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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Sri Villas - Nisala (Villa Two)

Sri Villas - Nisala (Villa Two)

Sri Lanka » West Coast » Bentota

We really liked the easy arrangement of Nisala, plus every room’s direct sea views and the fact that the villa’s open kitchen felt exclusively ours as the chef cooked all (Sri Villas) meals in the staff kitchen. There’s loads of space on the ground floor for dining and relaxing and this made up for the fact that its outside areas had less privacy than the other two villas. We had all three Sri Villas properties to ourselves on our visit, which was fantastic. I liked the fact that I could sit on the shady veranda almost dipping my toes into the shallow section of the pool, but wondered how the ambience would have differed had there been some little paddlers around. However, with its basketful of toys, child-friendly staff and a special kid’s menu, we thought this villa would be ideal for families with young children. Nisala’s location on a quiet stretch of beach that’s more popular with turtles than people was stunning. The houseboy assigned to our villa was very polite and helpful, as were the rest of the staff who took over the cooking, cleaning, securing and beautifying while we relaxed and topped up our tans on the terrace. The food was good (there was lots of choice), the smiles genuine and their experienced system of dealing with guests shone through. I liked that fresh juices were left in the fridge for us to help ourselves to (or brought to us in chilled glasses) and that we could order whatever we liked, when we liked. Typically guests choose to pay their food bills via a grocery system (staff doing the shopping and presenting you with receipts), which we did; however you could otherwise opt to pay $40 per person per day for full-board.
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Sri Villas - Sagara (Villa One)

Sri Villas - Sagara (Villa One)

Sri Lanka » West Coast » Bentota

Sagara was our favourite of the three Sri Villas; it’s intimate, comfortable and – being the furthest away from the main staff area – seemed the most private. It also has the most ‘hidden’ living and dining areas plus a kitchen that we had all to ourselves (the staff/chef have their own) making self-catering easy. There’s little true privacy outdoors and if all the properties were occupied I could imagine the ambiance would feel more like a small boutique hotel (certainly around the pool) than a villa, but if you don’t mind sharing then this is a good villa for you. If you’re a small group (maybe even a couple) looking for the personality of a villa, or perhaps are new to villa renting, this communal setup works well as having extra people around (if there are any) provides a little more atmosphere so that you don’t feel completely alone. The houseboy assigned to our villa was very polite and helpful, as were the rest of the staff who took over the cooking, cleaning, securing and beautifying while we relaxed and topped up our tans on the terrace. The food was good (there was lots of choice), the smiles genuine and their experienced system of dealing with guests shone through. I liked that fresh juices were left in the fridge for us to help ourselves to (or brought to us in chilled glasses) and that we could order whatever we liked, when we liked. Typically guests choose to pay their food bills via a grocery system (staff doing the shopping and presenting you with receipts), which we did; however you could otherwise opt to pay $40 per person per day for full-board.
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Strathdon Bungalow

Strathdon Bungalow

Sri Lanka » Hill Country » Hatton

It’s always a joy to stay in such evocative surroundings and take a trip back in time. Strathdon Bungalow manages to combine the sensitivities of yesteryear – both in terms of ambiance and hospitality – with today’s essential comforts and modernities. The bungalow dates back over a century, however the current management performed the latest refurb back in 2010 so plush sofas, thick duvets, dozens of cushions and bedspreads all nestle nicely into a setting reminiscent of days gone by. The caretaker of the bungalow has worked on the estate since 1983 so if you need to know something about the house, or indeed the estate, he’s your man and more than happy to tell a tale or two! He’s also incredibly courteous and did all he could to make us feel at home. Since he’s also the chef (his curries are absolutely delicious), he loves nothing more than seeing his guests’ plates empty. The bungalow has an unusual layout. Most of the bedrooms and living rooms lead off a central passageway (some with windows into it) and the dining room tucked to the back of the house is not particularly atmospheric as it feels a little out of the way (as does bedroom 2, the smaller of the two triples). You may find it nicer to either sit out on the front veranda to eat (weather permitting), which is a wonderful place for breakfast, or ask for the tables to be set up in the sociable hallway, as this setting feels much more convivial. The manager of Strathdon Bungalow, Siri, also manages two neighbouring sister-properties and he pops in to visit guests regularly and can be called upon anytime. He’s a friendly character and a wealth of knowledge on the local area.
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Talaramba Reef Villas - Villa Sulanga

