Travel

10 unmissable experiences for your dream Sri Lanka trip, according to a Sri Lanka luxury expert

Now is the time to make your dream future travel plans. And when it comes to said plans, we are not going to do things by halves: we’re thinking bespoke luxury, long-haul destinations and one-of-a-kind experiences. When we travel next, we’re going to make it boutique and bucket list-worthy.

Which is why Sri Lanka Bespoke might just be the answer to all our prayers. The travel brand simply knows the island, nicknamed the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, better than anyone. Boasting unique access to on-the-ground contacts and a knowledge of the region like no other, the company prides itself in handcrafting tailored and thoughtful, once-in-a-lifetime Sri Lankan experiences and authentic adventures to allow you to truly discover the best the country has to offer.

A luxury at the 5-star Ulagalla boutique spa resort in Sri Lanka / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

As Althea Bunce, founder of Sri Lanka Bespoke tells The Luxe Review, “Our relationships across the island mean that anything is possible.” 

“As we emerge from lockdown, where walls have defined our existence and our outlook dramatically shrunken, Sri Lanka is the perfect antidote,” the Sri Lanka expert adds.

Althea Bunce, founder of Sri Lanka Bespoke, is the go-to expert on luxury Sri Lanka travel.

The best times to travel to Sri Lanka are from December to April and August, Bunce explains, as while the country experiences year-round warmth, the two monsoon seasons to avoid are in May and October.

“Sri Lanka offers lush verdant vistas as far as the eye can see. Idyllic palm fringed golden beaches and super-luxe boutiques in breathtaking locations. A trip to Sri Lanka is an immersion in tropical wilderness, unrivalled wildlife, warm weather, all in wide screen technicolour,” Bunce explains, as we start furiously Googling flights. 

As you’ll see below, there is also so much to experience in Sri Lanka that Bunce advises allowing a minimum of two weeks for your Sri Lankan journey, so that you have enough time to both experience the country’s biggest highlights, as well as discover hidden treasures and have time to soak up the stunning settings of the island’s luxury boutique resorts. 

With that in mind, here Sri Lanka Bespoke founder Althea Bunce reveals her ten expert travel tips to make Sri Lanka your first post-Covid trip to paradise. We’re planning our luxury escape already… 

The view from Tea Trails resort Sri Lanka
Idyllic views from the luxury Tea Trails resort in Sri Lanka / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Mix up your itinerary and fill it with variety 

“Sri Lanka is a small island with a big personality and its sheer diversity is unmatched. There is simply something for everyone,” explains Bunce, “There is nowhere else in the world that you can visit a 300BC city in the morning and go on a leopard safari in the afternoon. For its size, Sri Lanka punches above its weight and holds a wealth of experiences like no other. From lush jungles and cascading waterfalls, to captivating culture – and not to mention the sheer abundance of wildlife. Sri Lanka has the highest density of leopards in the whole of Asia and is the only place where you see the largest land and sea mammal all within a few hours of each other.”

Wildlife at Yala National Park, Sri Lanka
Experience the wildlife at Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Check in to a super-luxe safari lodge 

“Expect luxe safari residences nestling in dunes alongside luscious jungles at the ocean’s edge, to luxury tented suites carefully tucked between palm trees to converted colonial tea planter bungalows that proffer rich heritage, and infinity pools overlooking heart stopping vistas across rolling emerald tea plantations,” Bunce tells us, of the most luxurious accommodation offerings. 

Go whale watching in Sri Lanka
Whale watching in Sri Lanka / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Go whale watching from above in a private seaplane 

“There are also luxury private experiences to be had, such as soaring helicopter rides over jungle carpeted hills and whale watching from above in a seaplane. Then, you can experience authentic game parks, surrounded by wilderness but without compromising on modern comfort and luxury.” 

Sri Lankan temple
Experience incredible Sri Lankan culture / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Participate in the beautiful local culture

As you’d imagine, Sri Lanka Bespoke organises some incredible experiences. One of Althea’s favourites? Arranging for her clients to take part in a gorgeous Hindu festival: “From our discussion with one of our clients, an interest in participating in one of Sri Lanka’s festivals emerged. So, we arranged for the mother and daughter to participate in a beautiful Hindu festival on the East coast. We organised everything from taking our clients to a sari shop to select special saris, to local ladies helping with dressing our clients in the saris along with the accessories, to participating in the festival. It was a joyous and incredibly special experience for our clients and for us as a team!”

