just as if you were in a tent, a cosy sofa & TV for relaxing and a glorious big bathtub lined with translucent satin curtains. Just when it couldn’t get any better, you walk outside to your private deck with its own plunge pool, sun loungers and signature camping chairs.Waking up early is a small challenge but not when you see the most beautiful sunrise in your life. Your safari guide leads you to your waiting 4×4 safari chariot, ready to find the wonders of the wild. Lucky for you Chena Huts is so dedicated to their guests that they have lined up at 3.30am to get you the third spot into the National Park. I was determined to see a leopard, it was my only wish. A mere 15 minutes in, we all came to a halt and spotted the purring cat about 200m away. It was breathtaking. The rest of the morning was spent sighting elephants, deers, water buffalos, eagles and birds. We returned the lodging to eat a decadent breakfast of French Toast and traditional Sri Lankan string hoppers. Definitely a must and worth every cent for the ultimate luxury safari experience.
Chena Huts by Uga Escapes
Palatupana, Yala, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka
Located in the cultural triangle of Dambulla, this hotel is an architectural masterpiece designed esteemed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. With hanging vines dangling down the buildings, monkeys jump playfully and tease you at your window- just make sure not to open them in case of invasion! The hotel is centrally located to visit the centuries old Sigiriya rock, ancient Golden Rock Temple and Golden Buddha. In the afternoon, cool off from the heat in in their gorgeous tantalising blue infinity pool with a cocktail in hand. Take in the glorious view of Kandalama Lake and the wonderful greenery of the landscape, whilst the sun sets over the horizon.The rooms are styled in a contemporary way, but seem a little tired. The food however is delicious! The main dining room is home to buffet fare with high quality food and an extensive selection of items. For those after some extra special, enjoy a private dinner in a cave, with fire torches lighting the walls and a flute player serenading you.
Heritance Kandalama Hotel
11, Dambulla, Dambulla, Sri Lanka
Galle Face Hotel Colombo
A true must visit if in Colombo, I highly recommend staying here if you can. One can stay in any of the modern Hilton, Taj or Movenpick Hotels and essentially be in any city of the world, but this hotel is simply unique and unbeatable. With a fusion of colonial architecture nothing beats old world furnishings but sleek polished finishes.
The moment you enter the hotel, one is greeted by a uniformed bell boy bearing a posh tailcoat who opens the door into a world of indulgence and refinement. Brightly lit interiors, highlight the timeless grandeur of the one of the country’s oldest hotels. Rich with history, the rooms and suites ooze class. Enjoy an afternoon high tea on their veranda or an evening drink by the pool as the sunsets and bagpipe players serenade the end of the day. Our suite was newly renovated, styled in a fusion of elegant traditional & modern style with plush furnishing, with a spacious balcony overlooking the stunning grounds and Indian Ocean. All staff are extremely professional, friendly and helpful, making for a thoroughly enjoyable and seamless stay. Five stars in every way with a colonial edge.
Galle Face Hotel
2 Galle Road, Colombo 3, Sri Lanka
See & Do
Originally built by the Dutch to protect their precious Cinnamon trade, this fort town was shielded from the outside world by a huge wall around the city. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the town rich is in culture and history, with conservation remaining a huge focus. The grand wall helped to safeguard the ancient colonial town against the tragic 2004 tsunami that wiped out so much of the West & South Sri Lankan coast. For this reason, within its walls one can find some of the most authentic and historic buildings unlike any others in Sri Lanka. The cobblestone streets are lined with grand old Dutch buildings which have been preserved and radiate unique character. Most buildings have or are undergoing restoration and are filled with a mix of gift stores, cafes, restaurants and restaurants.
To me walking the streets felt as though I was walking the cobblestones of Rome or Mykonos but who would have guessed this is Sri Lanka?! Take a walk along the Fort Wall as the heat dissipates at sunset, observe the famous Galle Fort Lighthouse.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
A hot air balloon is a unique way to enjoy the scenery and landscape of a country as beautiful as Sri Lanka has to offer. A sleepy 2 hour early morning journey from Colombo or 1 hour from Galle finds us at our departing location ready to take off. Global Reach Excursions is operating the only hot air balloon in Sri Lanka other than the one found in Dambulla region. Lifting off a little after 6am, we were just in time to see the sun rise over the mountains, with a thin layer of cloud just below our feet, it was simply magical.Spotting palm trees, paddy fields, temples and rainforest all from a bird’s eye view was a unique experience. Floating rather than flying is a completely different sensation, with a relaxed calmness quite like nothing else. Striped with Sri Lanka’s national colours our vividly striking balloon awoke the towns in bewilderment, who had never seen anything so remarkable before. Hundreds of people were racing out of their homes in utter bafflement to see this huge flotation device travelling through the sky. We reached out with our hands to touch the top of trees, travelling over mountainous ridges, eventually landing in a muddy paddy field to a huge audience of locals, causing a traffic jam of tuk tuks, motorbikes, cars & pedestrians. Welcome to Sri Lanka!
I was initially very sceptical at doing this, but I thought “when in Rome…” and I am so glad I did. Another early morning had us travelling to the beach town of Mirissa, a new bustling hub of activity filled with boutique hotels, cute B&Bs and beach clubs. The small harbour filled with local fishermen’s boats, was calm and serene, as we set sail with Raja & The Whales in search of mammoth sized blue whales. The long journey into the ocean was a little rocky, but Raja provides you with plenty of sustenance beginning with a tea & coffee, followed by a fruit plate, freshly cooked eggs, juice and cake to top it all off.Raja’s men’s eyes are glued to the horizon, scanning all directions to see any break in the surface of a whale. Before we knew it, we had our first spotting with a huge 5m long blue whale spitting water from its blow hole. The first spotting was exciting, but it only continued from there, sighting more and more throughout the morning. The Kodak moment however is when the whale kicks its tale in the air, before duck diving deep into the ocean for over 20 minute periods. By 10am I was tired of cruising for whales, but suddenly we stumbled a pod of literally hundreds and hundreds of dolphins. They surfed the waves beside the boat playfully jumping in and out of the sparkling ocean, diving and frolicking below the bow. There were even spinner dolphins who somehow managed to ricochet out of the water meters high and back down, I couldn’t help the huge smile that spread across my face filled with pure happiness.
