Saraii Village (Weerawila).

Saraii Village is a charming set of tree-houses and mud chalets near Hambantota. They also make an excellent rice and curry. Probably the best place to stay in the area.

Saraii Village is a small hotel with simple, traditional accommodation and amazing rice and curry sourced from local markets. We say simple in the best possible way. It’s a treat to sleep in a tree house, dine under tons of stars, explore nearby Yala and enjoy amazing locally sourced food. Too many Sri Lankan hotels try to copy western standards of architecture and food and end up looking really shabby compared to the natural beauty around them. Saraii works with the local environment, supplementing it just enough to be comfortable. It’s a great experience.

From the hotel you can see the stars so well that the Milky Way is visible

The Location

Saraii is in Weerawila, near Hambantota Town and the new Mattala Airport. The highlights nearby are Yala National Park, Bundala National Park, and the sorta ghost town that is Hambantota. With the new airport Saraii is a 40 minute flight from Colombo, though you’ll probably spend another 3 hours doing airport stuff. They arrange for pickups from the airport or even from Katunayake.

The Hambantota region has amazing wildlife and is an interesting place to travel around in general. It’s generally flat, has amazing roads and makes for some beautiful views. Just north of the hotel, for example, there’s a road which cuts right through the middle of a lake.

In terms of tourist infrastructure, however, there’s nothing really. There’s no strip, no real restaurants and definitely no shopping. You’ll be spending most of your time in the hotel or in the wild.

The Hotel

Saraii Village is just four rooms right now, two mud chalets and two tree houses. They’re expanding, but for now that’s it, which is nice, as you get pretty reliable attention from the staff. The biggest tree house ($112, around Rs. 15,000) can hold up to eight people and the other one ($85, around Rs. 11,500) about four. The mud chalets ($79, around Rs. 10,500) are probably more comfortable as doubles. If you’re with a group it’s pretty affordable.

The tree house accommodation is basically platforms built into a tree with mattresses and mosquito netting. Taking the ladder up is not easy, but once you’re up there it’s quite safe. Beyond that you’ve got all the necessaries for a modern hotel – lights, plug points and a fan. The mattresses are basic and the sheets are somewhat absurdly tiny, but the experience is great overall. Just keep the mosquito net closed and you can have a very nice night, listening to peacocks and hearing birds call in the morning.

A mud chalet sounds less desirable, but it’s actually kinda a relief over climbing into a tree every time you forget your sunglasses. This is a simple and more traditional room, definitely better for old people.

There is one bathroom for the whole hotel as far as I can tell There are three bathrooms (on the ground, not in the trees) and it’s different but nice. They’re not ensuite but since there are so few rooms it’s quite private. The restroom is a fenced enclosure without a door but with a do not disturb sign you can string across the entrance. The structure curves in and the actual bathroom area is covered in blinds. It’s a good toilet, good water pressure but there are frogs literally in the toilet sometimes. It’s a nice bathroom besides.

The Food

This place does spot on Sri Lankan food from great local ingredients. We had Lake Prawn from the lagoon nearby for dinner ($15, Rs. 2,000) and it was the largest prawn we’ve ever seen. Actually looked like a lobster. Their string hopper breakfast ($7, Rs. 930) has excellent purippu, pol sambol and chicken curry. The usual lunch ($12, Rs. 1,600) has a wide range of fresh vegetables and whatever local meats are available. A veg meal is $10.

The food is excellent but, as you can see, expensive. This is comparable to a meal at Nuga Gama, which ain’t cheap. The food is generally pretty amazing though, we’d say it’s worth it.

Activities

Saraii Village is not an ideal honeymoon destination as, you know, there’s not overmuch privacy. It is, however, good for couples in general and seems to be the most value for groups. From there we asked for a Yala safari and a jeep arrived at 2 PM on the dot. That vehicle, which cost Rs. 6,000, would be quite economical for a group of six or more. That gives you a good four hours of spotting crocodiles and wild boar and deer in Yala. The Bundala National Park also has an exceptional habitation of birds and the religious location Kataragama is about an hour away.

Our favorite activity remained simply looking at the stars from the hotel itself. There’s very little light pollution and you can see the cloudy band of the milky way. Truly a wonder.

Conclusion

Saraii Village is an authentic and satisfying travel experience. It’s not a five star hotel and it’s not trying to be, it takes the best of local culture and highlights and polishes it, something we really appreciate. It does all this at a price, but it’s still not out of reach for locals. If you travel with a group it’s quite affordable on a room basis, though the meals can be a bit steep. If you combine it with a trip to nearby Mattala Airport, it could be quite an interesting jaunt.

Rates

OFF-SEASON (February – October)

UNIT Room Only Bed And Breakfast Half Board Full Board
Mud Chalet (Two Units) $79 $93 $108 $128
Tree House (The Nest) $112 $126 $141 $161
Tree House (The Crib) $85 $99 $114 $134

SEASON (November- April)

UNIT Room Only  Bed And Breakfast  Half Board  Full Board
Mud Chalet (Two Units) $90 $104 $119 $139
Tree House (The Nest) $130 $144 $159 $179
Tree House (The Crib) $100 $114 $129 $149
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