Sri Lanka, the luscious island nation, south of India, was previously known as Ceylon, when it was a British Crown Colony before 1948. It was, and still is, famous for its tea plantations, amongst other commodities like coffee, coconuts and cinnamon. When it comes to nature, it has a plethora of palm-fringed beaches and national parks that inhabit wildlife like elephants and water buffalos. As for culture, few places in the world have so many Unesco World Heritage sites in such a condensed area; expect to see ancient Buddhist ruins, legendary temples and evocative colonial fortresses – dating as far back as over 2,000 years. Sri Lanka is also great for surfing; it has many surf schools and fabulous surfing locations that attract surfers from all over the world. It’s also an ideal spot for yogis and yoginis to learn more about yoga life, with many yoga retreat centres and knowledgeable teachers based there. In fact, anyone looking for a wellness holiday will relish in Sri Lanka’s offerings, especially for its Ayurvedic treatments and holistic health methods.
For those living in the Gulf, it’s just a mere five hour flight to the capital, Colombo. One fairly new hotel that opened in 2016 is the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. The beautiful property is ideal for those looking for a luxurious, eco-friendly destination getaway with a whole heap of offerings focusing on wellness, nature and culture. It’s situated in a truly unique location, nestled on a rocky outcrop, along a secluded stretch of Sri Lanka’s ruggedly beautiful southern coast. The secret hideaway is a tranquil escape for all of the city’s hustle and bustle. And for travellers with a sense of adventure, the resort is a gateway to the island’s abundant sacred heritage sites and vast national parks with free-roaming wildlife.
Arrive at Columbo, and it’s a three-hour drive in a luxurious car to Peace Haven Tangalle. Enter a world of barefoot luxury covering 21-acres, with 152 rooms and pool villas designed for couples, families and disabled guests. The guests can reach their room or villa by foot, bicycle, battery-powered eco-friendly rickshaw or tuk-tuk. In total, there are 120 premier and deluxe rooms offering sumptuous beds and luxury bathrooms with rain showers. Within the guest accommodation, 32 spacious one and two bedroom villas have their own plunge pools, and the two-bedroom garden pool villas also feature an indoor dining room and pantry.
When it comes to the eco-natural design implements, Wimberly Interiors creative director, Tomoko Day, focused on colonial formality. Glass and open air spaces seamlessly extend into the environment creating a soothing and enchanting energy. To honour the 21-acre coconut plantation that the property is built on, the designers paid careful attention to how various buildings would impact the existing trees, and wherever possible, they have retained them. This gives the resort landscape a mature characteristic that beautifully complements the historic colonial architecture.
Authentic furnishings and artwork are displayed throughout the resort. This highlights the social impact of giving back to the community, as well as creating a relationship between the resort and the local people of Sri Lanka. Traditional Dutch colonial furnishings are made of local plantation teak and we particularly love the hand drawings from the ’60s and ’70s by artist and designer Barbara Sansoni who is from the island.
You will be impressed with the sensational food on offer. There are four main places to dine at the resort. The international restaurant is called Journeys – it’s the place to go to for all day dining. For breakfast, the incredible food stations offer local, Asian and European cuisine. The vibrant open kitchen adds an interactive dimension as well. A more romantic and scenic choice is visiting Il Mare; the Italian restaurant is perched along a cliff. Expect to be overwhelmed by the most spectacular view of the Indian Ocean, whilst eating and drinking the best Mediterranean delicacies like tartare di tonno; frutti di mare di tangalle con salsa di pomodoro leggera; and Tagliata di controfiletto di manzo Australiano (Australian 150-day aged black angus striploin steak).
