Maya (Sanskrit meaning Illusion or Dream) is an exquisitely executed five suite villa restoration of a Sri Lankan Manor House dating from the late 19th and early 20th century which pays dutiful homage to its Dutch and British period features whilst blending seamlessly with its new contemporary interiors and original design accents. Set in the rural village of Aranwella, 7 km from Tangalle, Maya spectacularly stands in two acres of lush palm-shaded gardens gazing westerly over a vast expanse of paddy fields encircled by velveteen jungle.
Formerly known as the Aranwella Walauwa when it was the stately home of the village chieftain, Maya dates back over 100 years and, as such, retains plenty of atmosphere and self-importance. The original house is a throwback in time and draws on both Dutch and British styles, but the current hotel is the brainchild of interior designer Niki Fairchild, who fell in love with the old home in 2004. She oversaw the renovation of the property and the addition of three modern rooms, a pool, and dining space. Maya provides a true sanctuary for couples and families looking to experience the best of Sri Lanka’s heritage, culture and cuisine.
Blending into this heritage villa are many custom designed fittings and furnishings designed by the owner herself that sets Maya apart from other refurbished heritage homes found inland from the island’s coastlines. The contemporary and traditional merge at Maya through an interior design that demonstrates flair and innovation without overlooking the importance of practical contentment; beds are big with thick squashy mattresses, deep loungers topped with cushions provide soothing comfort whilst features including brass-plated waterfall lamps on the clean white walls evoke atmosphere and bring a touch of glamour to the villa’s nostalgic, traditional build. Adding to this contemporariness is an attentive staff team which is always at disposal of each Guests.
Maya’s five ensuite bedrooms are divided between the main house and a new wing that’s been beautifully blended via a courtyard hosting a wraparound swimming pool that brilliantly bridges the gap. Each building is also home to individual living and dining areas making the property work well for two families, even if they have not booked together as one grouping. The three bedrooms in the new wing come with their own private open-air courtyards where dining can be enjoyed a deux for couples looking to share an intimate occasion. The spacious garden also holds many opportunities for dining as views extend over the paddy, birds sing noisily in the fruit trees above with monkeys and peacocks, whilst squirrels and monitor lizards wander the verdant grass of the soft lawn below.
Maya celebrates food in a fusion of western and eastern flavours created with flair by the villa’s experienced chef. Whilst breakfasts range from the healthy, fresh fruit, muesli and brown toast to the not so healthy, a full English with bacon, eggs, tomato, mushroom and baked beans, lunches and dinners offer an even greater variety of choice. The chef prepares a three course menu daily for lunch and dinner with a selection of delicious starters, main courses and deserts. The villa also has a good selection of wines, an extensive cocktail menu as well as a variety of soft drinks and fresh fruit juices for those who want to quench their thirst or indulge in a drink or two.
In few words, this is a place for lounging, more than anything else, whether in the private shaded sitting areas or by the pool that bisects the two villas. Any game you can play on a lawn is playable here, from croquet to cricket, and yoga and Tai Chi instruction is available to anyone desiring a little instruction in the slow arts, not to mention some world-class birdwatching. There’s a cable TV and a DVD player, two CD players, WiFi throughout, and lots of pool toys plus cricket bats, croquet, badminton racquets and body boards to keep all ages amused.
Situated in the rural village of Aranwella and just few kilometers from Tangalle in the island’s lush southern interior, Maya is set within a rich landscape of tropical gardens and coconut trees abundant with local bird life and surrounded by paddy fields. Easy access to local attractions and the beaches of the south coast make Maya a perfect base for exploring. On Maya’s doorstep, Guests can enjoy bike rides to the home village of Aranwella and the village temple. Uda Walawe wild elephant park, Kalametiya bird sanctuary, Yala National Park, Mulkirigala rock temple and Wewurukannala temple are easily accessible. Night safaris to Rakewa beach can be organized to observe the endangered marine turtles nesting. The southern coast beyond Dondra is considered one of the best locations in the world for spotting Blue Whales, Sperm Whales and Spinner Dolphins.
