Tri is a new breed of sustainable luxury hotel on Sri Lanka’s finest lake, where local culture and natural beauty are showcased in an inspiring jungle-like landscape. Delicious dining, yoga and Ayurveda treatments are some of the perks at this euphoria-inducing stay that is as kind to mind, body and soul as it is its environment.
Eight villa suites and three rooms; two villa suites can be booked as a pair for families.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in: 3pm, or earlier if the room is free.
Double rooms from £185.04 ($234), including tax at 29.4 per cent.
Rates don't usually include breakfast (contact Smith24 if you'd like to book half board). There’s a two-night minimum stay (three in high season). Solo travellers, contact the Smith24 Team for rates.
Owner Rob Drummond worked closely with award-garnering Raefer Wallis of Shanghai’s A00 Architects to ensure the design and build tread as lightly as possible. The resort's spiral layout is lifted from the Fibonacci sequence, but we’re sure you already guessed that. If you want to come home with a new party trick, ask the hotel to arrange tuk tuk-driving or stilt-fishing lessons.
At the hotel
Free high-speed WiFi; six acres of grounds; a library of art, design, architecture and travel books; a projector for screenings; a yoga <i>shala</i> for Quantum Yoga classes, and personal trainers. In rooms: minibars in some suites, free bottled water, Spa Ceylon toiletries; three of the villas have private plunge pools too.
Our favourite rooms
Rooms in the Water Tower are cosy cabins with glorious views; the tower’s cinnamon-wood cladding makes it look somewhat like a high-end haystack – trust us, that’s a good thing. The Lake Villa’s private pool is both view blessed and shaded from fellow guests by a smattering of greenery; it’s ideal for a spot of late-night skinny-dipping.
The resort’s glimmering lake-edge infinity pool has ionising filters, and its panoramic green-and-blue views are really rather lovely.
Each guest has a bespoke plan of yoga classes and spa treatments, involving Lara Baumann's unique Quantum Yoga approach. Classes are held in a shala floating above the bamboo grove, and treatments take place in two elevated rooms. Post-pampering, stop by the steam cavern, or head to the sheltered relaxation area, with a gently trickling fountain, white flowers and bamboo. Ayurvedic massages are tailored to individual needs, where guests can choose their preferred oils and pressure, and shirodhara (a soothing water massage) and cleanses are offered too. Active types can hop on an exercise bike, follow a 'holistic parkour circuit' around the lake (accompanied by a personal trainer, on request), or learn how to climb a coconut tree with the aid of a rope.
Bring binoculars to spy on the scores of birds fluttering about their lakeside habitat. Don’t forget eye masks and earplugs if you’re a light sleeper who likes a lie-in – the glorious dawn chorus is loud and proud.
The hotel is not best suited to guests with mobility issues.
Tri is better suited to families with older children; only children 12 years and older are permitted at the resort. In rooms, a sofa can be made up as an extra single bed (US$75 a person, each night).
Sustainable materials and building practices are exemplary: water is solar heated and transfers are by old-fashioned fishing boat. Tri’s entire philosophy is based on going local – from team members to ingredients in the kitchen and the art displayed. A carbon-consulting company in Colombo was enlisted to conduct a comprehensive biodiversity report.
Tri invites you to try out lots of private-dining locations: at the top of the Water Tower, on the private jetty, by the pool or under a banyan tree.
Stylish sarongs and loose-fitting linens.
The six-course dinners are reason enough to spend time at Tri. The Cambodian chefs working under Neil Wager’s expertise have a knack for crafting local ingredients into a pretty-as-a-picture plate, which is as flavourful as it is fancy. The menu of fresh, light ingredients and clever takes on Sri Lankan classics changes daily and reflects Tri’s focus on health and wellness. There’s also a lighter lake menu and, if you choose private dining in the Water Tower, excellent mezze awaits.
Order an Arrack Sour – a local take on a Whisky Sour – and sip lakeside.
You’re encouraged to eat and rise early, as dawn here is so beautiful. The latest you can order the six-course feast is 9pm.
Light snacks and the lunch menu are available in your room (and breakfast, too, if requested the night before. A magnificent spread of rice and curry makes a memorable banquet of local spices and flavours.
This unique luxury hideaway is right on Lake Koggala, a short drive from Galle. The most spectacular way to arrive at the hotel, once you’ve turned off from the coastal road, is via a 10-minute glide across the lake in the hotel’s boat.
Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour drive away. Cinnamon Air operates an air-taxi service, with seaplanes landing on the lake from destinations throughout Sri Lanka. Call our Smith24 Team on 03300 376 891 to arrange flights and transfers.
You can occasionally hear the coastal train from the hotel – it runs directly from Colombo to Galle and is cheap and offers great views.
No sane holidaymaker drives themselves around Sri Lanka; drivers are inexpensive to hire. The hotel is only 15 minutes from the Southern Expressway and 85 minutes from the Colombo Expressway terminal. You’ll need to give your taxi driver the number of a contact at the hotel so that they can navigate you in.
Arrival by boat promises a true ‘ta-da!’ effect. Your transfer can liaise with the hotel to take you to the locally made dhoni, steered by Sinhala-speaking Douglas who’ll escort you to the hotel from the water.
Worth getting out of bed for
Lake Koggala is a screensaver-worthy setting (one that you stare at longingly when you’re craving a holiday) and a dream base for exploring the best of Sri Lanka. Since Tri is perched right on the lake, it’s ideal for boat trips and bike rides; and it's only a short taxi ride from soft sandy beaches, and Galle Fort’s shopping and culture. Time within the ramparts of this citadel will walk you through a unique Portuguese, Dutch, British and Sri Lankan heritage. The hotel’s guest-experience team can arrange trips to temples and stupas, museums and workshops, tea plantations and cinnamon producers, as well as chaperone you on tours to meet local artists, craftspeople and curators. We also recommend a private guided tour of Galle Fort with Shanjei of Galle Fort Walks.
