There’s a kind of luxury that is all things big, bold and bling, with diamond encrusted interiors and marble dripping from every highly polished surface. The Sri Lankan wellness resort, Santani, is the exact opposite.
This five-star wellness resort is a four-hour drive from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, and it feels a world apart. It’s tucked at the top of a winding road on a former tea estate, with jungle and rolling hills spanning in every direction.
The reception is an open promenade with a single bench. Discrete staff step out to guide you by tuk-tuk to your room. Here there is no glitter and certainly no gold. The vibe, even from the moment of arrival, is one of luxury through serenity.
The resort’s 20 rooms are minimalist to highlight the surrounding misty paddy fields and hills – deep in the jungles of Sri Lanka. Each has a floor-to-ceiling window on one side with a balcony and chairs. A four-poster bed, rain shower and tea bar complete the arrangement. There’s no TV. If you want wi-fi, you’ll need to ask for an in-room router. Technology is discouraged in public — and if you’re caught using your laptop in the communal areas, you’ll be asked to put it away.
All this means Santani positively drips serenity. You can fill your days with guided walks around the surrounding hills or lounging at the pool. An Ayurvedic spa offers massages, facials and more. When not relaxing with a turmeric cinnamon face scrub or a hot-compress massage, you have access to the spa’s hydrotherapy facilities. These include a cedar wood sauna with a glass wall facing the hills and rivers, and a thermal salt pool with a side open to the elements — ideal for Santani’s many rainy days.
For fitness, there’s a yoga shala with twice-daily free yoga classes. You can book additional sessions as required. Bespoke wellness packages are also available, focusing on everything from sleep to addictions to detox.
Food is healthy but not restrictive. Meals start with a standard set menu of multiple courses, but are personalized daily, and the presentation is exquisite. Breakfast might be a fresh tropical fruit platter served with traditional Sri Lankan egg hoppers or boiled eggs and smoked salmon; lunch, a three-course meal of healthy soup, a light fish with vegetables, and a chia-pudding dessert; and for dinner, a four-course meal with papaya salad starter, cauliflower soup, grilled vegetable kabobs and a fruit platter dessert. There’s plenty of detox tea and fresh juices to wash it all down with, and food allergies are handled effortlessly.
There’s also an eco-focus to this wellness resort. The rooms have natural ventilation, saving 70 percent of the energy used. There’s a huge focus on recycling, and glass, rather than plastic, is everywhere. A lot of the fruit, veg, coffee, tea and herbs used are grown on the premises. The spa is underground, allowing for natural cooling, and almost 80 percent of the wood used for the structure and furniture is recycled.
Sri Lanka is a four-hour flight from Dubai, and Santini is near Kandy, which means a four to five hour drive after landing in Colombo. Pack rain coats (especially during the rainy seasons, September to December and April to May), yoga kit and plenty of books. There is a variety of packages; rooms cost from about Dh1,300 per night. To book, email [email protected]
Featured photo: Santani
Danae Mercer is a freelance health and travel journalist. In addition to working as editor-in-chief of Women's Health Middle East and Men's Health Middle East, Danae has written for The Sunday Times, CNN Travel, Dubai Tourism, The Guardian, Afar, Bloomberg and many more. She's based in Dubai and is a trainer at Crank. instagram.com/danaemercer