Sri Lanka is a melting pot of rich history, intriguing culture and breath-taking landscapes, and Sigiriya, located in the northern Matale district, is one of the most impressive destinations to add to your itinerary. Around a four-hour drive from the Bandaranaike International Airport, it’s worth factoring in the additional travel time to get here, and with spectacular scenery comprising endless coconut trees and soaring mountains punctuating the entire journey, the drive is all part of the experience.
In particular, visitors flock to the area for a chance to explore Sigiriya’s world-renowned national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites – not least of all the impressive Lion Rock. This awe-inspiring ancient rock fortress is a site of great historical and archaeological significance, and one of the most important ones to visit during any first-time trip to Sri Lanka, but it certainly isn’t the only thing to see here. Sigiriya, as it turns out, is a haven of tranquility and natural beauty, with an abundance of exotic wildlife right on your doorstep – and losing yourself in its charm and allure might just be the most enjoyable experience of your entire trip.
Especially, that is, if you’re staying at the magnificent Jetwing Vil Uyana – where I was lucky enough to begin my thoroughly memorable Sri Lankan adventure.
A luxurious sanctuary located just a stone’s throw from Lion’s Rock and conveniently within Sri Lanka’s well-travelled Cultural Triangle, the Jetwing Vil Uyana is one of 22 unique resorts and villas across Sri Lanka under the Jetwing Hotels umbrella. Each property has its own individual character and charm, from quaint mountain hideaways to sophisticated beachfront digs, with legendary hospitality always at the core of the experience.
All Jetwing properties have been designed to blend seamlessly into the Sri Lankan landscape, and the breath-taking Vil Uyana is a shining example of just how well this can be done. Nestled in amongst verdant, green paddy fields and marshes within a sprawling private nature reserve, it’s truly a nature lover’s dream, and from the wild peacocks roaming the land and the Grey Langur monkeys swinging through the trees to the majestic crocodiles that can often be seen cruising in the lake, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in luxury whilst remaining at one with the natural environment, then there’s no better place to do just that.
There are five different types of dwellings and a variety of experiences available to enjoy both on and offsite. Facilities include a large pool, gym and spa, where you can choose from a menu of relaxing treatments, with a dedicated wine cellar and a helicopter landing pad on site should you decide you’d like to arrive in style.
Rooms and suites
Accommodation at the Jetwing Vil Uyana comprises 36 beautiful and sustainably built dwellings set within the resort’s expansive paddy fields, marshes, forests and gardens.
It’s only fitting, then, that dwellings are named after these five different habitats. We stayed in a Paddy Dwelling – a spacious villa overlooking lush acres of paddy fields and that came complete with its own private wooden deck, a pair of sun loungers and a plunge pool that was perfect for cooling off in from the humid Sri Lankan heat. A private luxury villa with a difference, the door opened straight into a generous living area, with a small flight of stairs taking you up to a sprawling bedroom space and, behind it, one of the biggest bathroom areas I’ve seen.
Each of the dwellings is built from sustainable local materials, including woven reeds and rattan, to ensure they blend effortlessly into the surrounding landscape – but make no mistake, because these gorgeous hideaways offer all of the modern luxuries you’d expect to find at a five-star property such as this – from a spacious walk-in shower and enormous bathtub to a large, flat screen satellite TV, DVD player and even a BOSE home entertainment system.
The mini bar is complimentary, and restocked daily with beers, water and soft drinks, and we were delighted to become acquainted with Saman, our dedicated butler for the duration of our stay, who was always on hand to ensure we had everything we needed, whether it was helping to manage restaurant reservations or liaising with our driver for pick-up each day when we were heading out to explore.
In addition to the 12 beautiful Paddy Dwellings, there are also five Marsh Dwellings, which stand proudly over the reserve’s scrublands, as well as four Water Dwellings which overlook the resort’s central lake – a place where crocodiles can be seen gently cruising through the water each morning and evening. Ten Forest Dwellings, built from earth and stone, round off the accommodation line-up, and offer luxury digs spread over two floors, and a private pool. Each accommodation type offers its own unique experience, but one thing is for certain – whichever you choose should you decide to visit, you’ll have a wonderful experience.
Food and drink
The food and drink offering at Jetwing Vil Uyana comprises the Apsara restaurant, Sulang Café and Graffiti Bar.
Aspara offers an indulgent open-air fine dining experience overlooking the lake, with a menu comprising mouth-watering western, Asian and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. With Vil Uyana being our first stop in Sri Lanka, we were eager to sample some of the local dishes we’d heard so much about, and suffice it to say, we weren’t disappointed.
