Villas in Sri Lanka

There are few islands in the world where the scenery is so diverse, and so quickly varied. Visitors who come to Sri Lanka cannot fail to be moved by this irresistible chameleon-like charm, her warm-hearted people and her rich multi-cultural vibe. And, despite the island’s popularity with visitors, it still feels like an untouched paradise.

Sri Lanka offers something for everyone. There’s the ancient Sinhalese ruins of the Cultural Triangle; the Hill Country’s colonial plantation bungalows, misty peaks and endless tea; Kandy’s revered Temple of the Tooth; national parks where leopards, elephants and bears roam free; and the warm turquoise seas where you can see whales and dolphins, and scuba to coral reefs.

This island’s endless swathes of unspoilt palm-speckled beaches are its biggest draw. The sultry south-west stretch linking the water sports capital of Bentota, the historic 17th century fortified city of Galle and the rustic shoreline of Tangalle is the most developed, accessible and popular, and also where most of the island’s villas – many atmospheric heritage homes - can be found.

Both the island’s geography and its multi-ethnic community are reflected in the national cuisine. Spices, particularly cinnamon, attracted overseas traders many years ago, and they feature strongly in the island’s wonderful curries, which tend to be much hotter (and better!) than their Indian equivalents.

Sri Lanka’s relatively small size means that you can take in the best of the island’s attractions within a few weeks. The south-west coast and hill country are at their climatic best between December and April, which is when the majority of visitors come. The inter-monsoonal northern summer months are not to be avoided either as quick downpours intersperse long sunny days.

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Villas in Sri Lanka by region

Hill Country, North West Coast, South Coast, West Coast
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Victoria

Victoria

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Talpe

As soon as we crossed the serene lotus pond into the house, Victoria’s tranquillity was obvious. The villa was built to exhibit the character of a traditional Sri Lankan home and although only 15 years old, it is still quite a few years older than many of its neighbouring villas. However, we felt that its classical build, elegant decor and pretty palm-dotted lawn made it feel timeless, whilst up-to-date facilities – movie room, iPod docking station – combined with the vivid blue colour scheme added necessary contemporary touches. The experienced staff also added to the enjoyment of our stay. They went about their work discreetly and we were impressed by their attention to small details, such as remembering how we took our tea and which foods we did and didn’t like. The cook was very amenable and able to cook a wide variety of cuisines – from typical Sri Lankan meals to Thai and Chinese dishes – with ease. The food was not only good but economical and the kitchen is also very well equipped for self-caterers . Each of Victoria’s bedrooms offers plenty of comfort although there’s only one with direct sea views. None of the rooms in the house is air conditioned except for the TV Room, which made watching a movie much more comfortableThe pool in the garden is a real treat and although not especially big, it more than makes up for the lack of sea swimming possibilities just beyond the villa wall.
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Villa Saldana

Villa Saldana

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Habaraduwa-Koggala

We enjoyed three wonderful days at Saldana and adored the villa’s cosiness. Its design is grand but homely with the sea nearly always in view. The living room was especially comfortable and the front veranda is best sited to soak in the ocean vistas – drag a few chairs out there or even the dining table for a wave-chorused lunch as you count the lumbering ships on the misty horizon. The house and the swimming pool appear to float above the lawn and this aspect improves the airiness of the property.

The two master bedrooms both have sea-view terraces, but the bedroom opening onto the swimming pool terrace is less private - fine if you’re a single family grouping or a couple but maybe less so if you’re a group of friends. It’s ideal for midnight skinny dips though! The twin bedroom is ideal for children although the high beds might be a worry for parents with younger kids.

The kitchen is great and comes with everything that you’ll need if you’re looking to self-cater. The small staff team includes a cook who’s more confident in cooking Sri Lankan cuisine and simple snacks than elaborate western meals, but learning fast. The staff were always very discreet and gave us privacy, which we liked, although they were a little bit shy at times. Knowledgeable managers are on-call however, and they can help with restaurant bookings, massage appointments and onward travel. The turtle hatchery (0.2km) will be a delight for young children who can learn about the five species of marine turtles in tanks that come to lay their eggs on Sri Lankan shores. They’ll also have the opportunity to set new hatchlings free into the sea.

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Walatta House

Walatta House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Tangalle

This is one of those fabulous finds you really want to keep for yourself.  We loved Walatta House – from its eco-chic concept to its beautiful ocean views and tranquil hillside location – and no sooner had we arrived than we were working out when we could come back again with friends.  The design is simple and the size manageable, even for two people, and the house is furnished with an eye-catching collection of design-orientated furnishings and fittings – the bulb installation above the dining table caught our eye.

The 20m swimming pool is a treat for long leisurely swims, and the air-conditioned TV room is a top addition as it provides the perfect snug for watching movies (bring your own) or catching up on the news and sports.  There’s a desk and computer here too.  We wandered down to the pretty beach, but currents can be strong so the staff advised us to head for Seenimodera Beach (over the hillside, and accessed via road) if we wanted to swim or jog as the beach here stretches for a few kilometres.

