About Us

Sri Lanka Holiday Homes is a promoter of quality accommodation facilities for holiday stay in Sri Lanka.

Get The Latest News

Sign up to receive latest news

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More British tourists arrived in Sri Lanka this year

Sri Lanka has seen a significant increase in tourist arrivals in the country this year compared to last year according to the statistics published by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

Up to November this year 569,849 tourist arrivals have been recorded. This is an increase off 47% over 2009. Last Week the tourism officials welcomed the 600,000th tourist, a British national, to Sri Lanka during 2010.

The British High Commission in Colombo says the tourists arriving from Britain have increased following UK government's decision to lift the restrictions against travel to Sri Lanka. There are no travel restrictions to any part of Sri Lanka now.

From January to November 95,320 British tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2010, a 30.8% percent increase over the 72,868 visited in the same period last year. The British tourist arrivals this year accounted for 17% of the total visitors to the country. In 2009 too, 19% of total tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka were from the UK.

British tourists were the second highest number to visit Sri Lanka in 2010 next to India. A total of 111,129 tourists from India visited Sri Lanka in the year.

The High Commission expects the arrivals from the UK to pass 125,000 by the end of this year.

Commenting on the statistics Deputy High Commissioner, Mark Gooding has said that the historical connections between the UK and Sri Lanka mean lots of British nationals want to come to the island, a former British colony, each year.

Gooding has advised the travelers to the country to read the FCO travel advice before they arrive.

"Our Consular team in Colombo is readily available to advise and help British nationals who encounter problems during their stay, but obviously what we want most is to help them prevent unfortunate incidents so they can enjoy their Sri Lankan vacation happily and safely," Gooding has said.

According to the British High Commission in Colombo the Consular Section has put forward several measures to ensure a safe trip to the country.

The Consular Section has introduced an SMS alert system in April 2010 to inform its contact details to the British nationals arriving in Sri Lanka and publish an annual travel advice booklet that outlines simple, clear, and concise information, covering all bases.

They also focus on respect for religion and religious monuments and sites, awareness of local laws and customs and even common sense advice, such as making copies of one's passport and remaining aware of security risks, High Commission informed.

The High Commission says that its Consular team says also actively promotes the importance of cultural sensitivity among British tourists to Sri Lanka, in order to have a fun-filled and incident-free holiday and the British nationals visiting Sri Lanka for more than a month are asked to register themselves on the Consular database.

»»  read more

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sri Lanka to promote its ‘Wild Pride’ for tourists

After ending 30 years war, Sri Lanka Tourism targeting to be the ‘Miracle of Asia’ has announced a new campaign focusing on eight key products, with the country’s wildlife to be heavily promoted for the first time. Sri Lanka unveiled promoting ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year 2011’ in line with this eight different product themes and a new product logo for Sri Lanka tourism was launched at World Travel Market (WTM) in London started on Tuesday.

The first seven products promote Sri Lanka's heritage, beaches, sports and adventure, wellness, scenery, friendly people and festival tourism according to reports. Officials say the wildlife tourism has not been exploited enough up until now. The tourist board is planning to promote very specific nature tourism, with a focus on bird watching or butterflies, for example.

New York Times voted Sri Lanka as No-1 destination to travel in 2010.

Nearly 50 Sri Lankan companies, the highest number of participants so far, along with the national carrier SriLankan Airlines, would be showcasing their product at the World Travel Market (WTM) in London.

The whole travel world meets under one roof at the second biggest global travel event World Travel Market (WTM), the global travel and tourism event in London and what open out before the visitors could be described as ‘Around the World in Four Days’.

WTM attracts more than 30,000 visitors, 5,000 trade partners (exhibitors) from 200 countries. There are around 1000 travel agents including more than 200 tour operators who sell Sri Lanka as a tourism product are also taking part in this event.

The island nation is expecting to reach the 600,000 arrivals mark for this year, the highest ever in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry history and current arrival figures already recording 550,000.

Reports reveal that up to September this year the arrivals from the United Kingdom had reached an encouraging 78,038 and industry officials predict by the end of the year, the number would exceed the 100,000.

Next year, with ‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ country is targeting for 750,000 international arrivals, and by 2016, the country hopes to attract 2.5 million annual visitors, and a further 30,000 beds are yet to be added over the next three years within capital city Colombo and suburbs.

