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Starting the 2024 in Style – Olcote in Ceylon

Christmas can be a favourite time of year to escape from the freezing cold of the UK and seek out some sunshine.  This year due to our grown-up children being otherwise engaged with other members of the family and my parents being spoiled by my brother and sister, we decided that it was the perfect time to enjoy the festive season further afield.

So the search began for some winter sun, ( I never need to be told twice to start searching for a jolly )  The main question was where should we go?.  I am no spring chicken, so it had to be a place that catered to adventure without too much physical strain . Whilst searching for our perfect break, I was surprised at how many exotic locations there were on offer.  We looked at all the closest sunshine destinations and were surprised at how expensive it was at Christmas.   So, we considered looking further afield.  Long flights had always put us off to be honest, but we decided that Sri Lanka was an opportunity that we shouldn’t miss. So we decided to bite the bullet and book the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. 

To be fair we had no idea initially what the island offered so we began to research in earnest.  The gorgeous Sinhalese island used to be called Ceylon, so I did have visions of swanning around palaces like Deborah Kerr in The King and I!.  Once I got over myself, I discovered that this previous colonial paradise had many influences from all over the world as well as being colonised by  the British.  Famous for its amazing Ceylon tea and its Civil War which finished in 2009.  The accommodation we found was a 8-bedroom,  former colonial house, now boutique hotel in the southwest of the island called Olcote in Ceylon.

Our  Qatar flight from Manchester to Columbo consisted of a flight to Doha (6.5 hours) and then from Doha to Columbo (4.5 hours).  The break in Doha was very welcome although it was a bit of a dash across the airport to the gate.  However, we did get to see the stunning airport, complete with its central jungle-themed central concourse. On arrival in Sri Lanka, the excitement was building.   Rishi the Events Manager picked us up from the airport. On reaching the hotel we were blown away by the beauty of the house and how astonishing it was…  a real pinch-me-moment!.   Everything was idyllic and we immediately felt at home. Also, as it was Christmas Rishi filled us in on what the itinerary was going to look like. The house is owned by Tess de Kretser.

Olcote is the perfect marriage of Sinhalese traditional culture and modern luxurious accommodation. Olcote means “Our Little Corner of the Earth”. With a full team of private staff, a gourmet Chef, European wines perfectly chilled and your every need catered for, expect the holiday of a lifetime.

Sri Lanka is the dream destination of honeymooners, families and solo travellers and is a great base for adventurers. The island of serendipity land packed full of adventures This gets visitors wide-eyed with wonder. Olcote in Ceylon offers the best of two worlds:  8 rooms with doors open out to the pools with views over the lush vegetation and the family of monkeys that play around the resort.

Sri Lankan heritage of hand-carved wood and the vibe is distinctly bohemian:  Black and white-tiled hallways under arches, a wide and open terrace overlooking the lush gardens, and walls decorated with hand-carved wooden mirrors. Olcote in Ceylon offers an intensely private experience away from the busy southern towns.  Suitable for couples and families under 12 years of age making its recessed mini library a great place to escape into a book.

Sri Lanka is known as the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, and travel experts say it is one of the easiest ways for families of all ages to experience South Asia for the first time. This tiny island is bursting at the seams with beautiful things to do and places to stay.

Tess opened Olcote for private guests in 2014,and is named after her home in Dublin. It stands for ‘Our little corner of the earth.’ Tess has adopted Ireland as her home, and many parts of the house reflect her Irish connections.

Olcote is the perfect marriage of Sinhalese traditional culture and modern luxurious accommodation.  The whole hotel has been renovated to a 5-star standard by Tess .  The attention to detail is superb.  We relaxed straight away.

We were Introduced to the team of private staff, Joseph gourmet Chef, Thillan the housekeeper, we could tell that we could expect the holiday of a lifetime.

Joseph put together a range of delights that allowed you to adventure through the Sri Lankan cuisine, he even did a cookery lesson with my husband, so we can enjoy the delight of a Sinhalese curry when we got back home

Breakfast, lunch and dinners are all relaxed, delightful affairs, taken in the airy outdoor dining room, surrounded by the beauty of Olcote.

Sri Lanka’s southern coast has always had magnetic energy, even when it was little more than a few fishing boats bobbing in the sea.  With the Capital of Columbo Just an hour away, Olcote was an ideal spot to spend the day exploring not only the amazing busy cities of Columbo and Galle but also the coastline on the way. Rishi will take you to the national memorial site and to the village that the 2004 Tsunami decimated.  You need to take a tissue or two with you as Sri Lankans lost 35,000 people to this devastating event. The  photos feature here are a  horrific reminder of what was left after the devastation .

Rishi took us on a day trip to the beautiful Galle, these trips were included in the price as is the private air-conditioned car.  On other trips we did pay for the petrol, for example, an amazing trip to Millennium Elephant Sanctuary, where we were able to walk with the elephants and wash them, and the Mahout told them to wash us! – and they did, quite a few times.   Rishi is great at pointing out all of the places that you would want to discover as a tourist and also he does it with such charm.  His extensive knowledge of the island is second to none.  He also knows all the best places to eat and drink and organised every stop with absolute precision.  We also went to a tea plantation and factory which explained the history of tea, why they grew tea and how they grade tea. You then get to sit down to sample a cuppa and buy some to take home.

Whilst on the lake boat  trip, we visited the mangroves and went to Cinnamon Island, where the local guide explained how cinnamon is striped and harvested, You can buy products as souvenirs for a small amount. We also visited the amazing Buddhist temple and Hindu temples that were dotted on small ‘islands and along the lakes shoreline.

On Christmas Eve we went to the most famous hotel in Columbo, the Galle Face Hotel. This beautiful colonial hotel has been visited by some of the most famous people on the planet, for example Presidents Nixon and Obama, Along with Movie stars like Rock Hudson and Marilyn Monroe and it also houses Rolls Royce which was gifted to the hotel by Prince Phillip.  We attended the Christmas Eve gala, which included a buffet meal and, Santa and also Sri Lankan Elvis.  The event was super, and it certainly made Christmas special and gave us the chance to dress up.

Galle has always drawn domestic tourists; most would arrive to spend a day swimming and walking along the beaches and old fort walls – a long, dusty, rock-lined road against which waves splattered and sprayed.

The culmination of a long civil war, in 2009, brought a new generation of tourists to the island, for the first time in nearly three decades. The southern and eastern coasts became popular with surfers and put villages such as Madapatha Bay on the map.

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