Sri Lanka, a land of greenery and pristine beauty that offers culture, wildlife, nature and city hustle and bustle. When asking around about Sri Lanka as a destination to explore, people would say.. "it's beautiful, and the food is delicious you must visit!"I listened to them and decided to plan a trip to Lanka.
A tourist-friendly country, the rich natural beauty and cultural heritage make it a fantastic destination to immerse yourself in a new county. Known for its tea estates, whale watching at Marissa, safaris in Yala National Park, a boat safari on the Mahamodara River and cinnamon picking to name a few, the country doesn't fail to impress. And if you are looking for a scenic tourist spot, Galle in the south of Sri Lanka is a must-visit.
Galle is approximately a 2 hour and 10 minutes drive from the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. The ancient trading post was transformed into a bustling coastal city with influences of the world that have shaped the very fabric of Galle. The Dutch Galle Fort sits in the heart of the city and is known to be a UNESCO heritage site.
Surrounded by lush greenery, and quaint streets with Dutch and Portuguese influence, Galle celebrates the old-world charm and a slow face of life. Situated on the rocky seashore of the Indian Ocean is the luxurious Jetwing Hotels property, Jetwing Lighthouse Galle, where we chose to spend four days.
Architecture and Design
Thoughtfully designed by late architect Geoffrey Manning Bawa, Jetwing Lighthouse Galle brings together the beauty of nature with man-made luxuries. The architectural masterpiece blows you away upon your first step into the 8-acre property. Inspired by tropical luxury on the southern coastline the property preserves nature and Bawa's design ethos was to ensure the property is open, airy and immersed in nature.
As you enter the hotel you make your way up to the reception through a spiral staircase designed by Bawa which is reminiscent of the lighthouse. The extravagant staircase showcases sculptures created by Lucky Senanayake with brass and iron, depicting how the Portuguese came to Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankans fought them to victory. Staying in line with the ethos the ceiling of the staircase is a dome structure with a small circle left open allowing in birds, natural light (a beautiful Tyndall effect) and the raindrops that fall into a pond during the monsoons making a soothing pitter-patter noise.
But what blew us away was that despite the basic facade, the property is a haven for nature lovers and luxury enthusiasts alike. On seeing the property from the ocean, it is designed to look like a ship, but the beauty of the design is that from every part of the hotel, you get a view of the sea – now how stunning is that? The beauty of the property is the large open spaces with greenery, tropical plants and the natural occurrence of rocks that look like a part of the architecture with a focus on sustainability and preserving nature.
To welcome us we were greeted by the warm and hospitable team at Jetwing Lighthouse headed by Mr Indika Gamage General Manager, Jetwing Lighthouse, Mr Farrel, Revenue Management and the warm, friendly and welcoming Dersika, FOM.
Accommodation and Dining
Sprawled over 8 acres with 85 rooms – including 3 themed suites and 2 themed suites with plunge pools. With contemporary designs with touches of turquoise on the doors and window shutters, each of the luxury rooms in the main wing and the spa wing has a balcony and a window overlooking the ocean and are furnished with rich timber and eco-friendly fabric.
Adding an interesting element is that each of the five luxurious suites have a theme inspired by ancient travellers. The three Themed Suites at Jetwing Lighthouse are inspired by imperial China, bustling Morocco, and colonial Holland.
Firstly, the Fa-hsien Suite pays tribute to the Chinese Buddhist traveller who explored South Asia on foot, with elegant vases and Mahjong tiles to transport you back in time to traditional China. The Ibn-Battuta Suite, on the other hand, resembles the mystifying stories of the famed Moroccan adventurer with shades of blue and white that embody the spirit of the seas, a beautiful carved marble bathroom with grand arches and intricate woodwork on the doors and window shutters. And finally, the Spilbergen Suite is inspired by a legacy of colonial Dutch heritage, which continues to live on with much magnificence around our ancient trading city of Galle.
