First time in... southern Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is one of the most popular islands in the Indian Ocean for travellers and its natural beauty was apparent even from the plane window as, flying in over the vast ocean, I caught my first verdant glimpse of “the Teardrop of India”.
Based in luxurious Anantara hotels, I was exploring the southern region of the island; spotting wildlife, delving into the history and enjoying the beautiful scenery. My first stay was on the popular south-western coast at the Anantara Kalutara, which was a 90 minute transfer from the airport. During the drive, the hectic city traffic in Colombo was soon left behind as we headed into the more tranquil and stunning scenery of the lush countryside.
The luxurious, beachfront Anantara Kalutara Resort can be found in between the Indian Ocean and the Kalu Ganga River. A simple yet chic design, it was inspired by the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Bawa was renowned as an influential Asian architect that became known for ‘tropical modernism’. I visited his country home, the Lunuganga Estate, which is now managed by a group of his close friends, who created the Lunuganga Trust. Covering 15 acres, it was where he experimented with ideas and structural designs. The house is now a museum of paintings and photographs, set within the stunning gardens that are filled with exotic plants and trees.
Anantara Kalutara Resort
The location of the hotel is idyllic. Just a short walk from the beach, it is hidden among tall coconut trees and tropical gardens. I dined under the stars at the Spice Traders restaurant, where I tasted the local cuisine, some of which had a real kick to it, despite being dulled for tourists! If you would rather something more western, you can dine at the Acquolina, which spcecialises in Italian food.
On the way to the Anantara Tangalle, we stopped at the Ambalangoda mask workshop and museum. Having been passed down through the Wijesuriya family for five generations, it was fascinating to find out more about the history of Sri Lankan mask carvings and watching artisans carve them in front of you. Originally the masks had been used to portray characters in folk tales or devil dancing. Unfortunately, there has been a large decline in the use of traditional masks and they are no longer found widely across Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan masks
Our next stop was Galle, a city along the southern coast that has retained its many influences during colonialisation from both the Portuguese and Dutch. The Galle Fort is a renowned landmark and Unesco world heritage site. It was built in 1588 by the Portuguese and then extensively fortified by the Dutch in the 16th century and is the largest remaining fortress in Asia. The sheer size of the fort is impressive and you can walk along the fort ramparts taking in the view over Galle and the Indian Ocean.
Galle fort and lighthouse
After perusing the shops and having lunch in one of the cafes within the fortress, we travelled to the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. If you have time I would highly recommend stopping off along the coastal road and taking in the scenery. This is where you will see the iconic shot of fisherman sitting on their poles. For a small charge they are happy to pose for a photograph.
Traditional fishermen on stilts, Galle
On Sri Lanka’s southernmost coastline, the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort is hidden away within a coconut plantation. I stayed in an Ocean View Room and the views were spectacular. What’s more, I was welcomed by grey langur monkeys when I returned to my room as they scuttled around foraging for food. The hotel has a variety of restaurants serving different cuisines, but my favourite was, by far, the seafood at the Sri Lankan-inspired teppanyaki restaurant, Verala.
Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle
The next day, I rose early to go to the Udawalawe National Park, which didn’t seem such a chore as I was looking forward to spotting wildlife. Established in 1972, the park’s mission was to provide a safe sanctuary for animals that were displaced by the construction of the Udawawala reservoir. It was amazing being able to see such a variety of animals, Sri Lankan elephants, water buffalo, mugger crocodiles and rusty-spotted cats to name a few. At lunchtime we stopped to have a small picnic in the park, surrounded by all the vegetation and wildlife.
Udawalawe National Park
On my last day in Sri Lanka, we visited the impressive Mulgirigala Rock Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple built on a 205 metre-high rock. The temple is comprised of seven viharas – an early Buddhist monastery where monks would wander during the rainy season – where there is a museum, temple, rest house and much more. It was intriguing to glimpse a completely different way of life.
Cox & Kings can include the Anantara hotels and excursions mentioned on any tailor-made Sri Lanka holiday. Please speak to our Sri Lanka experts to find out more.Share: [Sassy_Social_Share]
- Tags: Adventure, Cox & Kings Staff, Culture & History, Food & Wine, Indian Subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Wildlife