Rukgala Retreat

Digana, Kandy & Hill Country, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £89 per night

A tranquil yoga and wellness retreat by Victoria Lake in the untouched Knuckles Mountains, an hour from Kandy
What was once an abandoned house clinging to a cacti-covered rock is now a design retreat enveloped by the grand and green Knuckle Mountains. Rukgala is stylish and serene, an artfully simple place to take a breather. Rooms are glistening clean and contemporary, with views across trees to the lake. A stunning L-shaped pool sits on a hilltop promenade; a divine teak ‘ yoga shala’ is open to lush foliage. Friends sharing a yoga and meditation retreat, or solo travellers who want to read in the quiet lounge – Rukgala is open for both. Even children who want to paddle in the lake are welcome.

The healthy meals are inspired by Sri Lankan tradition but given a light touch. Tours are offered to colonial tea plantations, secluded lakeside villages and beautiful temple caves. Hiking, biking and wild swimming are all encouraged. So is total chilling. Rukgala is nestled in a bewitching corner of Sri Lanka that's still a secret to the masses – we can’t wait to visit this enchanting hideaway.

Highs

  • Peace: set in a hidden, untouristy area of Sri Lanka
  • Great activities: yoga and meditation, guided walks and bike rides, wild swimming and paddle boarding in the lake, Ayurvedic massage
  • 8 stylish rooms: we love the use of bamboo and rattan, popped with bright colours and green plants
  • A choice of delicious-sounding menus, which change daily: vegan, vegetarian, or healthy
  • A perfect 2-3 night breather in a busy itinerary

Lows

  • Meals are served communally, which might not be to your taste
  • No alcohol license but the owners can source wine/beer etc if requested in advance
  • Lake levels can be erratic, due to rainy season and irrigation
  • Geared to group retreats so it may be fully booked from time to time; plan ahead

Best time to go

Rukgala is open year-round, including Christmas/New Year. The hottest months in this region are March/April. Kandy’s lively Esala Perahera festival is in July/August. Rainy season is November/December and May/June – Victoria Lake levels will be highest after these months.

Our top tips

Book a bicycle tour with one of the Rukgala guides – it’s a fun way to discover the surrounding countryside and villages.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Spa
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 8
  • Breakfast + other meals on request
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Family Room

Rooms

The 8 rooms are spacious and airy, with a bright modern feel – overhead fans and mosquito nets are the only nods to colonial style. All have high beamed ceilings, creamy white walls and blond-wood bed frames and balconies. Floor-to-ceiling windows and glass doors swing open to views over treetops or verdant gardens. Colourful mirror frames dot the immaculate shower bathrooms.

On the top floor of the Main House are 3 double/twin bedrooms – these have long terraces with vistas to the lake. The Garden Cottage is a separate building: it has 4 bedrooms, each with a mezzanine floor fitted with a single bed that’s ideal for a child, or for a separate meditation space. For groups or families, there's a quad room too: 4 large single beds on the Main House ground floor, with a small but sunny garden.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Mosquito net

Eating

There are 3 types of set menus at Rukgala. The Shanti (peace) menu is vegan and gluten-free, with many raw foods. Bodhi (awakening) is vegetarian, but adds eggs and diary; grains and bread. The Dharma (harmony) includes chicken and fish. All ingredients are ethically sourced from Sri Lanka, Australia or South America.

Fruit lassies, kola kanda (herbal porridge) and sourdough hoppers (Sri Lankan pancakes) are served at breakfast. Lunch might be lotus root and zucchini rolls with a pumpkin soup, dinner a red rice noodle stir-fry with chicken. Sweet tooths aren’t forgotten, either – we like the sound of avocado chocolate mousse.

Meals are shared communally with other guests on benched tables outdoors. Plates are not piled high but served up delicately, with flower garnishes. Every Sunday, there is a BBQ dinner with freshly caught lake crayfish. Those seeking red meat can be directed to restaurants in the village of Digana (15 mins' drive).

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating: Snake gourd salad
Activity:

Activities

  • There are daily morning and evening yoga classes in the open-air shala with a qualified instructor and plenty of props (mats, blocks, straps, cushions), plus a coconut for everyone after class. Ayurvedic massages also on offer
  • Do laps in the pool or wild swim, kayak and paddle board in Victoria Lake. Rukgala can organise catamaran-fishing trips, picnics to nearby islands or evening boat rides, too
  • Take a guided tour of the nearby Ashburnham Estate, an elegant tea plantation in the Knuckles foothills, with pretty gardens and waterfalls
  • Walk to the temple and meditation caves at Bambaragala Monastery, trek through Knuckles Mountains National Park or stroll along ‘Coconut Ridge’ for evening sunset
  • Kandy is an hour’s drive away: don't miss the Temple of the Tooth, a World-Heritage Buddhist site, and visit authentic craft and artisan markets to buy textiles, brassware, clothing and jewellery

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kitesurfing
  • Paddle boarding
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are warmly welcome, but be aware this is a retreat where guests come for peace and quiet. Best suited to older kids or tiny babies.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

All rooms can fit a baby cot. There are double and twin rooms in both the Main House and Garden Cottage, though none adjoin. Garden Cottage rooms have a mezzanine area where a baby cot/ extra bed can be set up.

Kids Activities on site:

Swimming pool; paddling, swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding in the lake

Kids Activities nearby:

Tea plantations, temples

Families Should Know:

The pool is not fenced; meals are set menus; parents will need to watch kids carefully by the lake

Distances:

  • Airport: 4.5 hrs
  • Hospital: 25 mins
  • Shops: 25 mins
Kid Friendly: Mezzanine single bed

Location

Rukgala is located near the village of Digana, between Kandy and Teldeniya, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.

By Air:
Colombo’s international airport, north of the capital, is a 4-hour drive from Rukgala Retreat. Airport transfers are available on request.

If you want to hire a car and driver for your whole holiday, enquire through our Tailormade Tour Operator; they can collect you at Colombo airport when you land, drive you to the hotel, then drive you to your onward destination(s) after your stay, as well as taking you on all day trips etc.

Alternatively, Cinnamon Air flies a seaplane from Colombo to Kandy, a 40-minute flight to Polgalla airport. The hotel can arrange transfers from here. If chartered, the seaplane can land on Victoria Lake: the landing site is a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from Rukgala.

By Train:
There is a scenic train journey of about 2.5 hours from Colombo Fort to Kandy station. The hotel can arrange transfers from here.

Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Colombo Bandaranaike International 131.0 km CMB

Other:

  • Beach 150.0 km
  • Shops 1.0 km
  • Restaurant 10.0 km

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