Why your Sri Lanka holiday should include Gal Oya

Hotels in Sri Lanka vary greatly in terms of budget, style and quality. Gal Oya Lodge, found in the remote, eponymous national park, is an eco-resort unlike any other. Insight Guides’ very own Justyna Radomska talks us through her stay and explains why you need to add it to your Sri Lanka holiday itinerary
The rooms at Gal Oya Lodge offer a rustic, natural interior
The rooms at Gal Oya Lodge offer a rustic, natural interior

Below, Justyna Radomska (our Client Relationship Manager) explains why Gal Oya Lodge is simply unmissable, a stay that is included on our Wild and Wonderful Sri Lanka trip itinerary. Don't forget, when you're ready to book your own holiday, our trips to Sri Lanka are completely customisable: if you want to experience Gal Oya Lodge on your holiday, our local experts have it covered. Simply select the trip you'd like to take and modify the itinerary. Alternatively, get in touch with our local experts today to plan your trip from scratch. 

Gal Oya National Park is wild, secluded and (surprisingly) little-visited on the tourist trail. For travellers making the trip, you’ll discover untamed, natural beauty and Sri Lanka at its best. Take a boat safari on the island’s largest lake (where you can spot elephants swimming) or opt for a traditional jeep safari; there are also mountains to climb, conservation projects to get involved in and endless walking trails to explore. It’s clear there really is something for everyone in Gal Oya.

“Gal Oya National Park is totally different to other parts of Sri Lanka,” explains Justyna. “There were almost no cars as we travelled to the lodge and we didn’t see a single tourist en route. We lost mobile coverage around 30-minutes before reaching our destination, which made it feel totally remote and cut off.”

Gal Oya Lodge, located on the park’s northern border, is a tastefully designed eco-lodge, which naturally fits in with its wild setting. Luxury and sustainability combine to create a stunning place to stay. Seven spacious bungalows and a two-bedroom villa have been built using locally-sourced materials (including teak, mara and traditional ‘ilku’ grass roofs), shaping an exclusive lodge that blends in with the surrounding environment. Guests experience a relaxing, indulgent stay enclosed by lush jungles and dramatic mountains. With no phone signal or internet connections, you truly are detached from the outside world, which is absolute bliss!

The rooms themselves feel open and wide, with more space than you really need. Outdoor bathrooms, minimalist furnishings and earthy decor make you feel at one with nature and do little to distract from the breathtaking backdrop. Justyna adds, “Our room, if we can call it that, was really a hut with a spacious bedroom, relaxing living area and private terrace, where you could enjoy wonderful views and listen to the untamed sounds of the jungle. Huts were simple and comfortable, however, tastefully designed with attention to detail. Each hut was positioned in a different part of the jungle so we felt alone, without neighbours nearby and could fully relax.”

“My personal highlight? I loved taking a shower outside while listening to the birds singing nearby,” reveals Justyna.

What to do: activities around Gal Oya Lodge

Taking a boat safari on Senanayaka Lake will offer a wildlife-watching opportunity unlike any other on the island. “The boat safari was simply amazing – our boat was the only one on the whole lake. It was tranquil and presented amazing views of Gal Oya National Park’s wild interior. We were joined by a knowledgeable local guide, who shared information about the habitats, the plant life and the wildlife.

“He was a fantastic spotter and picked out many elephants, crocodiles and different kinds of birds we would never have seen. The icing on the cake was a small picnic that the lodge’s staff organised for us on the shore of the lake, which was simply amazing.”

There’s more to see and do around Gal Oya Lodge than this, however. Opt for a more traditional jeep safari or a night safari to delve deeper into the jungle on the lookout for sloth bears, wild boars, deer, and a plethora of exotic birds. For those with an interest in conservation, the Gal Oya Lodge Animal Monitoring Programme welcomes guest involvement: set camera traps and record wildlife sightings during an evening walk with the site’s naturalists. More active travellers can take a morning trek to the top of Monkey Mountain for a sublime view of the sunrise, and be back in time for breakfast.

Another unique experience on offer here is a meeting with the local Veddha people. An ancient, indigenous tribe, one of the island’s largest Veddha settlements sits close to the lodge. The village chief will guide you through the jungle, teaching you about the tribe’s use of medicinal plants, ancient hunting grounds and cave dwellings.

For travellers with a taste for Sri Lankan cuisine, traditional cooking classes and a lunch in a nearby farmhouse are also available too. Whichever activities you opt for during your stay at Gal Oya Lodge, staff are on-hand to assist with setting up the finer details.

Senanayaka Lake, Sri Lanka's largest, is ideal for a boat safari.Senanayaka Lake, Sri Lanka's largest, is ideal for a boat safari. Photo:Justyna Radomska

Justyna’s insights show without a doubt the staff at Gal Oya Lodge go above and beyond to make their guests feel welcome and ensure a special stay. From surprise picnics to cool towels on arrival, the team works so each and every guest’s comfort is guaranteed. Local guides used by the lodge are also knowledgeable, insightful and add authenticity to the tours and excursions available.

“As our stay drew to a close, the staff thanked us for visiting them and invited us to return soon. It was so sad to leave this little piece of heaven! But we will definitely come back one day. All there is left to say is, thank you Gal Oya for such a memorable stay!”

Who knew luxury, sustainability and all-out relaxation could be so well married in one hotel? Gal Oya Lodge has created an astonishing place to stay in Sri Lanka that fits seamlessly with its wild surroundings.

Taking a trip to Gal Oya National Park: how to get started

Justyna lived and worked in Sri Lanka for almost four years. Today, she works on Insight Guides’ operations team, putting customers in touch with our local operators around the world. She’s helped to organise countless trips to Sri Lanka and really knows her stuff. If you’d like to stay at Gal Oya Lodge, as part of your trip to Sri Lanka with Insight Guides, get in touch today. Alternatively, review and modify our Wild and Wonderful Sri Lanka trip itinerary, which includes a 2-night stay at Gal Oya Lodge and an experience walking with the Veddhas.

Have you already stayed at Gal Oya Lodge? 

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