Sri Lanka was never on my radar. When I thought of dream locations to travel to, what came to mind were places like Japan, Norway and New Zealand. However, when I was approached by photography co-op Stocksy to pick my ideal warmer-climate travel location to shoot, when it was the dead of winter in most places on my list… it forced me to dig a little deeper. So, after a little research, Sri Lanka (with its temples, scenic train rides and beaches) quickly moved to the top of my list.
Once the location was set, I ventured out — 24 hours in transit from LA to this far-off country with my three friends/models that I was going to shoot along the way. No matter how much time I have in a new place, my mission is to see as much of the area as I can in the time I have — since you never know if you will ever be back. So, over the course of our seven-day trip, we stayed in a different location every night and drove about 500 miles. So, to say the least, this trip through Sri Lanka required a bit of stamina.
We started in the capital Columbo, and made our way 90 miles north-east to the town of Dambulla to hike Sri Lanka’s most famous tourist location, the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya. From there, we spent a night in the bustling city of Kandy, where we visited the country’s most important Buddhist relic, the Temple of the Tooth. Then we wound our way through tea plantations and caught a train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, one of the most scenic train rides in the world (three hours in a very crowded train car). From Ella, we stopped for a day at Udawalawa National Park for a safari, where we encountered a number of elephants, birds, and monkeys… up close and personal.
After all this non-stop running around, we ended up in the beach town of Galle/ Unawatuna, where we were fortunate enough to stay and unwind in the BoutiqueHomes property, Kanda House.
The house was beautiful. The master bedroom was to die for, with the most picturesque master bathroom, complete with a bathtub that opens up to the surrounding garden. The staff was incredibly sweet and helpful. We were greeting by Manoj who manages the property and who does the cooking. They provided us with a cellphone to contact them in case we didn’t have phones that worked in the area, which was a nice touch. Another member of the staff guided us down a beautiful trail that led to the beach, just to make sure we were familiar with how to get to and from the town of Unawatuna below. It was such a treat to have meals cooked for us at the house, and for them to cater to what we wanted to eat. All in all, a lovely experience.
Our stay at the Kanda House was the cherry on top of the trip. I’m so glad BoutiqueHomes does such a good job at curating these homes, even in the seemingly most remote of places. Staying in a home was a fresh breath of air after bouncing from hotel to hotel for the entire trip. You feel more immersed in the community, thus getting a better sense of the place you are visiting. But beyond even that, the architecture and interior design of the homes are always on point. Which, for the aesthetically-driven person, always sets BoutiqueHomes apart from everyone else.
If you’re ever looking for a tropical/adventurous vacation a bit off the beaten path, I highly recommend giving Sri Lanka a shot.
Kanda House is located at the top of Unawatuna Kanda, overlooking the coastal jungle, a Buddhist temple and the beautiful Unawatuna beach — making it the ideal location for a photographer like Laura. Originally a local villagers’ home, it’s been creatively updated as a boutique retreat and wild natural sanctuary. It’s studded with mature palms and fruit trees where the monkeys play, and wraps around an old stone quarry, now full of water, turtles and marine life. To follow in Laura’s footsteps, visit Kanda House here.
Photography by Laura Austin