Named as the best country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet, there’s no better time to visit Sri Lanka. “Sri Lanka is having its moment in the equatorial sun and change is coming swiftly,” says Lonely Planet author Ethan Gelber in the Best in Travel 2019 book. “Already notable to intrepid travellers for its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, its rich and accessible wildlife, its growing surf scene and its people who defy all odds by their welcome and friendliness after decades of civil conflict, this is a country revived.
There’s now more than ever for families, adrenaline junkies, eco-tourists, wellness seekers and foodies of all budgets. Even the north and east, including areas previously off limits, difficult to reach or lacking in services, deliver new discoveries.”
Flying the flag, when it comes to innovative places to stay, is Teardrop Hotels, which offers small yet luxurious properties throughout Sri Lanka.
Opened in 2008, Wallawwa, in Colombo, was the first opening, followed by the magical Fort Bazaar in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Galle Fort. Kumu Beach was next, a ten-bedroom beach hotel, found 20km North of Galle. Most recently, the brand’s Camellia Hills hotel opened, and is just a short distance from Dickoya on the Castlereagh Reservoir.
Finally, the group has introduced a collection of ‘Tea Planters’ bungalows near Dickoya, Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Kandy. These are strategically located along the ‘tea country route’ offering guests a contemporary vintage experience, with Goatfell being the first to open.
The former superintendent’s residence is found in the Concordia Estate, a famous tea plantation, on an edge-of-the-world elevation above the city of Nuwara Eliya. With four ensuite bedrooms and living and dining rooms, the former bungalow allows for an intimate experience. The interiors, by Philip Weeraratne Architects, ooze a country-chic ethos, reminiscent of a bygone era, but with plenty of contemporary accents. Almost all of the furniture has been made in Sri Lanka by Only & Co Creative, with some characterful antique pieces included to retain an ‘old-meets-new interior.’ As well as log-fired sitting rooms and panoramic tea field views from the swimming pool, guests can also enjoy butler service and a menu, with Sri Lankan and Western dishes, bursting with locally-sourced ingredients (in fact, all of Goatfell’s seasonal vegetables are grown by the hotel’s neighbour).
Following on the heels of Goatfell, this month also sees the opening of Nine Skies. Found near the hippy hangout of Ella, a small town in the Badulla District of Uva Province, the property is built on a grander scale and is, in fact, a renovated five bedroom hotel set within several acres of private gardens. As well as a croquet lawn and swimming pool, the property’s sun deck offers expansive views across the valley to the working tea factory and famous Demodera Loop.
Dating back to the colonial era, original features are matched with contemporary facilities, high-end personalised service and gourmet dining. Best approached by train – the Yakada Yaka or ‘Iron Devil’ has graced the mountains of Sri Lanka since the 1800s, transporting tea and people between Colombo and the hill stations. On arrival, guests are picked up from the station and transferred via tuk-tuk just a few minutes along the tea lined estate roads from Demodera Railway Station to Nine Skies. Its name is a nod to the nine-arch viaduct, through which it is possible to see ‘nine skies’ when looking up through the arches.
The final Teardrop property – Pekoe House – is due to open later in 2019. Located just 45-60 minutes from the tropical surrounds of Kandy, it is set amid the stunning tea estates to the north east, within reach (and view) of the Knuckles Mountain Range. Pekoe House will have six double bedrooms, a swimming pool, croquet lawn, and living/dining space, as well as a focus on locally-inspired cuisine. Activities will include tea factory tours, trekking in the Hunas Mountains and jungle treks to spot endemic wildlife, such as the White Sambhur and Barking Deer.
As well as the new openings, Teardrop Hotels’ Camellia Hills hotel offers just five individual bedrooms – which boast some of the best views in the hill country from private garden terraces and is the ideal place to start off an exploration of Sri Lanka’s tea country scene. Best of all, guests can journey between all the properties to enjoy trekking along tea factory trails, forest picnics, white-water rafting and island hopping via boat.