Exploring the Southern coast, Sri Lanka ~ Hiriketiya beach, Jasper House

With a birthday coming my way, I definitely want to take a trip to celebrate. Celebrate being alive, celebrate being healthy and happy, and the fact that I am living the conscious life of my choosing.

Short of going to Nepal or back to my roots in Africa (not good timing with Ben’s work obligations), I decide on four days of exploring the section of Sri Lanka’s Southern coast that we have not seen yet.

All the lovely sounding beaches i.e. their names: Hiriketiya, Tangalle, Talalla we have not been to yet. They are reputedly fairly  wild and natural and not very built up, which is how I like beaches to (ideally) be.

We rent a car and head out armed with a map of this tropical island, bottles of water and a sense of adventure. Every trip always yields the unexpected and the interesting.

We are headed towards Jasper House which is hosting our stay for two nights.

We know there will be plenty of temptation along the way as Sri Lanka is chockfull of temples both Buddhist and Hindu (mostly in the North).

This particular Buddhist temple is small and recently built. You can just see a hint of the white stupa behind.

This is the kind of relief work that is common on the outside of Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. In this particular case, the feet are actually completely 3D and coming out of the frame.

Ben’s preference is to stop often (a market place here, a temple there) and we do, but I am keen to get to the beach. We drive through many small towns and then more rural villages.

Red clay pots are used traditionally to carry water and cook food over a fire. Now that we actually have a home base, we indulge ourselves with a lovely round shaped water jug. It only cost $2 but we are definitely in a mode of not wanting to accumulate unnecessary “stuff”.

It is rice harvest time and the paddies everywhere are in various stages of harvest, creating all sorts of interesting fields of creamy golden textured lines.

Hiriketiya beach is quite fabulous, simply put! The beach, with its soft cashew colored sand, wraps around a crescent shaped bay. There is not much in the way of development ~ a couple of well hidden restaurants, some fishing boats, rocks, thick foliage…. My kind of beach!

We are getting very close to our destination ~ Jasper House. Our first sight of Hiriketiya Beach: clear turquoise waters, deep green forest and rock pools. Pretty blissful….

The bedroom at Jasper House is almost completely open to the elements. No glass window panes, just fresh air, sounds of the waves crashing and an incredible view over a field of tall swaying palm trees. Ah this is tropical island life at its best. Nature and luxury cohabitate here.

Now THIS is definitely my kind of room! My top priority for any bedroom is fresh air. No need for AC when you have ceiling fans and huge mega “windows”. There is constantly a breeze and this is like sleeping outdoors but with a roof overhead and an uber comfy bed and tons of hot shower water. Heaven.

A simple mosquito net covers the king size bed. (On both nights we never saw a bug nor heard a mosquito….) What we did hear were the bird calls and the monkeys, swinging from branch to branch in the early morning.

I watched and heard these monkeys (on the right hand side, in a line on the branch) from our bed in the morning. I grappled with whether or not to wake Ben up to see this theater in the early hours, but I did, and he was delighted to be woken to monkeys playing in the branches just opposite. (Good call.)

Jasper House has an impressive large pool where one could swim laps, if one were so inclined. We were more interested in being at the beach, but we did fit in one quick dip in the pool.

The dining room covers the whole top floor and has a wrap around open air feature. We had a delicious fish and veg curry and rice for dinner on one of our nights at Jasper House. A really inviting and nice place to chill and or read a book before and after meals.

HIriketiya beach in all it’s glory.

A few fishermen boats, 3 small restaurants, sand, sea, sky.. Perfect!

After a delicious lunch at Beach Shack, right on the beach, we walk up onto a hill near the hotel which takes us to a good vantage point to see the bay “from above”.

The rocks to the left of the bay are a great place to sit and get an unusual view of the experienced surfers, as though one is in the water with them.

We get to see a beautiful sunset on our first night on the beach with the palm trees silhouetted against the cloud filled peachy colored sky. Happy Birthday to me!

I could easily spend two full days chilling on this beach. No problem. But Ben has other plans for us and is taking me on a birthday date to absorb inspiration from two Buddhist temples which are nearby, the rock temples of Mulkirigala and the largest seated Buddha in Sri Lanka, Wewurukannala Vihara.

