Our co-founder Lilli recently spend a few weeks in Sri Lanka, the ultimate jungle paradise!
During her stay, Lilli was lucky enough to stay at the Heritance Kandalama, one of Sri Lanka's most renowned hotels designed by architectural genius Geoffrey Bawa. Here, we learn more about Bawa, Sri Lanka's most famous architect and a brief rundown of her time in Sri Lanka.
"We were lucky enough to take three weeks off over Christmas and travel to Sri Lanka - with all the untouched wilderness, it's a modern Jurassic Park (without the rogue dinosaurs!) and definitely one of my travel destination highlights so far!
Some of my favourite things to do - taking the train over Nine Arch Bridge in Demodara (below), the Pinnawala Elephant Sanctuary just outside Kandy (below), seeing the ancient Buddhist ruins in the north of the country (the Thousand Buddha cave painting from Dambulla below), the fish markets of Negombo (below) and of course the empty beaches lined with palm trees!
The last few nights as we headed back to Colombo, we stayed in Kandalama - being a lover of architecture I couldn't go past the experience of the Heritance! We arrived just before sunset, which was an extraordinary start, the lake a beautiful dusty pink as the sun was low in the sky. The building is designed by Bawa to be at one with nature, so the hallways are carved out of the rocks from the mountainside and the exterior is covered in growing walls of native rainforest plants.
This also gives the resident monkeys the opportunity to swing past your window as you wake up in the morning or while you're having a shower! We were greeted with waterlily flowers as we sipped on fresh coconut water watching the sunset.
Being a bit of a water baby, we went straight for the pools! There are three pools - the most visually spectacular is the infinity pool (below), but my favourite was the smaller pool on the upper level which is carved out of the natural rock (below also). It's also next to the day restaurant which serve the most delicious ice coffee treat! There's also a small pool to the far right of the property which we had to ourselves as it's a bit out of the way from the main building, but its really peaceful. "
I've been a long time fan of Geoffrey Bawa - born in the 30s in Sri Lanka (which was known as Ceylon up until 1972), after studying law in London, he returned to Colombo and developed an interest in architecture. His early designs focused on the melange of traditional and modern styles, which included nature and local materials in a big way. Bawa has designed everything from iconic residences around Colombo to several internationally awarded hotels to the current Sri Lankan Parliament building, and designed the Heritance Kandalama in 1991.
Sadly, Bawa passed away in 2003, but his architecutural legacy remains throughout Sri Lanka. His original estate, a rubber plantation named 'Lunuganga' remains one of the most important Asian gardens of the twentieth century. Few of Bawa's private residences remain though, most notably De Silva House (plans below), a manor consisting of several connecting courtyards, a clever play on what is 'inside' and 'outside' - walls of hand plastered bricks, reclaimed Portuguese tiles and hand carved wooden window frames - which was demolished in 2011 to make way for a carpark.
There are several flights to Colombo a day from all major cities, Kandalama is a three hour drive from Colombo airport. Just make sure to keep your balcony doors closed from the monkeys swinging by! Seriously!
What do to while you're at Heritance Kandalama? Visit the famous Sigiria (Lion) Rock and climb the somewhat precarious steps to see the incredible ruins on the top of the rock! There's debate whether or not it was an old fortress or an old monastery, but either way the view is spectacular and well worth the climb!