Six of the best: Stylish Sri Lankan stays


The Royal Air Force, during the Sri Lanka-based south-east command in World War II displayed impeccable taste when it requisitioned this handsome, 17-room white-columned colonial manor house for the duration. Nowadays it's favoured by upscale tour operators for its proximity to Colombo's international airport, avoiding, for the sake of arriving guests, the extended and congested trip into unfancied Colombo. Considering its serene setting, its attractive rooms and its pavilion-style restaurant overlooking exquisite tropical gardens, it's a pity that most of those who stay at this delightful quasi-airport hotel do so for just a night before moving on.  Doubles from $276 a night.  See


A gorgeous, relaxed villa complex set in an even more gorgeous walled garden of lush tropical plants, Why House is a statement, not a question, in Sri Lankan style. The World Heritage-listed Galle Fort is a 15-minute drive with Wijaya beach a short stroll away but the oversized, palm-shrouded pool and shaded dining pavilion may keep you in-house for more of your time than you expected. One of the best features of the eight-room villa, consisting of two architecturally-designed main buildings and two cabanas, is Henrietta Cottam, Why House's warm and welcoming expat English manager, whose personality is nearly as a big as the property itself. Doubles from $387 a night.  See


A stunning, regulation white-washed, absolute beachfront villa, Twenty Three Palm is owned by the operators of nearby (and aforementioned) Why House. Inside the Dutch colonial-era main house are two master bedrooms, a junior suite and lavish living areas with soaring ceilings looking  across an expansive lawn to the thunderous crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Designed for groups or families, the villa comes with its own dedicated chef, a separate tea house by the sea and, of course, a mandatory swimming pool.  Rates on request. See


If you need a reason to visit Kandy – Sri Lanka's somewhat under-loved de facto second city – look no further than the more than 200-year-old Kandy House, perhaps the teardrop isle's quintessential colonial-era villa. At just nine spacious, antique-filled and TV-free rooms (each named after native Sri Lankan butterflies), the elegant Kandy House offers an almost meditative sense of seclusion. The gorgeous gardens, which lead to an infinity pool overlooking rice paddies, provide the perfect outlook for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Doubles from $295a night. See


Kandy House was once the obvious choice in luxury accommodation in Kandy, until, that is, when Elephant Stables, a restored and extended colonial bungalow, opened with a trumpeting roar over a year ago. Located in the hills above Kandy, this Sri-Lankan owned boutique hotel (reputedly built on the site of former elephant stables) is a light-filled treat with a collection of classic old restored cars to ferry guests around town. Each of the six sizeable rooms feature four-poster beds and while the garden isn't a match for that of Kandy House it is framed by an enticing resort-like swimming pool conveniently close to the main house.  Doubles from $295 a night. See


They're no dills at Dilmah. The definitive Sri Lankan tea brand cannily diversified into tourism some years ago, converting a string of grand old British-era planter bungalows, including this one, into distinctive luxury tourist accommodation. And, more recently, the group has opened a luxury seaside resort south of Galle. But, for a taste of the island's most famous export, stay at one or more of Tea Trails' gracious homes, located right in the middle of working plantations. One of a quarter houses perched at 1250 metres is Tientsin, a beautiful bungalow dating to 1888 and named after the village in China from which tea seedlings originated. From $623 a night, fully inclusive, minimum two-night stay. See

The writer was a guest of the Classic Safari Company which can book all of the feature villas as part of a private tour of Sri Lanka. See