Every time I am back in Sri Lanka I am reminded of why I love it so, and why a deep connection exists with the beautiful island and its people. I am constantly writing about Sri Lanka because my hope is that fellow travelers are offered a glimpse into the soul of the country, and can discover what Sri Lanka has to offer beyond the heritage sites and landscapes: it’s a country rich in heart and spirit. So that’s what I’ll continue to do: traverse my way through Sri Lanka, sharing stories, tips, recommendations so that you can come and experience it for yourself.
Headed to Sri Lanka? Click here for everything you might need to plan your perfect trip to Ceylon!
During my latest trip I had the opportunity to experience one of the best Yoga retreats in Sri Lanka, Rukgala Retreat. Here’s what it looked like: each day, I woke up to a peek of sunshine streaming in through the balcony, and sleepily brushed my teeth and got ready for the morning Vinyasa Yoga class. We woke up the body and mind with pranayama (breathing exercises), gentle movement, sun salutations, arm balances, & back bends before a well-deserved Savasana. After 90 minutes of movement, it’s time for breakfast – fruit, oatmeal, a Sri Lankan king coconut, buffalo curd, an omelette or hoppers with onion sambal.
And then the world is your oyster! Head to the pool, explore the UNESCO-listed city of Kandy, hike a mountain temple trail, visit a neighboring tea plantation, get a massage or simply read a book. Before you know it, it’s lunch time and you are once again spoiled with healthy vegetarian fare.
The afternoon rolls around, and it’s time for an evening Yin or Restorative Yoga class where you can sink a little deeper into seated and reclined poses (with help from plenty of props), let the mind settle and encourage your parasympathetic nervous system to do its job. You might learn to get comfortable with just the slightest bit of discomfort, or even start to view “discomfort” in a new light as nothing more than a sensation.
Rested and relaxed, mosey on over for dinner: oven-based lake fish, a traditional Sri Lankan curry and rice, or some other magical concoction that the chef has cooked up. After a cleansing shower it’s time to sleep! The next day, you do it all over again. Sound like your kind of holiday? Read on for everything you need to know about Rukgala Retreat near Kandy in Sri Lanka.
The rooms at Rukgala Retreat
Rukgala means “house/shelter on the rock” in Sinhalese, and the main house dates back to the 1970s. The property underwent extensive renovation in 2016 and was completed and re-opened to guests in 2018. The space at Rukgala Retreat is almost reminiscent of beach houses in Spain or Portugal: muted, soft colours with plenty of calming whites, greys and khaki.
The decor is classy and minimalist, with just a touch of colour. There are a total of 10 guest bedrooms across a number of room types including the large double/twin bedrooms in the “Main House” with private balconies overlooking the mountains and lake, or garden cottage rooms that have a mezzanine level and bathrooms with a view.
The rooms are spacious and airy with plenty of natural light, and are equipped with air conditioning units as well as ceiling fans as the days can get sweltering hot. Beds also have mosquito nets if you are so inclined to sleep with the balcony door open. Each room is also provided glasses and a refillable water jug so you can limit your plastic bottle usage.
There did not appear to be a safe in my room, so you may need to keep your valuables locked away in your suitcase. Wi-fi is available though the connection can be spotty at times – it might not always reach the pool or guestrooms, but I found that it was relatively stable in the communal/dining area. You should also know that it is not uncommon for there to be short power outages – this happens throughout Sri Lanka, especially during the dry and hot months.
Ready to book your stay at Rukgala Retreat in Sri Lanka? The boutique hotel only has 10 rooms so book early – click here to check current rates and availability or head on over here for more hotel options in the district of Kandy.
The facilities and dining at Rukgala Retreat
Rukgala Retreat is nothing short of a true sanctuary where you can lounge, breathe in fresh mountain air and soak up the sunshine. Rukgala offers an on-site restaurant serving up delicious, fresh food – mostly vegetarian and pescatarian, and they are also able to prepare gluten-free dishes for those with sensitivities.
The menu changes on a daily basis and you are offered a selection of traditional Sri Lankan dishes or Western food. I can honestly say that it is some of the best food I’ve ever had in Sri Lanka, and I am a fussy eater (just ask my boyfriend). The communal dining area also has a tea and coffee area where guests can serve themselves throughout the day. The dining and lounge areas are communal so there’s always the opportunity to engage with other fellow students, or you can spend some time alone without feeling pressured to socialize.
On a hot Sri Lankan day head downstairs to the magnificent pool to cool off – bring a book, a cup of tea and plenty of sunscreen and you’ll be set for a relaxing afternoon. The sun rises in front of the pool so early birds can wake up bright and early to watch the colours change right in front of your eyes.
The star of the show at Rukgala Retreat is the beautiful open-air shala. Yoga classes are held twice daily at 8 AM and 5:30 PM, and are suitable for all levels of Yoga practitioners – whether you’ve never attended a class before, or have a consistent practice.
The resident teachers at Rukgala are welcoming and provide students with the opportunity to be playful on the mat. While Yoga teachers can sometimes have a reputation for using, shall we say, “flowery” language that might not resonate with every student, the teachers during my stay (Emma and Jasmine) made Yoga approachable, accessible and non-intimidating.
