Top 11 eco-friendly resorts in Sri Lanka
Offset your carbon footprint with these green hotels around the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.
Sri Lanka is one of those rare places that hasn't been irreversibly impacted by over-tourism. Now, with more people visiting the country than ever before, countless hotels are introducing sustainable practices so the environment, culture and heritage of the country can be enjoyed for years to come.
Eco-friendly resorts in Sri Lanka work side by side with the natural world, which is why you'll often see elephants roaming through resorts. Local communities are involved every step of the way and cultural enlightenment programs are offered to tourists so they understand the importance of their actions, too.
Here's how you can play your part in Sri Lanka's sustainable ecotourism journey.
Sustainable travel isn't all about cutting your luxuries. As winners of the Gold Award at the Presidential Environmental Awards, Cinnamon Lodge offers luxury private chalets and spa amenities in an eco-friendly way.
- A cutting-edge filtration system recycles wastewater which is used to maintain the grounds and the organic vegetable garden.
- Solar panels provide hot water in guest rooms and may provide energy for lights in the future.
- The on-site shop is run by local villagers selling homemade, eco-friendly gifts.
Get back to basics with your very own wooden bungalow nestled among the coconut trees.
- The on-site restaurant uses locally grown produce, including Arabica and Robusta coffee beans which are cultivated on the hotel's own land.
- Hot water is heated by solar panels and lightbulbs are exclusively LED. As a result, Polwaththa Eco Lodge uses 20% less energy than other hotels in Sri Lanka.
- 80% of the staff working at the lodge are from the village you'll be staying in, or one that is very close by.
Set in the rolling hills of the Madulkelle Tea plantation, but just an hour's drive from the bustling city of Kandy, these luxury lodgings harbour the perfect balance between city and country.
- Guests are encouraged to participate in the Community Tourism Program which aims to bring together locals and tourists in an exchange of cultures.
- Provides employment and educational opportunities for members of the local community including hospitality training and ultimately a job in the hotel.
- As much produce as possible is sourced from the on-site organic vegetable and herb garden. Everything else is purchased from local farms and markets.
If miles of undisturbed tea plantations, rooms laden with colonial-era decor and luxury spa facilities sound nice to you, look no further.
- Part of a group of hotels with a transparent sustainability plan for the future which will continually benefit the natural world and local communities.
- All of the staff are hired from nearby villages and they receive training in language and hospitality skills.
- Local initiatives pioneered by the hotel group include building new hospitals, schools and soup kitchens.
- LED lighting is used, solar panels heat hot water, all appliances have an A-rating for energy and lighting systems are synchronised with daylight hours.
- 80% of wastewater is recycled, filtered and used on the gardens and lawns.
With nothing but Sri Lankan jungle surrounding you, this is the ideal jumping-off point for adventurous hikes, once-in-a-life-time wildlife sightings and the ultimate tranquillity.
- Supports and funds the conservation of the Sinharaja Rainforest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is currently under threat.
- Pioneers a number of community outreach programs where locals are employed and educated on sustainable development in the area.
- All of the chalets and lodges are made from recycled shipping containers and decorated in recycled materials.
Home to just 9 bungalows spread acres 20 acres of private jungle, it's all about you and the elephants at Gal Oya.
- Bamboo bungalows are built from sustainable materials and are designed to seamlessly disappear into the natural backdrop.
- Tailored day tours operate with an emphasis on having as little impact on the environment as possible. Also encourages research and conservation activities among tourists.
- Works closely with one of the last remaining indigenous tribes in Sri Lanka, the Vedda people, to help preserve their lifestyle and educate visitors about it.
With no electricity, twice-daily yoga workshops and a local Buddhist community, this is the perfect place to shut off from the world and enjoy a little "me time".
- This is a strict no-electricity zone, where paths and lodgings are lit with lamps and lanterns, and food is cooked in clay pots over an open fire.
- Runs a free Ayurveda medical clinic for the surrounding communities and helps with the maintenance of local temples, schools and village-level charities.
- Lodgings are built with completely natural and biodegradable materials including wattle, daub and clay.