Mulkirigala is known around these parts for different things. To some it is the breathtaking environment in which a sequence of 7 caves imbedded in 5 different levels of the steep hill make for a hardy and worthwhile climb. To others Mulkirigala has historical merit because it is the site of a succession of important temples which have been erected on this site for over 2,000 years. The current holy architecture dates back to the early 1800s, so we are looking at the craftsmanship of artists 300 years ago who built this gorgeous cave complex.

And to me, this stunning collection of Buddhist art, both sculptures and murals and painted ceilings is what makes Mulkirigala particularly memorable. As I write this, the visual imagery continues to permeate my mind and I can feel the creative energy that I received from masterful artists from another era.

The original staircase was carved into the rocks, but today has an additional easier ascent, on the white steps which in some places follow the shape of the enormous boulders.

A close up of just one small section of a whole wall of painted murals depicting the life of Buddha.

Life size Buddhas swathed in saffron colored robes glow from inside the cave, beckoning us in.

a second level has …

The palette of colors is vibrant, when you consider that the pigment is made from plants and natural coloring, without any apparent protection. The darkness of the caves is in no doubt helpful in preservation.

The contour of the rocks often dictates the shape of the cave and the mural just follow the curves in a very natural way. Every inch of wall and ceiling is meticulously and beautifully painted.

 

At the top, one is rewarded by the simple white stupa and the amazing view across the lush emerald jungle.

After the cave temples we make our way to another nearby temple, with it’s 50 meter high seated Buddha figure, which is the largest in Sri Lanka  (Wewurukannala Vihara ), an island known for its abundance of large Buddha sculptures. One of the buildings in the temple complex is chockfull of visual delights.

The outside of the temple, with the huge seated Buddha just visible behind and above.

Here is the largest Buddha sculpture in Sri Lanka ~ his head soaring dramatically up into the clouds… You can see Ben on the right hand side in white, as a point of comparison.

Fuchsia lotus flower offerings lined up in front of the Buddha inside the temple, as is customary.

Inside the temple, there is one main large seated Buddha sculpture and many smaller life size ones throughout.  The ceiling is obviously very high so as to house the seated large Buddha and as a result there is an airiness accompanied with a feeling of tranquility. On this day, at this time, we are the only ones present in the temple.

One of the side benefits of these temples is perhaps that because of their outstanding location so close to a great surfing beach, most travelers who come to this area, tend to prioritize the beach. During full moon and festivals no doubt it is full with local worshippers.

Our second night at Hiriketiya beach, yielded one of the most dramatic sunsets from soft pinks and purples to the most vibrant orange. It was spectacular. Dusk is my favorite time of day. And what a day it has been! Temples and a dramatic sunset on the beach ~ a perfect birthday celebration.

Thank you to Jasper House for hosting us.

 

64 thoughts on “Exploring the Southern coast, Sri Lanka ~ Hiriketiya beach, Jasper House

  1. Alison

    Happy Birthday Peta! It sounds as if you had a very special day.

    That beach looks idyllic, and Jasper house looks gorgeous. I could happily chill there for a while!

    Alison

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Alison, the beach was the best we have found in Sri Lanka so far and it really is a find! I am already looking forward to returning. While it took us about two hours to get there, we now discovered that we can get there directly via a highway and that cuts the time down to about 40 minutes.

      Thanks for the birthday wishes. Jasper House was the perfect choice for us to celebrate at.

      Peta

  2. Gilda Baxter

    The most perfect place to celebrate your Birthday…Happy Birthday!

    “Jasper House” looks beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous nature. Excellent choice for your stay. Loved your photos 😄

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Gilda. “Jasper House” was really amazing. As we moved on the next night, we felt literally claustrophobic being in a regular room in comparison to this unique indoor outdoor room. So glad you enjoyed the photos so much.

      Peta

  3. Janice Abramowitz

    Happy birthday for April 1st and happy Passover!

    The temples, beaches, sculptures and art are breathtaking. Thanks for sharing. So much incredible natural beauty and so much talent !

    Enjoy living life !

  4. Linda Block

    Happy birthday, Peta! What a wonderful way to celebrate. Thanks for sharing your day and the spectacular nature and art.

    Love from Steve and me to you and Ben.