Maya is situated in the quaint village of Aranwella next to the ancient village Buddhist temple, only 8km from Tangalle and the beautiful beaches of the southern coast. The journey from the International airport will take 3 and half hours and approximately 3 hours from Colombo. Maya is an hour and half from Galle, a Unesco World Heritage site and a great place to stop and enjoy the Fort on you way down. Maya is an hour and half from the southern port city of Hambantota, where Sri Lanka’s newest cricket ground is located. Maya is also only 1 and half hours from Uda Walawe National park and 2 hours from Yala National park where you can experience Sri Lanka‘s amazing wildlife.
The sense of hospitality of Maya
Maya has often been described as ‘magical’. It is a peaceful haven, a one of a kind hotel crafted from a 130 year old home. If you want to unplug and get pampered Maya’s intimate venue is for you – its all about wellness, rest and relaxation and has one of the finest things money can buy: simple, elegant exclusivity immersed in the real Sri Lanka. If you persevere with your relaxation long enough lounging in one of Maya’s hammocks, you may well be rewarded with a view of peacocks dancing among the bright green paddy fields whilst highly trained staff whisper in and out throughout the day, discretely anticipating your every need. The Maya team completely understands the meaning of hospitality creating a ‘home away from home’.
Value for Money
Our Special Readings
Sri Lanka: why not?!?
Below in the beautifully-edited and colorful montage of Sri Lanka, Photographer and Editor Piotr Wancerz gives us an exciting and comprehensive look at the Southeast-Asian island in under three minutes. Produced by Timelapse Media, the video dubbed Island of Dharma follows Wancerz’ journey through ten cities including Colombo, Ella, Haputale and Negombo.
The island country located in the Indian Ocean, is a picturesque playground for nature lovers and adventurers alike. With endless beaches, rainforests, exotic wildlife and timeless ruins, Sri Lanka is a 2.000-year-old destination that still feels somewhat undiscovered. One of the best times to explore the destination is from February to April and August to September to avoid the rainy seasons. However, as you can see throughout the video, it is because of its rainy seasons that the island is blanketed in rich green foliage.
Sri Lankans are also a spiritual people, which can be seen in the form of Buddhist temples scattered throughout the island. But what the destination is really known for is its plethora of water activities such as scuba-diving, whale and dolphin watching, and surfing. Because of its clear waters, divers can easily explore shipwrecks, underwater tableaus, coral gardens and ocean caves. Above ground, don’t miss visiting the elephant sanctuary and orphanage for some great up-close-and-personal wildlife experiences.
Special City Guide: Sri Lanka
There’s more to Sri Lanka than Buddhist temples and palm-fringed golden beaches. Dotted with Unesco World Heritage Sites, the island has verdant jungle, an average of eight hours sunshine a day and superb tea, ideally sipped in a colonial-style guesthouse overlooking a hillside plantation. In the west, five-star hotels have sprung up alongside chic shacks on beaches where stilt fishermen make their daily catch and surfers catch a wave. On the south coast sleepy Galle Fort’s chic boutiques and annual literary festival are a blueprint for the future.
Incense fills the air and colorful prayers flags flap in the breeze at Kandy’s ornate Temple of the Tooth, where Buddhists and tourists mingle. Catch a glimpse of ancient artwork on cave walls as you ascend Sigiriya (picture above), a freestanding rock topped by the ruins of a 5th Century palace. Jet lag slips away when warm oil is poured continuously onto your forehead during Shirodhara, a soothing Ayurvedic spa treatment.
Browse rows of sparkling Sri Lankan blue sapphires in the jewelers of Galle Fort, then shop for hand-woven white lace and cotton salwar kameez in the boutiques. Take a taste of Sri Lanka home with a caddy of Ceylon Tea and jar of fresh cinnamon. Saris the color of a fiery Sri Lankan sunset are haggled for in capital Colombo’s overcrowded Pettah Market.