Puttalam, Sri Lanka
A group of wonderfully simple, secluded huts hidden in Sri Lanka’s ancient heartlands, flanked by woods and lakes which teem with birds and wildlife
For adventurous travellers, this place is a real find. First off,
the setting: you're in the middle of fascinating wetlands that are
criss-crossed by a vast network of irrigation ‘tanks’
built around 2,000 years ago by the early Anuradhapura civilisation
to store monsoon waters. These small lakes have sustained farming
and fishing communities for centuries, not to mention an array of
birdlife that includes storks, ibis, herons and spoonbills. A stay
at the Mudhouse gives you a unique insight into this life, at a
pace that has not changed much since ancient times.
Then there's the houses - spread extravagantly across 60 acres of forest. Each 'mudhouse' is in fact a cluster of simple, open-sided huts made of wattle and daub, with thatched roofs, dining/meditation areas and outdoor showers. Regardless of the size of your group, you get a cluster to yourself - making it perfect either for a couple wanting a romantic hideaway from it all, or for a family (or group) after an action-packed, adventurous time.
Staff are local villagers, so the service is genuinely warm and friendly (though their English is not always great); and we were impressed with their enthusiasm and willingness to learn. With the paths lit up by oil lamps at night, and open fires flickering outside the huts, it is not surprising that the Guardian rated this "one of the most romantic destinations in the world". For our own kids, the open-air adventures and the sense of freedom made this a holiday which they still talk about to this day.
Reviewed by Laila Ram
- Kumar’s welcome - he (or the moustachio'd Pani) will greet you with the biggest smile ever
- You can put your wallet away on arrival: almost everything is included in the rates
- It's a bird-spotter's paradise, helped by Kumar’s incredible knowledge of the local wildlife and vegetation
- The hotel's private lake is great for swimming, kayaking and general lazing
- Day trips can be arranged to Wilpattu Park for leopard, crocs, buffalo, maybe even a sloth bear; to Anawilundawa Sanctuary for even richer birdlife; or to remote rock temples and the ancient city of Anuradhapura
- This really is the 'new frontier' of Sri Lankan tourism - you (and any other adventurous guests you meet here) will share a great sense of privilege
- This back-to nature retreat is suitably basic: huts are mostly open to the elements, and there is no electricity or hot water (except solar panels at the staff hut) - but, for the kind of guests who stay here, this is part of the charm!
- Some of the huts are quite a trek from the central dining area - not great if you want to be social for any of your meals
- If you do visit during the rainy season (October to December), the place does get quite muddy and damp!
- It's extremely hard to find - deliberately
- Co-owner Tom does not guarantee a specific hut, he instead allocates the hut he thinks will be most suitable - he does know best!
An ideal place for those really looking to get away from it all...The Times