Sri Lanka's best new hotels, hostels and cottages

A tea plantation bungalow, surfer hostel, cottage near the beach and off-grid lodge are among our picks of great new places to stay in Sri Lanka

Family bungalows with pool, near Galle

For families, Thalpe Bungalows, south-east of Galle, are an affordable alternative to renting a villa. Each of the three one-bedroom cottages also has a lounge, with fold-out beds for two children, kitchen area and long veranda overlooking a leafy walled garden with central pool. Friendly owners Murray and Seema live on site with their young daughter, and will share additional equipment for children on request. The swimmable lagoon at Dalawella beach is a 25-minute walk away.
Bungalows from £76 B&B,

Tea planter bungalows, near Bandarawela

Dining Verandah, Ceylon Tea Bungalows, Sri Lanka

Not to be confused with Ceylon Tea Trails near Hatton, refurbished 1930s Ceylon Tea Bungalows in the hills near Bandarawela opened in July, and offers comfort, style and personalised service. The five cosy doubles – named after villages in the Lake District – even have private butlers. It’s on the Hilpankandura estate, and guests can wander the tea fields, join a tea plucking session or hike to viewpoints including Lipton’s Seat, favoured perch of British tea purveyor Thomas Lipton.
Doubles from £104 B&B,

Farm stay, Amba Valley

Factory & bungalow in mist, Amba Estate, Sri Lanka

On an organic farm in the Amba Valley, a 30-minute drive from Ella, Amba Estate’s family-friendly guesthouse began life as just one century-old four-bedroom bungalow back in 2013. Two newer cottages were added in July to take the room total to 11. The community-based guesthouse is staffed by villagers from the valley who receive a 10% share of the revenue. Activities include farm tours, tea rolling, trail hiking and mountain biking, and the estate also produces artisanal teas and spices, which make lovely gifts to take home.
Doubles from £32 B&B,

Surf cafe and hostel, Hiriketiya

Breakfast at Dot’s Bay House

Dots Bay House on teeny, horseshoe-shaped Hiriketiya bay opened in late 2015 with three rustic rooms (some with TVs and aircon), and additional beds in an open-to-the-breeze dorm with quality linen and mosquito nets. The restaurant-bar is a repurposed shipping container, and the setup is sociable; many guests linger here far longer than planned. Slightly cheaper beds can be had at Dots Surf Cafe Hostel, near the main road, which opened last month, attached to a superb cafe and surf shop. Both offer surfing lessons and yoga classes, and rent boards too.
Dorm beds £13, doubles from £41 B&B, on Facebook

Coffee shop with chic rooms, Colombo

Bedroom at Black Cat

Black Cat B&B is a vintage cafe with rooms in an atmospheric 1920s house in Colombo’s chi chi Cinnamon Gardens district, close to galleries, cafes and shops. It was conceived by a young husband-and-wife team who upgraded the rooms (aircon, kingsize beds and bathrooms with strong showers) in modern minimalist style, and furnished them with the “basic luxuries” they seek out on their travels. Breakfast costs extra, and the cafe is known for its deep-filled sandwiches and excellent coffee.
Twin room £33 room only,

Off-grid lakeside living, Udawalawe

Recycled champagne bottle chalet, Banyan Camp
Recycled champagne bottle chalet, Banyan Camp Photograph: PR

Lake Hambegamuwa, near Udawalawe national park and its elephants, is the pristine setting for Banyan Camp’s magical off-grid, carbon-neutral lodge. The palm-roofed main chalet sleeps up to six on mosquito-netted mattresses, while a smaller lodge, built this year from 22,000 recycled champagne and wine bottles, is a dream for two. New for 2016 is a collection of festival-style bell tents and Tentsile tree tents – both are a first for Sri Lanka. Food (freshly cooked local dishes), drinks, activities (canoeing, treks) and safaris are included in the rate.
Full-board from £62pppn,

New-build ‘castle’ near Kandy,

Pool and dining terrace at Urban Castle

A modern concrete structure with reclaimed antique doors and windows, Urban Castle is a bijou hotel eight miles from Kandy, and something of an ode to Sri Lanka’s heritage. Its four en suite rooms and upper-floor communal lounge are all adorned with Kandyan antiques. The owners are happy to point guests to less-visited tea plantations and spice gardens nearby, as well as Kandy’s sights. The small swimming pool, flanked by a saffron-walled dining terrace, is useful for expelling the calories gained from indulging in the excellent local food.
Doubles from £68 B&B,

Hostel with surfing and sushi, Weligama

Hangtime Hostel, Sri Lanka

Weligama, a deep sandy bay on the south coast, is Sri Lanka’s best beginners’ surf destination. Hangtime Hostel, with nautical-themed female and mixed dorms in a three-storey building opposite the beach, doesn’t affiliate with any surf school, so guests can choose their own from those lining the sand. All the dorms have balconies with rainbow-hued chair hammocks for surveying the surf, and there are a few private doubles on the ground floor, with beds crafted from old fishing boats. The rooftop cafe has awesome bay views, serves sushi and burgers and gets lively during weekly beer pong sessions and open mic nights.
Dorm beds from £6.50, doubles from £16 room-only,

Rustic lodge near Colombo airport

Diklande Estate Bungalow near Negombo, Sri Lanka

Diklande Estate Bungalow is one of six eco-conscious properties run by Back of Beyond, which specialises in simple lodges in alternative locales. Diklande is their smartest offering to date, with three en suite rooms opening on to a central living-dining area, and a swimming pool set in a jungle grove. It’s on a 50-acre, 200-year-old coconut estate in Negombo’s rural hinterland, which guests can explore; if they’re lucky, they might get to watch estate workers plucking coconuts with sticks and hooks during harvest time. A 30-minute drive from Colombo airport, Diklande is a great place to wind down before flying home.
Doubles from £79 B&B,

Modern comfort, Jaffna

Bedroom at Jetwing Jaffna

The 55-room, seven-storey Jetwing Jaffna hotel, which opened last April, will appeal to those seeking western-style facilities in Sri Lanka’s northernmost, Tamil-dominated peninsula. Bedrooms are identical, modern and well-appointed , and the decadently designed restaurant serves Jaffna cuisine. Those wanting more authentic fare will find it easily in the town’s local restaurants – though unlike the hotel, many are dry, owing to the town’s Hindu cultural sensitivities. The peninsula is big, so it is worth staying a few days to tour it; the spectacularly atmospheric Hindu Nallur Kandaswamy temple on the edge of the city, and Nainativu Island’s Nagadeepa (Buddhist) temple are among the highlights.
Doubles from £81 B&B,

Emma Boyle

The GuardianTramp

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