There’s a small staff team at Walatta House, including a chef who also acts as the manager.  Having worked in various Middle Eastern countries he specialises in Middle Eastern / Arabian food, however you won’t find it on the menu, so if you fancy some hummus or tabbouleh, make a special request.  The kitchen is not located within the house (there is a little pantry with drinks cooler, coffee machine and tea making facilities) but is adjacent to the main building, and can be used by guests.
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From $600 ++

Bedrooms 3

Sleeps 6-8*

Our
Rating 7.9

Wetakeiya House

Wetakeiya House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Dickwella

You could easily hole yourself up for weeks on end here. As a writer, I thought Wetakeiya House felt like the perfect bolthole for composing and relaxing. It’s clearly a cherished home, and we loved the oversized daybeds, the interesting photographs and prints, and the eye-catching antiques artfully scattered throughout the house. There is loads of living space for six people and we liked that the pool was out of sight of the house as it gave yet another private spot for chilling out. The garden eventually leads to a collection of huge rocks smashed by the sea – a great scene for photographing but definitely not for swimming!
 
With three bedrooms, Wetakeiya House is ideal for a family, but since the garden drops off in places and slopes down towards the rocky beach, it’s probably more suitable for children over three. Since the two guest bedrooms are situated to the back of the house, and the master opens straight onto the main veranda, the house would also work really well for an indulgent couple looking for a little extra privacy and space. With a garden ripe for barbecues, fairly equally sized bedrooms, convivial living spaces and a good music system, groups of friends (singles or couples) could have lots of fun here too.
 
There’s a small staff team of four, and the lovely couple who manage the villa have recently returned from over 30 years in the Middle East and Greece. One of the pair, Chris, who is also the cook, prepares the usual Sri Lankan fare along with dishes she’s discovered on her travels. We dined on baked cheese gnocchi with salad, and for breakfast, tried her amazing pol sambol (grated coconut with lime, chilli and tomato).
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From $500 ++

Bedrooms 3

Sleeps 6

Our
Rating 7.8

32 Middle Street

32 Middle Street

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Galle

Once the doors of 32 Middle Street were closed behind us we felt instantly at home. The property felt secluded and its courtyard swimming pool and rooftop sundeck offered plenty of scope for relaxation. Indoors, we loved curling up on the squashy sofas in the living room and admiring the Asian artwork, owners’ photographs and interesting reading material that personified the property. Each room is large, although the master bedroom with its balcony overlooking the pool and sumptuous en-suite bathroom is easily the most exclusive. The house is well set up for families (best for older children), groups of friends and couples who will love the seclusion and privacy. The open-plan design of the two downstairs bedrooms, with the bathroom forming part of the room, albeit behind a concrete screen wall, might not suit everyone.

The helpful villa staff can prepare meals at cost price with prior notice, and Marloni’s delicious rice and curry was a real treat. The villa’s good management team can also assist with local travel arrangements.
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Ambalama

Ambalama

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Talpe

We found Ambalama to be a very flexible beach villa, suitable for families, groups of friends and even decadent couples. It is spacious enough to host larger groups and its sociable layout maximises party potential (as does the iPod docking station and Bose sound system). Each bedroom is similarly sized which saves arguments about who sleeps where (although the bedrooms to the far sides of the villa perhaps offer the most privacy and are a little more special with their tropical outdoor showers). There is plenty of space inside the villa and outside on the pool terrace for dining, and every meal is an occasion, reflecting chef Roshan’s five star hotel training in a wide range of delicious fusion cuisine. Ingredients (on guest account) are bought fresh from the market each day.     

The staff at Ambalama are proficient and present service with a smile; offering to unpack our suitcase on arrival and serving us chilled G&Ts on the pool terrace overlooking the sea at sunset. A pair of non-resident managers drop by to welcome guests and make sure they have everything they require, and are on call if advice is needed about where to eat out, or to help with any travel arrangements (Roshan doubles up as an in-house manager and can also assist with most guest queries).

Whilst there isn’t a TV or DVD player at the villa, these can be organised with prior arrangement – although it’s probably best to bring your own DVDs with you, as well as childrens’ games if needs be. Whilst the narrow beach outside Ambalama isn’t great for swimming, you only have to walk five minutes to the nearest swimming beach. That said, there are few villas on the Galle coast better located than Ambalama; beaches, restaurants, shops and attractions are all within a short walk or drive.
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Apsara

Apsara

Sri Lanka » West Coast » Bentota

What a wonderful villa! Apsara offered us plush comfort, an excellent chef and a wonderful riverside location all within easy reach of Bentota’s long sweep of beach. We enjoyed the company of the staff who always greeted us with a smile and made us feel so welcome. The chef, in particular, stood out for his conviviality and amazing food. The house and garden were both immaculate: it felt as though we were the first ever visitors. The lighting was also especially good. The bedrooms and living areas are all air conditioned, although we just left the doors open as there was always a refreshing breeze coming off the river.

