( wearing Zimmermann at Anantara Peace Heaven Tangalle)
The first time I travelled to Sri Lanka was four years ago. Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away by the tranquility of the foliage and beaches that enveloped me in a jungle paradise. My stay had only been a few days long though, and soon enough I was longing for more.
In the years after my short visit, my mind kept drifting back to that emerald jewel in the Indian Ocean that had so thoroughly stolen my heart.I promised myself then that I would go back and explore all there was to see and do, but I don’t think I realised that would probably take someone a lifetime.
With a history spanning back to the great Rama Kingdom, shaped by the peaceful philosophy of Buddhist culture and the smiles of friendly locals, Sri Lanka is a garden of Eden, filled with all sorts of magnificent flora and fauna. Scroll through to find out exactly what to do, what to eat, and where to stay in three of the most special places in Sri Lanka.
This sleepy coastal spot is filled with gorgeous beaches, excellent surf spots, and old temples and relaxing vibes.
Where to stay: Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle is the place to be. Situated on one of my favourite beaches in the world, a palm fringed heaven of golden sand with greenery all around, you’re invited to let go of all your worries and breathe. When I’m asked to visualise my happy place, this is it.
( Early morning swim in the warm ocean wearing Marysia swim)
What to do: The hotel offers numerous activities, including tennis, surfing lessons, an informative nature walk, as well as an insight into their many ecological programs. Do not miss an appointment with the resident Ayurvedic Doctor and the prescribed wellness treatments. Take a short stroll to the next beach and rope a fisherman into taking you on a dawn fishing session. Make sure to pay a visit to the old Mulgirigala Temple – the steep 500 or so stairs lead to a large reclining Buddha and colourful paintings where you can be blessed by a resident monk.
What to eat: The resort's Earth to Table private lunch, made with ingredients from its own organic garden, is a special experience held in a reconstruction of a traditional elephant. There’s more delicious fare across its three restaurants, including a hot prawn curry. If you’re feeling like an evening stroll, walk a beach over to the cute fisherman’s shacks for some quality seafood.
( On a safari in a Nanushka bodysuit, Bassike shorts and shirt, Akubra Travellers hat, Moschino sunglasses, Cartier watch and bracelet, Holly Ryan necklace )
A few hours away in a different climate is the nature reserve of Yala. Teaming with elephants, birds, buffalo, monkeys, crocodiles, picturesque beaches and magnificent sunsets, it’s a nature lover’s dream.
Where to stay: Chena Huts by Uga Escapes offers you luxury glamping like no other. Find your inner peace in generous domed huts within their own private piece of bush, or cool down in the plunge pool on a hot tropical day.
( Within a private oasis in Leo and Lin bustier, Zimmermann dress, A-Emery sandals )
What to do: The resort has their own safari vehicles and informative tour guides. One of the highlights of my trip was learning all about the animals we encountered on our daily adventures. While the beaches aren’t swimmable because of strong currents, it’s the perfect spot to observe the glorious sunsets. Spa treatments are available for getting knots out after bumpy safaris.
What to eat: The resort is all-inclusive, the menu changes daily and the chef is a genius – try the Hoppers, a traditional fermented coconut pancake with egg and curry for breakfast or the incredible BBQs for dinner.
( Picking the best tea leaves is a learnt skill. Wearing Zimmermann shirt, Oroton shorts, RM Williams boots )
Seven hours away from Yala, climbing into the mysterious Cloud Mountains, awaits the endless greenery of magnificent Tea Country. Bordered by wild jungle, the origin place of the famous Ceylon tea provides nothing but serenity.
Where to stay: Forget make-up when you go to the Santani Wellness Resort, because this place is all about tuning in and dropping out in the most luxe/hippy way possible. I spent hours watching clouds create mists over the neighbouring hills from my Villa’s balcony and it felt like minutes. The perfect place to end my big adventure, this resort’s minimal yet cosy interiors left me feeling calm, restored and healthy.
( Watching clouds roll by after meditation. Matin dress )
What to do: The resort offers a morning and afternoon yoga and meditation session and often has visiting master teachers - I was lucky to train with Natasha Richardson on my visit. Various nature walks traverse the hills and rivers below. To say that the spa is pretty would be an understatement – open air pavilions back onto the jungle so you can watch monkeys play from the salt water pool or treatment rooms. One night, after I finished my shirodhara treatment, I opened my eyes to see hundreds of fireflies illuminating the dark around me.
What to eat: The resort is all about personalisation. Instead of a menu, the chef speaks to you each day and tailors a set of meals around your preferences. If you’re here for more than 5 days, that menu will follow your personal detox program. If not, you get to choose between a Sri Lankan or Western menu. I chose the traditional and wasn’t disappointed; these were some of the best curries I have ever had in my life. The desserts are delicious too, in the most healthy-yet-decadent way.
This story originally appeared on vogue.com.au here!