  5. Caroline Helbig

    This looks like the perfect place to celebrate your birthday Peta. Happy Birthday! I can’t get over how beautiful the beach and sunsets are, and then having those temples nearby.

    WOW! Jasper House is simple gorgeous too.

    I’m trying to get my bearings: you guys are also on the south coast but further east, is that right? How far a drive is it to Jasper House area? Cheers, Caroline

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Caroline it was the perfect place to celebrate my birthday. Of course it is not Luang Prabang in terms of the sheer number of temples co~located, given you two were recently in Laos, but these two temples were striking for their massive scale both inside the buildings and the external Buddha statue.

      Jasper House gets the vote for the “best hotel bedroom” from us!

      Yes we are on the South Coast but on the West. These beaches are all further down the bottom of the teardrop shape at the very Southern tip of Sri Lanka. Our drive took us about 3 hours but only because we stop so much and now we know that as well as the local roads, there is the highway which of course is much quicker for a more direct route. We returned in less than an hour to the Galle region.

      Peta

      1. Caroline Helbig

        Thanks Peta, I just looked it up on a map. Once I’m interested in a place I always need to know exactly where things are located (I love maps). I also looked up the Jasper House. Wow again! Cheers, Caroline

  6. Liesbet

    Happy Birthday, Peta. What a wonderful retreat and fun adventure. I love weekends away. Mark and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary this year, but I don’t think we can get away for a long weekend or so. I”d love to do that again, but with the business, all we can afford is a two-day break. Maybe we can come up with a short adventure like yours… in the Bay Area in July. Or, at least go out for an amazing meal.

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Liesbet. If we were in the Bay area and wanted to approximate our travels to Asia, we would start with dim sum and reflexology in China town, followed by a drive to Green Gulch Farm Zen center, the Buddhist center in Muir Beach which is a Soto Zen practice center and Zen training program which also manages an organic farm and gardens. Happy anniversary to both of you!

      Peta & Ben

  7. Lexklein

    What a great way to celebrate a special day! Beach, sun, culture, history, art, food – and all within easy reach with no hassles. Happy birthday to you, Peta!

  8. Sharon Rosenzweig

    Just marvelous. Congratulations on living your life your way, and happy rest of the year. Wishing you more of everything.

  9. Sharon Rosenzweig

    Just showed this to Aaron. We’ve got an anniversary coming up, and this looks like a perfect combination of remote, private nature and serious luxury. Jasper House would be ideal, with monkeys and the pool. I love windows with no glass.

    The sunset shots are breathtaking.

    Is there GPS there or are you using traditional maps to get around? How hard is it to navigate? How are the roads? Were the people friendly at Jasper House?

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Sharon and Aaron, we would LOVE it if you came here to celebrate your anniversary!

      You are correct, Jasper House is a perfect combination of those things you mention. Windows with no glass is an incredible concept. (Kind of like “clamping”).

      Everyone at Jasper House was very friendly and helpful.

      Those were some of the best sunsets I have ever seen. Sri Lanka does have great sunsets, but that one night in particular it went on and on constantly getting more dramatic.

      Yes one can use GPS here, however, we used a regular old fashioned paper map, because it is fun to use those. To get to this particular location it is not hard at all to navigate and in fact, afterwards, we discovered that the highway goes from where we live (Galle region) to very close to that area and this makes for a very easy drive.

      We would be remiss however to not have full disclosure of the reality of driving in Sri Lanka. The highways are great. Few cars, new roads, well marked…. But, for 90% of the time, it is important to recognize that the system is not one of rules based driving but more something like the “law of the jungle” where the larger trucks choose any lane they want and the rest have to move quickly out the way. One must remain very alert to avoid incoming traffic.

      Peta

  10. Johanna Bradley

    Could there be a nicer way to spend a birthday? That cashew coloured beach (great description 🙂 ) is glorious, and I think I could drag myself away to see those temples too. Happy birthday and Happy Easter, Peta!

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Thanks Johanna. Funny initially when Ben said he was taking me to see something, I said “not interested. I love this beach and I am staying put all day.” But I was really glad that I let him persuade me to leave the beach. Thanks for all the good wishes. Happy Easter to you too.

