Tisara Villas

Habaraduwa, Galle & South Coast, Sri Lanka Book from

Affordable private villas for 2-6 with a beautiful shared pool, gardens and all day dining, near some lovely beaches
There’s a real buzz to up and coming Galle and this stretch of coast to the south. Locals and creative expats are restoring old houses and building chic beach pads. Hotel prices are rising, but we were pleased to find this affordable slice of authentic Sri Lankan heaven. Located just inland next to Koggala Lake, a 20-minute tuk-tuk ride from charming Galle and a short walk to an unspoilt beach, Tisara has 7 roomy villas arranged around a large tree fringed pool. Set in a big walled garden surrounded by tropical flowers and fruit trees, you feel safe but don't feel cut off from local village life. Some might think when staying in southern Sri Lanka, a beachfront villa’s a must, but we preferred being somewhere slightly set back from the main coastal road.

From our private terrace we saw mongooses, monitor lizards and colourful birds, as well as timid howler monkeys beyond the walls. It’s quite flexible so you can arrange to eat in or easily take a ride to discover some fun bars and restaurants. We think the place works well for couples, friends or families and is somewhere you’d happily fall into conversation with other guests relaxing by the pool. There are regular yoga breaks and decent Ayurvedic massages are available. There's a daily shuttle to the beach, and adventurous travellers can sail on the lake, visit spice plantations and make friends with palm-sized turtles at the local hatchery.

Highs

  • The fantastic pool and lush gardens, great for lazing around
  • A tranquil, secure spot which feels connected to its rural surroundings
  • Spacious 2-bedroom villas offer flexibility and value for money, especially for families
  • The location near the city of Galle, with its antique shops, galleries and 17th-century Dutch fort
  • Many of Sri Lanka's best eateries are within easy reach

Lows

  • It's not overlooking the sea but Habaraduwa's big unspoilt beach is just a 10-minute walk away, and sandy Koggala and Unawatuna are just a short tuk-tuk ride
  • As with many places in Sri Lanka expect mosquitoes; bedrooms have nets and coils but bring repellant for the evenings
  • The villa kitchens had only very basic equipment on our visit but all meals are offered so there is no need to cook
  • The jingles played by the bread van might be grating for some, but we thought it added to the local flavour

Best time to go

The best time to visit Sri Lanka is between November and April when it's mainly dry on the south and west coasts (the main beach areas). May and June are the wettest months of the year; July and August are pleasant but the Indian Ocean is rough. September and October can be sunny but heavy rain, humidity and high seas are typical.

Our top tips

  • Take a tuk-tuk to Galle for a late afternoon stroll around the fort, then head up to the gorgeous Sun House for cocktails in Dick's Bar and a delicious 3-course curry dinner (book ahead)
  • There are over 35 species of bird to spot in the grounds at Tisara, so twitchers should pack binoculars
  • We recommend local tuk-tuk driver (and cinnamon farmer) Sunil who was charming and reliable throughout our week-long stay (ask Neel to call him)
  • Great for...

    Beach
    Cheap & Chic
    Eco
    Family
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique Villas
    • 7
    • 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
    • Daily Maid Service
    • Towels & Bedlinen
    • Bicycles Available
    Room:

    Rooms

    The 7 villas are simple but stylish with 2 large double bedrooms with four-poster beds draped with mosquito nets, and ensuite indoor-outdoor bathrooms with walk-in showers and a tub. You also get a kitchen, living-dining room leading out to a veranda and private walled garden, plus shared use of the lovely swimming pool.

    All have a similar layout and are decorated with local touches, including handmade terracotta floor tiles, seagrass and cane chairs and heavy wooden furniture and shutters. Air-conditioning, fans, and 18-ft high wooden ceilings keep rooms as cool as possible. There's free WiFi throughout, but don't expect mod cons like TVs or DVD players.

    We liked the bright flashes of tropical colours: a canary yellow section on the wall in the bathroom, burnt orange cushions, occasional lime-green walls and a flash of pink from the tumbling bougainvillea. We weren't so keen on the dim lighting in the bedrooms which made finding anything in the wardrobes after dusk rather tricky.

    Features include:

    • Air conditioning
    • Barbeque
    • Coffee tea making
    • Cots Available
    • Extra beds
    • Fan
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hob stove
    • Internet access
    • Iron
    • Mosquito net
    • Safe box
    • Terrace
    • Toaster
    • Toiletries
    • Tv
    • WiFi

    Eating

    Each villa has a small basic kitchen with gas hob so you can self-cater if you want. Although we didn't bother, it was handy to have a big fridge for keeping drinks cold and to russle up snacks for our young daughter. There's no formal restaurant, but Tisara runs a great 'room service' style system with an extensive menu of international and local food. Meals can be served in your villa or outside by the pool. Note that the regular rates include breakfast but you can also book full and half board; just ask.

