Tri Lanka: A tranquil retreat in South Sri Lanka
After hours and hours of travel and prep and driving hundreds of kilometres, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t praying for relief for my weary legs by the time we drove into Galle on the southern tip of Sri Lanka.
So when I finally arrived at Tri Lanka, about 40 minutes from Galle, it felt like a well-deserved reward.
Located on Lake Koggala, Tri Lanka is a property that’s all about indulgence, both the venue and its surroundings. You’ll really, truly understand this when you set foot onto the property and experience the 360 degrees of luxury. The team here hasn’t cut any corners, not even by a millimetre. Fluffy towels, extraordinary views, dreamy amenities that you’ll no doubt want to pop into your carry-on bag on the way home—it all comes together to create a pure, tranquil, luxurious retreat.
I had heard rumblings about this new place called Tri Lanka so when I was planning out my Sri Lanka trip, I immediately jumped online to take a peek and saw that it was exactly what I was looking for! (I mean, take a look at Lake Koggala and tell me, honestly, that you wouldn’t want to sleep surrounded by that beauty!)
Created by owner Robert Drummond and his wife Lara Baumann, together with Raefer Wallis, award-winning architect of A00 Architects, and Tharindu De Silva, a Sri Lankan architect also part of the A00 team, Tri is a bubble of passion and creativity. Unlike a number of new properties that smash, slash, and cut their way through existing beauty for the sake of vanity, Tri embraces what is already there and only seeks to complement it.
Tri Lanka has worked exquisitely and eloquently to respect and maintain the land by working with what already exists instead of trying to mould it around a particular vision. It’s new, beautiful, and cutting edge but also manages to balance hip trendiness with a zen mindfulness.
Rob is cool, calm, and collected with a mixed background of yoga, photography, and banking and got his first taste of property development in Sri Lanka in 2001 when he bought a plot in Galle. Then in 2003, he had the chance to purchase land from a local farmer which, come 2015, became Tri Lanka. It wasn’t a slapdash effort; this hotel was carefully crafted from Rob’s vision for a specific design.
Being into yoga himself, coupled with Lara’s passion for it, he wanted the property to emphasise the surroundings and revolve around health and wellness but without making it a strict yoga retreat. Do yoga, don’t do yoga, it’s your choice. The main thing is making sure you enjoy yourself!
With all of that being said, though, we have to highlight Lara for a minute. Saying that she’s passionate about yoga probably downplays who she is and what she’s done. Lara developed Quantum Yoga, which is a dynamic form of yoga based around what is most suitable for you, which is determined by identifying your dosha. In Ayurveda, there are three doshas (mind-body-types) which are categorised at Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. It’s pretty interesting so if you have a chance to discover your dosha, it’ll likely enlighten you on how to approach health and wellness in the way that’s best for you!
So, knowing all of this, you can understand why Tri Lanka is the way it is!
Getting There & First Impressions
From Colombo Airport, you’re looking at about a 2.5 hour drive or 165 km, though if you like making an entrance, Cinnamon Air could bring you in on their sea plane. Considering how stunning the lake is from the ground, I can’t even being to imagine the beauty that would greet you from above. If you’re coming in from Galle, it’s a 40-minute drive.
Even my faithful driver and travel buddy Kalan (thanks AMW Group!) said, “Ma’am, this looks like a very nice property” as we pulled up to Tri. Though he may have also just been relieved that we arrived without getting lost, for once.
You’ll see a sign for Tri Lanka and drive up a rubbly road that leads into a carpark. What might throw you off after that is that the standard reception area isn’t what you think it would be. In fact, it’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, the Tri staff effortlessly carried my clearly overweight suitcase as I was ushered up the stairs where Oliver James, a charming Brit on the senior management team, was waiting to greet me.
I shook his hand and tried to give him all of my attention but my eyes kept drifting towards the incredible infinity pool and the too-pretty-to-be-real lake, unsure which to ogle first. Should I appreciate the palm trees perfectly positioned with the pool? Or the person in the pool, as those posing for one of those killer Instagram shots? Or maybe the pool with the lake in the background?
