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.
- 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
- Delicious meals are included: largely vegetarian or vegan, pairing Sri Lankan curries with western dishes
- A perfect 2-3 night breather in a busy itinerary
- 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
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 8 rooms
- Full board is included
- Over 16s welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car not necessary
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Bicycles Available
- Paddle boards
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.
- In room treatments available
- Mosquito net
All meals are included in the rates, pairing the best of Sri Lankan cuisine with innovative western dishes - most of them vegetarian, vegan or pescatarian. Ingredients are fresh, local and seasonal.
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. We tucked into yellowfin tuna and roasted veggies followed by banana chocolate mousse; and there were platters of salads, beans and pulses too.
Dinner might feature chicken curry with gotu kola sambol (a herby coconut salad) or coconut roti, and a carrot, cashew and raisin salad too. Smoothies and fruit juices are on offer to keep you feeling fresh throughout the day.
Meals are sometimes shared communally on benched tables outdoors; or (as on our visit) taken separately on your own table.
- Room service
- Vegetarian options
- 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
- Historical sites
- Tea plantation tours
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Children over 16 are welcome, but be aware this is a retreat where guests come for peace and quiet and there's not much provision for families.
Family friendly accommodation:
Garden Cottage rooms have a mezzanine area where a sofa bed can be set up, though note this is accessed by a steep ladder. Otherwise you can book adjacent (but not adjoining) double / twin rooms.
Kids Activities on site:
Swimming pool; paddling, swimming, kayaking and paddleboarding in the lake
Families Should Know:
The pool is not fenced, and the lake is not supervised.
Rukgala is located near the village of Digana, between Kandy and Teldeniya, in the Central Province of Sri Lanka.
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.
There is a scenic train journey of about 3.5 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.
- Colombo Bandaranaike International 131.0 km CMB
- Beach 150.0 km
- Shops 1.0 km
- Restaurant 10.0 km