Rukgala Retreat

Digana Kandy & Hill Country, Sri Lanka Book from Book from £91 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 – a truly enchanting hideaway.
Covid-19 update: some services and facilities may be changed as a result of Coronavirus measures.

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 menus, which change daily: vegan, vegetarian, or healthy
  • A perfect 2-3 night breather in a busy itinerary

Lows

  • Additional extras (like yoga and bike tours) are charged on top of the room price
  • Though stunning, some design elements in the rooms might not be 100% practical - for example, our roll top bathtub didn't quite catch all the water from the shower.
  • 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...

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 accessed by a steep ladder with a single sofabed 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

The main focus here is on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. For breakfast, we had fruit platters and smoothie bowls, sprouted bread with avocado and spinach – and you can order eggs and pancakes too if you prefer.

Lunches were also super healthy with a Sri Lankan twist. Platters of salads, beans and pulses kept us going until dinner. There are loads of vegetarian and vegan options, but we tucked into yellowfin tuna and roasted veggies followed by banana chocolate mousse. There are plenty of smoothies and fruit juices on offer to keep you feeling fresh throughout the day.

Meals are sometimes shared communally on benched tables outdoors. However, when we visited the guests were happy enough to eat separately on their own tables – there are plenty to choose from. 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:
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
  • The traditional spa is Ayurvedic-inspired and open to nature. Indulge in massages, reflexology, shirodhara and traditional steam baths
  • 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 welcome, but be aware this is a retreat where guests come for peace and quiet and there's not much provision for families. Best suited to older kids or tiny babies.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 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 sofa bed can be set up, though note this is accessed by a steep ladder and is suited to older kids only.

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 with no price reductions for kids; parents will need to watch kids carefully by the lake. Very steep ladders up to mezzanine levels in some rooms.

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

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 4 independent reviews from i-escape guests

10/10
Room
10/10
Food
10/10
Service
10/10
Value
10/10
Overall

My husband and I stayed at Rukgala for 3 nights as part of our 2-week tour around Sri Lanka. I wish we could have stayed for longer. Simplicity is their motto, the food is simple, but so delicious. I love the daily menus and not having to choose what to order, you simply get a selection of dishes and eat as much as you like of each one. Breakfasts were the best we had in Sri Lanka. Tea and coffee is complimentary, so is filtered water, there is no plastic waste here. They also do your laundry at no charge, which is a great little addition.
Yoga classes are brilliant and Jade is such a lovely, experienced and knowledgeable yoga teacher, it was a pleasure to spend a few days here. Even if you’re not into yoga (my husband has never done yoga before), the classes are tailored to all abilities. There is also soooo much to do around Rukgala. Kayaking on the lake is just an example, we loved it. They organise daily activities for guests, we took part in a sunset bike tour, it was epic, as we’ve seen the most beautiful sunset amongst palm trees with sun shimmering on Lake Victoria. We also took a trip to the sister property, Ashburnham Estate, where we had a privilege to swim in a private waterfall, it was absolutely amazing. From there, Rukgala’s manager, Aravinda, who’s a very experienced naturalist, took us on a 5-hour hike in the Knuckles, which was fantastic. He took a flask of tea for us all and delicious fish sandwiches. We had beauty treatments too, a scrub and a wrap - Spa ladies are lovely, professional and so good! We’ve stayed in 5 star accommodations in Sri Lanka and this place was my favourite by far, it had such a relaxed and homely feel to it. I think staff make this place the way it is, so a big shout out to all of them.

10/10,

We could not fault the team at Rukgala and if it were closer to home would almost definitely be returning. It has the feel of someone's warm and comfortable country home. A small pool area for use during the day, a wonderful yoga shala where morning and early evening classes are held and a communal dining/seating area where guests gather to share meals (although if preferred there is sufficient seating to allow you to sit alone). We had one of the beautifully designed ground floor rooms over looking the gardens and the stunning lake with the use of a sitting room with coffee, teas and water available 24/7 and great if you wanted space away from the communal areas of the retreat. The food was probably the best we had in Sri Lanka, every meal was a real delight. It was hard to turn down lunch knowing it was all absolutely delicious. And as for the staff - they really were simply wonderful and demonstrated the the perfect balance between leaving you to relax and unwind but always on hand if you had any questions or just wanted a chat. Take up the offer of the guided walks and bike rides if available - we learnt so much about the surrounding area (including popping in to a local weaving factory on our walk and met with the local women) and likely would never have found our way to the top of the steep climb that brings you out onto what is one of the most stunning views of the lake. A bike ride to watch the sunset the following day was another of the trips highlights. The pace of life is slow at Rukgala and worth savouring every moment. We were sad to leave but came away with some wonderful memories.

10/10,

Rukgala retreat is what you expect from an i-escape place and much more. What I really enjoyed was the perfect service of the people working in this beautiful hidden gem. I regret I stayed only three days.

10/10,

Lovely retreat that feels like a home away from home. The food was delicious and all the staff warm and friendly. The room is gorgeous. Highly recommend.

10/10,

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