Posh on Less Dosh
Trundle in luxury across the enchanting island nation of Sri Lanka, staying in world class affordable hotels – from colonial classics to swish spas, bright boutique boltholes to stylish b and bs. Despite Sri Lanka’s rise to fame as a holiday favourite, prices are still reasonable. And basking in hospitality and comfort won’t stop you snacking on street food, travelling by local train or appreciating the colourful daily life and culture of this award-winning destination.
No Rain, No Gain
November can bring monsoon weather to the North East of Sri Lanka and some years, although not always, this affects the whole country, making it less appealing for tourists.
We decided to take a chance, as well as a Pac-a-mac, and travel from 14th to 26th November. Our flight with Sri Lankan Airlines cost £450 return rather than £900 in the peak season months of January and February.
We only saw rain once for a few hours and even then it wasn’t heavy enough to stop us from going outside and walking around. Mostly it was gloriously sunny, hot during the day and balmy at night. It seemed an ideal time to visit and paying less for the flight meant we had more to spend on lovely hotels, always in scenic settings, offering great facilities, food and service.
Trundlers Top Spots
Classic and Colonial in Colombo
Galle Face Hotel
A Colombo icon, built in 1864, this classy hotel has a saltwater swimming pool overlooking the Indian Ocean. After a 12 hour flight, arriving here was a great relief. We were welcomed by a gracious Sri Lankan woman whose calm charm set the tone for our trip. Our room was beautiful, classic, spacious and luxurious. Everything from ginger tea bags to mini tubes of toothpaste, were provided, adding to the feeling of being nurtured.
Within minutes of checking in we were relaxing by the pool, breathing in the warm tropical air and listening to the waves. It was the perfect start to our journey.
£140 for two in a classic room
Heaven in the Mountains
Santani Resort and Spa
Early the next morning we took the train to Kandy from Colombo Fort Station – busy, orderly, grubby, atmospheric. It was easy to buy a ticket(£10) at the station in the clearly signposted ticket office. We got there an hour before departure to make sure of getting a seat. You pay more if you sit in an air-conditioned carriage, but it was more fun to be by an open window, close to the magic of the outside world.
Spectacular and exciting, the train journey took us from the suburbs of Colombo into the rich, dense, dramatic greenery of the Sri Lankan countryside. A three hour journey with glorious scenery nearly all the way.
I had pre-booked a transfer through the hotel ( price £45) from Kandy station and our driver was there waiting for us with a comfortable, air conditioned car. We drove through the vibrant streets of historic Kandy and out into remote countryside, up a steep narrow road where bright flowers and slender women in gorgeous saris distracted us from the often perilous road.
We spent the next three nights at this sublime retreat, with spectacular views of the Knuckles Mountains from floor to ceiling windows in the elegant cabin. Remote, peaceful and heavenly with a luxurious spa and fresh water pool.
Three delectable meals made from fresh local ingredients were included as part of the day rate, as well as wine, beer, teas and juices made from Sri Lankan fruits. When we arrived we were consulted about food preferences and allergies and every meal was light, healthy and delicious.
We paid £150 a night for everything, which felt like a good deal. We left there floating on air, bursting with health after three days of freshly cooked food, swimming, reading, sleeping and spa treatments (not included in the price.)
Traditional Charm by the Sea
Robin Hill Suites, Weligama
To make life easier and allow us to see more in a short time frame, I booked a transfer through Sri Lankan Tourism to take us to the south coast. This cost £80 and took around six hours with a break for lunch on the way. Another safe, comfortable journey, well worth paying extra for especially as it doubled as a sightseeing tour through fascinating local colour and chaos.
Robin Hill Suites is a Dutch style century old colonial house, a few streets back from the beach. Small, peaceful and full of character, with rooms furnished in a traditional style, this was a very homely and special experience. We spent much of our time in the glorious garden, watching kingfishers flitting amongst the papaya trees, ginger lilies, orchids and white hibiscus. Weligama, is local, low key and easy to explore. After a swim in the private pool, wandered along the pretty beach and visited the serenely ornate Buddhist temple.
Robin Hill offers traditional Sri Lankan food, prepared by its own cook. We ate a huge breakfast of fresh fruit, hoppers(a kind of Sri Lankan basket shaped pancake), eggs, local cheese, toast, fruit juice and coffee in the tropical garden. A divine dinner of a succession of delicate curries and finely spiced vegetable dishes was served in a tranquil dining room.
A double room with breakfast cost £70, dinner was £15 each
A Lush, Tropical Retreat
The Spice House, Mirissa
A short tuk tuk ride along the coast, past the famous stilt fishermen, takes you to Mirissa and The Spice House, set in another lush tropical garden where peacocks wander amidst the orchids. This stylish, comfortable oasis, has sun beds arranged around the pool and views of the garden, where an aromatic spice trail has been laid out for guests to explore.
Down on the beach we jumped in and out of the warm waves and drank mint and passion juice in the steamy sun, then hopped in a tuk tuk back to The Spice House for dinner.
A divine Sri Lankan feast was served in the fragrant garden, this time in the company of our fellow guests, travelers from England who were enjoying this well run hotel as much as we were.
Double rooms with a large breakfast cost £76, dinner was £16.
A Chic, Pretty Boutique Hotel
The Mango House in Galle
The delightful, historic Portuguese settlement of Galle gave us context and history to contemplate after our relaxing beach time. The Mango House is a former cinnamon factory, now artfully decorated in vivid pinks and greens, with embroidered saris on the walls and bright hammocks strung amidst the ginger lilies in the garden.
This was the most tasteful place we stayed in during our heavenly hotel trawl and perhaps the most romantic. It was also a good base from which to explore Galle with its inviting cafes, bars, shops and colonial architecture. Our time here coincided with the only rain we encountered but it didn’t bother us at all.
A double room with a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, fresh fruit and yoghurt, was £90.
Comfort and Tranquillity for our Last Night
The Wallawwa, in Negombo near Colombo
We had a last blast of luxury in The Wallawwa, where flowers and petals floated on pools of water dotted throughout this sumptuous hotel. There was a inviting, spacious swimming pool and an excellent spa with good, affordable treatments. We slept like a dream in this secluded spot. And staying here was a great way to end this epic trip and it set us up for the long journey home.
A double room with lavish breakfast cost £180