The Best Places to Stay
IN KANDY, SRI LANKA
AARUNYA NATURE RESORT
Best place to relax in nature
If you feel like splurging and treating yourself to unadulterated luxury, I can highly recommend the newly opened Aarunya resort. ‘Aarunya’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘first rays of sun’ and you will be the first to catch those rays of a morning, as Aarunya is situated high up on a mountain peak and tea estate in the Knuckles Mountain Range. The spectacular views over the completely unspoilt scenery are worth the visit alone, that and the highly instagrammable infinity pool.
The rooms are tastefully done, combining classic Sri Lankan rattan furniture with a modern, minimalist style. A huge concrete bath, open shower, concrete floors and walls painted in a rich green to match the surrounding nature, which can be viewed from the 180 degree windows.
I was very impressed with the food and hospitality, Alec the onsite manager is not only great for a natter, but also very knowledgeable about food and the industry after working many years in some of the world’s best restaurants. With the menu offerings, they aim to cater to everyone’s needs, whilst still keeping a Sri Lankan twist in every dish. For lunch I enjoyed a vegetarian Sri Lankan rice and curry with lots of different mouth watering dishes, presented in banana leaves, followed by honey and curd for dessert. Breakfast the next day was a fruit platter, fresh pineapple juice, followed by the cutest scrambled eggs I’ve ever seen, presented on a small square of white toast. Sri Lankan pancakes, coconut sambal, spicy dal curry and krithabi, a traditional rice dish made with rice and coconut milk. What a mouthful! Literally. It was all so delicious. I wish I could of eaten it all, but alas.
If you aren’t interested to relax you can go against the grain and take an adventure. Which is what I decided to do! I went on a day trek in the Knuckles Ranges. I used a fantastic guide named Nipuna, he’s from one of the local nearby villages, so he knew loads about all the plants and wildlife. And he managed to save me from two near fatal attacks from leeches! They were trying to burrow their way through my socks! To be fair, he really didn’t have a choice with the amount of screaming that took place. I won’t mention the two metre snake we saw either!!! Apart from those two ‘life threatening’ incidents it was an incredible experience trekking through the woods, through the rice paddies, tea plantations and through tiny local villages with the friendliest faces and smiling local children all waving and yelling ‘hello’ as we walked by. We stopped halfway to have lunch and swim in the freezing cold, but majestic and completely deserted waterfall. The hike was 15km but there was an option to camp overnight and trek the whole next day, which I graciously declined in favour of my luxury lodgings at Aarunya. Can you blame me?
And if that is not enough for you. Yoga is served on the deck in the morning at 7.30am and in the afternoon at 4.30pm.
Go for - The infinity pool with a drop into nature
Price: Luxury $$$
Pro tip - Prepare to relax
HIPSTERS HIDEOUT LOUNGE
Best for socialising and making friends
A great little hostel just slightly out of town and away from the hustle and bustle that is Kandy. I booked a private room with a double bed, I was a little sad to be without hot water after my mammoth journey, but I just about managed to push on through. The room was clean and the bed worked, so I was happy.
Hipsters in run by, well… Hipsters and a very cool Mastiff dog named Hustler. The ever so helpful local boys, Lanka, Surya and Joe were all very eager to help and if you want to book a tour around town, Surya will arrange to take you around in his tuk tuk. I went with two other guests around to a tea plantation, spice garden, up to the white buddha with incredible views over the city and the stunning Lankatilake Viharya temple, once inside you can see the 24 Buddhas that preceded Gautama Buddha, exquisitely painted on the walls and ceiling and a colossal statue of seated Buddha under a beautiful dragon arch.
There isn’t much going on in Kandy in regards to bars & nightlife and Hipsters is one of the few bars in Kandy so it's a great place to come if you want to meet people and socialise. The food is pretty simply fare, burgers, cakes, juices, yummy smoothies and beer, served in a teapot. For breakfast it’s eggs on toast or fruit with muesli. You can order a Sri Lankan breakfast the night before if you so wish.
There is a yoga shala onsite at Hipster but there were no classes running while I was there.
