Whether you’re looking for family-friendly accommodation, an ecofriendly Eden or an exclusive seaside retreat, Sri Lanka delivers. Want a private infinity pool or ancient sites on your doorstep? No problem. Indeed, the Teardrop Island does villas quite unlike anywhere else – often with butlers, chefs and concierge staff on hand ready to share tips and make anything possible. Here’s our pick – bookable with Culture Trip.
Honeymooners and seclusion seekers – Three Gables might just be your dream villa. Ready to be treated like royalty? Impeccable host Dinuka and the team of dedicated staff – including a concierge, a butler, a chef and housekeeping – are ready to oblige. There are only four rooms, which you can reserve separately or together. Either way, you’ll often have the infinity pool and quiet beach to yourself. Buzzy Mirissa is just a five-minute tuk-tuk ride away; it’s the place to go for whale-watching tours, surf lessons and sunset cocktails.
Smack bang in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle – a region that includes a treasure trove of temples and ruins – Roo Mansala sits in the shadows of Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, and its lesser-known neighbour Pidurangala Rock. The hotel has six rooms spread over three villa-style buildings. After summiting the alluring outcrops and wandering their lofty ancient ruins, you could head to Minneriya National Park to spot wild elephants or simply keep an eye out for tropical birds as you cool off by the pool, surrounded by Sri Lanka’s fertile plains, and watch the lodge’s lanterns light up after dusk.
Want a quiet escape within reach of the action? Unawatuna Beach and the historic Galle Fort are an easy drive from Good Vibes Villas, which sits within a hilly coconut grove beside tea and cinnamon plantations, a bit inland from Sri Lanka’s sun-drenched southern coast. It’s certainly a romantic setting, but the multiroom villas are actually ideal for families and groups, too, with a pool and a petanque pitch to keep all ages entertained. Better still, it’s flexible – you can book a room, hire a villa or take over the whole property for a special occasion.
Not a bath person? You might change your mind once you’ve seen the views from the tub in your marble ensuite at Luxe Wilderness. This sunshine-yellow house sits high in the cool Nuwara Eliya hills, overlooking a verdant valley, with three villas on-site, each with two storeys and a duo of king-size beds, sleeping up to four people. Don’t miss a trip to the Pedro Tea Factory, where you can learn about the work that goes into making your morning cuppa.
Travelling as a group? Walatta House in Tangalle could be your luxury beachfront bolthole. Built into the hillside and camouflaged with a grassy roof, this three-bedroom villa is worthy of an episode of Grand Designs and comes with a private chef, a butler and a housekeeper. Between beach-hopping and hammock naps, take a day trip to Mulkirigala Rock Temple – the sacred caves are worth the hike, but watch out for light-fingered macaques on the way up.
Whether you’re here for a wedding, a family reunion or an indulgent group getaway, Àni Sri Lanka is the ultimate private villa experience. The two Kardashian-worthy eight- and seven-suite villas overlook a private stretch of sand near Dikwella, on Sri Lanka’s picturesque south coast, and each one comes with infinity and kids’ pools. Everything is included in the price, from daily massages to tennis lessons, cocktails and babysitting.
Separated from the southern end of Bentota’s beach by a single-gauge railway track, Rock Villa makes an ideal oceanfront escape. It centres around an ancient manor house – or walauwa – dating from the 1850s, and elegant antique chairs line the private verandas, which invite you to pause for a cup of ceylon tea. The villa’s 1ha (2.5ha) tropical garden is home to a pool fringed by frangipani, a sheltered dining area and an occasional monkey.
Families and groups will love being able to spread out over these two-storey, beachfront villas on a secluded part of the south coast. From here, it’s a short tuk-tuk ride to the bars, surf schools and roti shops in Mirissa and offshore whale-watching trips – not that you need to look hard for diversions back at base. The resort offers spa treatments, daily yoga lessons and guided bike rides, as well as the largest saltwater pool on the island.