According Sri Lankan Airlines chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe country’s premier airline is hoping to secure a slot at Gatwick to increase its UK flights from 14 per week to 21. Sri Lankan is also in the process of upgrading the seats on its aircraft, introducing flatbeds in business class.

However ending war sentiments enabling the economy to boom earlier in June 2009 Sri Lanka launched a massive tag line for tourism titling ‘Small Miracle’ that cost millions for rebranding which later denied by the government which wanted to make the miracle bigger and at recent times the island is called to be the ‘Miracle of Asia’ by country’s politicians.

The continuous changing brand strategy of Sri Lanka’s tourism during the last year in turn brought up negative sentiments to the expected tourism boom according to tourism industry experts.

Sri Lanka’s wildlife is as diverse as the island itself, ranging from elephants and leopards to egg-laying turtles and a huge variety of birds. With 12%of the country chosen for wildlife with so many breathtaking 12 Nature parks such as Yala, Wilpattu and Migrant Bird Paradise Kumana and Bundala, country has diversity in Bio Genetic endemic creatures such as Elephas maximus zeylanicus (Sri lankan Elephant), Sri Lankan Leopard with a few Crocodiles, Water Monitors and 24 Indigenous species of Snakes with Cobras and many more high flying unique birds.

Country is building a tourism attracting zone with 14 islands in Kalpitiya which is famous for whale and dolphin watching along with Arugam Bay and nearly 20 new mega hotel development proposals have come out during last three months whilst many hotels in the country are undergoing a refurbishment drive.

- Asian Tribune -
»»  read more

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Where is the best value exotic holiday?

A young woman having a rest on a sun lounger on the beach at sunset, in Bali
Long-haul: Exotic destinations don't have to break the bank.




Credit cardsThe best advice on: cheap currency, overseas credit card spending, and much more.
›› Travel money advice

Escaping a cold and wet England in pursuit of some winter sun can be an expensive option, especially if you want somewhere more exotic than Europe. But long-haul destinations needn't break the bank.The Post Office Travel Money's 2010 Long Haul Travel Report has seen Sri Lanka throw Thailand off the top spot for best value.
The former number one fell to sixth place in the Holiday Costs Barometer following price increases of 16%.
UK travellers should look to the top three destinations - Sri Lanka, Mexico and Kenya - for the best value for money.

According to the costs barometer, a basket of ten tourist items, including meals, alcohol and cigarettes, came to just £46.85 in Sri Lanka.
Australia was the most expensive destination surveyed, with a basket coming in at £155.48.

UK visitors to Sri Lanka are already on the rise, they were up 51% year on year this July. Tour operator Hayes & Jarvis have reported that prices for Sri Lanka have been low all this year, and look set to remain that way for the winter season. This, combined with low resort prices, should encourage more visitors over the next few months.

Mexico will become more accessible to UK visitors this autumn with the launch of a direct British Airways service to Cancun. The holiday costs report says that you can get a bottle of local beer for just £1 and a three-course evening meal for two with wine for just £31.26. The basket for Mexico comes to £48.57.

Kenya saw a significant drop in tourism two years ago following election riots, but has recovered well. The Kenyan Tourism Board says the number of UK visitors jumped 7% between January and July this year. It is also the only long-haul destination where sterling is worth more than a year ago. The basket in Kenya comes to £51.15.

Dubai is often considered an expensive place to visit, but this research put it ahead of both Egypt and Jamaica, coming in ninth out of the 22 countries researched. The basket in Dubai comes to £80.36, compared to around the £86 mark for both Egypt and Jamaica.

Brazil has surprisingly been marked out as a pricey place to holiday, with the average basket costing £119.76. Beating Brazil, the top three most expensive long-haul holiday spots are Canada, Hong Kong and Australia.

Sarah Munro, head of travel money at the Post Office, said: 'It is good news to see so many long-haul destinations with low resort costs. It means that UK tourists planning winter sun trips will be spoilt for choice.

'The information we have collected shows that Sri Lanka and Mexico offer excellent value for money and, despite having a troubled year, tourists should not write Thailand off either.

Krabi, Thailand
Slipping down: Thailand has fallen down the list but is still good value
'The Thai baht may have strengthened against sterling but tourist prices remain low and there are likely to be great deals to the country as hoteliers and airlines look to continue to attract international visitors.'

