Running for the hills in Sri Lanka

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After confinement, Ambika Muttoo found herself in a feast of the senses in Sri Lanka

Having the choice and freedom to travel again is far too precious. For many of us, leaving the country has always been a privilege, and it is even more so now. Escaping to the hills of Sri Lanka restores that vital essence that we all carry within us, stolen during the pandemic. Two hours by plane from Mumbai or just under four hours from Delhi, the island country is ideal for a therapeutic visit. Consider Kandy, in the central province, which wraps around Kandy Lake. It is nestled among many mountain ranges including the famous Knuckles and Hanthana.

    Sri Lanka

It is also home to the Royal Palace (the last built in Sri Lanka) and the Temple of the Tooth, which houses a sacred relic – a tooth of Buddha. Kandy is both charming and lively; a hill town that is the perfect foil for the many beaches that Sri Lanka is famous for. Further from Kandy, on a winding and hilly road that is both scary and fantastical, when driving at night like we did, this is a rare and wonderful place. the Santani Resort and Spa has it all, and it has a host of awards to prove it. He’s been on some pick lists from Tatler‘s Best Spas in The World, to the Greatest Places in The World by Time. Its spa – we will come back to this later – even won the prestigious Bawa Award for Architecture.

    Sri Lanka

Wabi-Sabi‘ is a Japanese word that has such a beautiful layered definition. According to the dictionary, it means “a way of life that focuses on finding beauty in life’s imperfections and peaceful acceptance of the natural cycle of growth and decline.” A central principle is the idea of ​​finding beauty in nature and the natural order. Sprawling over 48 acres, on a former tea plantation, the Santani’s architecture blends seamlessly with nature, imbuing the very essence of the phrase. The infinity pool, lapping idyllically on a small hill, sparkles with notes of moss green, blending into the heather and foliage surrounding it. The restaurant is a marvel, perched on top of a hill, built in a harmonious blend of warm wood and glass.

    Sri Lanka

The clear glass sheets, which offer breathtaking views of the mountains around you, open up for the most refreshing cross ventilation. The chalets (20 in total) terrace on a slope. With these, another Japanese word comes to mind – ‘mom‘. Less is more, when “less” is just as it should be. Constructed from understated concrete, each bedroom has a bed as its centerpiece, with cascading ivory mesh creating a cocoon that’s both bug-free and bubble-like. Floor-to-ceiling windows open through a sliding door, just steps from the bed, to a balcony that opens up to the sun, stars, hills, and wild grasses. It’s inky at night – no light enters other than your bedroom. No noise other than a gentle breeze, cicadas and deer barking which you will soon get used to. Canvas lounge chairs encourage you to recline, in peace — there are no TVs in the rooms.

    Sri Lanka

The Santani meanders down leafy, stony paths that take you to all its different parts – hitch a ride on the buggies that the warm and hospitable staff often ride around. It’s luxurious in a way that’s actually good for your mind and body. You will find yourself walking (at your own pace) up wide cascading steps to get to your room. Or climb a slope to get to the restaurant. There is a beautiful yoga pavilion, open on all sides, with guest teachers where you can practice and meditate. For the adventurous or the curious, there are various excursions – whether it’s a walk to the Hulu River or the suspension bridge – accompanied by a naturalist who will tell you all about the rich diversity of flora and fauna. fauna of the region.

    Sri Lanka

Its proximity to the Knuckles Mountain Range, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes it a hotbed of diversity. Around the Santani, one finds more than a quarter of the endemic species of Sri Lanka. The country has about 34 species of birds; At Santani alone you can find 15 of them. One of them, the Sri Lankan hill mynah, will provide the soundtrack to your visit with its humming legato.

    Sri Lanka

The spa, organized on three levels, offers exceptional design and services, especially in the field of Ayurveda so deeply rooted in Sri Lankan culture. Each level opens onto nature and the soft light, including the treatment rooms. The thermal salt soaking pool (a full suite of hydrotherapy services is provided here), above the second pool, is a cavernous structure with skylight raining down sunbeams. It opens onto a sprawling garden, tall trees and ubiquitous mountains as far as the eye can see. An on-site doctor will also explain the menu to help you find a treatment that suits your preferences or condition. There is meditation, breath work and training for rehabilitation. They also create a vegetarian and raw food menu for your diet, to initiate a complete detox and cleanse.

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You don’t have to be sick to visit a wellness retreat. This particular stay was meant to eliminate the fear of traveling again – of trying to come back to life in a way that didn’t feel overwhelming. The Santani and its people are non-judgmental, serving up health on a very big plate that you absolutely must partake of. They just want you to be happy and satisfied. The food is nothing short of delicious, high and plentiful. If you’re on a juice cleanse, each concoction is made on-site with the freshest ingredients. If you’re perhaps looking to shed a few pounds or detox but in a way that’s kind to your body, the veneer and wide variety of raw foods available is a marvel.

    Sri Lanka

There’s a surprising variety here – from light and tasty broths for lunch, to freshly baked bread with dips made from local ingredients. Steaming pot curries, flavorful vegetables and desserts – crème brûlée or passion fruit tarts with the sexiest of plates win… If you want butter, you’ll get butter. If you want a beer or a cocktail, you’ll get it. The Negroni is world class, for your information, and you can’t leave without trying Sri Lanka’s essential brew, Lion. Again, this is not a place that starves any of your senses; it’s quite the opposite.

Also see: 7 Ways to Maximize a Summer Vacation in the Maldives

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