    Typically, breakfast is pancakes, tropical fruit picked from the property, and you can order eggs any which way. We liked the yoghurt-like buffalo curd with palm treacle, chili omelettes and Sri Lankan string hoppers. For lunch and dinner, specialities include lagoon prawns with coconut hearts, swordfish steak with mango and pomegranate salsa, and pasta with granchi (with red lagoon crabs and tomatoes). There are also vegetarian options like rice paper wraps with avocado, sautéed vegetables and lentils, and tasty meat and fish Sri Lankan curries with all the traditional accompaniments. The manager, Neel, usually asks guests in the morning if they wish to dine at Tisara, so they can buy fresh ingredients from the market.

    For a change of scene, there are plenty of eateries within a short tuk-tuk ride, on the beach or in Galle. We enjoyed lazy seafood lunches at The Frangipani Tree and Italian-owned Why Beach. For sundowners and wood-fired pizzas head to nearby Wijaya Beach (Sri Lanka's hippest beach hangout), and for a special treat, the lovely Sun House in Galle is a must (it was our best dinner in Sri Lanka).

    Each villa has a fridge stocked with filtered water (free) and soft drinks (extra cost). A limited selection of beer and pricey wine can be purchased and you can also order smoothies, coconut juice, Ayurvedic tea and Ceylon tea whenever you want. You can bring your own alcohol (best to buy spirits or wine at the airport) without fear of a corkage fee, and there are local shops nearby for all your home-cooking needs.

    Features include:

    • Breakfast
    • Coffee tea making
    • Dinner by arrangement
    • Fridge
    • Full kitchen
    • Hob stove
    • Lunch by arrangement
    • Meal delivery service
    • Organic produce
    • Room service
    • Toaster
    • Vegetarian menu
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Relax in your villa, laze by the pool, or pick papaya, pineapple and bananas from the fruit grove. Then have an Ayurvedic massage in the small treatment centre

    • Make use of the free daily tuk-tuk shuttle to Koggala beach, a sandy stretch that's safe to swim most of the year. Or slightly further afield, visit Unawatuna beach (4km) for swimming, diving, snorkelling and temples; go whale watching or dolphin spotting from beautiful Mirissa beach. Or go surfing at Weligama beach, one of the island's most renowned spots

    • Take a day trip to Galle (20 minutes by tuk-tuk) to admire the UNESCO-listed fort, fortified town walls, lighthouse and cricket ground. There's sensational arty shopping and lovely restaurants to eat in; staff at Tisara can advise

    • The sandy beaches nearby are well known for attracting egg-laying turtles. If you're lucky, you might spot them - they usually lay at Full Moon; otherwise there's a small turtle hatchery nearby where you can visit and hold the palm-sized turtles in your hand

    • Take a catamaran ride on nearby Koggala Lake, or boat over to the Ananda Spice Gardens where you'll find natural cures for sunburns and heavenly spices to take home

    • Visit the Kataluva Purvarama Maha Viharaya temple, 5km from Koggala, which dates back to the 13th century

    • Borrow bikes and explore the coast, forest and small villages in a slow and leisurely way

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Birdwatching
    • Boat trips
    • Cycling
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Plantlife / flora
    • Scuba diving
    • Shopping / markets
    • Spice gardens
    • Surfing
    • Swimming
    • Temples
    • Turtle hatchery
    • Well being
    • Whalewatching
    • Yoga

    Kids

    Families are very welcome, and Tisara is an easy place to stay with kids thanks to the privacy and space of the villas, combined with the convenience of a meal delivery service and a kitchen to self-cater snacks. Each villa has 2 queensize beds and can fit up to 2 extra beds or 2 baby cots (1 in each bedroom, at extra cost), so it's also good for 2 couples with 1 child each, or a multi-generational holiday.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

    Babysitting:

    With advanced notice, local nannies can be arranged for daytime or evenings

    Kids Activities on site:

    Children love the big pool and spotting colourful birds, monkeys, lizards, mongooses in the garden and surrounding trees.

    Kids Activities nearby:

    The local sandy beach is large and unspoilt and you can hire loungers and parasols, but watch out for the strong waves. For more gentle paddling head to nearby Wijaya, Unawatuna or Mirissa. There is a small turtle hatchery nearby where you can visit and hold cute palm-sized turtles in your hand.

    Families Should Know:

    The pool is unfenced. The main double beds have mosquito nets but not the extra beds.

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    7/
    Rooms
    6/
    Food
    7/
    Service
    7/
    Value
    7/
    Overall

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