Choose from a house in the trees, a luxury hillside chalet or a simple campground at this fantastically eco-friendly resort.
- Mainly powered by wind, solar and hydropower, with back-up generators only used when needed.
- Buildings are made using renewable materials and are designed to use as little heating or cooling as possible.
- All crops are grown locally, either on site or in the local village, and used in the restaurant. The by-products from aquaponic vegetable farming and on-site dairies are used to generate manure, compost and biogas.
- Maintains the 50 acres of land that it sits on to encourage and protect over 150 species of birds, plants and trees to flourish in the area.
Located just outside of the laid-back town of Ella, Living Heritage provides boutique and luxury accommodation in the hills with the added benefits of eco-minded policies.
- Heads up reforestation programs on land that was originally used for tea plantations, which is now being transformed back to its original state. Guests can take part in these initiatives during their stay.
- Organic gardens on site where fruits and vegetables are picked for the restaurant. It's known for its homegrown green peppercorns.
- Over 90% of the staff have been hired from local communities, but there is particular emphasis on supporting women and hiring them within the tourism industry.
Ideal for romantic getaways, eco-conscious families or luxury seekers, a stay in one of Ravana Garden's nine chalets that overlook the Ussangoda National Park is sure to be memorable one.
- Boasts a sustainable spa on the beach made primarily from recycled materials.
- An on-site organic vegetable garden means produce is always fresh and doesn't have to travel far.
- Efforts have been made to reduce paper usage by digitising business cards, menus and telephone directories. Single-use plastics are also a big no-no here, so it's worth bringing a reusable bottle.
- Light fittings around the grounds have been carefully chosen to reduce light pollution and its impact on nocturnal wildlife in the area.
If you're searching for a real treat, 98 Acres Resort and Spa has you covered with its world-class massage centre, gourmet dining and private infinity pools.
- Where possible, recycled building materials were used during construction. In particular, illuk straw to line the roofs. This maintains temperatures and reduces the need for air conditioning.
- Battery-powered golf buggies are used to transport guests and staff around the resort, reducing harmful emissions considerably.
- The on-site spa operates using natural remedies made from tea and other plants grown on the property.
Why we chose these accommodation options
- All of these eco-friendly resorts in Sri Lanka advertise a clear and transparent sustainability plan, with the promise of taking more steps towards being carbon neutral in the future.
- Organically grown produce and sourcing local products are important for all of the hotels.
- There is a growing focus on giving back to the communities, whether it be through providing employment, training or awareness.
- Regeneration and protection of the local flora and fauna are paramount.
What to know before you go to Sri Lanka
- Wildlife sightings, such as elephants, monkeys and turtles, are a huge draw for visitors to Sri Lanka. If you're on a tour, listen to the advice of your guide as to how close to get to the animals and how you should behave. Under no circumstances should you feed or approach animals in the wild.
- Don't leave any litter behind. Sri Lanka has some of the most untouched landscapes in the world, especially if you're getting off the beaten track and venturing into the rainforest. People want it to stay this way.
- With so many hotels joining the eco brigade in Sri Lanka, it's well worth bringing your own refillable water bottle with you. Not only will you benefit from free refills, but you'll be helping to say no to single-use plastics.
- Many hotels support the local communities, so why not do your bit too by making sure you shop local in Sri Lanka? For souvenirs and gifts, hit up some of the roadside markets where products are handmade and will be a fraction of the price you'll find in tourist-oriented chain stores.
Things to avoid when booking eco accommodation in Sri Lanka
- Most eco-conscious accommodation options will make the effort to work with the natural world and interfere as little as possible with animal habitats. Avoid hotels that work against the animals and offer tours that will disturb their natural habitats.
- Working with the local communities is key, so don't choose accommodation where the lives of locals have been compromised to the benefit of tourism. Before the government implemented the new ecotourism laws, there were stories of communities and wildlife being displaced.
- Avoid synthetically built properties. When natural materials are used, it not only makes use of any recycled materials, but it also allows for a reduced dependence on air conditioning and fan units. Therefore reducing unnecessary energy consumption.
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