Is this the best family villa in the world?
Thinking of next year's hols already? Got Mudlets in tow? How about a family villa in, well, absolute paradise?
As the kids go back to school and the nights draw in, what’s the best thing to do? Book a holiday, of course! Fancy something a bit further afield this time? If you’re looking for a blow-out holiday in a tropical paradise, we’ve found just the place…
If you’re anything like me, the first thing you do when you get off the plane in the rain in the UK is start dreaming about far flung shores and next year’s summer hols. I’m usually on the wifi booking next year’s trip before I can remember which airport lot I parked the car in. With who-knows-what happening in Europe with the big ‘B’ word, and the pound so weak against the euro, not to mention bargain flights to be had with the fabulous Jack’s Flight Club (have you come across these super smart guys? They will save you £££s, I promise!), why not head to the white sands, tea plantations and national parks of beautiful Sri Lanka?
This summer we were trekking around Sri Lanka as part of a press trip, dragging numerous roller bags, back packs, laptops, groaning and moaning children, taking trains, planes, buses and taxis. So, when we were invited to stay at Meda Gedara, a little slice of heaven and quite possibly the best family villa in the world, we jumped at the chance!
…is a huge, gorgeous colonial affair sleeping up to 18. Situated on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Condé Nast Traveller calls it officially ‘the new island pin-up’, and I for one am not going to argue. Designer Fiona McLeod, who has an eye for the beautiful and the original (see her favourite places here) has created this slice of heaven from the ground up. It was a mere figment of her imagination when she and her husband bought the land eight years ago and since then architectural plans have been built (in Lego), antique rugs and furniture have been bought at auction (Fiona is a demon bidder) and artwork has been commissioned. And now Meda Gedara is ready for its close-up.
Think six uber-stunning bedrooms with four poster beds, roll top baths, enormous showers and wrap-around balconies (we loved the ‘Children’s Room’ with triple bunk beds). As well as these is a stand-alone suite in the quiet of the gardens that sleeps two more adults – open the bedroom door to morning light and gently lapping waves.
Heading down the magnificent teak staircase, if you can stop staring in jaw-dropping delight at the kids TV room (complete with peephole so you can have a snoop and make sure they’re not up to no good) and cinema room with projector and surround sound, you’ll love the enormous living and dining area, every inch of it lovingly and very artistically designed. Head on outside to the veranda, with dining tables seating up to 20, plus sofa and chairs for relaxing in.
The heart of this slice of unforgettable barefoot luxury has got to be the tropical gardens with two (two!) pools and…wait for it…a water slide. Not just any old water slide but a proper, straight-out-of-a-waterpark 74ft slide hidden in the landscaped gardens. The kids, funnily enough, loved it. The adults, cup of tea in hand, lay back on the loungers and enjoyed the panoramic views of the Indian Ocean. If you can be bothered to leave the pool (or the lounger, in my case), a game of cricket on the lawn would be perfect, or there is a yoga shala in the gardens for early morning stretching.
Got friends in tow? It’s the perfect place for two or three families to holiday together; even better for a very special celebration. There is plenty of room for a large group, and plenty more outside space.
For Foodies everywhere…
The staff here are utterly delightful and our every need was met, from tea and homemade treats by the pool to a cooking demonstration by the main man Roshan himself.
This place really is a home from home (if only my home was this lovely), with mobile charging facilities, satellite TV, board games, movies, outdoor games equipment, pool floats, even UK plug sockets. For tiny ones they have highchairs, potties and cots.
Out and about
Well, if you can drag yourself from the lounger, the sensational South coast is right on your doorstep. Meda Gedara lies at the southerly most tip of Sri Lanka, between Matara and Tangalle. A three hour drive from the airport, it’s about one hour from Galle in a village called Polgahamulla – translated as ‘Coconut Corner’. Fancy surfing? Sightseeing? Visiting temples, turtle hatcheries or fantastic restaurants? There are plenty of great days out available along the south coast, whether it’s Galle Fort for culture, Unawatuna for water sports, or Hiriketiya Bay for surfing. You can even take a flight in a sea plane as a special treat. Best of all, the fabulous staff at the villa will organise it all for you! And it’s all kid-friendly. Though God knows, you won’t want to leave this place…
Beaches and surfing
Polgahamulla Beach, the beach at the bottom of the villa’s garden, is untouched and perfect for walking, jogging or building sandcastles. The waves are pretty impressive, but worth diving into, for the brave. You’re in Sri Lanka, so you have to surf! Hiriketiya Bay, a true surfers’ paradise, has safe swimming in a horseshoe-shaped bay and a row of funky cafes (I’m told the pizzas from Mardy’s place are delicious). Undeveloped and unpretentious – this is Sri Lanka at its finest. In the other direction, Talalla Bay is a gentle curve of golden sand, untouched and very, very peaceful.
If culture is your thing, check out Wewurukannala Viharaya Temple, a short tuk tuk ride from the villa. The 50m tall Buddha figure, the largest in Sri Lanka, won’t disappoint. A slightly longer drive away, Mulkirigala Raja Maha Vihara Rock Temple is another of Sri Lanka’s remarkable temples, an ancient Buddhist temple built on a high natural rock, with caves and paintings too.
Well, you can’t miss going to a tea plantation if you’re coming to Sri Lanka. Handunugoda Tea Estate is a family owned plantation that has won international recognition producing the famous ‘Virgin White Tea’, completely untouched by hand, believe it or not. It’s the perfect place for a stroll through the plantations, a tour of the plantation house and then a visit to the working museum.
We loved our visit to Galle Fort – a UNESCO World Heritage site within a few hours’ drive of the villa. This stunning 18th century Dutch walled town has a definite boho vibe, although it’s old-world charm is rapidly becoming swallowed by a few too many chi-chi cafes, galleries and boutiques. Still, there are historic sights around every corner, a lighthouse, old church, grand colonial houses and rampart walls to stroll along.
Rekewa is one of Sri Lanka’s most important turtle nesting beaches, with turtles nesting here all year round. Go any night of the year (arrive before 9pm) to see up to 15 turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, and if you’re lucky you might see one of the huge leatherbacks squeezing out up to 100 eggs. Ouch.
Uda Walawe National Park
Framed by soaring highlands on its northern boundary, the Uda Walawe National Park is one of the world’s best places to see wild elephants. Largely comprised of grasslands and bush forest, it’s also one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka for game spotting. We left the villa super early (although the staff were amazing and got up to feed us breakfast), and arrived before the park opened – the best time to visit. On our morning’s jeep safari we spotted the thriving elephant population in its natural habitat, as well as buffalo, wild boar, sambhur, crocodiles and hare. Uda Walawe is also an important nature reserve for 50 species of butterflies and many species of birds. Oh, and we were back in time for lunch!
Meda Gedara is truly, truly the perfect family escape, as there really is nothing quite like it in Sri Lanka. Everything, from movie rooms to pools with slides to delicious food has been thought of. Take a day out to go surfing, sightseeing, visiting temples, or seeing turtle hatcheries, plus there are water sports in abundance for the more active Mudlets and some of the best beaches in the world. We loved it, and it was the perfect spot to relax and soak up some of the best of Sri Lanka, before heading off on our long trip around the country.
Is this the best family villa in the world? Without a shadow of a doubt.