She adds that travellers need to protect themselves carefully, using an established, ATOL protected tour operator and taking out good, comprehensive travel insurance. Planning ahead with regards to currency will save you money as you can avoid high airport costs and get a good deal before leaving. Using acredit card that offers 0% commission on overseas purchases - the Post Office offers one - will also help save money on holiday. [Read the best cards and cash for holidays round-up]
This is Money says:
It seems that if you do fancy fleeing the gloom of the UK for sunshine far afield, even in these economically uncertain times, travelling to far-flung destinations can still be within reach.
There are still deals to be had, and a bit of research and planning can mean that a trip to exotic climes can prove a bargain. Many of the destinations detailed above represent very good value for holidaymakers and if you plan a two-week trip to make the most of expensive flights, heading out of Europe can really pay off.
»»  read more

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sri Lanka Tourism – Beyond number crunching

While numbers are vital to the tourism industry, they cannot override the importance of ensuring that Sri Lanka remains a sustainable and resilient tourist destination in Asia….
Picture shows a “Home stay” facility in Mai Chau Village in North Western Vietnam.

The recently publicized Vision 2016 targets 50,000 hotel rooms to accommodate 2.5 million tourists in the country by 2016 with expected revenue of $1 billion. Behind these figures remain a number of questions that require urgent answers. Had these figure emerged from the 10 year Master Plan for Tourism currently being developed, a rationalization would have been provided justifying these numbers and explaining how the numbers would be generated. Instead, as a result of the figures being publicized it would now seem that the Master Plan has to be designed to justify these numbers. Sri Lanka currently has 15,000 hotel rooms available for guests.

To add 35,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2015, or in less than five years is no mean feat. Suitable locations, massive capital investments, multitude of approvals from numerous agencies, environmental impact assessments, the required infra-structure at these places including roads, water, electricity, garbage management etc. etc., remains to be successfully addressed. Furthermore the resultant environmental degradation resulting from such fast-paced growth cannot be ignored in the name of economic development especially in an age when global tourism is adopting a cohesive green approach.

The target of 2.5 million tourists in one year is not over-ambitious for Sri Lanka, once infrastructure is in place to sustain these visitor numbers without adversely affecting the country’s environment or creating too great a burden on its natural resources. Destinations comparatively smaller than Sri Lanka have managed to get even bigger tourist numbers, but development was sustained and staggered over a longer period that allowed enough time and space to address issues that surfaced. Singapore though 91 times smaller than Sri Lanka entertained 9.7 million tourists in 2009 and Bali being 11.5 times smaller had 2.2 million visitors. Land mass therefore is only one aspect of what kind of visitor numbers a country can sustain and every destination has an unique set of characteristics, and different environmental concerns.

Community Tourism 
Tourism as a national industry should produce benefits to its society both directly and indirectly. Tourism models in certain destinations, for instance in Indochina that began promoting tourism much later than Sri Lanka, successfully derive benefits to local communities directly through the highly popular ‘Home-stay’ concept. This should not be confused with letting out a vacant room or two of a Colombo residence or elsewhere with attached baths and luxuries. These are family run facilities that provide clean common accommodation such as sleeping on wooden decks with basic amenities and meals at attractive prices to visitors who enjoy the change whilst experiencing community life style in its true form.

For the visitor it is a great value for the price paid and for the villager who provides the service, it is good income! The ‘Home-stay’ concept could be a viable alternative and a strong contributor towards achieving the targeted numbers to meet the goals stipulated by the government by 2016 with far less efforts, while allowing the benefit of growing tourist numbers to directly contribute to the income of local communities. Since foreign visitors seek out ‘home-stay’ options in order to sample authentic rural life in a country, this type of tourism experience will also help to safeguard the village way of life, since maintaining the status quo has a direct bearing on bringing in foreign visitors.

Voluntourism or Volunteer Tourism is travel which includes volunteering for a charitable cause. This can be a worthy facet of community tourism. Whilst some volunteers may spend all their holidays doing community service others may spend part of it for such purposes and use the balance time for regular holidaying. South East Asia, especially countries of the Indochina region receives a considerable number of tourists in this segment and numbers continue to grow annually. Poor, deserving communities gain many benefits from such volunteer groups. For some groups, it has become an annual practice to visit a country and make their contributions in this manner.

