Leopards are some of the toughest cats to spot on an African safari; in Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park, their abundance practically guarantees daily encounters. And that’s only one reason to go. Add to the list ruins that rival Angkor Wat and opportunities to see humpback and blue whales off the country’s southern coast, and you’ll wonder why so few tourists have caught on.
Chalk up Sri Lanka’s short immigration queues to its lack of luxury hotel options—a void that Malik Fernando, founder and owner of Resplendent Ceylon, is hurrying to fill. Already, his first two properties have earned Relais & Chateaux distinction—one is on an old tea plantation in the highlands and the other is built on a jungle-shrouded cliff facing the Indian Ocean. His third project, Wild Coast Tented Lodge, opens this October, with 28 cocoon-like tents on a private beach near leopard-filled Yala; two additional hotels are on the way. It’s the luxury travel circuit you didn’t know you were waiting for.
When to go: Late January. The weather is cool and the crowds are thin.
When not to go: June and July, when much of the country becomes inaccessible, thanks to nonstop rain and over-the-top heat swells.
Whom to call: Ashish Sanghrajka from Big Five Tours & Expeditions.
The Ancient City of Sigiriya, in central Sri Lanka, is built into the slopes of a granite peak called the Lion’s Rock.
Photographer: Sylvain Bouzat/Getty Images
Source: Google (hotel prices)