      Peta

  11. Pamela

    Happy Birthday, Peta! This is a birthday you’ll never forget – WHAT A PLACE! All of the settings, the Jasper House, the ‘cashew-colored’ beach, the statues and all of that spirituality surrounding you like a soft shawl. Even the monkeys. And the sounds of the birds. Ahhhhhhhh, you deserve it. xo

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Pamela thanks so much for your lovely feedback and birthday wishes. Damn right, I DO deserve it 🙂 !
      I love the image of all this beauty surrounding me like “a soft shawl”… well said!
      xo
      Peta

  12. Sue

    Happy Birthday! It seems to me that your celebration was picture perfect. Jasper House seems like a paradise and would love to stay there one day. So much culture, history and beauty in one getaway. Lovely post and your photos as always beautiful. Also I loved the monkey video.

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Thanks Sue! The whole Sputhefn region of Sri Lanka is chockfull of visual delights. So glad you enjoyed the monkey video and photos. Jasperr House awaits you.

      Peta

  13. jet eliot

    Dear Peta, the images you and Ben captured, moving and still, were a great treat, and I thoroughly enjoyed this visit to Hiriketiya. Those dusk photos on the beach are glorious, and the temples do look so tranquil. Interesting to see the murals painted on the curved rocks. Jasper House looks like the perfect place to enjoy your birthday. And the monkey video was really sweet. Both mothers carrying a little one, and then that second one gives her baby a chance to get out and walk too. My thanks for taking the time to share this adventure with us, with your eloquent words and images, and my warmest wishes for a wonderful year ahead.

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Jet, thanks for your enthusiastic response to this post. So glad you commented on the baby monkey having the chance to finish the journey on his own feet. Since we got back from this birthday road trip, we have had many key visits outside our bedroom almost every day. Such a treat as they get closer and more playful. Know that you too really appreciate wildlife. Lots of birds here…we are still trying to learn the names. The wild peacocks are gorgeous.

      Peta.

  14. Trish and Steve Hunt

    Hi Peta, Happy belated birthday and what a way to celebrate! Outstanding capture of this beautiful area and Jasper House looks amazing. We are definitely thinking about including this in our itinerary.
    Steve and I are visiting Sri Lanka, sadly only for 10 days in early May but wondering if you would be so kind as to ponder…what would you and Ben do and/or consider to be the must sees of SL if you had that time frame. A challenging question given the incredible sights we have read about on your blog and many other sources!
    Thanks and best, Steve and Trish Hunt, West Vancouver, BC

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Thanks Trish. Oh exciting you are coming to Sri Lanka. Firstly, here is my email: petakaplan@hotmail.com in case you have any other questions. ,pMaybe we could meet for a curry?

      Here are our recommendations for ten days:

      1. Head South by train to Fort Gale

      2. Elephant reserve for sure. Our favorite: Uduwalawe, as it has the baby orphanage where you can watch a feeding. Very unique

      Bundala bird park if you like and want more wildlife

      3. Tangalla beaches, including Hiriketiya and the Buddhist sites in this area

      4. Dambulla caves ( Unesco site) for Buddhist cave art

      5. Hiking in Ella if you like hiking. The trainride from Ella to Colombo has great scenery of the tea plantations along the way.

      6. Trincomalee is more Hindu than Buddhist and makes for a different cultural experience.

      Plenty more to do, but this would be pretty packed. You can decide which is most interesting to you between spending more beach time, or temple time, or wildlife etc etc. A lot depends as well on whether you want to rent a car or travel by train or bus.

      Feel free to contact me via email for any questions etc.

      Peta

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Jeff, it is true that Sri Lanka has way less tourists than say Thailand. As always though it depends where you go and what time of year. Yup put at the top of your travel list!

      Peta

  15. Lisa Dorenfest

    Both you and Sri Lanka look marvelous Peta. And Jasper House looks like a lovely place to celebrate the beginning of your personal New Year. Wishing you a happy, healthy and fun year.

  16. Cheryl

    Belated Birthday wishes, Peta. Loved the gorgeous colours of the sunset and the soothing pictures of the shore. Buddhist temples always seem to choose some of the most serene and soothing spots in the world. That’s what I love about them. Thanks for taking me to another beautiful part of the world.

