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Tea and sea in Sri Lanka: a honeymoon guide

Tea and sea in Sri Lanka: a honeymoon guide


Written by Sarah Gilbert


Set against a backdrop of sweeping lawns and flower-filled gardens, evergreen tea plantations and mist-wreathed mountains, arriving at Ceylon Tea Trails in Sri Lanka’s high-altitude hill country is like stepping back in time...

 

 

 

 

Ceylon Tea Trails' five colonial-era tea-planters' bungalows are dotted across the landscape. Each has no more than six bedrooms but all have a different feel – Castlereagh is set on the edge of its serene namesake lake; Summerville has a cosy country cottage feel; Tientsin, built in 1888, is the most classically colonial, and Norwood has endless vistas over the idyllic Bogawantalawa Valley. 

 

Photography: Tom Parker 

 

They all evoke a sense of a bygone age, with oversized rooms filled with traditional, dark-wood furniture and elegant antiques, beamed ceilings and log fires, and their own discreet butler and skilled chef.

 

Enormous beds come clad in crisp white linen and the white-tiled bathrooms with rain showers and claw-foot tubs, where you can indulge in an aromatherapy bath prepared by your butler – perhaps green tea for jetlag or immune-boosting cinnamon.

 

 

The day starts with tea delivered to your bed, followed by a leisurely breakfasts – go local, with moreish hoppers, a hat-shaped, rice-flour pancake served with fried eggs, spicy sambal sauces and lentil dhal, or perhaps a full English – washed down with a pot of the signature Orange Pekoe tea.

 

Then, if you can bear to tear yourself away from your rattan rocking chair, you can work off breakfast on a self-guided hike through the tea plantations, where women in brightly coloured saris dextrously pick the young, pale green shoots; past ornately decorated Hindu temples and rural villages where children wave a welcome as you walk.

 

 

Photography: Golec 

 

You can even hike or mountain bike to another bungalow, where you’ll be met with a cold, lemongrass-scented towel and a restorative lunch, or afternoon tea – three tiers of temptation with freshly baked scones, clotted cream and jam; delicate sandwiches and miniature sponge cakes, served with fragrant white, black and green teas. 

 

And after discovering the age-old art of tea making on a fascinating tour of Dilmah's Norwood factory, you’ll never think of the humble cuppa in the same way again.

 

 

Photography: Sebastian Posingis 

 

You can play croquet on the lawn, kayak around the lake or refresh in the mountain spring-fed pool, some fringed by towering giant bamboo. Or opt for more adrenaline-fuelled activity, white-water rafting down Kitulgala’s Kelani River, around a 75-minute drive north of the hotel, or a strenuous hike up the iconic Adam’s Peak.

 

Every evening, guests gather for cocktails, canapés and relaxed chat in front of the log fire. The bar is a well-stocked antique silver tray, where you can indulge in a crisp G&T or a locally inspired cocktail, including tea-infused creations, before dinner in the dining room or alfresco under a canopy of stars.

 

 

From tea to sea. On Sri Lanka’s beautiful southern coast, Resplendent Ceylon’s newest hotel is Cape Weligama, a luxe hideaway perched on an headland overlooking the dazzling blues of the Indian Ocean.

 

Surrounded by lofty palm trees and towering pines, it’s been designed to blend into the surroundings, clusters of low-slung villaslaid out in traditional village style surrounded by lush gardens and vibrant tropical blooms. There’s a white-sand beach lapped by azure waves, not forgetting the stunning cliff-edge, half-moon infinity pool that merges seamlessly with the ocean.  

 

 

Photography: Tom Parker 

 

 

Photography: Tom Parker 

 

The villas are cool and contemporary, decorated in neutral tones and natural textures, with gently whirring ceiling fans and floor-to-ceiling windows. Enormous bedrooms spill into huge bathrooms, with a steam room and made-for-sharing bathtubs. There’s a terrace for lazy lounging, a swimming pool you share with two or three other villas and your own charming butler cater to your every need.

 

Start the day with a relaxed breakfast of exotic fruits and eggs-to-order on your private terrace. Then spend your days flitting from day bed to lounger, pool to beach, where powder-soft sand is lapped by azure sea. 

 

Or head to the Beach Club and learn to surf the novice-friendly breakers, take on the big game fish or go diving to discover an underwater landscape strewn with ancient wrecks. Snorkel among colourful marine life, explore secluded coves by kayak or head out on whale-watching expeditions to spot enormous blue whales and pods of curious dolphin. 

 

 

Photography: Sebastian Posingis 

 

Photography: Tom Parker 

 

Back on dry land, take a gentle guided bicycle ride through emerald-green paddy fields, or strolls through scented cinnamon plantations. Further afield, you can spot enormous herds of elephants on a day trip to Udawalawe National Park, or elusive leopards on a safari at Yala.

 

Just a thirty-minute drive to the west lies historic Galle, where the atmospheric cobbled streets are lined with chic boutiques where you can shop for one-off pieces of handcrafted jewellery and precious stones, and explore the ancient Dutch colonial fortifications. 

 

Photography: Sebastian Posingis 

 

Then, as the sun begins to streak the ocean pink and gold, head back to the waterfront Taylor Pavilion for sundowners, before dining inspired by east and west. Choose from a selection of the catch-of-the-day – succulent prawns, lobster and just-caught red snapper – and have it cooked to your taste at Pola (the Sri Lankan word for market). Eat with your hands Sri Lankan style on Kumbuk’s colourful curries or opt for some upmarket teppenyaki at the intimate Misaki. 

  

In both these Sri Lankan Gardens of Eden, you’ll never feel further from the city, or more relaxed. 

 

Written by Sarah Gilbert. Gilbert travelled with Experience Travel, 020 7924 7133) who offer an eight-night package at Ceylon Tea Trails and Cape Weligama from £3,424 per person, including flights with Etihad Airlines and transfers.

 


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