Sri Lanka, the Green Destination– In the promotion of Green Tourism, Sustainable tourism, Guilt free travel etc. singularly or collectively what they mean, Sri Lanka made some trend setting initiatives ahead of many other destinations in this sphere. Such efforts should not be one-off and short lived and fade away when the person or persons who initiated these concepts retire from the organization, but continue with new leaders to produce desired effects. More impetus towards carbon neutrality, nation-wide awareness on Climate change, cleaner and greener surroundings will remain a talking point of visitors whose word of mouth advertising can go a long way in travel decisions to a destination and Sri Lanka should not withdraw from the good practices it started.

Emphasis by way of more awards and rewards to the industry for greener practices and inclusions in hotel classifications by way of additional points could encourage the industry in this regard.

By Kumar Senaratne
(Kumar is a former President of Ceylon Hotel School Graduate’s Association and Kandy Hotelier’s Association and has led many CSR initiatives in Community Tourism, Climate Change and Youth Employment that won international awards. He could be reached at kumarsenaratne@gmail.com).
»»  read more

Friday, August 27, 2010

Sri Lanka tops charts for UK tourists – Times of London

Sri Lanka is becoming one of the most popular long-haul destinations from the UK, according to The Times of London newspaper.

In an article published on 25 August 2010 titled ‘Sri Lanka tops the charts for UK tourists on a bargain hunt’ the influential paper says that visits from the UK increased by 51 per cent last month compared with 2009, encouraged by big discounting by airlines and hoteliers striving to win back business.

The story explains that the British travel boom to Sri Lankan is due to “the relative calm restored after decades of bombings and bloody battles with the Tamil Tigers and devastation caused by the tsunami in 2004.”

The Times says that one British-based specialist long-haul tour operator, Hayes and Jarvis, reports that bookings for winter and next summer are also up.

The paper adds that some of the best deals for British holidaymakers can be found at the five-star Heritance Ahungalla – designed by the celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa – one of the best beach hotels in the country.

The total number of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka went up 50 percent to 63,339 in July 2010, compared to the corresponding period in the previous year, according to figures released by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. In July 2009 only 42,223 tourists arrived in Sri Lanka.

The tourism office figures showed an increase in the number of arrivals from Western Europe, South Asia, East Asia, Middle East and North America in July 2010.

Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka increased by 48.4% during the first half of 2010 (January-June), with a total of 278,652 arrivals to the country in comparison to 187,729 arrivals during the same period last year (2009).

Sri Lanka was recently ranked as the number one tourist destination by the 'New York Times' in its list of "31 Places to go in 2010".

Just days after this ranking, a leading lifestyle web resource, Daily Candy, weighed in with a similarly enthusiastic travel recommendation, praising Sri Lanka as “the best place ever been”.
The United Kingdom recently stated that it is no longer advising its citizens against travel to Kilinochchi, Mannar, Mullaittivu and Vavuniya.

Commenting on changes to the UK Government’s official advice on travel to Sri Lanka, Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) stated, ‘regarding to Jaffna Peninsula: there is free movement everywhere outside High Security Zones with a reduction in checkpoints around the Peninsula’.

USA and Germany too recently relaxed travel advisories. The German Embassy said that a long standing travel advisory had been eased enabling German tourists to visit earlier restricted locations such as Yala National Park and Arugam Bay.

»»  read more

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Explore Sri Lanka - A Top Holiday Destination For any Budget

Sri Lanka has a whole host of options for the traveller, from lying on a picture postcard beach to scaling great rocks and seeking out ancient cities. There are impressive landscapes to take in, friendly Buddhist monks to talk to, and free-roaming monkeys to keep an eye on. In keeping with its range of sights and activities, it offers holidays for an array of budgets: five star hotels and spas for those looking for luxury, and cheap guest houses style accommodation among the locals for those wanting to experience an authentically Sri Lankan reality. 