Contemporary Sri Lankan art in the bedrooms, cooling fruit popsicles served on arrival – you can expect attention to detail at this nine-bedroom villa in Bentota. Like its sister property, Rock Villa, a hop across the railway track leads you through a curtain of palm trees to a sandy beach. Spend the morning drifting through ancient mangrove forests, keeping a watchful eye out for kingfishers and crocodiles, before feasting on fragrant Sri Lankan curries and rice at the poolside dining area.
For those dreaming of a tropical getaway, this three-villa resort near Bentota, centred around a large pool, offers a slice of escapism. A mere stumble from a virtually deserted beach, you can swim in the warm ocean water before retreating for that most Sri Lankan refreshment – sunshine-infused water sipped straight from a thambili (honey-hued coconut). Staff are on hand to cook and teach yoga; you may even be able to persuade them into a game of cricket on the lawn.
Owned by the ever-hospitable Panabokke family, the heart of this villa complex is the 19th-century ancestral home. It’s a 45-minute drive from the island’s cultural capital, Kandy – although it’s tempting to simply spend the day in the garden listening to birdsong, admiring the verdant hills and taking an occasional dip in the pool. Should the need for activity arise, the villa is also handy for Medieval Buddhist temples and walks through tea plantations.
With its sizeable pool and fitness centre, this 32-villa resort is a great choice if you want privacy alongside hotel comforts. Cool white walls, warm turquoise accents and traditional Sri Lankan architecture make the rooms a restful base – and larger villas also feature a plunge pool. Its location on the west coast allows for day trips to both Colombo and Galle, with plenty of time to get back for a private dinner on the beach.
The 3 Sisters beach house is on the southernmost tip of the island, close to the city of Matara. The house has been refurbished in a balanced mix of classic Sri Lankan style and modern touches. Inside, the three bedrooms, sleeping up to eight, are comfortable and spacious, perfect for sharing with family and friends. Take a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean while the staff whip up breakfast, lunch and dinner.
While 41 Lighthouse Street doesn’t look like much from the outside, it’s beautiful inside. It boasts a large living area with a billiard table, a TV and a sound system, all close to the pool and garden. Whether you fill just one or all three bedrooms, you’ll have the place to yourself. The villa has an excellent location in the middle of the historic Galle Fort.
The Ocean’s Edge villa lies in a secluded 9ha (23-acre) estate close to Tangalle and sleeps up to nine people. The T-shaped pool is perfect for taking respite from the heat, while the personal chef is on hand to whip up a seafood barbecue, caught fresh the same day. The staff are particularly great with children, offering babysitting services and kids’ tea time.
Pooja Kanda sits atop a hill, only 10 minutes from the beach. All five spacious rooms open up to verandas that overlook the lush gardens surrounding the house. Inside, the decor feels upscale and homely, with antique furniture offset by contemporary artwork. Ask for an in-room Ayurvedic massage before tucking into a creamy Sri Lankan curry from the on-site chef. Watch out for the curious monkeys who might pop by to say hello.
The greatest treat at Bethany 101 is the food. In this family-run villa, dating back to 1836, you can unwind by the pool while eating the best food on the island. Think crispy egg hoppers and devilled prawns. Make the most of the complimentary bicycles to explore the area; kids will appreciate the on-site treehouse. This villa lies in Puttalam, just north of Colombo and less than an hour from Kalpitiya, where you can go on boat trips to spot whales and dolphins or even learn to kitesurf.
This stylish townhouse has four bedrooms and an enviable location looking out over Galle’s 17th-century ramparts and the ocean beyond. The walled garden and pool are a rare find inside historic Galle Fort, and they offer a serene haven after a morning spent exploring the nearby boutiques, museums and temples. Dinner on the terrace and maybe a cocktail or two under the whirr of a ceiling fan provide an ending worth savouring.
Owner Nayantara “Taru” Fonseka is well known on the island for her interior design flair. It’s the happy marriage of antique pieces and contemporary art that makes this south-coast villa feel special – well, that and its undeveloped beachfront location. The helpful staff, garden-set pool and breakfasts of waffles served with grilled pineapple and cardamom will make it hard to say goodbye.
Emma Sparks contributed additional reporting to this article.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.