Ulagalla promises the perfect balance of heritage and luxury. Set in quiet woodland, 20 km from Anuradhpura in north-central Sri Lanka, this small resort is well located for exploring the region’s busy street markets, incredible architecture and Buddhist temples while providing a decadent and peaceful retreat to return to.
The estate it belongs to is so large that bikes and golf buggies are provided for guests to get themselves around its 19 secluded villas and the surrounding forests, paddy fields, rivers and lily ponds. Nature is cherished here; the resort is ultra low-impact when it comes to the environment, with a giant solar farm supplying energy. All the villas are on stilts, with their own pool and terrace. Book into one and it’s easy to fantasize about living there for longer, growing vegetables, setting out on gentle bike rides and passing hours spotting flocks of local birds, many of them more colourful than the local spices.
Those spices are why many guests come here, though. At the heart of the resort is an atmospheric restaurant set in a 150 year-old mansion. Here you can feast on authentic Sri Lankan curries such as sweet and sour aubergine (moju), okra with green chilli and curry leaves and earthy mutton served on lotus leaves picked from the garden.
The kitchen gardens are key to the restaurant’s success. Sign up for one of the resort’s cookery classes and you start in the gardens, entering them through an arch of passionfruit to find okra, fresh lemongrass and purple chillies. Pick the produce you’ll be cooking with that afternoon, then enjoy a relaxed outdoor cookery demonstration as local spices and homegrown coconut milk are added to dishes along with those just-picked vegetables.
If the restaurant or the cookery course gives you an appetite to discover more about the island’s food scene, Ulagalla can arrange for you to head out on a tour of the food market in Anuradhpura and be guided through stalls selling native herbs (mukunuwenna is one, used in local salads with grated coconut and onion), dried and salted fish, and more varieties of rice than you could imagine. Or just take the lazy option and let the region’s flavours come to you; book one of the resort’s signature dining experiences and you can enjoy a romantic dinner set up just for two in one of the surrounding paddy fields or a private spice-tinged barbecue at your villa.
Seven night holidays in Sri Lanka, with one night in Columbo and six at Ulagalla Resort cost from £2,059pp, including flights, transfers and b&b accommodation (kuoni.co.uk). Add-on cookery classes cost £30pp.
FIRST PUBLISHED AUGUST 2015
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