Talaramba Reef Villas - Villa Sulanga

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Mirissa

What an excellent holiday home! Villa Sulanga is exceptionally spacious, tastefully furnished, well facilitated and, even more importantly, dreamily peaceful. Accompanying the steady sounds of the sea were the gentle melodies of birds and the chirruping of squirrels, but little else. Situated away from the road (yet only 1.5km from the pretty bay of Mirissa) in a residential area, Villa Sulanga really is a true escape, and with a good cook on the staff team who prepared wonderful curries for us and a delicious evening barbecue, we felt little need to head out. Kids will love the huge swimming pool and flat grassy lawn, with its gateway leading to the beach. A pétanque court and croquet set offer further outdoor diversions.

Having bedrooms all of equal size, presentation and décor means there’s no reason to squabble over a master suite, and each has a trundle bed for sleeping extra kids. Bathrooms are partly open to the bedrooms and the built-in tubs have super sea views. The only TV and DVD player is located in the ground floor bedroom (could be moved if needed), and wildlife handbooks and binoculars are provided in the living room for nature lovers. 

An advantage of booking the two Talaramba Reef villas together is that they make an excellent event venue (although, for large numbers, a professional organiser would be required).

With breakfast and afternoon tea (from a local tea plantation which welcomes visitors) and cake included in the rate, we felt that Villa Sulanga offered excellent value for money.

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Villa Suriyawatta

Villa Suriyawatta

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Weligama

Suriyawatta has immediate appeal:  the location of the pool is amazing, the sea views stunning and Duminda’s cooking heightened our appreciation even more.   Relaxation comes easy here – evident from the wide lounging ledge in the pool, the comfy loungers, the cushioned daybeds and the shelves bursting with novels (both English and French, spanning all genres and eras, along with an eye-catching number of architecture and design tomes).

With three twin bedrooms, kids’ chairs, pool inflatables, garden games, a swing, and babysitters-on-call, this is an excellent villa for families (it sleeps 6 adults and four kids), and the fence between the upper and lower lawn (and the pool) provides peace of mind. Groups of friends will find the Sonos sound system wired to the pool area particularly appealing.

The excellent staff team is very professional, finding the right balance between being attentive and discreet. Great food comes out of the kitchen (and there’s a big suggestion menu), the stewards are there before you know what you need and the manager keeps everything shipshape. Distractions are well hidden; the main living room does have a TV and DVD player, but it is inside an antique cabinet. The kitchen is slightly separate from the house yet easily accessible and well equipped.
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Taprobane Island

Taprobane Island

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Weligama

Taprobane is utterly unique, quirky and cool. Whilst it feels very sociable, it also offers plenty of private spots that maximise the views. Photos, letters and prints bring out its fun personality whilst the elegant colonial furnishings, some of their colours faded, sophisticate the property and give it a 1930’s feel.

The garden is a delight, its meandering pathways through the mature tropical foliage managing to make the island feel larger than it is. Artists and writers will be particularly drawn to Taprobane; the American writer Paul Bowles wrote the Spider House here. The infinity pool is a great place to watch the fishermen as they take to the sea or return heavily laden with their catch, whilst the seemingly endless number of scenic dining locations makes the most of the island from sunrise to sunset.

Families, groups of friends, honeymooners and decadent couples will adore Taprobane’s peace and privacy and whilst older children will love its Adventure Island appeal, it is possibly less suitable for younger kids who would need a lot of supervision. The sea crossing and number of steps on the island also might prove difficult for the elderly.

