Eco-Resorts in Sri Lanka: Kalundewa Retreat

There’s a strong sense of agricultural heritage at Kalundewa Retreat, a 42-hectare eco-resort in the shadow of its namesake mountain.

Paddy fields below Kalundewa mountain.

I start my journey an hour’s drive north of Kandy, in an area where ancient kings began to make their indelible mark on the landscape roughly 1,700 years ago. These ambitious rulers carved out huge man-made lakes to improve irrigation in an otherwise dry landscape. Over the centuries, farmers have utilized these lakes to water their crops and feed their families.

There’s a strong sense of that agricultural heritage at Kalundewa Retreat, a 42-hectare eco-resort in the shadow of its namesake mountain. More than 18 hectares are given over to farmlands, and most of the crops harvested here are organically grown. These vary in the dry season, but come wet season, the farmlands are flooded with water from the surrounding lakes and turned into glistening paddy fields. On my visit, I help executive chef Shanil Guna-sekera pick vegetables from the kitchen garden —white eggplants, wrinkly bitter gourd, crisp cauliflower—to prepare in his traditional Sri Lankan degustation.

Gunasekera chooses his main ingredients according to the seasons, and I soon enjoy a dry curry of twice-cooked bitter gourd and tomato, yellow lentil coconut curry, and eggplant served two ways: sliced lengthwise to be cooked with chili and mustard seeds, and cut into delicate strips to be stir-fried with translucent cloves of garlic, onion, turmeric, and unroasted curry spices. Combined with a rich sunset-hued coconut sambal, it makes for a rustic, homey experience inside the property’s breezy Tree House restaurant.

Kalundewa Retreat; 94/77-520-5475; doubles from US$224

This article originally appeared in the December 2017/January 2018 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Bearing Fruit”).

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