TikaWeeks #20/2023: Sri Lanka update
Posted by John on 19th May 2023
Sri Lanka is definitely top of the wish list for travellers with bookings for this and next year returning to pre-COVID levels. This is fantastic news for the island and its people who rely heavily on tourism for their livelihoods and wellbeing. However, many hotels are realising that next year may be a bonanza for them and room rates are beginning to return to 2019 prices in 2024. This means that 2023 may be the end of the discounted period post-COVID so you had better hurry to take advantage of this year’s bargains!
Although many hotels are increasing prices for next year back to the room rates pre-COVID – some doubling prices, incredibly! – we like the accommodation that is taking the longer term view and ensuring that pricing is fair and reasonable for guests as well as its local staff. Such accommodation is either keeping prices similar to this year or only raising the price a little, mostly in line with the increased cost of living on the island. These hotels and guesthouses will get our support preferentially ahead of hotels that appear to be exploiting the situation. Here are some of our favourites:
- 98 Acres Resort & Spa, Ella
- AMBA Estate, Ella
- Borderlands Ecolodge, Kitulgala
- Buckingham Place, Tangalle
- Club Villa, Bentota
- Fort Bliss, Galle
- Galkadawala Forest Lodge, Habarana
- Gal Oya Lodge, Gal Oya
- Hanthana House, Kandy
- Horathapola Estate, Kandanagedera
- Hotel Sigiriya, Sigiriya
- Lake Lodge Boutique Hotel, Dambulla
- Roo Mansala, Sigiriya
- The Merchant Galle Fort, Galle
- The Other Corner, Habarana
- Theva Residency, Kandy
- Villa Hundira, Negombo
- Wilpattu Safari Camp, Wilpattu
The Pekoe Trail – Stage 7: Kotagala to Norwood
Continuing on a quieter section of the trail, this 16.3-km stage, which heads south close to Hatton and Dickoya before arriving at Norwood, is another moderately challenging route, taking around 4 hours 30 minutes from start to finish.
Funnily enough, the stage starts where the last one finished, in Kotagala! From the brightly painted Hindu kovil the trail veers off to the left and follows a straight road up and around the outskirts of the town and into the Drayton Estate passing the old tea factory. After 2.3 km where you arrive at Chrysler’s Farm tea factory, the trail goes over a small bridge and turns left onto a wide, flat road for a kilometre. Cross the train line and begin the ascent of today’s third and final hill, which will feel a little more remote than other parts of today's route. At the top of the hill (after 4.7 km), Hatton comes into view below.
Cross the train line again after 5.9 km before turning left at the tea shed and across a small creek into the tea plantation. At 6.3 km, the trail reaches Singamalai Lake, the source of drinking water for Hatton and the surrounding villages. It also makes for a great picnic spot! The next 5 km are a series of pathways, through rolling hills of green tea culminating in your first sight of Castlereagh Reservoir in the Bogawantalawa Valley, home to some of the best quality tea in Sri Lanka.
Passing a football ground after 7.8 km - football is quite popular in the tea country unlike most of rural Sri Lanka where cricket reigns supreme - continue over the ridge (at 9 km) with Battalgalla Tea Factory and the large red roof of the Dickoya & Maskeliya Cricket Club, better known as The Darrawella Club, appearing ahead. At the 9.4-km point, the trail joins the Agarapatana - Dickoya road for approximately 400 metres before turning left just as you reach the planters' club, which was one of the finest of its day.
A few hundred metres further along the trail, cross the river Dick Oya before climbing to a small hamlet on the left then take a dog leg up towards the valley on the other side. The next few kilometres feel higher than other sections of today's stage as you hike along the ridges between steep valleys. You will start to see Christian churches appearing in the mostly Tamil communities in this region of the country, which reflects the great number of Tamils who converted to Christianity from Hinduism during colonial times.
Continuing along the trail, passing numerous brightly coloured 'line rooms' (tea workers’ terraced housing), spectacular Castlereagh Reservoir comes into full view after 12.1 km. Descending to the valley floor, slowly meandering down through the ubiquitous tea bushes along well-defined estate paths, the trail reaches Norwood, another bustling 'up country' town. The bridge at 15.7 km marks the beginning of Norwood and the stage ends at the centre of town.
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