Escape - Sri Lanka
It's time to start travelling again. In our haste to dust off our passports and weigh up our collective and individual desires to explore or relax, discover or escape, venture near or travel far, the decision on where to holiday is suddenly now accompanied by a reasonable pressure to get it right after so long.
Trust me, you really can’t go wrong with Sri Lanka. From the thrill of watching wild elephants and leopards roaming across the island’s National Parks, to trekking in the rainforest discovering nature at its core, to a civilised tour of the many lush tea plantations, there are plenty of adventures that await and ample opportunity to relax too.
Sri Lanka is a truly unique destination offering a myriad of experiences for both the intrepid traveller and those seeking a luxe escape. The south coast, in particular, is buzzing with a modern bohemian vibe that merges respectfully with this culturally rich and naturally diverse part of the world. It boasts palm-tree lined sandy beaches with waves to please the very best of surfers and is increasingly a quietly simmering foodie hotspot. Galle Fort provides wonderful history, culture and some excellent boutique hotels, restaurants and shops. The Geoffrey Bawa architecture is everywhere and as the father of tropical modernism will have you dreaming of finding a plot of land and building your very own Club Tropicana. This area was made for families. Surfing lessons in Weligama, cycling through paddy fields, animal safaris to spot leopards in the wild, tuk-tuk rides to the beach, to the markets, to restaurants - everywhere, elephant spotting, whale spotting, a turtle sanctuary, tea plantations, train rides and the smiliest, happiest, most welcoming locals to gush over your children and seemingly ignore their holiday strops and non-existent table manners.
Let’s be honest - no travel destination is perfect - and the only issue I have is the driving. The driving! And this time it’s not my driving that is alarming. It’s a relatively large island country and the roads from Colombo to the south and into the mountains are long and very busy, and the drivers don’t all stop to revive. It’s not ideal to drive yourself either. If you spend time researching any aspect of your trip, do find a driver before you go, from personal recommendations if you can.
Driving aside, the Sri Lankan people are unbeatable - their resilience in recent history after decades of civil war, the 2004 tsunami in the south and the bomb blast in the capital in 2019 are remarkable. They are passionate about sharing their culture and beauty of nature and increasingly about sustainable and responsible tourism. And with direct flights from the UK, Asia, US and even Australia, it’s more accessible than ever and a great meeting point for cross-Atlantic families and friends.
It’s time to stop dreaming of travel and book your adventure. Sri Lanka beckons and she's a wonderful host. Bon Voyage!
A mini-guide to Sri Lanka’s South Coast
villas on the coast we love
Tea Tree Villa
hotels in Galle Fort
The Fort Bazaar
Surfing at Weligama - many surf schools to choose from and gentle waves for beginners
Idle Bikes - hire bikes or take guided group tours through the beautiful paddy fields
Turtle Sanctuary - the sweetest baby turtles rescued
Tea Plantation - a m!
Train ride - often a highlight for the children and you can take the train from various areas on the South C into Galle Fort
Mamas Cooking Course - you go to the local markets first then cook up a storm.
Elephant safari and elephant orphanage at Udawalawe
Tallentire House beautiful textiles shop in Fort Galle
Also shop at the many jewellery stores - great q gems for a steal, particularly aquamarines
Eat & Drink -
Wiyaya Beach - for low-key sundowners and pizzas and a beautiful view of the bay and the ’stick’ fishermen
Fort Printers - fabulous lunch spot in the courtyard by the pool, or inside lovely too - think they have rooms upstairs too
Cape Weligama resort - for sundowners and epic views after a visit to the spa Mayurana Resort is authentic and delicious
Words & images by Emily Armstrong