Santani, Sri Lanka spa review

18th March, 2024 Member Updates,News and Updates

Set the scene

It’s a twisty-turny journey to Santani, past emerald-green paddy fields, luscious mango trees and jaw-dropping views of Sri Lanka’s Knuckles Mountains. Occupying a former tea plantation just outside Kandy, this big-hitting wellness retreat translates in Sanskrit as “in harmony with”. It is living out its namesake thanks to the intelligent sustainable design, carefully executed Ayurveda programme and delicious food. Some people stay for a month, such is the draw.

What’s the backstory?

Santani’s founder, Vickum Nawagamuwage, is no stranger to hospitality. His father managed one of Sri Lanka’s largest tour operators in the 1960s and 1970s. Vickum headed to the US – first for further education, then as a strategy consultant for Deloitte. Finding himself tumbling towards burnout (“the stress of my job was killing me”) he quit and returned to his homeland. To manage his stress, Vickum’s wife introduced him to yoga, meditation and clean eating. His health soon improved, inspiring him to launch a wellness-focused hotel, which, in his own words, would target “the biggest pandemic right now: stress and mental health”. Santani opened in September 2016, and proved to be a knockout success – so much so that there are plans in the pipeline for an additional 40 villas.

What’s the wellness concept?

Preventive care is the goal here, which means getting to the root of the problem rather than treating the symptoms. The target is stress – not just mental but physical and spiritual too. “Human sustainability is at stake,” says Vickum. The focus is cleansing and detoxing, through ancient Ayurvedic practices backed up by the latest scientific findings. An Ayurvedic doctor diagnoses your dosha (body type), by reading your pulse, face, tongue and cross-examining you on your lifestyle. You’re then given a personalised programme based on your dosha, which combines both Ayurvedic therapies (some pampering, others hard-hitting) and western treatments. Food plays a big part, following the Ayurveda philosophy Rasa Haya, where each of the six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent) are balanced to reduce cravings.

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