The new kid on the block in the Sri Lankan luxury hotels scene, Anantara’s idyllic resort on the country’s south coast is exactly as its name suggests: a peace haven. Nestled within a coconut plantation on the shores of the Indian Ocean, the expansive hotel is the kind of place where time (and real world responsibilities) are long-forgotten, and your mind slips into relaxation mode quicker than you thought possible. Although it has 152 rooms – ranging from apartments to pool villas – the resort feels incredibly private. Whether you choose to lay on the palm-tree shaded beach or by the multi-layer pool (with a coconut in hand, sourced by a local villager who scales the dizzying heights of the trees to capture the freshest produce), you’ll take in stunning vistas in every direction.
If you can manage to pry yourself away from the water, there are plenty of things to do and see, all of which are easily arranged through the hotel. Take a day trip to the historic Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site, or to one of the protected national parks, like Udawalawe to see elephants of all sizes, or to Yala to spot a leopard in its natural habitat. The region is famed for its tea, and the Handunugoda plantation is a must-visit as it produces the Rolls-Royce of teas – Virgin White Tea – which is completely untouched by human hands. Plus, for those starved of greenery here in the Middle East, it’s the perfect chance to walk through beautiful gardens. If you fancy yourself a foodie, or would like to expand your current culinary repertoire, Bazaar recommends booking in for the hotel’s Spice Spoons tour. You’ll be accompanied by one of the resort’s head chefs to the local fish and vegetable markets, where you’ll pick out exactly what you’d like to eat. Once back at the hotel, you’ll learn how to prepare traditional Sri Lankan dishes from scratch before enjoying a sumptuous feast of everything you’ve just cooked for lunch.
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia