Whisk yourself away to Mahagedara Retreat in the jungles of Sri Lanka.
Imagine a place where you can focus on you.
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You’re in the middle of nature, yet spoiled with comforts and hospitality. You’re relaxing during one of the daily spa treatments, listening to the songs of hundreds of birds. After a hiking adventure, jump right into the refreshing swimming pool, watching distant monkeys swing from vine to vine. The scents of traditional Sri Lankan curries fill the air, as your healthful meals are almost ready to be served.
Welcome to Mahagedara Retreat, a luxurious getaway in the Sri Lankan jungle.
Mahagedara Retreat is near the town of Sigiriya, home to the famous Sigiriya Rock. It’s surrounded by the wilderness and a few neighboring tiny villages.
Although Mahagedara might be a difficult word to pronounce, its meaning sums up the property perfectly. Mahagedara means “family home.” It’s a place where you are always welcome to stay and return. When I arrived to Mahagedara Retreat, I immediately felt at home due to the warmth and hospitality of the owner and her staff.
The owner, Lakmali, spent years dreaming of owning a wellness retreat in Sri Lanka. After years of planning, preparation, and development, Mahagedara Retreat is open to the public. It’s more than a typical hotel or just a place to rest your head at night. Mahagedara Retreat helps you achieve balance in your life. You can cater this restorative and rejuvenating experience precisely to your wants and needs.
Mahagedara Retreat is kind to the environment. The food grows in the gardens on site. Chemicals aren’t used at all. The buildings were constructed around the trees in the forest, and nothing was cut down. The staff are local villagers, paid a fair and equal wage (men and women alike, which is nearly unheard of in Sri Lanka).
THE JOURNEY TO MAHAGEDARA
Traveling to Sri Lanka from Canada was a lengthy ordeal, as you can imagine. My travel buddy, Lauren and I flew from Toronto to London, and then London to Colombo. From Colombo, we were greeted at the airport by a representative from Mahagedara Retreat. For only $70 USD, he drove the two of us from the airport in an air conditioned SUV directly to the wellness retreat – nearly a four hour drive.
I drifted in and out of consciousness. At the same time, I wanted to stay awake to soak in my surroundings. After all, this was my first time in Sri Lanka. I gazed out the window as washes of color flew by, as we drove past rolling hills and small towns with neatly kept homes.
Our driver stopped to point out a couple of important spots as we neared Mahagedara Retreat. The first was Sigiriya Rock. This ancient fortress on top of a towering rock is an extremely important cultural and natural site in the country, and one that we would visit in the coming days. The second was Pidurangula Rock, a lesser known yet equally stunning rock with incredible views from the top.
When we reached Mahagedara Retreat, Lakmali and one of her staff members welcomed us to our new home for the next several days. We drank fresh coconut water, right from the coconuts. From there, we checked out our rooms.
ROOMS AND HUTS
When booking your stay at Mahagedara Retreat, there are several choices of huts and rooms. I’ll focus mostly here on my room, a village hut called Kaha.
Welcome to Kaha!
My private village hut had two single beds, hot and cold water, air conditioning, and natural toiletries. There are some rooms that don’t have air conditioning at Mahagedara Retreat. We visited in April, one of the hottest months. It was 38 degrees Celsius every day, with a low of 30-32 degrees Celsius at night. In other words, it was HOT. I was very happy to opt for the air conditioned space.
Every room has electricity with places to plug in your electronic devices. There’s a small table and chair, and a rack to hang your clothing. On the table, you’ll find a clay jug of water with cups, as well as natural insect repellent. I didn’t find mosquitoes to be a problem in the air conditioned room. The drinking water at Mahagedara Retreat is filtered and perfectly acceptable to drink. This includes the water coming from the tap in your bathroom.
The furniture is eco-friendly and locally sourced, constructed from tree branches and logs. It’s quite charming and rustic. My bed was very comfortable and I had no trouble having a restful sleep. The art on the walls and in the bathroom has a traditional Sri Lankan vibe.
Every night, we were escorted to our rooms by a couple of the male employees. We also had our own flashlights to find our way in the dark. It gets incredibly dark at night, as the only lights come from the buildings themselves. As we were staying in the middle of the jungle, we were advised to watch our steps for scorpions and other creatures. I never saw a single scorpion once, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.
Other animals living in the jungle will tromp through the grounds of Mahagedara Retreat. In the past, elephants have wandered down the paths of the property. If elephants travel through the wellness retreat, it’s advised that you stay indoors and you’ll be fine.
On the topic of bugs: yes, you will see bugs. You’re living in a natural space. However, I can speak from the experience of someone who has a huge phobia of bugs. I didn’t see too many creepy crawly creatures. If you find something in your room, like a bug or a gecko, the employees will happily remove them from the room. They may have entered my room to remove a flying insect or two before bedtime. If you don’t like bugs, make sure that you keep your windows and doors closed, and you likely won’t be bothered by them.
Some of the other huts include: paddy huts (huts near the rice paddy with a private garden, air conditioning, but only an outdoor shower) and jungle huts (farther into nature, air conditioning, most have indoor showers). There’s also the Mahagedara Room, attached to the main building. It’s decked out with antique furniture, and includes both air conditioning and an indoor shower. You won’t have to wander far as the Mahagedara Room is right beside the swimming pool, the communal room to hang out, and the dining area.
Here are a few photos of the Mahagedara Room.
A TOUR OF MAHAGEDARA RETREAT
Lakmali took us on a full tour of the property, and we were also free to wander around as we pleased. There are many communal indoor and outdoor spaces.
THE FAMILY ROOM
I like to think of this space as the family room. It reminds me of a living space for the family. This large, main room has several comfortable chairs, couches, coffee tables, and desks.
It’s a great spot to connect with the owners, other guests, or even have a reprieve from the sun. You’ll also find a smaller library room with a fully stocked bookshelf, should you want some reading material during your stay. You can also connect to the WI-Fi from this room, as well as the dining area.
Outside the front of the building, there are also comfortable chairs to lounge in. We enjoyed many cold beverages here, chatting about our days spent in Sri Lanka.
THE SWIMMING POOL
The swimming pool is a secluded space surrounded by trees and nature. Taking a dip in the pool was one of my favorite activities at Mahagedara Retreat. It was very hot outside. Lauren and I participated in several excursions, and it was always great coming back to these cooling waters. There are several deck loungers and towels available. The employees always made sure that the pool was free of leaves and debris.
One day after our swim, we went inside to the main living area when we heard a small commotion outside. Suddenly, we saw a troop of monkeys swinging from tree to tree, with some monkeys even landing on the deck loungers! I doubt you’d ever have a problem with monkeys coming near you as you relaxed by the pool. They were afraid of us, if anything. It was awesome to see these rather large monkeys right where we had sat only moments earlier.
I was able to snap only one quick photo, that has a blur of a monkey in it.
Most of the food you consume at Mahagedara Retreat comes from their own garden. There are many fruits and vegetables growing there. There’s also an Ayurvedic garden, including native Ayurvedic plants used for thousands of years for healing purposes. Before eating our meals, we were told about the plants that were picked specifically for the meal from the garden. It’s another way that we were tied directly to nature. It’s best for our health and the environment to eat food grown as closely to home as possible. At Mahagedara Retreat, the food was grown down the path from the kitchen.
Although Mahagedara Retreat has its own rice paddy, it had dried up for the season. The rice paddy has varying levels of success as the elephants love to visit to eat the rice. While some of the neighboring villagers set off firecrackers to scare away the elephants, Lakmali embraces that we are only a part of nature. If the elephants come and eat the rice, it happens.
At Mahagedara Retreat, you can choose one of six different experiences:
- Simply Be (relax at the retreat without anything added, most cost effective)
- Relax and Pamper (includes yoga, meditation, spa treatments)
- Detox (includes yoga, meditation, spa, detox)
- Living the Ayurveda Way (includes yoga, meditation, spa, Ayurvedic treatments)
- Accessing Consciousness (includes yoga, meditation, spa, consultations)
- Families at Mahagedara (coming soon!)
I’ll write specifically about the Relax and Pamper experience as that was what I did at the retreat.
YOGA AND MEDITATION
Our yoga instructor came from Nepal, teaching Hatha Yoga. Our yoga classes were always early in the morning, starting at 6:00am to beat the heat of the sun. A cool breeze flowed through the yoga space as we focused on our breathing and stretches. This style of yoga focused less on the typical sun salutations and warrior poses, and more on various methods of stretching the body and breathing.
Every evening, we returned to the yoga space for a meditation session. I haven’t tried meditation too much in the past, though these sessions have inspired me to practice it more often. We all sat in a circle, in the dark, focusing on a single flame. After some time, we closed our eyes and embraced the silence, trying to quiet the mind.
Our spa treatments started with a visit from an Ayurvedic qualified doctor. Ayurvedic medicine is thought to be the world’s oldest healthcare system. The traditions are over 5000 years old, and people still practice them today. I prefer natural forms of healing the body, so I was intrigued to learn more about Ayurveda.
I spoke with the specialist at the office in the spa area, an open-air elevated room with a thatched roof. Translated by Lakmali, the doctor asked various questions about my preferences and feelings in life. From there, she determined by body type according to which doshas are more prevalent.
The Ayurvedic doctor gave me some advice, including the foods I should eat and avoid. She explained that my body gets overheated sometimes (which is true, the heat bothers me!), and I need to consume foods that are cooling, like watermelon and cucumber (two of my favorites!). She also advised that I stay away from meat products and dairy products. It’s amazing that she knew this was best for my body, without knowing that I’m vegan.
Subsequently, our meals over the coming days used ingredients from the Ayurvedic garden according to the doctor’s recommendations. It was a fascinating experience.
During our five-night stay, we received various spa treatments from the Ayurvedic specialist. We had full body massages, leg and foot massages, and neck and shoulder massages. These were incredibly relaxing. The massage table was in a small, elevated hut in the middle of the jungle. Various leaves hung from the ceiling. I heard the sounds of peacocks, which sounded more like meowing noises at times. Other birds chimed in with their songs.
One day, we enjoyed soothing herbal baths in the outdoor spa area. The detoxifying leaves for our baths cooked for hours in a cauldron, and then were poured into the bathtubs for our treatments. The herbal baths removed toxins from my body and made my skin feel soft. Lauren and I relaxed in our own tubs, listening to the sounds of nature all around.
At Mahagedara Retreat, healthy food is the focus. You can have your meals prepared in a traditional Sri Lankan style or a Western style, it’s completely up to you. We chose to have Sri Lankan cuisine. I wasn’t as familiar with Sri Lankan food, and I couldn’t wait to try it.
If you have a food allergy, dietary restriction, or dietary preference, Mahagedara Retreat will work with you. While vegetarianism is popular in Sri Lanka, veganism is not widely known. When I explained that I follow a vegan diet, that was no problem at all. None of my meals contained animal products. In fact, only a couple of dishes over the five nights we spent there included any eggs, fish or meat. When there were meals that included animal products, there were more than enough vegan meals on hand, too.
We ate meals three times daily – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the afternoons, we occasionally enjoyed a glass of fresh fruit juice or coconut water. Tea, coffee, and all beverages were available upon request.
The dining room was an open air space with several wooden tables and chairs, crafted out of tree stumps. We were served in a communal style. Several clay pots filled with various meals were spread across the table, and we helped ourselves. For dessert, we always enjoyed the freshest fruit. On a couple of occasions, we were treated to a lychee ‘Jello’ type of dish, naturally prepared without gelatin.
As for the meals themselves, we savored a variety of curries, lentil dishes, salads, jackfruit, fried rice, noodles, and roti. The roti bread here differed from the Caribbean-style wraps that I was used to at home. The flatbread was used to scoop up the curry, generally prepared with potatoes and vegetables. We filled our plates with an assortment of goodies, and I ate every last bite.
Each morning, we enjoyed a Sri Lankan type of porridge, which was green in color. Lakmali exclaimed, “Sri Lankan food isn’t the best looking food!” It might not be the most photogenic, but it is incredibly delicious. By the time I got on the plane to head home, I was already missing my meals at Mahagedara Retreat. You could really feel the love in the preparation of every single meal.
One night, we ate a traditional roti dish, cooked on a flat cooktop outdoors. My vegan version had tiny bits of bread, fried up with a mix of vegetables and spices. We dined by the light of torches by the swimming pool. It was a magical evening!
Check out my entire travel photo album of Mahagedara Retreat in Sri Lanka.
From Mahagedara Retreat, we took daily excursions to see attractions in Sri Lanka. The accommodation is right near Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, close to some of the most popular and intriguing places. Every day, except for one day of complete relaxation, we spent the mornings or late afternoons out exploring.
We were dropped off at the various sites, and we took a tuk tuk back to Mahagedera Retreat.
We went to Sigiriya Rock, also known as the Lions Rock. It’s often called the “eighth wonder of the world.” Sigiriya Rock has an ancient palace and fortress on the top of its mammoth rock plateau. The hike to the top in the hot weather can be grueling, but the view from above makes it completely worthwhile.
Yes, another rock! Pidurangala Rock doesn’t have the same historic significance as Sigiriya Rock, but the view from the top is even better. You can marvel at Sigiriya Rock itself from the top of Pidurangala Rock. I also felt like I was at the very top of the world from here. I’ve never been anywhere quite like it.
DAMBULLA CAVE TEMPLE
The Dambulla cave temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s the best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. There are 153 Buddha statues, and murals covering 23,000 square feet!
KAUDULLA NATIONAL PARK
At Kaudulla National Park, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see elephants – and lots of them! We saw dozens and dozens of wild elephants around every turn, even a few baby elephants. In this national park, we also viewed birds, monkeys, and the beautiful surroundings.
Not only is Mahagedara Retreat a destination in itself, but it’s also the perfect home base for exploring Sri Lanka’s natural and cultural sites. You can make arrangements with Lakmali to visit any nearby attractions.
PLAN YOUR STAY
If Sri Lanka is on your bucket list, or you’ve just added it now, I highly recommend that you stay at Mahagedara Retreat. It’s more than a hotel or guesthouse; it’s an entire experience. You can do as much or as little as you want. It’s entirely up to you. And while you’re here, your meals and anything you need is right there for you.
I enjoyed my carefree days at the wellness retreat. We had a daily routine of yoga, eating, adventuring, eating again, swimming and relaxing, eating again, meditation, and relaxing in the evening. I really got used to this amazing routine and was sad to leave. I hope that someday I can return to Mahagedara Retreat, and I hope that you get to experience it, too.
Oh, and there’s also an adorable dog living there named Whitey who is a real sweetheart. You’ll fall in love with her.
You can book your stay at Mahagedara Retreat at Booking.com.