Ulpotha

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 12:00am

Where? In an ancient Sri Lankan village, three hours' bump and grind from the airport in Colombo. It's colourful, then? Unlike hotels that try to recreate a village feel, this self-sustaining community offers visitors a genuine opportunity to experience the Sri Lankan way of life.


Tell us more The perfect place for a yoga retreat, Ulpotha is built on sacred ground and has a history that stretches back 5,000 years. It is also part of a well-trodden elephant trail - so remember to look both ways when you're crossing the road. Sounds a bit rough and ready Although there are no phones, hot water, electricity or TV, Ulpotha is seriously cosseting and has received glowing reviews from Conde Nast Traveller, Vogue and World Of Interiors magazines, which rave about its earthy charm.


A sort of hedonist's Shangri-La? Indeed. The buildings are washed in Lacroix-bright colours, two locals are assigned to every guest, the paths are swept constantly so you can walk around barefoot, and dozens of flaming torches light up the night. What about the sleeping arrangements? Guests can rest their yoga-cised muscles in free-standing wattle and daub huts with dreamy jungle and paddy-field views; there are also two double rooms in the main house. Presumably the decor is bohemian-beautiful? A saffron and gold palette, floaty mosquito nets, futons and luxurious scatter cushions in gem-bright shades. Petals floating in earthenware bowls complete the ethnic picture. And the washing facilities? The bush-style showers are set within nine hectares of lush vegetation, including a lake fringed with water lilies, meadows shimmering with butterflies and palms rustling in the breeze. Are the yoga classes alfresco, too? Absolutely. Yogis adopt the downward-facing dog on a shaded platform - followed by herbal steam baths and Ayurvedic massages in the treatment centre. Guests can also rock in hammocks strung between rainforest trees, or drift in a dugout canoe watching the flocks of parakeet wheeling overhead. What's the tucker like? Organic vegetarian dishes are cooked over a wood-burning fire and include curry, red rice on palm leaves, and chunks of papaya washed down with great jugs of cardamom tea. Anything else we should know? Judging by the hyperbole in the visitor's book, Ulpotha is a one-off - a dreamlike oasis where it's truly possible to rejuvenate body and soul. Book early because it's not open all year.


Two weeks high season (November-March) GBP1,200 (HK$15,450) per person; two weeks low season (June and July) GBP 980 per person; Christmas and New Year #1,450 per person. C/o Neal's Yard Agency, BCM Neal's Yard, London WC1N 3XX. Tel: 07000 783704; www.ulpotha.com