The hotel’s culinary delights will beckon you back for seconds (and thirds), but if you’re looking to shake things up with a special meal in Galle, tell your driver to hotfoot it to The Fort Printers on Pedlar Street; its courtyard is cool and quiet, and the chef’s lightly seared yellow-fin tuna, super-fresh sashimi and meaty lobster dishes are delicious. Fellow Smith stay Amangalla, a 35-minute drive away, has a classically kitted-out dining room (crisp white linens, sparkling cutlery, impossibly polite staff) and a menu with Sri Lankan and European picks. George Cooper’s boutique hotel Kahanda Kanda (yet another Smith stay) on Habaraduwa Dikkumbura Road is a fabulously stylish spot for lunch, too.
Galle’s Royal Dutch Café (+94 77 177 4949), on Leyn Baan Street, is flamboyantly fronted with palm fronds and columns. The old-school eatery’s frontman is lifelong Galle resident and well-renowned storyteller Fazal Badurdeen, who’ll happily spin a few yarns as you sip spice-infused tea. If you’re entertained, he offers walking tours of Galle Fort, in between whipping up heavenly homemade cakes.
Historic Galle is hardly a dance-till-dawn destination; however, it’s not totally bereft of nightcap-worthy spots. If you like your bars bijou and boho over sleek and styled, pile into the comfy cushion room at Koha Surf Lounge, a 30-minute drive away.
A hotel designed in adherence to the Fibonacci sequence? The nesting place of ‘Quantum Yoga’? Mrs Smith and I near the mysterious Tri with feelings of slight trepidation. I’m not sure I’m ready to put my body into a pose that slingshots a chakra around a black hole.
We pass lush paddy fields spotted with puddles of fresh rain as we drive the final stretch to Lake Koggala. At the top of a dusty road two towering wooden doors part timidly for our vehicle and soon after we’re being shown to the pool area which, it transpires, is also the dining, bar, and main lounge area too.
The pool is stunning; a true iconic infinity (yes, we live in an age where one might dispute a pool’s infinityness) that extends out into the tranquil lake to give the effect of being able to swim out for miles. The bar and poolside area is predominantly white and modernist – Carrie Bradshaw and co wouldn't look amiss clinking martinis on the loungers. Our welcome is completed with another tasty albeit completely unidentifiable juice drink.
There is an immediate air at Tri of it being so much more than a hotel. An organisation, almost. It seems to be living and breathing along with the nature it snugs into, and one gets the impression it will do so whether or not there are guests sleeping in its beds. We feel slightly like we’re intruding.
On the walk to our room we’re pointed out the water tower, a unique, cylindrical structure armoured in what looks like silver-birch branches. We’re told it is home to two smaller rooms and a panoramic viewing deck at the top complete with honesty bar. It sounds dreamy. And, behind the tower, a sleek building of glass and golden wood: the library, and infamous Quantum Yoga studio. Tri is an enchanting site; as if the Thunderbirds gang threw in the towel and turned Tracy Island into holiday homes.
Where Tri really shines is the rooms. Our lake-view suite has all the good qualities of tree-house style design, with all of the luxuries of a more traditional hotel room. It is completely comfortable and, as the sun goes down, we find it to be immaculately well lit. Moreover, if there was an award for best-smelling bedroom in Sri Lanka, my vote goes here – all fresh cinnamon and greenery. The balcony, overlooking the lake and all its verdancy, is almost charming enough to make us drag the duvet out and sleep under the stars. We decide to explore.
The library is, architecturally, a fine space to admire though I feel with its 30 or so books, calling it a library is a little like calling my three house-ferns a jungle. Disappointingly, the ‘honesty bar’ atop the water-tower has only a bottle of tonic water, a bottle of still water and four wine glasses. A little too honest for us…
We take an idyllic evening swim, as the restaurant beside the pool begins to effervesce with action before diners arrive. We order ‘Smoking Arak’ cocktails – bliss. They come served in a small decanter with glass stopper. I feel like Hunter S Thompson on pay-day.
Food at Tri is mostly brilliant; the chef clearly full of ambition. Most dinners are six-course, near fine-dining meals full of surprise and emphatic ‘yum’ sounds. The pork belly was hedonistic salvation. The Sri Lankan curry night was warming and pitch-perfect. (There are occasional blips, mind: one evening we are served floppy and tasteless pasteis de nata that would make the dogs of Lisbon weep.)
Like many places on our trip, Tri quietens to funereal levels by about 9.45pm, after which the trees are rowdier than the guests. This is no bad thing, though. Our sleeps are peaceful and comfy.
Though breakfast (complete with very naughty granola and frozen buffalo curd) is incredible, we’re a little distracted by the routine rounds of general management who stop at each table with a clipboard of what looks like doctors notes and try to upsell experiences.
Eventually we decide to take a trip to Cinnamon Island (the upsell worked). It’s a fine hour-and-a-half, though one can tell the main proprietor is perhaps tiring of people like us turning up to see him and his family make various forms of the spice. He's quick to tell us, with a slightly menacing grin, that he has no fear of the lake-dwelling crocodiles: ‘They only like the taste of white flesh.’ And then urges me to try a very tiny chilli he’s growing. ‘How spicy is it?’ I ask. ‘Just eat it’ he says, smirking. It’s pretty damn spicy.
Our small gripes aside, Tri has the framework of something magical. As they make a home of the house, so to speak, it will easily climb up there to sit with the very best on the island.