As a guest of luxury tour operator If Only, I set off from Heathrow on a day flight to Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airlines. Service on board very friendly and efficient and seating fairly comfortable. In addition to Economy, Etihad also offer Business Class, First Class and their new Residence Class cabins.
We received a lovely warm greeting upon arrival at the gorgeous Ritz Carlton hotel in Abu Dhabi. This property is located alongside the waters of the Grand Canal and a private sandy beach and faces the famous mosque which we were later to visit. I had a lovely room overlooking the gardens and the pool. In the evenings at around 6pm, they have live performances by a pianist and an opera singer in the foyer, which I think is a nice touch.
They also have a complimentary boat that operates on the Grand Canal connecting to other hotels and souks on the opposite side of the canal. This runs every 20 minutes from 9am through to about 1am.
Abu Dhabi is home to Yas Waterworld – a must for any family staying in Abu Dhabi. This includes the ‘Bandit Bomber’, an interactive water roller coaster, and lots of slides of varying length and degrees in height, and a flow rider for those who wish to try their hand at surfing. And a visit to Ferrari World gives yet another taste of what is on offer in this destination.
A delicious lunch was enjoyed on the terrace at the Regis Hotel, overlooking the lovely beach. This property is in a lovely setting and the rooms are really nice and spacious. After this whistle-stop tour of Abu Dhabi, we flew on to Sri Lanka the following day. We transferred to Negombo where we had a nights stay at the Jetwing Beach Hotel before commencing our short tour of Sri Lanka.
This is a good point to start a tour in terms of position and it is a nice hotel. The first stop on our tour (a must on any itinerary) was at the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage, a journey time of just under two and a half hours. Here we loved watching the elephants walk down to the river to bathe and play. Next stop was Kandy (about one hour away depending on traffic) where, en-route, we visited a spice garden. In Kandy we stayed at the lovely Cinammon Citadel Hotel on the banks of the river.
During a short tour of Kandy, we included a visit the Temple of the Tooth where ladies have to cover up and remove shoes. It was a bit busy to say the least and very noisy. Our tour included a stop at Sigiriya Rock Fortress (considered the 8th wonder of the world) and gives the most amazing views. Built in the 5th century AD it boasts the world famous frescoes of women carved on sheer rock face.
The views from here and at nearby Dambulla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site , are breath taking . We stopped for lunch at the Jetwing Vil Uyana Hotel in Sigiriya – a truly beautiful location, surrounded by water – a nature reserve with lots of wildlife – where bird watchers simply must stay! Here you must not be intimidated by creepy crawlies, and bear in mind you are in the tropics! We enjoyed a night at the Heritance Kandalama – built into the Rock and blending in with its surroundings. Much better seen in the daylight as, at breakfast, the view over the lake is amazing and quite surreal.
Our journey then took us to the ‘Tea Trails’ high up in the hills set amongst the ‘high level’ tea plantations. This accommodation was in a private house with butler and beautiful gardens and stunning bedrooms. We stayed on an all inclusive basis – it was almost like having our own house party! Although a long journey to get there (up to 6 hours) and then a fairly long transfer back to the coast afterwards, it really was worth it.
Our final stop was at Cape Weligama – visiting the lovely town of Galle on the way. Only opened recently (August), it is made up of exclusive villas dotted around the resort and beautiful views overlooking the sea and beach and is a really stunning property.
We had a tour of Mount Lavinia on our way to Colombo and enjoyed a very nice high tea at Cinammon Lakeside Hotel in Columbo before returning home.