Four places to visit in Sri Lanka with kids
We turned the corner and braked sharply. There, in the middle of the road, happily munching on a tree, was the elephant – who gave us a single look to show who was boss before striding back into the undergrowth.
It was just one memorable moment of many during my stay in Sri Lanka, along with watching elephants bathe in the river, marvelling at ancient frescos as I climbed to a palace atop a rock, watching tea being picked in the country’s colonial heart, discovering temples and Buddhas in the historic cities and revelling in long glorious sandy beaches.
Visiting around a year after the Boxing Day tsunami, the country was still recovering: now with the whole island open to tourists and improved infrastructure, I can’t wait to go back with my daughter – because there’s so much in Sri Lanka with kids too.
This time, I’d love us to spend some extra time chilling out in a villa, one of the many luxurious child-friendly options around – especially with an expert to advise on which to pick.
With over 1,000 inspected villas in Sri Lanka, Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui and Mauritius, Villa-Finder.com ticks exactly that box. Travel consultants chat to you to ensure it suits your family, whether you need somewhere with a pool fence for littler ones or have older kids.
Then a team arranges any extras, from in-villa massages to day tours, but you still have the freedom of your own space. They even plant a tree for every booking. So the only tricky part is which of their family villas in Sri Lanka to choose.
Sigiriya and the ancient cities
One of the most extraordinary historic sights in a country that’s full of them, even the approach to Sigiriya is impressive. Walking through the gardens, the huge rock looms in front of and above you.
Once a palace stood here, on the lion’s rock. Today only a monumental paw or two remains, along with remnants of a civilisation which had mastered the complex hydraulics of pumping water so high at the time when the UK was sunk in the Dark Ages. And who decorated the rock face approach with beautiful frescoes.
It’s close enough to explore former capital Polonnaruwa and its predecessor Anuradhapura, as well as the caves of Dambulla with their Buddha statues and monkeys.
Stay at one of the Water Garden Villas: the duplex sleeps four with a pool, sun deck, floaty curtains around the four-poster beds and wonderful views over to the rock.
Mirissa and the south coast
What can top a view out across the shimmering blue waves of the Indian Ocean? The chance of spotting a whale in those waters. Sri Lanka is home to the world’s largest land and sea mammals, elephant and blue whale, and Mirissa is one of the best places to take tours to see the latter.
Stay at Villa Red Cliffs with its cliff edge infinity pool – not one for toddlers! – as well as two private beaches, hammocks in the gardens, open sided living area, and the kind of chilled out atmosphere that makes you feel as if you’re the only people in the world.
Nuwara Eliya and the hill country
You could almost believe you had stepped back two centuries at this hilltop location – old colonial buildings stand timelessly elegant, tea pickers still work among the rows of green bushes on historic plantations.
But there’s bustle and vibrant colours once you venture into the town, saris created from glorious fabrics too: old and new together. Plus it’s the ideal base to discover Horton Plains National Park with its leopard and langurs, Adam’s Peak and the 1,050m precipice at World’s End, or to head down to Kandy, home to the famous Temple of the Tooth.
Stay at the Cotswold Stone Cottage, another taste of England transported to the tropics. Find Ayurvedic spa toiletries in the bathroom too.
Galle and the south west coast
A Unesco World heritage site, Galle is best known for its old city, Galle Fort, created by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later fortified further by the Dutch. But that barely hints at the laid-back joy of wandering the streets here, stylish cafes next to restaurants serving seafood or boutiques packed with tempting creations that you’re determined to squeeze into your case.
Mosques stand tall alongside churches, old mansions neighbour museums, and just along the coast, the sweep of the idyllic golden sands at Unawatuna with its swaying palms.
Stay at one of the villas in the heart of the Fort – I’m torn between imposingly luxurious Villa 42 Lighthouse Street built in the 1800s for a Dutch merchant and his wife, or the airy 5 Middle Street for its family-friendly bedrooms, chef-cooked meals and space for 10.
PIN FOR LATER: VISITING SRI LANKA WITH KIDS
Disclosure: Compiled in association with Villa-Finder*
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