But then I realised there’d be plenty of time later on to explore and stare so I sat down with my complimentary juice and focused on Oliver.
Tri is built on 4 acres of land and has been designed so that all of the villas wrap around Lake Koggala, giving every guest unbridled access to jaw-dropping views. Actually, it’s based on the Golden Ratio (you know, that spiral pattern that exists in nature) with the cinnamon-wood covered Water Tower as the central point. Surrounding the tower are fragrant passionfruit trees (which bear fruit and yes, they are used) and all throughout the property, the scent of lemon grass wafts through the air.
It’s a stunning piece of paradise where it feels like you’re completely removed from the demands of the modern world.
Staff & Service
The staff here are fantastic, always ready with a smile and helping hand. Here’s a gigantic shout-out to Oliver for not only being a great host but also going out of his way to accommodate some (most likely annoying) needs like being my personal photographer. (The downsides of travelling solo!)
Also, a big thank you to Douglas for zipping me across to Cinnamon Island. He was a total gentleman and a true example of service with a smile!
Where You’ll Sleep
There are 11 suites and villas, ranging from the cosy Water Tower rooms (there are 3) to the generously sized Tri Villa with a private plunge pool.
Lucky Pra stayed in the Tri Villa, which was an absolute dream. At 140 sqm, it’s wonderfully spacious with two balconies (each specifically positioned to catch the sunrise and sunset), a sitting area, separate bedroom, and a bathroom with a deep tub and a stonking rain shower.
In keeping with the eco-chic, sustainability theme of Tri Lanka, the rooms have a warm and organic feel to them. Using all local materials, you’ll see tons of natural wood trimmings and furnishings, lovely lightweight cotton curtains with grassy prints, soft sheets (my bed spread had a fab peacock print), and the most minimal decor touches that really bring home the “less is more” philosophy.
I padded around my villa, feeling the cool tiled floor beneath my feet and silently taking in every element that has been thoughtfully integrated to create this peaceful haven. Wherever you are, whether you’re sitting on the sofa or lounging on the bed, you’re spoilt for choice with an idyllic view that seems too good to be true. There are also windows along the top of the walls, leaving you with no lack of sunshine and further blurring the line between indoors and out.
As I poked around, I found bottles of fresh water and a nut mix neatly displayed in the bedroom, perfect for a mid-afternoon snack. (Word of warning: if you do want to pop a few of these nuts into your mouth, make sure there isn’t a chilli mixed in there because it will just about blow your head off. I, unfortunately, speak from experience!) I also discovered a mobile phone which can be used to contact the staff at Tri Lanka and can be taken outside of the resort anywhere in Galle.
In the bathroom, I tested out a luscious cream in a burnt orange, cinnamon, and pepper fragrance (a signature of Tri) that I guarantee would bring back a flood of memories from Tri if you happened to use this at home. The thoughtful touches like the phone and their signature goodies are what really make this resort stand out from the rest.
Wandering out onto the lounge’s balcony (which has glass siding so as not to obstruct the views), I popped down a few steps to my private plunge pool, complete with a couple of loungers should you feel like sunbathing. And hey, if you feel like a nighttime dip…!
You won’t find TVs, music, or fridges in the rooms and you know what? You won’t even notice.
But on that note, they do have fast and reliable WiFi if you need it. I was here to enjoy a digital detox to an extent, but sometimes we just need to connect and flick through emails so it was such a relief to be able to do so. The pain of having to do some work was eased by the fact that I could sit out on a beautiful deck and sip on a margarita as I tapped out notes and email replies.
Where to Dine
Breakfast is served 7 to 10am and dinner from 7 to 9pm, with lunch time being more flexible.
The Executive Consultant Chef, Neil Wager, has put together a menu that has an array of dishes, along with alternating tasting menus and special curry nights. He’s also known for having worked his magic on the menus at other luxury eco-conscious resorts like Song Saa in Cambodia and Nihiwatu in Indonesia.