Verele is another exquisite seafood and Teppanyaki restaurant. It has an energetic design ethos to suit the cooking theatrics on display. Literally the chef will cause a stir juggling Japanese knives as part of the culinary experience. Design and architecture is the highlight here with an incredible sea urchin inspired shell as the body of the restaurant. Inside, rich mahogany wood furnishings and natural fabrics made by local artisans create a warm and modern Japanese theme – and the food is just as appealing as the design. The meat and fresh seafood dishes are incredibility succulent. There’s also plenty to choose from for vegans and vegetarians diners. Try the Japanese tofu with warmed soy sauce, mirin sweet rice wine and crisp okra; and aloo bonda, deep-fried spiced potato balls with green chillies and coconut sambo. Altogether, expect unique flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine and specialities from around Asia. We love that the fresh catch of the day is sustainably sourced from local fishermen.
However the most unique, intimate and very special way of dining at the resort is experiencing the eco farm-to-table lunch in a private tree house on the grounds. The experience focuses on sustainable farming. “Harvest Table by Anantara” is a one-of-a-kind experience. There is a unique four-course lunch with organic beverages, served in a rustic treehouse built into the tropical foliage of the resort, overlooking the organic rice paddies and the mangrove river. The concept is spearheaded by executive chef Chaminda Pathirana and supported by the passionate caretakers of the resort’s farmland. Guests will enjoy a guided tour with the chef through the organic garden and paddy fields to self-harvest their own ingredients, while learning about the resort’s indigenous farming methods and health benefits of each ingredient. Local fisherman Ranji arrives by boat through the resort’s mangrove river, with the freshly caught fish for the main course selection. While guests sit in the treehouse simply enjoying the peaceful surrounds. You’ll see local farmers and staff tending to the rice paddy fields, vegetable, fruit and herb gardens, whilst you have a private chef working on the unique flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine and specialities right below you, in an outdoor kitchen.
As the resort name suggest, it is a haven of peace. For those looking for a wellness experience you can book a tailored seven-day Ayurvedic programme and discover how beneficial the ancient remedies and holistic experiences can help modern life. The soothing sanctuary of the spa offers wellness treatments that are rooted in the healing traditions of the regions rich culture. Opt for the Marma Abhyanga, which focuses on the marmas – the various junctions of the body where blood and lymph vessels, muscle, bone tissue and nerves meet. Here, the therapist stimulates the marmas from feet to head through rhythm and pressure to achieve balance. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also get one-on-one yoga sessions or group classes overlooking the ocean. But if you want something much more active, we suggest surf lessons with Tropic Surf who have collaborated with the resort to give guests amazing surf classes for all levels. They’ll sit with you and discuss what level you are at and then take you away to some of the best locations on the island to catch your perfect wave.
Guests are able to connect with the heritage and the nature of the land with guru-guided experience designed to immerse you in Sri Lanka’s colourful local traditions. A choice of excursions include a hike in spectacular nature, investigating Buddhist temples and working with local artisans. Early risers can take a trip to Udawalawe National Park for up close encounters with elephants, or an unforgettable 4×4 safari with a park tracker at Yala National Park – the second largest wildlife reserve in Sri Lanka. The coastal lagoons and mangroves of Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary are home to a rich diversity of birdlife. Bundala National Park is also an important wetland sanctuary, covering 20 kilometres of beaches, lagoons and mangroves. It’s the ideal terrain for spotting more than 150 bird species, crocodiles and herds of up to 60 elephants. Eco-savvy travellers looking for a nighttime adventure are able to observe marine turtles nesting at the Rekawa Turtle Sanctuary. A larger than life experience takes place in Mirissa Harbour, where visitors set sail for Weligama Bay to be greeted by majestic whales between December and April each year.
If you want to explore nature closer to home, at the resort, you’ll find abundant wildlife right on your doorstep. Walk around the grounds and you’ll spot 289 different species of plants; some are even threatened species, like Kiri Wel and Octupus plants. There’s rich biodiversity – from peacocks, otters, endangered turtles and much more. Anuradha Ediriweera the resort’s naturalist is one of the main nature gurus with a wealth of knowledge to share. He and his team will take you on a wilderness journey that will leave you in awe. It’s a perfect activity for young children, budding naturalists and nature enthusiasts.