Named after the Victoria Dam built in the 1800s by the British, this magical pocket of dry zone hemmed in by the Knuckles Mountains and the misty Dumbara Valley is stunning and unexpected. The Kandy road branches off at Digana and hill-country jungle abruptly gives way to a totally different landscape. No where on this diverse island – it is the 9th largest island in the world (!) – do you meet Jersey cattle grazing an up-country pasture on one side of the road with coconut palms swaying on the other.
Just past the Saddle Club outside which ponies graze, is the heart of the 500 acre haven – The Victoria Golf & Country Club – the most beautiful Golf Course in Asia, which looks oh-so-cosily Home Counties despite being purpose-designed by golf architect Donald Steel. This is also a bird watchers’ paradise with eagles and 70 varieties of bird, three varieties of deer and prolific wildlife; specially imported Bermuda grass is de rigueur on this “one of a hundred most scenic golf courses in the world” (Golf Digest).
Early Settlements in this Dry Zone during the 6th century BC were populated enough to support several Buddhist monasteries; the Bambaragala Vihara off Teldeniya and Gonawatta Vihara still flourish as remnants. But today’s settlers living in stylish designer-homes sculpted into hillside hamlets are a cosmopolitan breed. Ex-pats, returnees from the West with a view to lowering their handicap while enhancing their lifestyle, have bought plots for homes that appear airlifted from Grasse or Pollienca. For those who don’t own a piece of Shangri-la, luxury chalets with tennis courts, a well-stocked Pro Shop, spa/swimming and croquet will ease that golf elbow before you take on the kleptomaniac crows whose penchant for white golf balls adds a new meaning to a pro’s challenge.
An Insider's Perspective
Gudrun, one of our travel consultants, is of German origin but has lived in Sri Lanka for the past fifteen years. She is based in Colombo and spends most weekends golfing on the city's course, but when she has a chance, she jumps in her jeep and drives to one of her favourite places, the Victoria Golf Resort, close to Kandy. Here she gives us her top tips…What is your favourite part of the area?
I love driving along the winding shaded roads through tea estates to reach Victoria.What is your favourite activity?
Playing golf surrounded by the breathtaking scenery. I also enjoy running at dawn or dusk.What is your favourite restaurant?
The best place to enjoy a good Sri Lankan curry or European cuisine is at Clingendael, a boutique hotel set on a coconut hillside, within the Victoria Golf Resort. There are magnificent views from here over the Knuckles Mountain Range.Top Tip?
Best times to play golf: Victoria, Kandy – February to mid May and August to November (600 m above sea level, average temperature 24 degrees - maximum May 26 degrees ) Nuwara Eliya – November to May (2000m above sea level, average temperature 15 degrees – maximum March/April 22 degrees)