Explore the City of Colombo

Colombo is a functioning city, often moving at a frenetic pace, with fascinating sectors to discover. The district of Fort is the historic centre and boasts a number of old colonial buildings, which look classical and attractive next to more modern structures. To the east of Fort is the bazaar district - a bustling sector full of market stalls and small shops selling a wide variety of goods which can provide the traveller with a genuinely Sri Lankan experience.
Typically, tourists only stay in Colombo for a couple of days before moving further along the coast, or travelling inland to visit the ancient cities, but if tours of ancient cultures or finding the ideal beach aren't foremost on the agenda, Colombo has a great deal to offer in the way of really seeing a different side to Sri Lanka, and is worth exploring, either on foot or by tuk tuk.
Sightseeing Tours Prague Experience Prague! We have great offers. Buy your Tickets Online Now www.classicworld.at/prague-tours
Shanghai Holiday Vibrant City Holiday Destination: Shopping & Nightlife, from US$122 www.TopChinaTravel.com/Shanghai

Visit the Cultural Triangle

Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle is the name given to a selection of cultural and archeological sites which are markers of an ancient and rich civilisation. These are located at the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Kandy, the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa, the Cave Temples of Dambulla, and the famous 200 m outcrop of rock at Sigiriya - the Lion Rock.
See the Esala Perahera in Kandy
If you find yourself in Sri Lanka at the end of July and the beginning of August, you may be in time for theperahera - a grand parade with elaborate costumes and a long procession of elephants, held in the town of Kandy. The festival is Buddhist in origin and is thought to have begun in the 4th century A.D., when what is called the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha was taken to Sri Lanka from India by Princess Hemamala.
Sri Lankan legend tells that when the Buddha was cremated, his left canine tooth was taken from the pyre and passed on to the king, to become a royal possession. The belief took hold that whoever held the Sacred Tooth Relic had the divine right to reign over that land. The legend has it that Sri Lanka was chosen as its home due to the Lord Buddha's declaration that his religion would be safe in this country for two and a half thousand years.

Read on 

Sri Lanka boasts a number of upmarket and unique hotels for the discerning globetrotter. Current trends show an increase in boutique hotels catering to wealthy tourists.
The perahera lasts for days and is counted as one of the world's more spectacular street festivals. Those wanting to see the perahera should claim their roadside spots early in the day and be prepared to sit there until the parade begins in the evening.

Traditional Kandy, Town of Temples

Kandy, where the monkeys are swinging from the trees, offers an utterly alternative experience to that of Colombo. A quieter, less industrial town, it is home to an abundance of temples and is more likely to capture the heart and eye of the traveller.

Sri Lanka's Beaches

It is generally agreed that the north east coast has the whitest sand to offer, but there are beautiful beaches to be found all around the island, and the south, in particular, has some picturesque stretches of coast to be stumbled upon.
Certain beaches are affiliated, or belong to, resorts or hotels, but it is also still possible to find a small, uninhabited beach simply by traveling along the coast and talking to the locals. Visitors can easily find themselves offered accommodation with a family who live next to the sea through something like a chance encounter at Colombo railway station. Although most of the locals are friendly, it is wise to exercise caution and a policy the more trustworthy with a room to let have is to carry books, filled with photographs and the handwritten testimonies of previous visitors.
One island-wide factor tourists must be aware of before booking any tickets is that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons and the tourist season is considered to be the period between these rainy onslaughts. This is November to April - the driest season - in the hills and on the south west coast. For those aiming to visit the east coast, May to September is considered the best time as this is when it's dry. Which part of the island you visit will, eventually, probably depend on when you want to go but for those who are eager to explore Sri Lanka, there is the assurance that there will be an ideal part of the country for any time of year.

Read more at Suite101: Explore Sri Lanka - A Top Holiday Destination For any Budget http://sri-lanka-travel.suite101.com/article.cfm/exploring-sri-lanka#ixzz0tiZ9VXTx

»»  read more

Monday, July 12, 2010

Middle East Tourists Flock To Sri Lanka As H1 2010 Tourist Arrivals Surge 102%

Ms Heba Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau
12 July 2010
"Sri Lanka emerging as a destination of choice for discerning Arab travellers" - Ms Al MansooriSri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau's (SLTPB) Middle East office reported an enormous surge of Arab travellers as Middle East Tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka rose by an unprecedented 102 per cent in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

"Regardless of apprehensions of an unsteady global economy, Middle East's discerning travellers are spending time and money on travel and Sri Lanka has been one of the preferred destinations of choice with a meteoric rise in tourists during H1 2010," observed Ms Heba Al Mansoori, Middle East Director of SLTPB.

"We have just closed in on the results of the first six months of 2010 and we're up 102% as compared to H1 2009," Ms Al Mansoori said. "While 2009 was when the recovery process started, with the end of three decades of war, the rebound has been robust and rapid and the recovery is being driven and led by the Middle East with strong growth from key markets including the UAE up by 209%, Saudi Arabia up by 96% and Kuwait up by 50%."

