Madulkelle, Sri Lanka

Photo: Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge

Paris is still on your travel list. Barcelona, Berlin, and Nice are, too. Terrorist attacks haven’t stopped you from visiting some of your favorite European cities. So why are you so hesitant when it comes to Asia? Colombo isn’t even your Sri Lankan focus.

After overcoming European rule, political instability, and natural disasters, Sri Lanka recently started to earn its place on travelers’ wish lists. “The Pearl of the Indian Ocean” was finally being recognized for its beautiful landscape and welcoming people. It even emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Then a series of bombings, targeting churches and luxury hotels, stunned Colombo on Easter Sunday. Travel plans halted.

Sri Lanka is now trying to revive its tourism industry with free visas upon arrival. It’s a good start. It also gets you on the train to Kandy faster. You can’t take your eyes off the high mountains, the deep valleys, the hill stations, and the tea terraces during the three-hour ride into the center of the country. The UNESCO World Heritage Site—the home of ancient kings—is a destination itself. You still have an hour to go, though. Madulkelle is your final stop.

Madulkelle is remote, peaceful, and breathtaking. It overlooks the Knuckles Mountain Range, which is always surrounded by thick layers of clouds. It’s filled with rare white sambhurs, yellow-fronted barbets, hidden waterfalls, and cool air. Plus it’s home to a plantation with glamping tents. You get to sleep among Ceylon tea leaves.

In some ways, Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge feels like a step back in time. An old Land Rover picks you up at the entrance. Safari-style tents are made from green tarpaulin from South Africa. While wooden writing desks, scratchy wool blankets, and flickering lanterns decorate the tents. In other ways, the lodge is completely modern. Soaking tubs and iPod docks are added to suites. Organic herb and vegetable gardens sit outside the airy dining room. Plus the infinity pool looks like it drops over the side of the mountain. Madulkelle is about as far away from Colombo’s chaos as you can get. Places like this are the key to Sri Lanka’s revival.

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