When we say Sri Lanka, you might not think ‘family-friendly destination’ straight away. But hear us out, as we believe the country is a bit of a dark horse in the family holiday stakes.
Firstly, its compact size lends itself well to families, as there aren’t any long-distance journeys to tackle and there’s a real breadth of experiences within touching distance of each other. It’s this real diversity that will make children’s imaginations go wild, from the leopards of Yala National Park, the pretty tea terraces and the rugged southern coastline. Sri Lanka itself is better-equipped than ever before to cater for families and captivate both the young and old – these three properties are proof of that!
Ceylon Tea Trails, in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country, is a network of restored bungalows that the planters of yonder once lived in as they spent their days tending to the tea plantations. Now, families can bring their own brew to life with the hotel’s unique My First Cup Of Tea experience at its Dunkeld Tea Plantation, where you can conjure your own unique flavour by having a hand in the whole tea-making process, right from its life as a humble leaf in the tea fields right to its final destination as a fresh cuppa. Elsewhere, families can take strolls in the surrounding lush countryside, keeping your eyes peeled for many of its endemic species like the Sri Lanka grey hornbill or blue magpie, or go for a gentle paddle with a kayak on the calm waters of Castlereagh Reservoir.
Safaris are always memorable experiences for the whole family and Wild Coast Tented Lodge puts you right on the fringes of Yala National Park, one of Sri Lanka’s wildlife gems. It has the highest density of leopards of anywhere in the world, so spotting one of these beautiful big cats in their natural environment will be an exciting moment for anyone. The lodge has plenty of activities to help train the next David Attenborough, including nature walks, tracking animal footprints, learning bird calls and watching footage of the lodge’s camera traps to study the behaviour of wildlife. Away from the nature, young foodies can make tasty creations like coconut-treacle pancakes and cardamom brownies on the Junior Chef programme, while a specially designed tasting menu aims to serve as a gentle introduction to Sri Lankan flavours for younger palates.
Perched on a dramatic clifftop on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, Cape Weligama is a place for families to both relax and enjoy a whole range of water activities in the Indian Ocean. Go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or snorkelling among the waves below, while the resort’s Cove Pool is a watery oasis for even younger ones. Whale and dolphin watching is a must if you’re in the area, with nearby Mirissa a hotspot for blue whales – the largest animal on Earth. Painting Kolam masks based on characters from Sri Lankan folklore is both fun and informative for youngsters, while the nearby MJF Centre brings younger guests and locals together to learn about each other’s cultures.