Interviews

Heaven in the Hills

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By Chandrika Gadiewasam

Long idyllic walks through beautiful tea country; in-room spa treatments to pamper you; lazy evenings in front of a log fire and fine dinning beneath tropical stars- prepare for a truly indulgent relaxation in the hills when you stay at Ceylon Tea Trails in Hatton, Sri Lanka.

Ceylon Tea Trails is the world’s first tea bungalow resort connected by hiking trails. Situated in the heart of Sri Lanka’s stunning tea country, it borders on the Central Highlands, a World Heritage site. The award winning boutique resort comprises of four colonial tea planter bungalows, built between 1890 and 1939, each unique in its own way, offering butler service, gourmet cuisine and authentic period furnishings.

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Take your pick from Summerville with its air of a country cottage, lakeside Castlereagh with an eclectic style of its own, the high colonial Tientsin and the more modern Norwood, abounding with 60’s character…or you can savour them in turns. Summerville and Castlereagh are situated opposite to each other on the shores of the Castlereagh lake. Norwood is at the other end of the valley about 15 minutes away by car and Tientsin is about 30 minutes away in the next valley. The four bungalows offer the upscale traveller both traditional and modern comforts in a non-hotel atmosphere.

Rooms are available in three categories: Master Suites, Garden Suites and Luxury Rooms. Tradition is combined with modern amenities ranging from fireplaces to Victorian bathtubs to WIFI. Rooms look out to landscaped English gardens; many have their own private terraces. Each bungalow has a manager, chef, butler and support staff to welcome guests as at a planter’s home. Set among pristine nature and solitude at an altitude of 4000ft, the privacy and peace of these four luxuriously appointed Tea Trails bungalows is perfect for newlyweds planning a honeymoon in beautiful Sri Lanka.

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Trekking along the Tea Trails takes you through the heart of the magic Ceylon tea country. Scenic walking trails link the properties, which are from 5 to 15 km apart. A casual walk of about four miles takes you from one bungalow to the other. You can take a tougher trail, marked ‘Intermediate’ or ‘Adventurous’. Guides are available to accompany you and highlight points of interest.  Nature lovers can view a wide range of nature’s splendours from birds to waterfalls, flora and fauna. With a slow-paced itinerary which you completely control, Ceylon Tea Trails provides the ultimate in luxurious pampering for any one looking for a wonderful getaway from a busy life. The pristine surroundings, romantic candle lit dinners and cosy private ambiance are ideal for honeymooners.

Laze in English gardens filled with roses, dew filled agapanthus and spring crocus. Have Tea on the lawn with Dundee cake, scones, strawberries and cream or lunch alfresco by the pool, amidst a 180 degree view of the serene lake and mountain backdrop, snuggle in the summerhouse and watch the forest wagtail flit from tree to tree.  Then luxuriate with spa treatment by expert therapists. For the sporty there is also tennis, swimming and croquet in the quiet afternoons.

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In 2006, the year it opened, Ceylon Tea Trails was selected for Condé Nast Traveller’s Hot List of new hotels. In April 2011 it was listed among ‘The 15 Best Places to See Right Now’. Tea Trails has garnered praise from guests, media and Tour Operators as the best boutique resort in Sri Lanka. It won the coveted Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice three years running from 2009-11, and in 2010 received 3 awards – Top 10 All Inclusive Resorts in the World, Top 10 Best Service in Asia, Top 10 Luxury Hotels in Asia. (Unlike other hotel awards programmes, the ‘Choice Awards’ are based on an analysis of real, unbiased reviews and opinions by paying guests.) A typical rave review of Tea Trails at tripadvisor.com says, ‘If you stay in one place when in Sri Lanka, make sure this is it!’

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In November 2010 Ceylon Tea Trails was invited to join the pestigious Relais & Chateaux association, as the first and only R&C member in Sri Lanka. Relais & Châteaux is an exclusive collection of 500 of the finest hotels and gourmet restaurants in 60 countries. Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its unique ‘art de vivre’ across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character.

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One of the unique aspects of Relais & Chateaux is its evaluation scheme along the 5Cs, namely caractère, courtoisie, calme, charme and cuisine. All of these qualities must be harmoniously woven together in order to create the magical experiences that Relais & Chateaux properties are renowned for. Ceylon Tea Trails exceeds Relais & Chateaux’s expectations in these criteria and is perfect  addition to the group’s collection of boutique hotels.

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Rates at Tea Trails offer good value as they are fully inclusive of three gourmet meals daily, soft drinks, juices, quality wines with lunch and dinner, international spirits and beers, tea/coffee, afternoon cream tea, laundry service and phone calls within Sri Lanka. In keeping with the cozy private ambiance there are no bills to sign and everything is included, without surprises.

The chef prepared gourmet meals are beautifully presented, based on home grown fresh produce from the bungalow’s garden, and range from western fare to traditional Sri Lankan classics, and tea inspired dishes such as ‘Earl Grey infused cured Atlantic salmon’.

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If you decide on an expedition along the scenic, marked trails, staff would be more than happy to pack a picnic basket for a private little picnic amidst nature. If you are in the mood for more adventure, white-water-rafting is available at Kitulgala or you can chose a day of golfing in Nuwara Eliya. The Tea Experience tour with the tea planter in residence is available on request. Here you can learn all about the wonders of Camellia Sinensis (the botanical name for tea).Tea Trails is a base camp of choice for Adams Peak expeditions, elephant safaris in Udawalawe, excursions to Horton Plains and day trips to Kandy to visit the famed Temple of the Tooth. Helicoptar charter from Colombo is available while a 20-minute seaplane service from Colombo is also due to commence soon, landing on Castlereagh Lake.

For more information visit www.teatrails.com  or email [email protected] and find them on Facebook.

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