Sri Lanka boasts stunning nature and rainforests / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Plan an unforgettable engagement proposal

“We had a client that wanted to create a special proposal experience for his fiancée,” explains Bunce, of one of her most memorable and unique experiences she has organised through Sri Lanka Bespoke, “Through discussions, we agreed on a hot-air balloon proposal. We organised a private hot-air balloon morning ride for the proposal that took the couple over the magnificent Sigiriya Rock that made for a truly remarkable and unique backdrop. Upon landing, we arranged for a special engagement breakfast served in the middle of a paddy field and complete with professional photographer and Kandyan dancers. It was an incredibly unique and romantic proposal.” 

Riva Negombo, Sri Lanka
The luxury Taru Villas at Riva, Negombo / Credit: Riva

Check out the award-winning new high-end hotel openings 

“One of the most recent openings is W15 Kandy, located in the central highlands of Kandy. Winner of the Conde Nast Johansens 2021 awards, this beautifully restored bungalow rewards its visitors with unparalleled views of the Hanthana mountain range. WIth beautifully appointed rooms with several options for private dining and sunbathing, this is a luxurious home away from home with a wide range of luxury experiences and where your every need is attended to,” Bunce reveals. 

The new openings don’t stop there, though, Bunce recommends, “Check out the Riva Negombo, a 180-year old manor house set in five acres of heirloom coconut plantation, transformed into an exceptional, private seven-bedroom retreat located 4km from Negombo and just 20 minutes from the International Airport. Refined but relaxed, tranquil and contemporary, it’s a perfect destination for those wanting a luxury escape to start or end a Sri Lankan holiday in style.”

Experience nature at its most breathtaking with complete wilderness immersion 

“A must for any itinerary is a complete wilderness immersion at Gal Oya Lodge. It’s a true off-the-grid experience. Expect complete signal loss within two hours radius and prepare to immerse yourself in a nature experience in one of Sri Lanka’s remotest areas,” says Bunce, of the retreat, “Bordering one the island’s untouched national parks, you can experience boat safaris that discover wildlife from a whole new perspective and trips to meet the forest dwelling indigenous Veddha people of Sri Lanka. This is a real treat for those who want to experience nature and wilderness at its best. And do not miss out on the dramatic pit stops along the road journeys!” 

Crab dish at Ministry of Crab, Sri Lanka
The world-famous specialty at Ministry of Crab, Sri Lanka / Credit: Ministry of Crab

Go on a culinary journey at the best restaurants in Sri Lanka 

“Sri Lanka’s multi-ethnic population ensures the island’s culinary variety with each group known for their speciality dishes. Taste famous crab curries on the West coast to an array of vegetarian dishes with roti in the North. Curd and Pittu on the East to Kandyan curries in the central highlands,” advises Althea. 

And be sure to make a reservation at these must-visit restaurants before you travel. “Have lunch at Paradise Road Gallery Café Colombo – with rotating exhibitions and emerging artists, this is a must for anyone visiting Colombo. They serve international cuisine with a focus on chocolate desserts,” recommends Althea, “Then, have dinner at Ministry of Crab in Colombo – it’s  an institution with world-wide fame for its magnificent crab dishes.” 

As for Sri Lanka’s finest aperitifs, Bunce has got you covered, too: “Have a drink at The Capital Bar & Grill, with its entrance at the Shangri-La in Colombo, which is extremely handsome and has city views from the bar terrace.” 

Karpaha Sands at Kalkudah Beach
The Karpaha Sands Palam Suites at Kalkudah Beach / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Unwind with one of the world’s most luxurious secluded beach stays 

“Karpaha Sands is arguably one of the island’s most luxurious beach stays. Decompress in luxury tented suites carefully tucked between palm trees, and unwind on private loungers on pristine shores and enjoy the divine culinary journey that makes this hidden gem extra special. With a spa, library and fully equipped games room, it’s impossible not to recharge and deeply relax,” advises Bunce. The expert’s top tip when staying there? “Make sure that you don’t miss the magical experience of watching the fisherman preparing to sail out onto the ocean from your private sun lounger on the beach as the sun rises.” 

The dreamy pool at Amanwella, Sri Lanka / Credit: Sri Lanka Bespoke

Expect to start planning a second trip, too 

“Travellers will be amazed at how hard they fall in love with this utterly captivating island  –  many start planning second visits while still on their first!” Althea explains, “A must for any second visit is a trip to Jaffna in the North – a city on the northern tip of Sri Lanka and a bastion of Hindu tradition, art and culture. This intriguing city is slightly off the beaten path and a thoroughly rewarding place to discover Sri Lankan Tamil Culture. I’d also recommend diving on the East Coast in Trincomalee -it’s an incredible spot for snorkelling surrounded by coral reefs and abundant marine life with the several species of tropical fish, marine turtles and black tip reef sharks.”

Ready to have the experts plan your dream Sri Lanka trip? Visit Sri Lanka Bespoke today to organise your perfect holiday.

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