Galle Henna Estate is located in the sleepy village of Polheena between Talpe Beach and Heenatigala, a verdant jungly hill. The setting is very rural with extensive paddy fields within view making you feel a lot more secluded than you actually are. It’s a very serene place to soak up the tranquillity and warmth of the countryside, although it’s only a five minute drive to the beach. There are a couple of historic temples nearby and Unawatuna’s selection of restaurants, cafes, communications centres and basic shops are only five kilometres away. For banks and a more extensive range of shops, you can head to Galle (10km or a 15 minute drive).
Escape Galle’s beaches and you arrive at an unspoilt oasis of calm where iridescent green paddy fields are bordered by overhanging palms and patches of jungle that hug hillsides and conceal homes accented by colourful bougainvillea, hibiscus and frangipani blossoms. Into this lush rural scene ancient temples such as Kathaluwa, Yatagala and Pilana are woven. During festival days, white-clothed devotees flock to these important places of worship with hands full of flowers and prayers on their breath. Narrow Dutch canals, mangrove swamps and bumpy hillocks add to the region’s verdant tapestry and its back lanes, paddy bunds and dusty tracks are best explored by bicycle as you meander your way from Galle’s hinterland towards the coast where the majority of the region’s eateries are located. Tea and cinnamon plantations, rainforests and jungle become more prominent the further you go inland.
Stretching between Galle and Hambantota, the south coast is undoubtedly one of the most popular destinations in Sri Lanka. Characterised by historically significant fortified towns, numerous picture-perfect palm-fringed beaches, a sultry turquoise sea, swathes of iridescent green paddy fields fringed by lush green jungle, ancient Buddhist temples, expansive waterways, nature-filled rainforests and tea-carpeted hills it offers enough variety to be a destination in itself; fabulous for families, groups and couples alike.
Galle is one of the region’s most significant attractions for its sixteenth century Dutch fort filled with an evocatively rich collection of buildings, boutiques, museums and luxury digs that hug a peninsular to the south of town. Galle’s popular beaches are better-facilitated, more developed and safer for swimming than those in and around Tangalle, but the further you travel east the more expansive, deserted and nature-filled they become.
Surfing, snorkelling, diving, whale watching, sailing, fishing and kayaking can all be done along this magnificent stretch of coastline as well as cycling, walking and trying your hand at Sri Lankan cookery. Inland, the scene varies as the westerly wet zone’s lush jungle interior gives way to the arid dry zone plains a little beyond Tangalle. Taking off by bicycle is often the best way to explore the hills, plains, sanctuaries and jungle whilst a boat is a must to navigate the scenic lakes and rivers that wind in between.
Some of Sri Lanka’s most popular national parks – Uda Walawe for elephants and Yala for leopards and bears – as well as a trio of its most accessible rainforests – Sinharaja, Kottawa and Kanneliya - are easily visited on a day or overnight trip from anywhere along the south coast.
This house scores points for its location, which is tranquil and rural but also not far away from restaurants, beaches and shops. It has a wonderful garden full of fruit trees such as mango, banana and avocado that you can enjoy for breakfast and its large size offers plenty of scope for children to run around and play. Loads of birds visit the garden along with the occasional monkey so it is also a haven for nature lovers. The sunken swimming pool has a generous sun deck and is walled so that you can swim and tan in privacy, however windows in the wall allow you to look through into the paddy fields beyond which makes it feel a little less enclosed. There are three members of staff, but you hardly see them as they let you enjoy the house and make yourselves at home. The house itself is beautiful and has been very sensitively restored. It has also been decorated in such a way to make it feel very much like home. There’s lots of spots to relax both inside and outside of the house, as well as in the privacy of individual bedrooms which is a highlight for groups. The fifth, single, bedroom is very useful for a nanny or a child and has a lovely balcony overlooking the paddy fields and garden. Parents should keep an eye on children using the stairs as the steps are made from unforgiving polished cement. There’s an equipped kitchen to the rear which is ideal for self-catering, however the very friendly and helpful manager (who lives in the house next door) can also prepare lunches and dinners for you with advance notice. He will shop on your account so it’s best to give a wad of cash at the start of your stay and top it up when necessary. Unawatuna Beach and lots of restaurants are a short drive away, and the staff can arrange transport for you on request.
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.
Beautifully serene hillside manor house with spectacular jungle views just a five minute drive inland from Unawatuna. With 4 bedrooms, glorious swimming pool, massage and yoga pavilions, a luxe of living space and terraced rambling gardens Satori is a heavenly escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life.