We travel for a wide variety of reasons. Some to explore a new landscape or city with a rich history, others for an occasion or to visit friends and family. Then there’s the other type of travel. One who desires tranquility where we can just rest and cast off the stress and strife of our lives. Sri Lanka is such a place, a distant and exotic land of lush jungles, friendly people and a place of peace. For those looking for that deeper level of calm, beyond a simple massage and pina colada under a beach umbrella, you’ll find it in the mountains of central Sri Lanka. The sanctuary that you are seeking is the Santani Wellness Resort & Spa.
Sri Lanka is a lush and verdant island. It is a simple place with kind and gentile people who mainly get around on scooters and tuk-tuks. It’s a lot like Bali without the polish with heavy doses of India which is just a short hop away.
The Santani Wellness Resort & Spa is located just north of one of Sri Lanka’s larger cities, Kandy, in the central part of the country. The location is amongst the Knuckles Mountain range which goes from one peak to the next, dotted with small villages, vast tea plantations, thick wooded jungles and valleys crossed by rushing rivers. Guests will instantly feel the peaceful energy of the resort. It begins with the greeting of the staff who welcomes guest with a softer voice, a less manic way of moving, and genuine and unforced smile.
The resort is set on 48 acres on the side of a mountain which cascades down to a babbling Hulu River below. Don’t expect manicured lawns and perfectly kept garden. Most of the grounds have been left fallow to allow for nature and time determine its ascetic.
Spread out along the mountain range are the sixteen stand-alone, single-bedroom chalets. Each is positioned far apart to provide privacy. Indoors, three of the interior walls are solid monotone gray surfaces except for a glass space around the ceiling to let in the day’s natural light. The design is created this way to close off one’s focus on what is not important. The exposure to the outdoors, without distraction, is the wall of glass and sliding doors on the fourth side and the decadent endless views of the unspoiled wilderness of the surrounding mountain ranges. The doors, when open, allow the outdoors in with fresh air, sounds of nature with birds calling, cicadas chirping, and perhaps the far-off sound of shaman chanting in a neighboring village. This indoor-outdoor experience is enhanced by the long terrace which demands its guests to take time to just sit and be still while taking in the views during a morning tea. In the evening the terrace calls for a glass of wine while as the colors of the sky change from blue to a magenta as day turns to night.
The spa at Santani is a sanctuary. It is where bodies in need of healing go for a range of treatments from pampering to working on more long-term wellness and health issues. The 5000-year-old medical science of Ayurveda is at the core of the experiences and includes a comprehensive range of treatments as well as dietary plans through the restaurant.
The Spa facilities follow the minimalist architecture of the resort with treatment rooms with everything you need and, more importantly, nothing that you don’t. In fact, each of the rooms opens onto the views of the emerald paddy fields with an open wall letting in fresh air and the chirping sound of birds and cicadas. There is no need for spa music here; the sounds of outdoors lull you into the deepest relaxation while the therapist works her magic. There are wet and dry saunas which the therapist suggests after the treatment to further sweat out the body’s toxins. The spa treatment is made complete with a quick shower and a pop into the open-air thermal salt soaking pool.
Many of the guests are European or American solo travelers who come for two weeks and even more to really get to the core of their health issues. The Spa’s Ayurveda doctor sits with each guest to discuss health issues and goals and then prescribe a holistic treatment regiment of diet, exercises, spa treatments and rest. Ayurveda also uses a pharmacy of local herbs and spices boiled, cooked and stirred into an endless array of potions, tonics and elixirs as part of the healing plan.
There’s plenty to do around the property from the countless natural adventure that abounds to exploring the nearby bustling and pretty city of Kandy. On the property, there are two naturalists on staff that take lovers of the outdoors on nature walks pointing out faun and fauna along the way. The two-hour trek weaves through the beguiling scenery and culminates at the arrival at a rickety suspension bridge traversing high above a rushing river and rapids below. It’s truly a wonderful way to take in the unspoiled natural beauty of the area while getting in a good dose of exercise.