Days at Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge start as they mean to go on; slow and warm and surrounded by beauty.
The road to Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge isn’t a smooth one – two bumpy hours up slow mountain roads by tuk-tuk from Kandy does not equate to relaxation. But as soon as you turn off the main road and into Madulkelle’s tea plantation, a sense of calm envelops the soul.
On arrival to the Eco Lodge’s main house, we were ushered outside to the terrace to drink perfectly brewed tea picked from the acres of leaves that surround the buildings. Below us couples lounged on the manicured grass leading to the mirrored infinity pool. Beyond, the mountain fell away and turned from tea plantation, to jungle to mountains again.
After perfect snacks of macaroons and pistachio marshmallow we wandered to our room for the next two nights. A safari tent, complete with queen sized bed, a waterfall shower, organic toiletries, even more tea and a veranda propping up a lime tree. Our view looked out onto the Knuckles Mountain Range, and were assured by other guests that sunrise here is out of this world and that a 5.30am alarm was the best way to start the Madulkelle day. There is no wifi in any of the 18 lodges, meaning that resetting your soul and reconnecting with your partner is the most important thing to do.
We wandered slowly, up past the spa, with luminous lily pads, to the infinity pool for an afternoon of not doing much at all. We lazed, we swam, we drank arrack, we snoozed and sipped on gin cocktails until the full moon rose over the Knuckles as the sky deepened to a dark shade of red.
Dinner at Madulkelle is served by a roaring fire in the main house – it gets cold in Sri Lanka at altitude – and a selection of local curries, western food and veggie goodies are available to choose from, as well as decadent desserts and rich wine.
We went to sleep in our huge, canopied bed with our tent doors pinned back and set an alarm for 5.30am. The mountain air sent us into deep sleep and we woke to the sound of the hills waking up. We drifted in and out of slumber and snoozed as the sun warmed the duvet as it rose over the hills.
After a breakfast of fruit and scrambled eggs in the morning sun, we took to Madulkelle’s kitchen for a cooking demonstration by the chef. We learned about spices, Sri Lanka curry powders (which we later stocked up on to take that Sri Lankan taste home with us) and coconuts and then gorged on curry over lunch.
Our final evening was one spent wandering the tea plantation to Mini World’s End with a guide and two other guests. We learned about all the different kinds of tea, how long they are dried for and about the lives of the tea pickers. We wandered, smelt leaves and chatted as we circled higher into the mountains before visiting a temple as it sang to the tea community.
By sunset we were back sipping tea next to that wonderful fire and snacking on wonderful food. We slinked back to our tent and dozed until the sun rose and woke us with its glorious heat once more. We were sad to leave Madulkelle, but it was the perfect start to our Sri Lanka trip – adventures in hiking and long days on buses were waiting for us, and into a tuk-tuk, down the windy roads to Kandy we went.
How to get there
We got a train from Colombo to Kandy and hopped in a tuk-tuk, which cost us 2,500 LKR. You can buy 2nd class train tickets on the day from Colombo train station if advanced ones are not available. A pick up from Kandy can be arranged with Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge for a fee.
The Eco Lodge is $279 (£223 at time of writing), per room, per night, full board. Cooking classes, spa treatments, excursions, guided walks and overnight camps all come at an extra cost and are available on request.