Roughly half the size of England, yet packed with a whole continent’s worth of temples and ruins, wildlife reserves and luxury beach resorts, Sri Lanka is a beautiful, bite-sized island offering a world of diverse escapes. Young or old, family or couple, beach-bound or culture-vulture – whatever your holiday bent, Sri Lanka’s got the lot.Better still, what Sri Lanka also has is a smattering of elegant colonial hotels, boutique lodges, and stylish eco-lodges – often at a relative snip, making it a joy for us to design fantastic itineraries in Sri Lanka that don’t cost the earth. Hidden away in the forests near the tea plantations of Sri Lanka’s tropical south, two lodges typify this new breed of quirky, breathtaking boutique lodges. The first, Boulder Garden, has just 10 suites, two of them actually located in natural caves cleaving the rockface at the back of the lodge. The second, Rainforest Edge, lies just two or three miles south of Boulder Garden as the Blue Magpie flies, perched on a hilltop overlooking Sinharaja rainforest. Both superb bases for caving and abseiling, mountain bike tours and rainforest hikes, the lodges are also so achingly peaceful and indulgent you could just plump for the pool, happily hiding out against a backdrop of hanging forest busy with birdcall.Speaking of immersing yourself in Sri Lanka’s fabulous forest parks and soaking up the sounds of the bush, how about an African-style, luxury, tented safari? Set up on the edge of Uda Walawe National Park one hour inland from the beach-fringed south coast, this is a brilliant base for 4x4 safaris into the park with its thriving populations of elephants and waterfowl.Nor do you have to scrimp on luxuries to enjoy Sri Lanka’s quirky lodges. Offering four-star indulgence on the edge of Sri Lanka’s most famous national park, Chaaya Wild Yala has exquisite jungle and beach chalets, offering a superb base for exploring the national park, home to Asia’s highest concentrations of leopard, as well as elephants and crocodiles, sloth bears and over 200 species of birds. Similarly, 200 miles north of Yala Wild, its sister resort, Chaaya Village, is a 27-acre lakeside sanctuary blending into the forests below Sigiriya’s Lion Rock, providing a blissfully peaceful base for daytrips to the stunning sites of the surrounding Cultural Triangle. But perhaps the most remarkable of Sri Lanka’s boutique eco-lodges is The Mudhouse, a beautiful, back-to-Eden collection of wattle-and-daub thatched cottages smuggled away in the coastal forests of Puttalam – no electricity, just the magic of candle and lantern light by night, plus lagoon trips and temple tours by day. Magical, utterly memorable, The Mudhouse is a stunning escape – but whichever of Sri Lanka’s boutique eco-lodges you choose, we’re confident you’ll have a holiday to remember. The Mudhouse, AmaduwaIn the rural heart of Sri Lanka, clusters of uniquely designed huts have been built from natural materials resembling all sorts of structures from a traditional village house to a tree house. During your stay you are allocated a number of these comfortable huts to call your own. There is no mains electricity and guests stay on full board eating delicious meals prepared using produce from the Mudhouse’s own gardens. A stay here is an incredible experience in its own right as well as being ideally placed for visiting the sites of the Cultural Triangle.Boulder garden, Kalawana, SinharajaAn all-suite boutique hotel, Boulder Garden is close to Sinharaja, the last extensive area of undisturbed lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka. There is an open-air restaurant serving tasty Sri Lankan and international cuisine, a spring-water swimming pool and ten suites. An extensive range of activities is on offer and a stay here suits those looking for off-the-beaten track, soft-adventure. Rainforest edge, Waddagala, SinharajaThis eco-lodge prides itself on perfect integration with the local community. Whilst the service and ethos is traditional and authentic, there are modern comforts on offer too. The bedrooms are simple and rustic, but quirky and stylish. One of the highlights is the cuisine, reflecting the ancient and varied flavours of Sri Lanka and using Rainforest Edge’s organic farm. Chaaya Village, HabaranaSitting amidst 27 acres bordering stunning Lake Habarana, the accommodation at Chaaya Village is to be found in cottages with an authentic feel. There is an open-air lounge bar, a coffee shop and restaurant with views of the pool and lake. Facilites include an Ayurvedic spa, tennis courts and a kids’ play area. This hotel is ideal for nature activities and exploring the Cultural Triangle.Chaaya WildThis nature resort is to be found in a world of untamed beauty set in ten acres of jungle bordering Yala National Park and the Indian Ocean. Five of the 61 comfortable chalets are built close to the beach and the hotel’s observation deck, above the restaurant, commands panoramic views to the lagoon, sea and parched terrain. There is a swimming pool and games room for leisure time between safaris.
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