I was there during the Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth) A 10 day grand Buddhist festival, with elephants, fancy costumes and fire dancing, all to celebrate Buddha’s tooth. Anyway, it meant that there wasn’t too much boozing happening around town in honour of the Buddha. But there were masses and masses of people from all over Sri Lanka in town to pay homage to the sacred tooth.
Go for - Socialising and meeting people
Price - $ Budget/backpacker
Pro tip - Watch out for the monkeys in the morning coming to steal your stuff from outside
Booking and contact
REEVES GARDEN HOMESTAY
Best place to be like a local
If you don’t feel like being at the party, Sri Lankan Homestays can be a great option and a good way to get to know about the local food and culture. And you may just end up feeling like one of the family. I was about to go into Nilambe silent retreat the following week, so I was feeling particularly introspective. Reeves Garden happened to be exactly what I didn’t know I needed, after a bit of a not nice time in Bali, escaping earthquakes and the like. I felt tired, emotionally and spiritually. Shafiya properly mothered me, always checking if I am comfortable or if I needed feeding, laundry, etc. And you can order a full Sri Lankan breakfast for the next day. Mine was up there with one of the best meals I’ve had in Sri Lanka (a tall order!) with hoppers (Sort of like dosa or pancakes), eggs, coconut sambal, avocado and fruits all grown from the garden. And lovingly served up outside with tea.
The house is designed in 1940’s British colonial style with a unique circular foyer and with all the original furniture, concrete floors, high ceiling, big farmhouse doors, with big giant brass keys. Mine had a nice red ribbon tied to it.
I loved doing yoga and lazing about in the garden under the guava tree…
Shifaya and her family went completely out of their way to make sure I was happy and even took me out for traditional Sri Lankan breakfast on the last day, after an excursion to the University of Peradeniya, the main university in Kandy. What a feast for the eyes! Some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve seen in SL, all British 1950’s buildings, painted in dusty pink and huge old banyan trees all over campus. And the outdoor amphitheatre is a treat. It felt like a Wes Anderson movie. How nice it must be to be able to study in such surroundings, although apparently the students are continuously on strike, despite the fact that the universities in Sri Lanka are all paid for by the government. Little bit different from life in the West were its the norm to enter the working world with thousands of dollars worth of debt! Anyhow, I digress.
Thank-you to mumma Shifya and Reeves Garden for a wonderful stay.
Go to - be like a local
Price - $ Budget/backpacker
Pro tip - Order the breakfast!
Booking and contact
The best view in Kandy
Theva was the most hotel-like of the places I stayed at in Kandy. The rooms are all white with a bright splash of colour, paying homage to Kandy’s Esala Perahera. My room contained; One hot shower over a large pebble flooring. A mini bar with lots of booze, a desk with two chairs, tv, one a really comfy king size bed and double doors leading onto a balcony with the most breathtaking view of Kandy city.
The hotel is perched in the Hantana Hills and faces West, so you can enjoy a sundowner in the restaurant while watching the sun slip behind the mountains. Also a great place for a digital nomads to stay as the wifi is strong and you can take your pick to work on either the balcony, in the al fresco restaurant or by the infinity pool, working in between sauna sessions. And all with the best view in Kandy to glance up at in between emails.
After a soundless sleep, the next morning I got caught up doing yoga practice in my room and lazing about the pool before ordering complimentary breakfast on my balcony. Two of the professional but lovely hotel staff shimmied in with two trays filled with breakfast treats; Scrambled eggs, pastries, jams, tea and freshly squeezed juice. Beautifully presented. Pure happiness.
NILAMBE BUDDHIST MEDIATION CENTRE
Best place to be zen
It would be foolish to come all the way to Kandy and not visit Nilambe. It was the reason I was there after all, to attend the 5 day silent retreat. It’s not so much that you come here for the accommodation offerings but rather the journey inward. You can read all about my experience at Nilambe in my previous post.
Check the retreat page if you want to join a retreat, and guests are welcomed to stay on if they wish.
Go for - Enlightenment, inner peace and to get in touch with nature
Price - $ Budget/backpacker
Pro tip - get a tuk tuk up the hill unless you are up for a trek!
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