The staff of 12 includes a cook, a villa manager, six houseboys who have their own quarters and two security guards so guests are not only very well looked after but their privacy from the outside world is also guaranteed. Sunset drinks are served promptly on the veranda followed by meals that favour the fresh seafood for which Weligama is so renowned. Meals are discussed with the chef every morning so that the staff can head out to do the shopping (provisions on guest account). In the unlikely event that guests feel inclined to leave the tranquility of the island, the staff will assist in organising transport and recommending sight-seeing tours.

Note that there is no TV or DVD player at the villa, and internet is accessed via a USB dongle (provided).  The kitchen is part of the staff quarters in a lower portion of the house and unavailable to guests, yet with your own personal chef you’ll have little need of it. There is a pantry fridge on the dining terrace, which is kept stocked with cool drinks.
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The Teak House

The Teak House

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Tangalle

Tucked away on the hillside, Teak House is a place where we could really relax and forget about the outside world.  We sat peacefully reading and relaxing beside the lovely new 12m swimming pool or in the hammock under the palms and watched the birds and squirrels as the ocean constantly played in our ears.  The garden is large and slopes down the hill; we liked the front area the most with its many flowers and its soft lawn.  A green wire fence surrounds most of the property which provided security without making us feel enclosed as we could still appreciate the jungle and views.

Inside the bungalow, we were reminded of the traditional wooden Thai houses, and although this one differs in design, the atmosphere is similarly romantic.  The bungalow has an elegant design and its bedrooms are a good size; beds are large and comfortable and the bathrooms are modern with good hot-water showers.  For entertainment there’s a selection of books and board games and the villa does have WiFi internet and iPod speakers, but no TVs or DVD players.  However the large garden offers a good space for outdoor games such as cricket.

We felt that Teak House would be great for a family holiday and would also suit couples as it is intimately sized.  It’s ideally placed to explore some excellent local beaches, wildlife parks and temples. Outdoorsy types, escapists, artists, writers and nature lovers will find it especially appealing here.

The bungalow is looked after by houseboy and multi-tasker Roshan who cleans, cooks and shops for you.  We found him to be quiet, hospitable and discreet.  He anticipated our needs for tea in the afternoon and let us choose our own mealtimes.  He cooks on a cost basis (his repoirtoire of dishes is constantly growing).  There is a washing machine for guest use, however Roshan can even do your laundry for you if you’d prefer – and the ironing (charges apply)!  You can also ask him to help you arrange local transport.
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Talaramba Reef Villas - Villa Vatura

Talaramba Reef Villas - Villa Vatura

Sri Lanka » South Coast » Mirissa

We loved Villa Vatura’s peacefulness and its convivial set up. Situated away from the road (yet only 1.5km from the pretty bay of Mirissa) amidst residential housing, Villa Vatura felt like a true escape, and with a good cook on the staff team who prepared wonderful curries and a delicious evening barbecue, we felt little reason to go anywhere else. The villa itself is spacious, elegantly furnished and illustrated with lots of great artwork. It has a huge swimming pool (with shallow kid-friendly section) and flat grassy lawn, which the youngsters will love. A pétanque court and croquet set offer further outdoor diversions.

Having bedrooms all of equal size, presentation and décor means there’s no reason to squabble over a master suite, and each has a trundle bed for sleeping extra kids. Bathrooms are partly open to the bedrooms and the built-in tubs have super sea views. Wildlife handbooks and binoculars are provided in each bedroom and the TV Room is a fab addition for hiding away with a movie or even snuggling up quietly with a book on a rainy day. Complementing the kitchen is a pantry, designed purely for making drinks and storing food and milk for babies and children.

An advantage of booking the two Talaramba Reef villas together is that they make an excellent event venue, but do note that for large numbers a professional organiser would be required. With breakfast and afternoon tea (produced at a local tea plantation which welcomes visitors) and cake included in the rate, we felt that Villa Vatura offered excellent value for money.
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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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