Sri Lanka's tourism industry is resilient and the government is sparing no efforts to revitalize the tourism industry as they recognize that tourism has a key role to play in the country's economic recovery and stability.

"Our outlook remains positive for the rest of the year as we have successfully built a relationship of trust with both regional consumers and the travel trade and will continue to reap benefits with the gradually improving economic situation," Ms Al Mansoori stated.

Apart from the Middle East, regions that proved to be a major source market for Sri Lanka and recorded growth in H1 2010 included North America (up by 70%), Western Europe (up by 45%), Eastern Europe (up by 22%), Africa (up by 18%), East Asia (up by 44%), South Asia (up by 53%) and Australasia (up by 44%).

While commenting on SLTPB's Middle East marketing drive, Ms. Al Mansoori said, "We have had to adapt to the changing needs of the consumers and capitalize on trends such as late booking, increasing use of the internet to look and book by increasing Sri Lanka's presence in the web domain regionally."

Ms. Al Mansoori noted that in the Middle East in particular, travelling closer and for shorter periods of time and demanding value for money, seem to have been accentuated during the post crisis period. "The regional outbound market is evolving and inescapably requires changes as we need to know and understand consumers better to be able to market to them," she said.

SLTPB opened its office in Dubai in May 2008 to maximize the opportunities emerging throughout the Middle East while strengthening support for the travel trade in the region. Since then the Dubai office has co-ordinated all of Sri Lanka's tourism promotional activities in the Arab markets including exhibition participation, marketing visits, presentations and road shows, brochure distribution, public relations, as well as familiarization visits to the island for influential business and travel journalists. The office also functions as the preliminary contact point and enquiry processing centre for travel trade companies and tourists in the region.

Sri Lanka is now on the threshold of developing to its full potential as a prime tourism destination with diverse offerings for members of the whole family whether it is beaches, shopping, visits to wildlife reserves, relaxing at a spa, or simply enjoying the cuisine.

»»  read more

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sri Lanka: The teardrop paradise

I am woken in the middle of the night by the silence. A world away from the all-night bustle that is the bus stop outside our London flat, I have been disturbed by the absence of noise. When I step on to the veranda, the night sky is crowded with stars, the Moon is a sliver and the hills that surround our cottage are lost in darkness.

They are back in the morning, edges blurred by early mist but stretching out as far as the eye can see. Karan, our houseman, says you can see the sea on a clear day but not today. Wildflower Cottage sits in the middle of hundreds of acres of tea, a tiny remnant of Rule Britannia, surrounded by terraces of sturdy green bushes on the slopes of Sri Lanka’s hill country.

The tragedies that have afflicted this teardrop-shaped island off India’s southeast coast are well documented. Three decades of civil war have left deep scars on Sri Lanka and her people while the 2004 tsunami brought fresh wounds. It is little wonder that tourists have stayed away.

But following the end of the war a year ago, visitors are returning to Sri Lanka, perhaps unable to resist her wonderful array of beaches, jungle and culture. The figures tell the story: Visitor numbers were up 60 per cent (year on year) last February — and even The New York Times has picked Sri Lanka as its No 1 holiday destination for 2010.

Into the suburbs
Many will come for the beaches and surf culture of the west coast, flitting between the laid-back Hikkaduwa, charms of Bentota and newly spruced up Unawatuna and Mirissa down south. But after an overnight stop by the Indian Ocean, we ignored the draw of the sea and headed inland.

Early indications were not auspicious. Our trip had begun in Colombo, the least prepossessing in a long line of cities that have been Sri Lanka’s capital. From the airport, the hour’s drive south took us through indistinguishable suburbs, with an accompanying tinnitus of bus horns (low, persistent and bone-shaking) and revving trishaws (high, persistent and eardrum-shattering).

But on the ocean’s edge, the Galle Face Hotel, still proffering a splendidly stiff upper lip, welcomed us in.

That evening we watched kite-fliers on Galle Face Green before repairing to the hotel’s famous chequerboard terrace for a Hollywood sunset.

The following day, it took five hours to reach Haputale (5,000 feet above sea level), on the southern edge of the hill country. But it felt much longer.

Our minibus driver had taken the hairpins without feeling the need for brakes or, indeed, any element of the Highway Code.