Dambulla – cultural triangle
The cultural triangle of Sigiriya, the Golden Temple of Dambulla and Kandy are essential sights to see when visiting Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is a centuries old rock palace built by the ancient king to protect himself. Huge tiger feet have been carved into the rock showcasing the mastery of the huge architectural and monumental feat, whilst magnificent cave artworks also reveal the striking prehistoric art. We climbed over 1200 stairs along the side of the rock to the top, which provided 360 views of the seemingly endless horizon. The Golden Temple of Dambulla has been a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. It features five caves from different time periods, filled with different Buddha’s created over the years. From the laying Buddha statue, to the rows and rows of meditating figures, to the amazing murals lining the walls, the entire mood and atmosphere is enchanting and mystic. Walking into these chambers was a very spiritual experience. Each was created in a different time period, and therefore reminiscent of varying styles.The Golden Buddha just down the road from the Golden Temple of Dambulla (above) is more recently built in the 1990s. Gleaming with vibrant gold paint, the statue is remarkable and imposing, featuring decorations such as monk statues on either side, who are on their way to pray. Underneath sits a Buddhist museum decorated in an interesting kitsch style, allowing those who are fascinated to learn more about the religion and its history.
Gamagedara Village Foods, Sigiriya
Situated just beside the touristic site of Sigiriya rock, our driver took us to a small local village lady’s restaurant for some traditional Sri Lankan cuisine. He explained to us that the food in hotels, was created a little differently to traditional cooking and commonly tasted different. I love stumbling across hidden little gems, and I was eager to try the true local cuisine. I was not disappointed.
Meeting the owner, we arrived to the cute little hut just in time for lunch. She had prepared over seven different curries, deeply apologetic for not delivering her usual ten, god forbid because she had had a baby a mere 3 weeks ago. God bless, can you blame her? Seven is more than enough!The variety of curries was huge and all tasted amazing. The range included beef curry, squash, mango, vegetable, cabbage, sambal and my newest favourite of baby jackfruit. The texture was incredible like shredded meat but instead a vegetable, absolutely packed with flavour. She then brought out further accompaniments including the best coconut sambal to date. We left with full bellies and big smiles on our face, stuffed full of wonderful food!
Gamagedara Village Foods, Sigiriya
Phone:+94 71 700 3706
Black Pepper, Colombo
This gorgeous restaurant in the nation’s capital is definitely set to become one of the best eateries in the city. In a glowing white colonial building next to the Dutch Hospital square, Black Pepper is styled elegantly in a black and white scheme. Exquisite tables & chairs line the huge bright white room boasting a sweeping cavernous ceiling. Every detail down to the plates has been considerately combined to match in the B&W colour scheme that yields a sleek contemporary feel.
The menu describes a diner’s plate as a compass with signature dishes from the North, South, East & West reflecting each of the regions of Sri Lanka. The northern region Jaffna features crab curry, the east Batticaloa is Mutton Curry, down South is Fish Head Curry whilst the West Negombo highlights prawn curry.The local Sri Lankan chef boasts an impressive portfolio working at the best hotels across the Middle East & Asia creates some of the best cuisine you’ll find in Colombo. You must not miss the namesake ‘Black Pepper’ Crab or the traditional dessert of watalappan. The impressive wine cellar has the perfect tipples to accompany your meal and their attentive staff will make sure your glass is never empty. The perfect way to experience traditional cuisine enjoying the sophisticated atmosphere Black Pepper has to offer.
Black Pepper Colombo
No. 62/6, Dutch Hospital Square, Chatham Street, Colombo 01, Sri Lanka
Café Kumbuk, Colombo
This hidden gem in Sri Lanka highlights the burgeoning café scene that is emerging in the nation’s capital and other hubs. Down a cute little laneway, this adorable terrace structure houses a yoga studio, cool boutique and the amazing Café Kambuk. The food was amazing and offered a reprieve from days of curry. With fresh juices, delicious smoothies, a decadent iced milo, toasted coconut bread, French toast, jackfruit sloppy joes and so many other tantalizing options you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Prana Lounge 60 Horton Place, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Aloha Coffee Gallery, Mirissa
The best coffee I drank in Sri Lanka, this healthful café serves up smoothie bowls, avo toast, chia puds, ice tea, coconut coffee and more! Perfect for a pit-stop if travelling down the south coast, or perhaps a post whale-watching snack. The enchanting café is hidden down an unassuming laneway, like so much in Sri Lanka! Run by a young Czech girl she realised the charm of Sri Lanka, the opportunities the country held, and the cool beach scene erupting in Mirissa. The café is adjacent to a garden decked with blooming bougainvillea’s, and features a distinctive glass floor which works really effectively! Definitely worth a visit if in the neighbourhood.
Aloha Coffee Gallery
Beachside Rd off Matara Rd, Mirissa, Sri Lanka
I Ate My Way Through would like to thank Global Reach Excursions for organising the driver for the duration of our travels around Sri Lanka.
I Ate My Way Through were guests of The Lookout at 2 Villas Sri Lanka, Shangri La Hambantota Resort & Spa, Chena Huts by Uga Escapes, Heritance Kandalama Hotel, Black Pepper Colombo, Global Reach Excursions hot air balloon.