Sri Lanka offers something for everyone. There's the ancient Sinhalese ruins of the Cultural Triangle; the Hill Country's colonial plantation bungalows, misty peaks and endless tea; Kandy's revered Temple of the Tooth; national parks where leopards, elephants and bears roam free; and the warm turquoise seas where you can see whales and dolphins, and scuba to coral reefs.
This island's endless swathes of un-spoilt palm-speckled beaches are its biggest draw. The sultry south-west stretch linking the water sports capital of Bentota, the historic 17th century fortified city of Galle and the rustic shoreline of Tangalle is the most developed, accessible and popular, and also where most of the island's villas – many atmospheric heritage homes - can be found.
Sri Lanka's relatively small size means that you can take in the best of the island's attractions within a few weeks. The south-west coast and hill country are at their climatic best between December and April, which is when the majority of visitors come. The inter-monsoonal northern summer months are not to be avoided either as quick downpours intersperse long sunny days.
The expansive living and dining areas of this evocative 5-bedroom family-friendly villa in the heart of Galle Fort offer plenty of potential for entertaining. Spread between two expansive buildings fringed by courtyard gardens, this fully staffed villa features a lap pool, expansive roof terrace and plenty of kids’ facilities.
This grand 4-bedroom fully staffed villa sits in extensive gardens and offers true escapism beside a blissfully isolated beach visited by turtles. Ideal for families, groups and nature lovers, the house is spacious and has a big, fenced T-shaped pool. There are plenty of exciting national parks to visit nearby.
One of the oldest homes in historic Galle Fort, 32 Middle Street is a highly secluded house where careful renovations have exposed original timber ceilings and provided for three spacious bedrooms, a contemporary open plan living/dining area filled with art and antiques and a pretty courtyard garden with swimming pool.
A 300-year-old boutique house in Galle Fort with 3 bedrooms, a swimming pool, lots of living space and a large palm-shaded garden. Both convivial and seductive, 41 Lighthouse Street is as ideal for small groups and families as it is for couples seeking seclusion amongst the main attractions of Galle.
This seventeenth-century 3-bedroom (plus children’s quad bunkroom) home in Galle Fort features a rammed-earth one-of-a-kind extension, eye-catching vertical gardens and a contrastingly contemporary open-plan interior design. A children’s bunkroom and an attentive staff team make 5 Middle Street particularly family friendly, as does it’s location, close to the Fort’s many attractions.
This 2-bedroom (plus kids’ bunk room), self-catering, historic colonial house in Galle Fort, staffed by a daytime maid, is just 30 metres from a swimming beach and the fort’s slender white British-built lighthouse. An upper-floor master bedroom attached to an ocean-view roof terrace makes the house particularly attractive for couples.
Fabulous Balinese-inspired beach villa in an excellent location on the Galle coast close to shops, bars, attractions and restaurants. With 4 bedrooms, Ambalama is ideal for families, groups and couples alike. This fully-serviced tropical villa comes with an infinity swimming pool, large grassy garden, cosy lounging areas and superb chef.
An evocative 160-year-old bungalow overlooking Nuwara Eliya town surrounded by a well-maintained garden of clipped lawns, preened hedges and scented roses. With 4 comfortable bedrooms, open fireplaces, cosy lounges, an elegant dining room and plenty of colonial character, this is a gorgeous holiday home in the hills.
Set on the banks of the shimmering Bentota River, Apsara is a beautifully finished 3-bedroom villa just five-minutes from the beach. An excellent staff team plus top chef attend to all your needs so you can relax by the pool, savour the aquatic views and enjoy the villa’s luxurious facilities.
A superb 6-bedroomed beach villa with extensive lawned gardens, magical fibre-optic-lit swimming pool and spectacular sea views. Perfect for families and group get-togethers, Auraliya features sociable living and dining pavilions, a sunset bar and lounge, a full staff team and direct access onto one of the region’s best swimming beaches.
Relaxed, family friendly, tropical home with an expansive garden, ocean views and a lovely pool and jacuzzi on a sunny lawn. Managed by a husband-and-wife team, Blue Heights offers 4-bedrooms and unfussy interiors that open widely to the views; the location is tranquil and the beach is five minutes’ walk away.
Perched on a hillside overlooking Nuwara Eliya, Brockenhurst is a century-old classified heritage home set in a one-acre garden with two-tiered lawn. Featuring 4 comfortable bedrooms and a cosy lounge with open fireplace, this serviced property is a nostalgic base from which families and groups can explore the hill country.
One-of-a-kind Geoffrey Bawa-designed 3-bedroom hillside house, dating back to 1984 and set in eight landscaped acres near Dickwella with fantastic panoramas over Kudawella Bay. Each bedroom has a sea view and there are two swimming pools, a dedicated staff team and direct access to a lengthy palm-fringed beach.
This beautifully renovated cottage set amidst leafy tropical gardens in a tranquil village near Ahangama, is just five minutes’ walk from the beach. With 4 bedrooms, plus living and dining areas, the property is spacious, airy and light and enhanced by a deep blue swimming pool beside an elevated ambalama.
Escape to a cooler climate and relish the tranquillity of days gone by at 5-bedroom Craig Appin Bungalow near Hatton in the southwest Hill Country. Encircled by a pretty garden, the bungalow is fully staffed and features a living room, a TV Lounge, a dining room and a furnished veranda.
This atmospheric ex-planters abode perched on the summit of a tea-clad hill above Dick Oya features 4 spacious bedrooms, including a family suite, a handful of living rooms and a gorgeous four-acre garden bursting with flowers and vegetables. It’s fully staffed, and makes a perfect base for savouring the great outdoors.
Dalawella’s famous swimming beach is just a 100m stroll from this contemporary 4-bedroom seaside villa, eight kilometres from Galle. Ample living space spreads across two floors and the villa also features a TV room, two dining areas and a six-metre swimming pool. Footprints is staffed and completely air-conditioned.
Heavenly Hideaway is an enchanting manor house encircled by lush coconut and pineapple plantations that characterise the beautifully serene landscape of rural Gampaha. There are 3 gorgeous bedrooms, private jacuzzis, a cool bar, a TV with huge DVD selection, a generous swimming pool and a wonderfully pampering seven-strong staff team.
Sited on the most desirable section of beach in Talpe, IF is a gorgeous Dutch-colonial-style villa with verdant garden, spacious sundeck, panoramic ocean views, private swimming pool and spacious dining pavilion. The property comes staffed with a cook and is perfectly set up for families and groups of friends.
Surrounded by paddy fields amidst a rural village just 10 minutes from Galle and south coast beaches, fully staffed Illuketia is a magnificent, tranquil 4-bedroom colonial plantation villa with a large garden featuring exotic plants and trees, shaded pathways, a pond house, an organic garden and a beautiful swimming pool.