Whilst the tasting courses are said to be absolutely delicious, you can always order a la carte if you’re just in that kind of mood. For the two nights I was here, I decided to stay away from the curries (I had overdone it over the last 10 days of travel!) and instead, went straight for the simpler, but still tasty, dishes.
All of the food here is prepared from fresh, local ingredients, transforming into dishes with Sri Lankan flair. The cuisine is a direct reflection of Tri’s dedication to health and wellness and luxurious simplicity.
Breakfast was made super memorable thanks to the staff who set up a table for me out on the jetty. I sipped my fresh fruit smoothie and munched my way through perfectly poached eggs whilst watching the rippling water of the lake and taking in the early morning serenity. At one point, I even had the chance to see a Cinnamon Air sea plane gliding over the lake and landing with a purr. (Side note: I’m putting a sea plane ride on my checklist of things to do during my next trip to Sri Lanka!)
When you’re here, count on eating early—it’s an early to bed, early to rise kind of place, which makes complete sense once you’ve witnessed the spectacular sunrises here.
Where To Unwind
The infinity pool is one of the most awesome ones I’ve experienced. Not only are you afforded some of the prettiest views of Lake Koggala but it’s also just so damn photogenic, especially at sunrise. This pool doesn’t have any bad angles, it seems. (Peek onto Instagram and you’ll see evidence of just how many people have captured the blissful beauty of this pool.)
Of course, what would a wellness retreat be without a spa? I embraced a 60-minute relaxation massage with one of the guest therapists and left feeling like jelly (in a good way!). The spa itself is very simple—there are no frills or fancy accoutrements but is perfectly suited to the vibe of Tri. And really, you don’t need all of the fanciness when the treatments are this amazing!
You can also participate in yoga classes if you need a good stretch or meditation. I’m no yogi but I had to appreciate the combination of being able to do some asanas immersed in this gorgeous environment. That being said, it would have been nice to see a bit more variety for us stiff-as-a-board people who equate being able to do a headstand with being able to fly! (Really, just some good old Downward Dogs and Warrior Poses would be great!)
Nearby on the lake is Cinnamon Island, which is solely dedicated to the farming and production of the fragrant spice. It is an 8-acre estate owned by four brothers, which was handed down to them by their grandfather. I was met with the warmest welcome as all of the aspects of cinnamon farming were explained to me.
The cinnamon trees take three years to reach maturity and because there’s no mechanised way to produce the spice, everything is done by hand. It was amazing to see how it starts as a tree and ends up in boxes on the shelves at Waitrose! A few hours on this island and I learned more about cinnamon than I ever thought there was to know. This is the real deal and so worth experiencing if you’re in or around Galle.
Besides that, just get out onto the water if you can. The lake can be absolutely still at times and when you catch a reflection of the islands on its mirror-like surface, it’ll just renew that appreciation for the area’s natural beauty.
Rob, Oliver, and the rest of the team are on a roll. They are the type of people who will try something and if it’s not working, high five themselves for the attempt and then move on to finding a solution. For example, right now they’re working on the redesign of the restaurant so that it can eventually become a place that is open to non-guests who simply want a top-notch meal with stunning views.
Whilst chatting with Rob, he also mentioned an idea about possibly adding more rooms since he owns the plot of land next door to Tri Lanka. If this happens, not only could they expand their offerings of rooms with views but they could also have a traditional open Sri Lankan kitchen to add another dimension to the retreat.
What a way to finish my Sri Lanka journey! This was complete and utter bliss and I’m just so glad I made the decision to include this on my list of places to stay.
The only thing I might suggest is focusing on the evening vibe whilst building up the Tri brand. My first evening here, it was quiet without any music which resulted in some awkward whispering. But the second night was accompanied by some pretty awesome tracks that created a light but fab vibe which led to more conversations and people lingering just a bit longer. It seems like music is in the plans both for here and the new restaurant so thumbs up to that!
What it all comes down to, though, is this.
Tri Lanka is straight up sexy, sleek, unpretentious beauty. It’s particularly ideal for friends and couples who want to hibernate and chill for a few nights before moving on to exploring the rest of Sri Lanka.
Address: Koggala Lake, Galle, Sri Lanka