Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but I received a free stay at Mahagedara in exchange for my opinions.
I’ve traveled to many places where I’ve felt “at one with nature”, but I can’t think of a single location that tops Mahagedara Wellness Retreat and Spa for offering the perfect combination of luxury-level pampering and relaxation and nature immersion.
Andrew and I ended up at Mahagedara by chance- we were planning our recent trip through Bangladesh and India, and toying with the idea of adding Sri Lanka to our itinerary- since we’d be so close already, it seemed a shame to head back to Manila without visiting! When Mahagedara’s sweet owner, Lakmali, reached out to me and offered to host us for a few days, it was all we needed to book our tickets!
Mahagedara translates to “childhood home”, and you truly feel welcomed as part of the family from the moment that you step into the beautifully maintained grounds of the retreat.
When you walk into your room (one of the many private cabins that are situated around the grounds), you’ll notice two things immediately:
First, there isn’t a shred of plastic to be found. Rather than plastic water bottles, there’s a clay jug of filtered water on the table. Instead of single-use plastic bottles of shampoo or lotion, there are little clay vessels filled with each product. Lakmali and I talked at length about the zero-waste movement and her efforts to completely eradicate plastic use at Mahagedara- she’s planning to begin making some items, like toothpaste, on-site at the retreat using the herbs and spices that grow in the surrounding gardens!
Second, your room opens up to the surrounding jungle with big shutters and doors. If you’d like, you can throw everything open and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature surrounding you. Close the doors and windows, and your room becomes nearly pitch black- an intentional design to allow guests to experience some of the best sleep of their lives (and truly, I slept like a baby, all except for the night when I was too excited about the possibility of hearing an elephant prowling around my cabin to sleep!).
As much as possible, the elements in each room - from furniture to art to fixtures- have been sourced from local social enterprises. Each room is unique, with its own personality!
Mahagedara’s location is perfect for sightseeing and exploration. During our stay, we planned many excursions nearby:
Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site that locals call “the eighth wonder of the world”. Though it is quite packed with sightseers, it’s an incredible piece of history to experience, and you’ll be blown away by the castle ruins still remaining on the top of the rock.
A Safari Experience at one of the several National Parks near Mahagedara. We saw elephants, Crocodiles, deer, and all sorts of beautiful birds. I appreciated this experience because it was non-invasive- jeeps had to stay on the road running through the grounds and couldn’t drive near or harass the animals. It was up to the elephants how near they wanted to come to the vehicles.
Pidurangala Rock, a beautiful hike that offers an amazing view of Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the surrounding countryside. There are monastery ruins, a cave temple, and a sleeping Buddha statue made from brick nestled under a rock ledge.
Dambulla Cave Temple and The Golden Temple nearby as well. Both beautiful and reverent sites with ancient paintings, statues and carvings that were a feast for the eyes.
Mahagedara offers a variety of “experiences” or programs that you can utilize during your stay. These range from the relaxed “simply be” experience of simply enjoying the grounds and the delicious healthy meals that are prepared for you, to the “detox” experience where you can receive up to seven days of Ayurveda medicinal treatments, a customized meal and wellness plan, and more! My stay included several treatments- an aromatherapy massage in a breezy hut with herbs hanging from the rafters, and a beautiful herbal bath in a traditional, open-air stone tub.
For the bath, herbs that grow around the grounds are steeped in a cauldron over an open fire, then transferred to the tub. Before beginning your soak, you’ll walk around the pathway adjacent to the spa area which features sections of earth, grass, sand, and pebbles in an “earthing” practice that promises to stimulate relaxation. In addition to spa treatments, you’ll have full run of the yoga area (complete with lessons/instruction if you choose) and meditation area under an ancient tree.
Bringing Mahagedara’s sustainability efforts to a new level, much of the food prepared for guests is harvested from Mahagedara’s own gardens (Mahagedara composts, too, and creates their own fertalizer)! We opted for a Sri Lankan menu during our stay (guests can also opt for a more “western” menu if they’re nervous about trying new cuisine), and every dish was delicious! Most of Mahagedara’s food is vegan and you can opt for a fully vegan menu during your stay if you’d like.
Andrew and I opted to take a cooking class during our stay so that we could learn how to make some of our favorite dishes- sambal, a sort of condiment made with ground coconut and lots of spices, vegetable curry, and a rice + coconut cake.
Something I really loved about Mahagedara was the fact that the staff is treated so well. I've been to many hotels, resorts, or even restaurants within southeast Asia where the staff is expected to "stay out of the way" and serve without interacting, which always makes me uncomfortable! At Mahagedara, not only are the staff paid fair wages but they're treated like family and encouraged to interact with the guests. Mahagedara employs people from the village (including 8 gardeners to beautify the grounds and grow food!) and gives them training. There's no gender pay gap, either (something that is important to Lakmali since she'd experienced it so many times in her own career.
After experiencing several days at Mahagedara, I can recommend a stay with confidence! I’d suggest taking advantage of one of the wellness experiences (Mahagedara is currently shortlisted for Sri Lanka's best wellness retreat 2017 by the world spa awards), but save a bit of time for exploring the amazing sights nearby.
If you’d like to inquire about a wellness experience of your own, get in touch via phone, email, or web:
Hotline : +94 77 900 2206
Telephone : +94 11 484 8108
You can also follow Mahagedara on Facebook to see more traveler’s stories and experiences, or view the Trip Advisor ratings and photos. If you have any questions for me about my stay, leave a comment below! I’m happy to share more!