Hotel Review: Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sri Lanka
Leading travel writer Kasper Chambers travels to Sri Lanka to stay at the eco-hotel Jetwing Vil Uyana.
One thing was clear from the outset: Vil Uyana is no ordinary luxury hotel. Nestled in the foothills of Sri Lanka’s central province, it’s located just a few kilometres from the dramatic rocky outcrop of Sigirya, and is an easy drive to the famous ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Once inside the leafy confines, however, time stands still and the chaos of the winding four-hour journey from Colombo seems a lifetime away.
Created from scratch as a grand vision by the Sri Lankan Cooray family, Vil Uyana combines five star luxury with an ambitious ecological conservation project, preserving Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife in an age when development and mass-tourism is encroaching on much of the island’s unique habitat. Looking around, it’s hard to believe that almost all the trees you see throughout the luscious 28-acre complex were planted within the past ten years. As the land was transformed from barren farmland into a luscious tropical oasis, complete with a huge man-made lake, the wildlife naturally crept in. Today guests share the hotel with monitor lizards, peacocks, lynx-like fishing cats, friendly monkeys and the occasional roaming elephant.
The main lodge is sympathetically designed, and has the appearance of floating upon the lake below. A gentle breeze blows through the open veranda, and there’s an open-air ‘library’ with meditative spots where you could easily while away an afternoon engrossed in a good book, or simply watching the jungle around you. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the resident crocodile basking on the shore of the lake!
Arriving at the entrance, guests are escorted by chauffeured electric buggies to their personal chalets, dotted around the complex for the ultimate privacy. The rooms – more accurately described as ultra-chic modern villas – are connected by raised wooden walkways, tucked away discreetly behind bamboo leaves and high grass. These are little architectural gems in their own right, giving the feeling of seclusion in your little corner of jungle. To our delight, our particular villa for the night even has a private swimming pool integrated into the entrance hall. The garden flows into the ground floor of the villa, with a little walled atrium containing a shallow pond teeming with fish and waterlillies, and a luxurious outdoor bath big enough for two. Minimalist and geometrically pleasing, the sleek lines and brushed concrete finish complement the surroundings fantastically, blurring the boundary between indoors and out. Heading upstairs, the spacious bedroom is beautifully rustic, yet well equipped with Bose speakers and espresso machine. Flowing white curtains adorning the bed serve as an elegant solution to the necessary mosquito net in case of intruding jungle insects.
At night, the entire complex is transformed as hidden lanterns along the walkways give a warm glow as you walk to dinner. Before settling down to enjoy the exquisite cooking, though, it’s highly recommended that you join the resort’s in-house naturalist, Chaminda, on a twilight wildlife excursion through the grounds: Vil Ulyana is one of the few places you can see the rare and famously shy slender loris in the wild. Chaminda points out its glowing eyes, red from the torchlight, as it swings about slowly gathering food in the branches overhead.
The hotel’s main restaurant is reminiscent of a tribal longhouse, with Sri Lankan-style frescoes and large open-air views onto the illuminated lake below. Food is a mixture of Sri Lankan specialities and western fare, and an impressive wine cellar buried beneath the restaurant provides a wide variety of international bottles. For a truly unique blowout meal, ‘signature dining’ options can be booked in advance, and include a romantic dinner for two in a tree house high above the canopy, and a seven-course candlelit dinner in the resort’s spa. Room service can be delivered to your poolside via golf buggy for those on total relaxation mode, and breakfast is tailored to all manner of tastes with a magnificent spread of fruit, freshly made waffles, pancakes and omelettes, as well as a daily Sri Lankan special.
The beauty of Vil Uyana is that guests can choose to interact with all the usual functions of a luxury hotel, or to be entirely secluded and immersed in nature, with only the occasional disturbance from a wandering gecko. It’s testament to the immense craftsmanship that even with the allure of the stunning ancient sites nearby, you could happily spend all day without stepping foot outside the resort. The illusion is of an effortlessly chic hotel within the confines of a real jungle, but look closer and you’ll see it’s the extraordinary level of care and precision that makes this a modern-day garden of paradise.
Address: Sigiriya, 21120, Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 662 286 000