Drink Ceylon tea, spot wild elephants or learn to surf in the Indian Ocean. With an eye for luxurious design, these villas are primed for your next group holiday to Sri Lanka.
With laid-back beaches, history-laden cities and rural vistas, Sri Lanka is adept at pleasing its visitors. This is mirrored by the country’s wide choice of villas. Sensitively restored historic homes provide the ideal backdrop for families and friends to gather and enjoy island life. Read our guide to the best.
Taru Villas – Rock Villa
Courtesy of Taru Villas - Rock Villa / Expedia.com
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. Elegant antique chairs recline on private verandahs, inviting you to pause for a cup of Ceylon tea. The villa’s two-acre tropical garden is home to a frangipani-lined pool, a sheltered dining area and an occasional monkey.
Families and groups will love being able to spread out over these two-storey, beach-front villas on a secluded part of the south coast. From here, it’s a short tuk-tuk ride to Mirissa’s bars, surf schools and roti shops – not that you need to look hard for diversions. The resort offers spa treatments, daily yoga lessons, guided bike rides, as well as the island’s largest saltwater pool.
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 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 curry 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 honey-hued coconut or thambili. Staff are on hand to cook and teach yoga, and may even be persuaded 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 attending to bird song, 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 sizable 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. The larger villas also feature a plunge pool. The east coast location 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 with modern touches. Inside, the three bedrooms are comfortable and spacious, perfect to share with family and friends – it sleeps eight in total. Take a dip in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean, while the staff whip up breakfast, lunch and dinner.
From the outside, this villa doesn’t look like much – then you open the door and find the real beauty. It boasts a large living area with a pool table, a TV and 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. 41 Lighthouse Street has an excellent location in the middle of the historic Galle Fort.
The Ocean’s Edge villa is situated in a secluded 20-acre (8ha) estate close to Tangalle, and sleeps nine people in total. 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’ teatime.
Villa Pooja Kanda sits atop a hill and only ten minutes from the beach. All five spacious rooms open up to sweeping verandahs 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 from 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, while the kids will appreciate the on-site farm and treehouse. This villa is located 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 kite surf.
This stylish townhouse has four bedrooms and an enviable location looking out over 17th-century ramparts to the ocean beyond. The walled garden and decent-sized 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 which makes this south-coast villa feel special. Well, that and it’s undeveloped beach-front location. The helpful staff, garden-set pool, and breakfasts of waffles served with grilled pineapple and cardamom will make it hard to say goodbye.