Glamping in Sri Lanka at Jungle Beach Camp

The Beauty of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is all about nature – from the miles and miles of sandy beaches to the lush tea fields to the mesmerizing mountainscapes.  And there’s no better way to experience the outdoors here than to enjoy a fantastic glamping experience right on the beach.

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Lisa Lubin

Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Touching Tibet: Songstam, Meili

As close as you can get to Tibet without a separate visa, Meili snow mountains feels like a piece of the heavens. Though we traveled three days deep into Deqin to get here, Meili’s beauty is so accessible it felt too good to be true. Mountains like this usually don’t come without porters and oxygen tanks and they definitely don’t come with luxury hotels at their base… unless they are Songtsam Meili. Sitting at 12,000 feet in a rural Tibetan village, the hotel (that dot in the valley above) faces the virgin Meili mountain range, slashing through the sky at heights as high as 22,110 feet. Our time at Songtsam Meili let us into the remote world of Tibetan life and snow-capped beauty that no other hotel could.

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The roads seemed to twist into knots all the way from great Buddhist monastery town of Benzilan to the five-family village of Gujiunong. Curving around towering mountains and waiting to see what beauty was around the bend added to the excitement.

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On the small road leading up to the hotel, we passed the neighboring Tibetan farmhouses, trimmed in a rainbow of color. With huge racks of drying wheat and yaks milling about the yard, each home looked storybook charming.

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Built with local stones and inspiration from the Tibetan dwellings, the hotel blended beautifully into the surroundings. From the cliff-side location, huge patios, and bounty of windows, the Songtsam Meili was built to let the brilliance of the mountains shrine through.

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Not wanting to waste a moment of daylight, we dropped off our bags and we quickly went back out to explore the neighborhood. We didn’t have to walk far before a farmer and father of one of the Meili staff invited us over. He was milking his dzo, a cattle-yak hybrid, and before you know it Mike was too.

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After tending to the animals, we were invited inside for a pot of yak butter tea and traditional flatbread. Unlike any house we’d ever been in, the ground floor was actually the barn for the animals and the second a huge open kitchen and simple living space. Watching the lady of the house cook in her wood-powered kitchen, lined with copper pots and hand-thrown ceramics, felt like a window into another world.

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We made it back to our luxurious room just before sunset and it took our breath away. The sky was getting dark but the snowy peaks stood brightly on the horizon. With two walls of windows, the peaks felt like they were inside with us.

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The dining room was aglow with candles and the fire burners of Tibetan hot pot. These bronze cauldrons bring a delicious broth to a boil then couples cook their own vegetables and meat at the table. Not only was it scrumptious to eat, it was such fun to make!

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None of the mountains in the Meili range have ever been summited do to their sheer verticality and holy status…so we opted to hike the foothills. Views to the snowy mountains were bound to be incredible but the colors and textures of the trail impressed us just as much. Traces of landslides from the rocky peaks cut through the red and yellow shrubs of fall keeping us in awe and on our toes.

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In Tibetan Buddhism it seems that the hardest-to-reach cliffs with the most jaw-dropping views are the best places for worship. At the top of the one of our steepest climbs we stumbled upon this stupa in a tangled mess of prayer flags whipping in the breeze from the snowy pass.

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We made it to the top for lunch at this old farmers cabin and soaked up the pure peace of this place.

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The next morning we were exhausted from our 25-kilometer hike and decided to take in the mountain from the comforts of our window seat. (We’ve hiked for hours to get to great views during our trip but for this one we just had to roll out of bed.)

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Before driving back to Shangri-la, we motivated to leave the glorious Songtsam Meili to check out the nearby (and only) town of Dechin. You know you’re getting close when white stupas line the road over the valley.

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Between the Tibetan culture and the 20,000 foot mountains, Songtsam Meili was quite possibly our favorite hotel during our five-weeks in China. It’s as far-flung as it gets but for a setting this romantic, it’s worth the winding road to get there.

Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Anne & Mike Howard

Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Cruising on Yathra and exploring Kurulubedda : Jetwing’s Eco-Retreats

As I seek the horizon on Bentota River, a sense of unperturbed relaxation takes over me. I hear and see no one; the falling rain and a sparse flutter of leaves are my only companions.

I arrived on a rainy afternoon from Galle, to a silent Dedduwa boat house, Yathra by Jetwing. No one was expecting me, although they should have. It was in fact, best. I took to myself to intrude; I walked down the graveled path, out onto a murky garden of sorts and there she was, pastoral and gracious, the Yathra by Jetwing, anchored by the riverbank.

Jetwing Yathra Boat

I came a long way to see the first of its kind houseboat in Sri Lanka. Inspired by the Kerala waters (more specifically, the Indian Kettuvallan), the island’s inaugural floating hotel appeared to be as peaceful as I had expected it to be.

Simply crafted from bamboo, with wooden, thatched roof, the houseboat is at the same time, a green, rustic vision of elegance, thanks to the craftsmanship of environmental architect Sunela Jayewardene.

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Featuring two air-conditioned bedrooms complete with their own private balconies and enclosed bathrooms, the boat includes most amenities you may need or find in an otherwise high-end hotel (slippers, robes, hair drier, iron, toiletries, etc). Ok, no Jacuzzi! But who needs a Jacuzzi when you’re leisurely cruising the river?

A soft, nautical interior design can be noticed in the bedrooms as well as the entrance parlor that links the rooms: vintage chests, navy blues and seashell motifs.

I walk up and down the teak-wood floors and notice the deck aft, used for dining. Guests can enjoy their meals here, in the open towards the lake, as service is provided via the galley adjoining the after deck.

There is also a sun deck above the cabins for guests to enjoy.

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Under the direction of Captain Koralage, retired from the Sri Lankan Navy after 22 years, the cruise is set to traverse the calm Bentota River starting from Yathra by Jetwing, all the way to Awittewa, a small village some 11 miles away.

Similarly, an escape to Jetwing Kurulubedda is an eco retreat in itself. Concealed amidst the foliage of a wild environment, near the village of Mahamodera on the Southern Coast, you’ll surely feel in your very own secret forest.

Jetwing Kurulubedda Private Dwelling

Rustic in appearance, each of the two villas at Jetwing Kurulubedda has been aesthetically built and adorned so as to perfectly blend in with the surrounding paddy fields. The facilities however, are completely modern, to fittingly accommodate its guests.

lounge chairs Jetwing

A stay at Jetwing Kurulubedda is clearly best suited for couples that wish for absolute tranquility. Each of the two dwellings cloistered into the woods opens to a large terrace and furthermore onto a canopy of trees. There is also a private plunge pool at the base of each one.

And that’s not the best part. Whether you want to dine on your own terrace, or further down into the coppice, the chef will be there at your disposal: with the dinner of your request, where and when you desire.

Jetwing Kurulubedda Dawn

Given the success of the property and authenticity of the experience, Jetwing Kurulubedda has plans to expand to four dwellings total, as well as another pool.

Although I didn’t stay the night, I thoroughly enjoyed the silence, disturbed only by the sound of crickets and birds.

I visited the Yathra by Jetwing houseboat in early May, ahead of its inauguration. This review is based on my brief visit on property. Guests can now book various packages, to include roam and board, as well as cruises. For rates and availability, please visit their listing pages, here on Glamping.com.

Image Credits: Jetwing Kurulubedda, Yathra by Jetwing, Monica Suma

Monica Suma

Monica Suma is a Romanian-American freelance travel writer and blogger, always on the hunt for art, good food and all things Cuba. Through storytelling and an insatiable pursuit for whimsy, she contributes to a variety of publications such as Lonely Planet, BBC Travel, Business Traveller and more. Follow her adventures live on Instagram and Twitter.