Here, the rules have been simplified: Horn-blowing and overtaking on a blind corner are mandatory, trishaws and cyclists can be run off the road without a backward glance and red (state-run) buses stop for nothing, even if — in fact, especially if — they are careering towards you on the wrong side of the road.

We arrived at the narrow, stony track to Wildflower Cottage, feeling as though we had survived a prolonged ride on an Alton Towers rollercoaster — which served to make the magical scene unfolding before us even more wonderful.

Waiting on the steps, Karan, in white dhoti and jacket, smiled broadly and offered us cold towels to wipe the fear off our faces before we were led down a stone path, bordered by irises, snapdragons and impatiens, to Wildflower Cottage. It sits on the edge of the escarpment, 5,000 feet up, looking out at an unimpeded view of valleys, lakes and jungle.

The building is one of three green-roofed, time-capsule bungalows on the estate (the others are Rose Cottage and Aerie Cottage) but each lies in splendid isolation in its own grounds and is looked after by its houseman.

Old-school attraction
Inside, the living room has chintz, a fireplace and Reader’s Digests from 1963. The only thing missing was a flagpole. Outside is The View. From our two terraces, we sit and watch the plantation come to life each morning as the women tea-pickers appear on the terraces below.

It is a silent occupation, with hardly a word exchanged between the workers, so, often, our breakfast is accompanied only by the sound of thumbs and fingers plucking the perfect bud and two leaves from the bushes.

There are no telephones, no televisions, no internet and no mobile-phone trills.

If we need anything, we have a handbell to ring. Karan told us solemnly that each cottage was equipped with a different-sounding bell to avoid confusion.

We rang ours only once, hugely embarrassed to be making a fuss, and discovered that it clanged like a school bell.

We are fed by Stanley, the cook from Kandy (another former capital of Sri Lanka). He appears each morning, in kitchen whites and a chef’s hat, to ask what we would like for dinner. And each evening to ask what we would have for breakfast.

There is much negotiation and head-waggling on Stanley’s part but we usually plump for the national dish of rice and curry.

This entails a spread of six or seven dishes, including sambol (grated coconut with red chillis and onions), chicken curry, brinjal fry (deep-fried aubergine, simmered in coconut milk with chillis and spices), snake gourd curry, sliced okra with mustard seeds, pumpkin curry (all vegetables fresh from the garden) and sublime dhal (red lentils flavoured with garlic, coconut, chilli and ghee). All this — plus nursery-style crème caramel or pineapple cake — cost us about a fiver a head.

Our days are spent lolling on the veranda and talking but we managed to extricate ourselves from the depths of the sofa to visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory, built by Sir Thomas Lipton (he of the yellow labels) in 1890.

When we arrived for a guided tour, full production had yet to begin for the day but it meant that better-informed tourists had stayed away and we had the place to ourselves.

We saw the fresh tea leaves emptied out of the pickers’ sacks to be air-dried in “withering trays” and inhaled the green, peppery scent as they were piled into vast troughs.

Unchanged tradition
The smells changed and darkened as the process — which has remained unchanged for more than 100 years — wound down through the lower floors.

Here the leaves are twisted, chopped and chopped again, sifted, dried in wood-fired ovens, graded and shovelled into paper sacks for despatch.

After the visit, we felt honour-bound to find Lipton’s Seat, a famous viewpoint frequented by Mr Tealeaf himself, and walked the last mile or so when the route defeated even the intrepid trishaw driver.

On another day, we travelled to the pretty little village of Ella to see Rawana Ella waterfall, an 82-feet torrent. Low rainfall meant it was not in full spate but it gave us the chance to clamber over rocks and dip our feet in its icy waters without being washed away.

We were pursued by touts offering us pieces of coloured glass and other tat but escaped to join a family of four Sri Lankans in the natural pool.

They were, they told us, on holiday too and swam fully clothed while we hovered at the edge. Later, they unpacked suitcases and did their washing in the clear water, with a bar of Sunlight soap.

That night, it was cool enough for a fire. Karan brought wood and a coconut shell of kerosene.
It felt surreal after the heat of the day — a constant 30 degrees.

On the last morning, we had to paint our own nameboard — a Wildflower Cottage tradition — and nail it up on the big signpost alongside those produced by other blissed-out customers.

But we were too busy standing and staring.

Still no sea on the horizon but I have no doubt we will see it next time. We can wait.
»»  read more