Editor’s note: The Travel section of the Advisory will bring you wonderful and trustworthy (lord knows we need them!) recommendations from our partner Urbanaut once a month. FYI: Urbanaut is a travel tech start-up that curates experiences with the help of creative locals in different cities.
Escape to the Teardrop Isle
Serendip. Ceylon. Sri Lanka. A gem hiding in plain sight. A few years of turmoil and uncertainty have kept this destination off people’s itineraries but we think this is the best time to visit—before the crowds come back. There’s something for art, design and architecture lovers, plenty for those in search of sun and surf, rewarding experiences for wildlife lovers, and options aplenty if you’re seeking solitude in the hills.
PS: Urbanaut has also put together an immersive and experiential holiday to the Tear Drop Island—scroll down for all the details on this special treat.
Why visit now?
Bad news spreads quickly, but unfortunately, good news doesn’t make for interesting headlines. Gone are the long lines for fuel, and power cuts are very rare (who are we kidding, sitting in India judging places with power cuts). While the Sri Lankan government hasn’t actively promoted the destination post Covid, a group from Sri Lanka’s private tourism sector have created the Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance to promote and support the island’s return to normalcy. Watch this stirring video they’ve created to woo tourists back.
Countries around the world have lifted all restrictions on travel—so while the world is slowly waking up to the fact that Sri Lanka is back in contention, prices at stunning luxury resorts are lower than usual (and it’s peak season!). The country could certainly use the support and patronage of responsible international travellers right now.
A touch of Bali meets South India
Sri Lanka attracts surf aficionados, art and design enthusiasts, general cool kids looking for a bit of Bali without the crowds, and wealthy, luxury seeking travellers as well. If we had to divide up the island this is how we’d do it:
- For art, design, and beachtime—visit Colombo, Galle, and the South/Southwest Coast.
- If you’re seeking quiet solace, the hills and tea estates of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya are stunning (although not very novel for Indians possibly).
- Yala National Park is a great destination for wildlife seekers (Leopard sightings almost guaranteed!).
- As for the East/North East coast—places like Arugam Bay and Trincomalee have some of the best, under-the-radar beaches (and tourists rarely head East, though they should).
Say hello to South Sri Lanka
What to do: The tiny island punches way above its weight and the shimmering south coast is where a lot of the action is. We have an amazing guide to South Sri Lanka on our app and web—but here are a few highlights:
- To catch a great sunset (sunsets there are truly surreal), head to Lighthouse Ahangama for a rooftop tipple.
- For some authentic Sri Lankan food (think fish curry, coconut sambol, hoppers, kottu roti, lamprais and so much more!), visit Tamarind Hill or Elita Restaurant in Galle, or Cafe Ceylon in Ahangama.
- No trip to the south is complete without a long walk around Galle Fort—and when you’re there, Exotic Roots is a great cafe/store/design house (with some very fun late night parties).
- The adventurous can catch a surf lesson with Soul & Surf and leisure lovers should definitely stop by Jetwing Lighthouse (a masterpiece by celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa) for a cup of tea.
Where to stay: If there’s one thing Sri Lanka gets really right, it’s the villas and boutique hotels. Earthy, unpretentious design meets tropical luxury—Bawa would indeed be proud of the legacy he’s left behind. In Galle, consider staying at Bartizan Galle Fort or the charming Fort Printers hotel (and for the very indulgent, there’s an Amangalla Galle that is needless to say, exquisite).
There are altogether too many villas dotting the entire South coast, so we will stick to our boutique hotels here: we recommend the stylish and inviting Abode Ahangama, the trendy PALM Hotel, or for a dash of old-world charm, Closenberg Hotel is a good option—with an infinity cliff pool that has jaw-dropping views of the bay.
Discover Sri Lanka with Urbanaut
We will soon have our Colombo guide up on the app as well—along with itineraries that cover the famed Cultural Triangle and the Leopard Safaris. But we are most excited about our trip in March—which is probably your best taster for this incredible country ;)
Our curated holiday to the Teardrop Island is spread over 4 nights and 5 days (from March 22 - 26). The heart of this immersive and experiential holiday is the undeniably alluring relationship between the design history, culture, and natural beauty of this country.
Day 1: You’ll land in Colombo and check in to the very trendy Lake Lodge by Taru Villas. That afternoon you’ll be taken on a guided art and architecture tour incorporating Geoffrey Bawa’s iconic works but also the contemporary Colombo art scene.
Day 2: We arrive at the hallowed gardens of the legendary Lunuganga Country Estate (see it below)—Bawa’s own residence where he lived and happily worked on his forever WIP estate for 50 years.
Day 3: Time might seem to stand still at Lunuganga, but we must stir and make our way on to the inviting South Coast of Ahangama where you’ll check in to the area’s coolest address—the PALM, Ahangama.
The entire holiday is peppered with immersive experiences, down time, exquisite and tasteful boutique stays, comfortable transport and generally all the elements you need for a perfect holiday. Check out the full itinerary here and get on board, why don’t you? As always, this is a small-group holiday so we only have 6 rooms available for the trip.
A little bit about Urbanaut: Ok, it’s time for introductions—so you know who we are. Urbanaut curates bookable experiences and authentic recommendations from those who know best—creative, discerning locals in different cities. 35,000+ travellers use our app just in case you were wondering! We’re a travel tech startup (fancy lingo for the win!), female-founded, and with dreams of being in cities and countries around the world. The discerning traveller is having their moment, and we’re here for it—and we sure as hell plan to be a part of it! Download Urbanaut on the App Store or Play Store to get started. Or visit our website (we’re better on the app, but we get it) to view our experiences and recommendations!