Despite its compact size, the island of Sri Lanka packs an enormous amount of diversity, with experiences ranging from discovering ancient kingdoms, absorbing the magnificent scenery of the Tea Country, seeking out wildlife in the Yala National Park and reclining on golden-sand beaches on the south coast. Returning to Sri Lanka for the second time, my eyes were opened to a new and alluring side to the country, and one I had perhaps overlooked during my first-time dash to tick off as many sights as possible. Taking time to slow the pace and enjoy some of the superb wellness retreats and the experiences the country has to offer can be equally rewarding. After all, what could be better than returning from your hard-earned holiday feeling renewed, both in body and in mind?
The sight of the mist rising above the endless vistas of tea hills and the distant Knuckles Mountain Range is just one of the memories that will stay with you following a visit to Santani. Though frequently classed in the same geographical area as Kandy, Santani Wellness Resort could not feel further away from frenetic energy of Sri Lanka’s second city. Set in a116-acre estate of rolling emerald tea hills, surrounded by sparkling rivers, paddy fields and tropical forest.
Against this invigorating natural backdrop, a carefully crafted collection of wellness programmes is on offer, designed to suit any goal. This could be weight loss, detox, improved sleep, anti-ageing, menopause help, stress management, trauma recovery or addiction help. Beginning with a private consultation with the resident doctor upon arrival, your programme may incorporate Ayurvedic massage and cuisine, spa treatments, yoga and meditation. Alternatively guests can simply opt for a spa getaway package which includes a daily spa treatment and leisure time, perhaps taking advantage of the daily guided nature walks and time to unwind by the infinity pool or on your private terrace.
For those who prefer their wellness with an extra dose of pampering, your personal butler at Haritha Villas + Spa is on hand from the moment you arrive to ensure that your every whim is catered to. At this luxurious hideaway in Sri Lanka’s southeastern corner, the golden sands of Hikkaduwa are just a stone’s throw away for those who seek them, yet, as the prospect of an afternoon cocooned in the Jungle Spa or basking in your private pool beckons, thoughts of venturing too far may quickly melt away.
Spa treatments at Haritha Villas + Spa are partly inspired by their natural surroundings – during my Low Country Tea Romance ritual, the antioxidant properties of tea were incorporated with coconut and mint in a heavenly scrub, followed by a soothing massage and Ayurvedic herbal compression designed to restore vitality.
Those seeking to embark upon a personalised wellness programme can arrange a consultation with one of Haritha’s resident Ayurvedic doctor and then embark upon a dedicated daily agenda of yoga, massage and herbal therapies. In between your spa and wellness time, take advantage of poolside relaxation, swimming or surfing at one of the nearby beaches, or a day trip to Galle to explore the atmospheric streets of this historic Dutch fort town.
READ MORE >
TOP 5 WELLNESS EXPERIENCES IN SRI LANKA
With the northern coast of Sri Lanka less than 50 miles from mainland India, yoga plays an integral role in Sri Lanka’s wellness scene. Yoga tuition is available at hotels the length and breadth of the country, where you can simply begin your day with a gentle morning yoga and meditation class, or embark upon something more intense, taking advantage of private tuition and instruction from visiting yoga masters.
As with yoga, Sri Lanka’s proximity to India brings with it strong influences of Ayurveda. Meaning ‘The Science of Life’, Ayurveda is an ancient healing system that incorporates massage, herbal treatments, diet, yoga and meditation to restore balance to the body and mind. In addition to the more health focused resorts, many general hotels such as Amangalla and the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort incorporate elements of Ayurveda into their spa and wellness programmes, and guests can opt for an Ayurvedic themed stay.
Immersion in nature
Scientists continue to document the positive health benefits of spending time in the natural world, immersed in flora and fauna. The region surrounding Yala National Park on Sri Lanka’s southeastern corner is a wildlife haven, and a stay at Chena Huts combines opportunities to spot elephants and sea turtles on the beaches and flamingos by the lake with a soothing massage in the spa.
You do not even have to travel far to find peaceful natural surroundings. We love beginning our clients’ journeys with a night or two at The Wallawwa. Though just a 30-minute drive from Colombo’s international airport, this serene, converted mansion house is set in exquisite, bird-filled gardens with plenty of tranquil green spaces where you can unwind and feel the demands of your journey melt away.
Unforgettable cuisine is a given during any trip to Sri Lanka, where bountiful fresh ingredients from across the country blend with the aromatic herbs and spices that grow here in abundance. Those seeking to make diet and nutrition a more formal part of their wellness experience will find plenty of superb places to stay that can cater to these goals. The already exceptional dining at The Wallawwa will soon incorporate wellness focused choices into their new menu while, at Santani, the supremely talented chef consults guests each day as part of an entirely personalised dining programme that could incorporate elements of detox, Ayurveda or simply enjoyment of the full range of carefully crafted dishes that inspire the chef each day. Most importantly, dessert is always on the menu!
The physical and emotional benefits of exercise are long documented, but a change of scenery can do wonders to invigorate your routine. The cooler climes of Sri Lanka's Tea Country make the prospect of exercise more tempting, and it is here that you can find some of the country’s most breathtaking scenery and hiking opportunities. Whether it is challenging yourself to climb to the summit of Adam’s Peak, taking more gentle walks and bike rides through undulating Tea Country Trails or kayaking across the serene waters of Castlereagh Lake, Ceylon Tea Trails’ Dunkeld Bungalow provides the prime luxury base for your endeavours.
These days you are spoiled for choice for Sri Lankan hotel stays that deliver pure relaxation, and using one of these as your main base for the holiday – or for just a few days of indulgence at the end of your explorations – can be easily arranged. Those seeking to take their relaxation up a notch, however, could choose a fully-serviced villa stay where every detail is taken of. At ANI Sri Lanka, one of the country's most spectacular beachfront villas, you really do not have to lift a finger. Your private chef works with you to design a daily personalised menu to suit your every whim, the all-day Pool Butler ensures you never go thirsty, while up to 15 spa treatments can be enjoyed each day in the villa’s dedicated treatment suite.