Sometimes the biggest surprises come in small packages. Though large hotels can provide an unforgettable experience, there’s something to be said for more intimate boutique properties. Sri Lanka has no shortage of these unique, impressive bungalows. Asia Travel Expert, Jack, gives us his top ten can’t-miss petite properties in Sri Lanka.
1. The Mudhouse – 6 rooms
This eco-friendly and rustic retreat is spread over 60 acres, and is located next to a picturesque lake. With an emphasis on simplicity, The Mudhouse is for the more adventurous traveler. The huts are built using traditional techniques and use locally sourced materials. Each hut feels private and blends in with the surrounding trees. While here, don’t forget to spend time around the campfire, gazing at the stars sprinkled throughout the brilliantly clear skies above.
2. KK Beach – 6 rooms
This beachfront only property boasts six stylish suites and has a different vibe from the more traditional boutique hotels that pepper the landscape. It is one of Sri Lanka’s most celebrated boutique hotels, known for its unique contemporary design that blends fun fabrics with vibrant Sri Lankan art. Depending on the night, the KK Beach offers an authentic, organic buffet of Sri Lankan rice and curry, a seafood BBQ, or Thai fusion delights.
3. Leopard Trails Wilpattu – 4 rooms
Leopard Trails offers an authentic safari experience. Here you’ll stay in luxurious bespoke tents. Each spacious tent features an en-suite bathroom, and air conditioning. The most exciting feature of this property is its location. Wilpattu is Sri Lanka’s largest National Park, and offers fascinating safaris, where you’ll have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of sloth bears and the illusive leopard.
4. Gal Oya Lodge – 9 rooms
Gal Oya Lodge is the epitome is eco-luxury, built from locally sourced materials, like woods of teak and mara, and ‘illuk’ grass roofs, this is the ideal place to relax. Due to the design of the bungalows (they’re a grand 800 sq ft) this lodge is ideal for families, or friends traveling together.
Gal Oya also offers a range of activities for the entire family. Guests can spend their time walking in the National Park, going for picnics, or meeting the Veddas (Sri Lanka’s aboriginal people). Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this lodge is that it features breath-taking scenery and has a wildlife experience completely different from any other place in the country. The lodge is near Sri Lanka’s largest inland body of water (Senanayake Samudraya Lake), this means that wildlife safaris can be taken by boat. Here you can see Asian elephants, deer, water buffalo, Sri Lankan leopard, monkeys, and a ton of birdlife.
5. The Kandy House – 9 rooms
A lovingly restored 200 year-old ancestral home that mixes colonial charm and elegance, with modern design touches. Spend your days sightseeing in and around Kandy, unwinding in the yoga pavilion, or lounging around the tropical gardens by the infinity pool. The small size of this property makes you feel as if you’re staying comfortably in your own home. While here make sure to order something off the fantastic cocktail list. It’ll make you want to try them all.
6. Stafford Bungalow – 4 rooms
Built in 1884, Stafford Bungalow is located amongst a stunning 50 acre working tea plantation. This is the ideal place to rest and rejuvenate. Spend your days walking along one of the many trails that meander through the lush tea bushes, or enjoy fragrant fresh brewed tea and straight out of the oven scones on the ‘blue grass’ garden.
7. The Last House – 5 rooms
A tranquil and stylish private retreat, located on one of Sri Lanka’s best beaches. Named the Last House because it is the last property designed by Geoffrey Bawa. It boasts six spacious bedrooms, open verandas, framed views of the sea and a central courtyard with an emerald green pool. Each of the vibrant and welcoming rooms has their own individual personality, and can be sold separately or as a whole villa, which makes it perfect for both families and couples.
8. Rock Villa – 6 rooms
Rock Villa is a 170 year-old manor house set in 2.5 acres of tropical gardens. Contemporary in style, with traditional flourishes, the villa can be taken exclusively or rented room-by-room, and is a great value for its size. A short jaunt from one of Sri Lanka’s best beaches on the West coast, the hotel can arrange for you to have tantalizing sundowners on the beach in the evening.
9. Living Heritage – 4 rooms
The Living Heritage beautifully combines boutique-style luxury with traditional Sri Lankan design. The four villas are set among the Beragala hills and surrounding forests, and are furnished with antiques, have a private courtyard and an outdoor Jacuzzi. If you’re looking for adventure, take the 45 min hike though the lush forest, you’ll reach a magnificent waterfall with three natural pools to swim in.
10. Thotalagala – 7 rooms
Set in the heart of a tea plantation estate that was planted by Sir Thomas Lipton (of Lipton tea), Thotalagala is a former 19th century plantation bungalow that has been converted into a lavish boutique hotel. Each room was designed to be in-keeping with the rich colonial heritage of the building, and features polished wood floors, antique furniture, massive beds that will make you feel like you’re sleeping on a cloud, and each room is named after a British gentleman that played a major role in the development of tea growing in Sri Lanka. Thotalagala combines history and charm in a magnificent way.