There’s a wall-mounted DVD and Blu-ray disc player in the living room (loads of DVDs) and a surround-sound music system with iPod dock set up so you can hear your favourite tunes inside or by the pool. There’s also a good WiFi connection throughout the villa so you can easily get online if you bring your own kit.

Apsara has its own private jetty and is well connected with a locally renowned water sports outfitter who can come and pick you up from the villa in their boat. There’s a good supermarket just up the road from the villa that stocks loads of imported goods and the fresh produce market is right on your doorstep too. The staff will buy groceries for you though, and with such an amazing chef to feed you (and a wonderful menu) it’s unlikely you’ll be doing much more than ‘window’ shopping.

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Auraliya

Auraliya

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Talpe

This is a fabulous villa. Standouts include the stunning sea views, gorgeous beach, expansive outside space and heartwarming team of staff, not to mention the great food. Everything about the villa is very family friendly and group orientated - the sky blue swimming pool with its shallow ledge; the huge garden with plenty of space for the kids to indulge in cricket or football; the interconnecting rooms; and the lovely beach with calm sea ideal for paddling.

We thought the staff were excellent; friendly, experienced and capable. The chef was particularly enthusiastic and his cooking was fabulous. He’ll even make snacks for kids such as jammy dodgers, an all-time favourite. He will also stock the kitchen with basic provisions prior to your arrival, and prepare your first two meals so that you can arrive relaxed and at ease. There’s a Nespresso coffee machine in the villa, but as you can’t buy the capsules in Sri Lanka, you’ll need to bring some with you. If we needed anything else, the staff shopped for us and they were able to arrange transport for us to visit attractions, restaurants and the fort at Galle.

Visiting in March 2013, three years after our original review, we were pleased to discover that the villa has the same lovely staff team and is as immaculately presented as before. Each master bedroom has its own mini fridge and the villa is also now equipped with a generator.


 
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The Beach House

The Beach House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Tangalle

The Beach House is a total retreat from the outside world. Its tranquility is heavenly and it’s an excellent choice for a family who are looking for simple back-to-basics beach living without the distraction of TVs and other mod cons. Artists, writers and anyone with a creative mind or reclusive leanings will, unsurprisingly, find much to adore here, and guests get plenty of pampering from the barely-there staff headed by Dhammika, the shy chief houseboy.

The house has a unique design that suits its environment and embraces both the views and the sea breezes. It’s ridiculously quirky and we loved how Johnson’s eccentric artwork ensured that his presence lives on. The two studio rooms are quite secluded – great for adventurous teens wanting independence from their parents, or a couple looking for a little extra privacy. Do note though that The Blue Room is very small.

Although the Beach House is as characterful, timeless and restful as ever, it is looking a little run down since our first visit. A lick of paint would do it good, weatherworn soft furnishings could be replaced and we noticed that some of the mosquito screens above the windows were clogged with dust. For its price, this is a bit of a letdown – reflected in our revised value score.

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Brockenhurst

Brockenhurst

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Nuwara Eliya

Brockenhurst is a good private base for visiting Nuwara Eliya town and nearby attractions. Although there are few facilities – the kitchen is basic and there is no swimming pool – Brockenhurst does represent very good value.

The house can accommodate up to twelve guests; since the master bedroom has space for five (rather like a dorm room we thought) and the second bedroom can sleep three, it’s a great house for a couple of families. We felt that the ground floor bedroom would be suitable for elderly relatives who weren’t keen on stairs, making the house a good choice for extended family holidays too. Whilst the number of bathrooms equals the number of bedrooms, only two are ensuite, but this doesn’t really pose a problem. We felt that the house reflected bygone days when entertainment was made, not provided, which is certainly part of its charm.

Whilst Brockenhurst has probably changed little aesthetically since its colonial days, it has been updated; bathrooms are modern and have scorching hot showers (although the bathtubs could do with a few touch-ups here and there), and whilst the bedrooms are comfortable, they are sparsely furnished. The Sri Lankan-style kitchen is practical for staff use only. There are no menus, you can discuss meal requirements daily with Godwin, the chef, and buy your own groceries or give money to Karu, the multi-tasking caretaker of Brockenhurst, to buy them on your behalf. The chef lives in and his English is good so we didn’t have any difficulties.

Brockenhurst has been refurbished since our first visit. The hallway and living room floors have been laid with timber, which feels much warmer underfoot and more homely than the previous cement flooring. The sofas in the living room have been replaced, and the fireplace here has also been remodelled. These upgrades all make the room feel more sophisticated than it did before.

There’s a new flat-screen TV, a DVD player (although no DVDs) and WiFi internet (works best downstairs). Karu and Godwin are both still there, and were as warm and friendly as ever. They have a third team member helping them out now too. The kitchen remains fairly basic (although with Godwin cooking there’s really no reason to use this room at all) and we noticed that two of the bathrooms have been slightly upgraded.

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* Additional charges may apply for maximum occupancy
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