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Where to stay in southern Sri Lanka: travelling from Tangalle to Galle | Insight Guides Blog

Where to stay in southern Sri Lanka: travelling from Tangalle to Galle

British author Adam Jacot de Boinod shares his experiences travelling the south coast of Sri Lanka, and highlights where you should stop on your own holiday
Kahanda Kanda is an ideal hideaway close to Lake Koggala
Kahanda Kanda is an ideal hideaway close to Lake Koggala

Kahanda Kanda is an ideal hideaway close to Lake Koggala. Photo: Kahanda Kanda

Sri Lanka is a special place. But it's difficult to know how and where to plan your adventures. Here, author Adam Jacot de Boinod explains where you should stay if you're travelling in the south

Don't forget, each hotel mentioned here can be added to your trip to Sri Lanka with Insight Guides; browse suggested itineraries online now

Sri Lankans don't hang about. Having landed, twenty minutes later I found myself at the first hotel on my itinerary: The Wallawwa. It’s the original home of a Sinhalese family, 250 years old and now nine years into its renovated self. You'll find it’s a lovely legacy of colonialism. Its proximity to Colombo's international airport (only 15 minutes away) is a key selling point. But it's also home to a delightful spa, a delicious restaurant, and 17 authentically-decorated, charming suites. 

And so south I went, onto Tangalle, the home of the new Anantara resort, a unique hideaway on the island's southern coast. The pace here is relaxed, ideal for those looking to recharge. If you can tear yourself away from the idyllic beachfront, the hotel's three restaurants offer a bounty of cuisines. You'll find both unique flavours of Sri Lankan cooking and international food on offer here, including Italian food with an impressive ocean view. 

I walked next door the followimg morning to the stunning Amanwella. Each room is identical in layout and design and comes with a refreshing plunge pool. The colours are harmonious and there is a zen ambiance. Inside, the terrazzo flooring is in muted, sandy tones to reflect the nearby beach. Large timber sliding panels separate the interior from the exterior. Mercifully, there are no televisions in the rooms.

The writer Leonard Woolf described Tangalle with great precision: “The evening air is warm and gentle. An enormous sky meets an enormous sea. The stars blaze in the sky and blaze in the sea… there is no sound in this melodrama of a tropical night except a faint lapping of the sea, and now and then a shivery stir of palm leaves”.  This is true here at Amanwella, where you'll feel like you've been transported to a real paradise. The golden beach, curving for half a mile in a gentle arc, is flanked by two rocky headlands. The water is certainly crystal clear and the sand is fabulously fine and powdery.

On I go and up inland to my next hotel, the Kahanda Kanda with all the trappings of colonial life. From my breakfast table, I could just about make out Lake Koggala. While you're here, take a boat trip and visit the Buddhist monastery. The resident monks were quite a spiritual sight as they wondered in their vivid orange tunics waiting to be initiated into their calling.

The new Anantara resort is a unique hideaway on the island's southern coast. Photo: Anantara resorts

Then onto Maliga Kandy. This stunning hotel is part of Hideaways Club Classic Collection portfolio with properties all around the world. It’s ideal for someone who doesn’t want to be restricted to one location. It’s a gem in the jungle, opened in 2010, and offers something for everyone in their seven unique bedrooms (including a separate cottage for teenagers). 

In 1850 there used to be a 45-minute pigeon post from Galle to Colombo, flying at some 85mph, established by The Observer newspaper. Even with the new motorway it was bound to take me a little longer to reach the capital. Transport has its own challenges even now with the right of way always open to question. So renting a car would not be my suggestion. Tuk-tuks are fun to take and breezy especially on the minor roads. 

This took me to my final destination: Maniumpathy. The eight suites with artefacts and vintage furnishings are named after the members of a fifth generation Tamil family from Jaffna (where Manipay was a thriving and wealthy locality). It worked perfectly for me as a base for Colombo before my final journey home.

Ayubowan is the Sinhalese word for every form of greeting from good morning to good night. And so, ayubowan Sri Lanka! Until next time...

Adam Jacot de Boinod worked on the first series of the BBC panel game QI for Stephen Fry. He is a British author having written three books about unusual words with Penguin Press

Are you ready to journey through southern Sri Lanka? 

The hotels included here can be added to any of Insight Guides' suggested itineraries. Alternatively, submit a trip request today to plan your holiday from start to finish.