We dined on a selection of dishes which included a spicy and succulent fish and vegetable curries, stodgy lentil dhal and coconut sambal served with red rice, roti, and various other condiments – all of which were mouth-wateringly delicious and successfully converted us from the word go, and which we happily washed down with a bottle of the house champagne.
Little did we know how well acquainted we would become with these dishes over the coming days, ordering them at every opportunity for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast, as it happens, is also served at Apsara, and despite the wide variety of western options on offer, we couldn’t help but be tempted by the local flavours of the Sri Lankan breakfast each morning.
A similar spread but with the optional addition of ‘hoppers’ – a coconut milk pancake available in a variety of sweet and savoury options – we began each day feeling full, yet satisfied, and ready for the day ahead, washing the lot down with some traditional Sri Lankan tea plus fresh watermelon juice and King coconut water.
If Sri Lankan cuisine isn’t to your taste, then you’ll find plenty of alternatives on the menu at both breakfast and dinner – from eggs, pancakes and pastries to start your day with, to fresh seafood and meat dishes in the evening. It’s all served up with a smile and the wonderful Sri Lankan hospitality you’ll come to know and love during your time in the country, without exception.
For a more relaxed dining experience, guests can head to the Sulang Cafe for some light refreshments – and don’t forget to grab a pre-dinner aperitif from the cocktail list down at the poolside Graffiti Bar. Come at dusk, when it’s at its quietest, you can sit and watch the crocodiles swimming past and enjoy an atmosphere of complete peace and tranquillity.
The Jetwing Vil Uyana offers guests the chance to partake in a multitude of memorable experiences during their stay, and your dedicated butler will be happy to help arrange some excursions that will help you get the best out of the area. You can also hire a private tour guide – we did so via Jetwing Hotels’ sister company, Jetwing Travels, and would highly recommend it, as this allowed us to explore the country at our own pace and in the comfort of a luxury, air-conditioned car.
There is certainly no shortage of things to do outside of the resort – after all, Sigiriya’s rich culture and history and breath-taking natural scenery is the main reason people come here in the first place. If you can bear to tear yourself away from the relaxing serenity of the resort, then the fifth century UNESCO World Heritage Site Lion Rock is the obvious place to start, and is worth the gruelling two-hour climb to the top. Arrive early to beat the queues and the sweltering midday sun, as it soon gets incredibly humid later in the day and the ascent can thus come rather testing!
Don’t fancy such a lengthy climb? Then head to the nearby Pidurangala Rock instead. It takes around 30 to 40 minutes to reach the summit, and offers some breath-taking views of Lion Rock itself. So, if you’re looking for the perfect photo opportunity, then this is it. Be sure to wear sensible footwear, however, as while the initial pathway is made up of rather steep steps, you’ll have to freestyle it and scale a few higgledy piggledy boulders to reach the top.
If rock climbing isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of other wonderful experiences to be had in Sigiriya besides. One of the most unmissable of these is visiting one of the nearby national parks, such as Minneriya, to partake in an open-top elephant jeep safari – where you’ll see hundreds of wild elephants roaming freely and munching on mile upon mile of lush green vegetation as they go.
Wilpattu, meanwhile, is known for its endemic leopard population across the largest protected area in the country, and although elusive, the chance to spot them is an opportunity wildlife fans won’t want to miss. The habitats of Jetwing Vil Uyana themselves are also home to an abundance of exotic flora and fauna, and it’s possible to book onto a night tour through the resort, on which a knowledgeable guide will take you on a journey around the reserve in a bid to spot animals including the slow loris and the fishing cat.
The Jetwing Vil Uyana enjoys a privileged location within Sri Lanka’s famous Cultural Triangle, which means it’s perfectly located for visiting the ancient civilisations of Anuradhapura and Plonnaruwa, which are a little further north. If you’re venturing onwards to Kandy, then be sure to stop off at the awe-inspiring Dambulla Cave Temple – ask the resort to arrange a driver and tour guide for you, as with such an intriguing story behind it, this is one you won’t want to visit alone.
In a nutshell
A breath-taking hideaway and a haven of serenity and tranquility in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, the Jetwing Vil Uyana is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the country’s stunning natural environment whilst enjoying the traditional Sri Lankan hospitality in the utmost of eco-friendly luxury. With so much intriguing culture and wildlife right on your doorstep, it might just be the most memorable stop of your trip.
Article Source: Luxury Lifestyle Magazine