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Cheryl, that definitely seems to be true about Buddhist temple locations. Ben and I were just discussing that… There are as well, two beautiful temples right near where we call home, in case you missed this post:

      http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2016/12/morning-walk-afternoon-walk.html

      And we have written many posts about Buddhist temples along our travels. For example:

      http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2014/07/orange-and-saffron-robed-neighbors-luang-prabang.html

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      Peta

  17. Amit

    Happy belated birthday Peta! What a gorgeous place to celebrate your birthday – chock full of nature’s delights, cultural sites and artifacts.. all packaged up in a getaway to Jasper House with your thoughtful Ben. I’m curious about those frolicking monkeys; did you sleep with those mega windows open? And if so, no monkeys trespassed into your room?! If so, you’d have no such luck in Bali 😉

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Haha Amit…yes the mega windows stayed open, and the other wall of the bedroom has NO option for closure ~ it stays open permanently.

      However, the monkeys here seem to keep their distance for the most part and are quite shy compared with the ones in Ubud which are much more used to interfacing with humans.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Peta

  18. Joanne Sisco

    Very belated happy birthday, Peta! It looks like you had a gorgeous trip to celebrate. Jasper House looks perfect, but my favourite photo is the steep hill with the steps at Mulkirigala. Wow! You visit such interesting places!

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Haha Amit…yes the mega windows stayed open, and the other wall of the bedroom has NO option for closure ~ it stays open permanently.

      However, the monkeys here seem to keep their distance for the most part and are quite shy compared with the ones in Ubud which are much more used to interfacing with humans.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Peta

  19. Peta Kaplan

    Thanks Joanne…this definitely was an unexpected landscape to discover. So glad Ben urged me off the beach.

    Thanks for the lovely birthday wishes…. still glowing.

    Peta

  20. Mabel Kwong

    What a wonderful way to celebrate your birthday, Peta. A bit late, but Happy BIrthday and wishing you all the best for your year ahead, and safe travels too 🙂

    That bedroom is certainly my kind of bedroom. Air con and me do not get along, and I really have a penchant for fresh air like you. Nothing like fresh air and I tend to sleep in it so much better. Jasper House and the coastline seem like a great haven for a bit of a getaway, what with the stunning beaches and Buddhist architecture. You sound right at home.

    That shot of the white cloud over the top of the temple is a great shot. Great perspective, great eye. There is just always something to discover about a certain place, and you just got to look for the hidden places – and best of all, a lot of the time they aren’t crowded. Ben certainly was spot on with the places to visit this time round 🙂

    Those sunsets are magnificent. Very lucky to have come across them, and they sound like the cherry on top for this trip 🙂

    1. Peta Kaplan

      Thanks Mabel for all your enthusiastic comments. And as well for the compliment on that particular photograph. It is definitely one of my favorites and when I look at it, it really takes me back to that day and place in an instant.

      It was a perfect birthday celebration. I do like trips rather than gifts to celebrate a birthday.

      Peta

  21. My Inner Chick

    OMGgggg,
    those monkeys carrying their babies. Seriously? WHAT?!
    Amazing. I mean, I get excited when I see a squirrel!
    I can’t imagine what I’d do if I saw a monkey in my tree. HAaa.
    Love your photos, adventures, perspective, and cute toes! x

  22. Peta Kaplan

    Thanks Kim, you are too funny! We both get excited at any animal sighting too. Speaking of squirrels, there are some really cute ones here, on the small side, called indian squirrels, and looks like a chipmunk.

    Of course elephants in the wild, are really something!!

    Peta

  23. Stephanae McCoy

    Happy Belated Birthday Peta!! What a fabulous celebration you had. Jasper House is divine and being that it’s relatively open I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to be lulled to sleep in a tropical breeze, whisper of a ceiling fan and the sounds of nature right there. The temples, art, and beaches are stunning as well.

  24. Lois

    So glad you sent to me your magnificent birthday story. I know I did not forget your April 1 day but I did let my busy schedule bury your post in one of my many to do list stacks!
    But today I saw it all and now the images, textures, adventure and treasures fully reside in me so that I may hold your youthful hand and celebrate you Peta, my dearest friend ❤️ Happy birthday and may all your days continue to spread the grace and beauty that is you!!

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