Read more: In addition to meeting new people, traveling and taking part in a Yoga retreat is a wonderful way to fill your cup and enhance wellness, explore new parts of the world, be a part of the international Yoga community and most importantly: immerse yourself in Yoga. Here are 11 tips to help you get the most out of your Yoga retreat experience, or read this article for 7 reasons why you should attend a Yoga retreat in Sri Lanka!
The property is also available as a venue for teachers looking to host group retreats – it is one of the best-equipped retreat centers in Sri Lanka for Yoga groups. You can read more about the hosting a retreat at Rukgala here.
What to do at Rukgala Retreat
If you can tear yourself away from Rukgala Retreat, there are a whole host of activities and excursions for you to choose from. The staff at Rukgala can help to arrange a tuk tuk or car for any of these excursions.
Kandy day trip – visit the UNESCO-listed city of Kandy, about 45 minutes away by tuk tuk from Rukgala. Kandy is part of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle and is most well known as the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and for the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth. Visit the towering Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue, walk around Kandy Lake and tour the Royal Botanical Gardens. Click here to read more about visiting Kandy.
Victoria Lake – the property is a short walk away from Victoria Lake. During rainy season, it’s possible to kayak around the lake or simply go for a meditative stroll.
Bambaragala Temple and Monastery – The temple and meditation caves are approximately an hour away on foot from Rukgala, and you can also journey to the top if you’re feeling adventurous, though there is no footpath and you will need to climb over boulders and rocks to get there.
Ashburnham Tea Estate visit – Ashburnham is a working tea estate covering approximately 100 acres of tea fields. The team can arrange a tour of the estate, a swim in the waterfalls or even private picnic.
Knuckles day trip – Named after the ridges along the mountain range that resemble knuckles of a closed fist, the Knuckles Mountain Range in Central Sri Lanka is a UNESCO Heritage Site that features stunning viewpoints, a cloud forest, waterfalls and hiking trails; the entire region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot. There are dozens of trails and entry points into the Knuckles Mountain Range, and Aravinda (the hotel manager at Rukgala) happens to be an expert on where to go and what to see! If you are after an active day in the mountains read this 1-day itinerary for Knuckles.
How to get to Rukgala Retreat
Rukgala Retreat is in Digana, about 45 minutes away from Kandy in Central Sri Lanka. If you are traveling there from Colombo, the drive will take approximately 4 hours. If you are traveling there from Sigiriya or Dambulla, the drive will also take approximately 3-4 hours. However, if you’re headed to Kandy from the south coast of Sri Lanka you are in for a long day of driving – at least 6 to 7 hours as you have to go via Colombo.
The Google Maps driving directions are about 95% accurate, but won’t take you all the way there. Once you reach the end of the route on Nithulemada Kandy Road, turn left and keep driving for another minute or two. Keep right at the fork and you’ll soon reach the brick driveway up to the property. As Rukgala isn’t the easiest place to find, it’s best to have the hotel arrange your airport pick up or get your driver to call the hotel for directions in Sinhala.
Final thoughts on Rukgala Retreat
Yoga retreats shouldn’t break the bank, and prices at Rukgala Retreat are extremely reasonable. They offer 2-3 night retreat packages that include daily classes, meals and a local excursion to a nearby temple and meditation cave, or you can book your room separately as a non-retreat package guest and pay US$10 for drop-in classes if you’d like more flexibility.
You might also like: 20 Easy Ways to Incorporate Yoga into Your Travels
I only wish I had more time at Rukgala – I could have easily stayed for a week! Though there is a focus on Yoga and healthy eating at Rukgala Retreat, you don’t have to be a Yoga fanatic to enjoy your time there! The property is such a welcoming and relaxing space, and is a perfect boutique hotel in Sri Lanka to let your hair down at. If you are visiting Kandy as part of your Sri Lanka journey, I would recommend staying at Rukgala Retreat over staying at a hotel in the city – you are way better off visiting Kandy for a (short) trip and leaving the hustle and bustle behind at the end of the day.
I recommend Rukgala for couples, friends, families and solo travelers who are looking for a quiet and peaceful boutique hotel in Sri Lanka away from the crowds. Click here to check availability and current rates at Rukgala Retreat in central Sri Lanka!
If you are looking for more options in the Kandy area, I also loved our time at Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge, a glamping hotel an hour away from Kandy overlooking Knuckles Mountain Range and tea plantations. You can read more about Madulkelle here, or head on over here to check out even more options in and around Kandy.
You might also like:
- Here are 11 tips to help you get the most out of your Yoga retreat experience, or read this article for 7 reasons why you should attend a Yoga retreat in Sri Lanka
- Heading to Sri Lanka for the first time? Click here for the full list of 12 things you should know before your trip
- For more ideas of things to do while you’re in Sri Lanka, read my 2-week itinerary around the island or check out this express 1 week Sri Lanka itinerary
- And get inspired with this list of some of the top destinations in Sri Lanka
- There are some incredible boutique and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka – here is my guide to the best accommodation around Sri Lanka
- For more Sri Lanka travel tips and destination guides, head on over here
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My stay at Rukgala Retreat was sponsored; however, no compensation was received for this review, and as always, the opinions on Yogawinetravel.com are (and always will be) my own! I only recommend products, services and hotels that I have had positive personal experiences with.
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