For our stay at Jetwing Lighthouse Galle, we stayed in the Ibn Battuta Suite which was inspired by Moroccan architecture. With two bathrooms, a jacuzzi and shower area, a spacious and large private balcony, a king-size bed, a small pantry and a large sitting room, the suite was comfortable and spacious. The key highlight for me, however, was the attention to detail from the upholstery to the cushions, the zig-zag Morrocan-style wooden doors and of course the opulent bathtub and shower area made with Italian marble. To stay in sync with the idea of sustainability, the toiletries were packed in cute jute bags and the dustbins were made of eco-friendly material. Since Jetwing Hotels believes in being plastic free the toiletry body creams are bottled in reused glass bottles and the water in the room is served in glass bottles as well.
The two Themed Suites with plunge pools are the Maharaja Suite and John Davi Suite. Opulent and majestic, the Maharaja Suite at Jetwing Lighthouse has a regal atmosphere inspired by the lavish pleasures of a bygone India. Dressed in rich saffron and furnished with bronze and brass fixtures, a private balcony with panoramic views of the Indian Ocean, along with the pleasures of a plunge pool, plush Jacuzzi and personal butler. For a more contemporary feel opt for the exclusive John Davi Suite which is spired by grand English townhouses of yore, this suite combines the opulence of a manor with the tropical luxury of an indulgent space dressed in timber and glossy white fittings and modern amenities.
With prompt in-room service and staff that goes out of their way to help make your stay here exceptional, our three nights at Jetwing Lighthouse were an absolute delight.
The property also has two pools, a gym, a spa, a tennis court, and multiple culinary experiences from traditional Sri Lankan food to seafood, pizza and multi-cuisine restaurants. The pool near the spa wing is up to 10 feet deep, surrounded by lush green lawns and overlooking the beach – making it an ideal spot for weddings. This pool also has a restaurant called Nihal's for global cuisine which is named after the head chef Nihal who has been with the hotel since the beginning. The other pool is up to 5.5 feet deep and is situated in the main wing surrounded by the building on one side and views of the ocean and screw pines on the other. To make the experience more wholesome is Lorenzo's Pizza Bar and a pool table.
But that's not all, promising a rich culinary experience is The Cinnamon Room seafood restaurant helmed by the head Chef Chinthaka, with a wide variety of seafood from crab to lobster, fish and prawn. Here we savoured the mashed potatoes with crispy garlic, the batter-fried prawns and the melt-in-your-mouth seer fish in lemon butter sauce. For our daily meals, Cardomom Cafe the 24-hour restaurant served up delicious hoppers for breakfast, crab curries, Kutuk chicken, pancakes with organic honey, king coconut water (an orange coconut) and orange Crème brûlée, to name a few favourites. If you want to enjoy a tipple make your way to the Court of Arms Bar which has a British look with cricket bats signed by all the top team players including India. The ceiling is painted with Batik Art.
For a special evening opt for their signature dining in a quaint gazebo or dining in the reflecting pond amongst others. But for those seeking adventure, a BBQ among the rocks is a must-do. For a more quaint evening opt for Gazebo dining (a romantic spot for proposals and special events), the Adam and Eve couples retreat followed by a private dinner at the spa or champagne breakfast.
For a quiet night sit at the bar at Nihal's and overlook the lush green expanse and beautiful sunset by the beach. Take in the view of the night sky with twinkling stars and lights that illuminate the property. Keeping the outdoors in mind Bawa ensures each dining area has a balcony or outdoor seating area allowing you to unwind in nature. With a mix of palm trees, screw pines, naturally occurring rocks and grass, Jetwing Lighthouse in Galle is a mix of luxury and nature at its best.
Outdoor activities and excursions
The best time to visit Galle for a tropical vibe is between December to April; the waters are calm and blue with the scorching sun shining down on you. This is also the best time for outdoor activities and excursions planned by Jetwing Lighthouse. We spent the day exploring the UNESCO heritage site, Galle Fort with Jayan Jetwing staff. The area has the oldest library in Galle City, a beautiful church with stained glass paintings and the iconic lighthouse. With 16 Bastians you can take a trip to all that overlook the ocean and also visit the clock tower and maritime museum to dive into the city's history. Quaint streets with charming cafes and stores will draw you in making you want to spend a little more time there.
Galle’s 17th-century fort is home to restaurants, boutiques and cafés and is a five-minute drive. If you have extra time at hand spend the entire evening at Galle Fort, watch the sunset by the lighthouse, have gelato at the Isle of Gelato, a slice of Napoletana Pizza at Aqua Pizzeria Napoletana, visit Barefoot and KK Boutique to pick up some clothing and home decor or make a stop at Stick No Bills for some posters. At night the little shopping area and fort area is lit up with fairy light and we suggest keeping an eye out for Peddlar street, Church street and Merchant Restaurant during the night.
But our best experience was a culinary cooking class Chef Chinthaka and Pushpakumara to make Sri Lankan-style Red Chicken Curry and Fish Mustard Curry. You can even visit the local fish market and pick out your fish as you learn some tips and tricks to cook Sri Lankan curries. Chef Chinthaka taught us a delicious temper (called tadka in India to make the food a little spicier), and the use of coconut oil and the first and second extract of coconut milk was used immensely during both the cooks. "The first extract of coconut milk is used to make the curries thick and cannot be cooked much and the second extract is used to maker the curries thinner and add flavour," said Chef Chithaka. He also demonstrated to us how the curry is made from scratch and made us try all the curries while cooking. The yellow or white curry uses un-roasted curry powder and for meats, the roasted curry powder adds the black flavour. "While the north of Sri Lanka focuses more on curry flavours, the south is all about chilly," the chef added further. This cooking demonstration was followed by a lavish lunch with chicken curry, fish curry, sambal, tamarind chutney, vegetable curry and banana flower vegetable. To finish the meal the chef made a yummy Watalappan, which is a traditional coconut-inspired dessert.
Other excursions include rainforest treks at Rumassala Jungle Beach, whale and dolphin watching, lowland tea estate visits, cinnamon picking, a visit to a spice temple, Unawatuna, scuba diving, snorkelling, Mahamodara boat safari, a visit to the turtle hatchery and a safari at Yala National Park.
However, the religion of Lanka is deeply associated with the Ramayan and it is said that while Hanuman was carrying the Sanjivini to Lanka he dropped a piece of it in Lanka this is called the Rumassala Mountain. And while the water in the rest of Galle is salty the water in Rumassala is not salty allowing the locals to grow all herbs here. The trek to Jungle Beach is a 10-minute walk through the rainforest down to the beach and on your way back don't forget to stop at the Stuppah Buddhist temple and the Hanuman temple.
A focus on sustainability
Being one of the few hotels that practices sustainability beyond just the basics it is a plastic-free hotel in actuality. I didn't spot a single piece of plastic at the property which amazed me. Additionally, Jetwing Lighthouse Galle has a 125kW solar PV system, solar thermal system and biomass boiler for hot water. The biomass boiler operates on harvesting cinnamon wood and the hotel has an onsite glass water bottling plant to eradicate the use of plastic. With an effluent treatment plant the hotel biologically treats black and grey water and the Cetacean Information center raises awareness about whales and dolphins. The toiletries too are packaged in jute bags.
The location is an ideal spot for wedding ceremonies, cocktail functions and conferences. You can plan a lavish big fat Indian wedding by booking out the entire hotel or booking the spa wing with 22 rooms. The sprawling lawns have enough space to accommodate 200-300 people and a buffet, live BBQ and DJ with a dancefloor.
Spa and Wellness
The Spa at the spa wing is a haven to unwind and rejuvenate choose from an array of options including a foot massage, thai massage or Balinese massage. This definitely was another highlight for me that was soothing. But the best part was that under the spa bed instead of a bowl with a candle was a little plant instantly sprucing up my mood.
For conferences the Galle Room which can accommodate 75 people is perfect and the Eddystone Hall is perfect for weddings, cocktails and receptions.
Overall my stay here was extremely comfortable thanks to the staff and crew who always greeted me with a smile and came forward to help at every point. The kitchen staff was able to cater to our dining needs and the beauty of the property truly is the outdoors, large open spaces and the view of the ocean. A big thank you to Indika Gamage General Manager, Jetwing Lighthouse, Dersika, Chef Chinthaka and the entire team for making my stay fantastic. I highly recommend trying the authentic Sri Lanka food, the cooking class and enjoying the balcony view and outdoor landscaping of the hotel. For all nature lovers, it's wise to wake up early morning to spot kingfishers, turtles and unique birds around the property either from the terrace of the Cinnamon Room or the Verandah. But if you wish to relax and sunbathe make your way to reclining chairs by the pool at the spa wing.
* Prices start at USD 140 + taxes per night
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