Ulpotha

»It takes a village to raise a consciousness«

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Ulpotha is a green oasis of serenity and the yogic spirit. Offering well-rounded packages that cover meals, yoga and accommodation in a location that is deliberately kept secret to avoid the unannounced arrival of walk-ins, this sustainable village is dedicated to simple living, cultural understanding and personal harmony.

  • What we love
  • The unique concept of an entire village focused on sustainability and the yogic lifestyle
  • The secrecy of the exact location, giving the feeling of discovering a hidden gem
  • Cozy and romantic nights lit by candles and lanterns
  • What to know
  • No electricity and no WIFI available!
  • To maintain sustainability, Ulpotha accepts only 20 guests at a time and the village is only open to guests for 30 weeks of the year
  • Bathroom blocks are shared - a local custom unchanged for guests
  • Children are welcome, and in general, enjoy the freedom that Ulpotha offers immensely, however there are no special facilities for them, nor do we cater for them especially. In keeping with the spirit of a retreat we discourage babies to come. Children 3 to 6 come at 75%. Children 6-16 come at 50%.
  • Why go
  • Unique cultural insight
  • Stunning natural location
  • Excellent ayurvedic remedies

Ulpotha is clear that they do not run a hotel nor have any desire to do so. That being said, all guests feel welcomed by the hospitable staff and locals, relaxing into the authentic decor, sumptuous colors of the retreat and the surrounding mountains and rice paddies. This is not a place for everyone though. If your idea of roughing-it is slow room-service, one of our more deluxe retreats are probably for you. Ulpotha is a working Sri Lankan village, which means no electricity, no running hot water, and shared bathroom blocks. Your open hut is going to be frequented by insects, humidity, and the occasional snake. It’s also going to be the place you walk out of every morning to be greeted by birdsong, fellow travelers, smiling locals, and arguably one of the most beautiful places on our little blue planet. An interesting side-note: This sharing of bathrooms is more than a logistical convenience for the staff at Ulpotha. The decision actually came from a village elder, who pointed out that private bathrooms are alien to their culture.

Ulpotha is not a dedicated yoga retreat as such. Despite this, the yoga here is routinely called world-class and the energy of the place is very much in keeping with a well-rounded yogic lifestyle. Harmony, balance, and peace are strongly prized. The twice-daily yoga sessions are led by a small handful of highly skilled teachers, each with their own preferred style. All equipment is supplied, including the belts, blocks and bolsters required for the Iyengar style. All skill levels are welcome, and the deliberately-small group numbers allow a high level of personal attention. The shala is open on all sides, allowing the natural breezes to act as the closest thing to air-conditioning Ulpotha will ever see. Warm and well-maintained wooden flooring is a perfect base on which to lay a mat, and the spacious area easily accommodates however many people choose to drop in to a class.

The food is a riot of flavour and sensation, and is almost purely vegan. These two things may be a contradiction in terms to many, but at Ulpotha the magic of good vegan eating is skillfully introduced to even the most dedicated omnivore. Not only is all the food organically grown within the village, there are no carbon-fuelled machines used at all. Human hands, wooden ploughs and oxen are as modern as it gets in the growth and harvest cycle here, which is based on a lunar calendar.

Visitor numbers are kept deliberately low. Ulpotha has figured out in order to no overwhelm the area’s resources, they can allow only 20 guests at a time and be ‘open’ for just 30 weeks a year. This is why they don’t publish the exact location of Ulpotha on their website or other promotional material. When a booking is confirmed, the location is shared. Obviously this means that the precise location is not exactly a State Secret, however random walk-ins have never been a problem so it is clear that respect for Ulpotha’s policy is fairly widespread.

Children are not only welcome at Ulpotha, their stay is priced extremely reasonably. All littlies who share a bed with a parent are free, and children who need their own bed, up to age 16, are charged just 50% of the adult rate. Despite the high numbers of solo travelers who come to Ulpotha, it is a little-known and ideal spot for families. The gentle pace of life and the inclusion in local activities can be an educational and spiritually nourishing experience for kids. The Sri Lankan culture of being loving and welcoming to children is a far cry from adults-only vacations where the mere mention of our smaller friends is enough to raise a shudder.

Ayurveda is a powerful and integral part of life in Ulpotha. According the locals, there is more to Ayurveda than simply a depth of knowledge. There is also a spiritual and emotional X-factor that means the difference between a mediocre practitioner and a truly good one. In this light, it wasn’t until 2005 that Ulpotha, through chance or serendipity, came into contact with Dr. Srilal Mudunkothge (B.A.M.S.) and the local - free - Ayurveda clinic was established. Ayurveda is used preventatively and curatively for the locals and paying guests and by all accounts is a powerful force for change. Ayurvedic treatments and massage are available at an extra cost and complement the mainstay yoga classes. Ayurvedic treatment is US$80 per day, with a tailored three-day course running at $200 as it holds more value than single days. Longer packages are also available, depending on the total length of stay.

The unique mix of cultural understanding, visitors from all over the world, and green isolation, that is Ulpotha, has not, to our knowledge, been replicated anywhere else in the world. This really is a unique opportunity to change gears, relax, and find a harmonic balance with one of the world’s few remaining hidden secrets. Getting off the grid has never been more pleasurable.

About the area: The Cultural Triangle, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle is the area in the middle of the island that ecompasses five World Heritage Sites: The Ancient Cities of Polonnaruwa , Dambulla and Sigiriya and the Sacred Cities of Kandy and Anuradhapura. For thousands of years this region has drawn pilgrims - mostly of the Buddhist variety - and is known for its deep spiritual significance and energy. Life here is mostly traditional, particularly in the mountainous and rural areas, with gentle and friendly locals providing just as much beauty as the natural environment. Humidity is high in this region, and stays high for most of the year. It is really this ambient moisture that can be problematic for some visitors, rather than the temperatures which range from a cool 10 degrees C (50F) in the night of the central highlands up to to 30 degrees C (86F) in the heat of the day. Sri Lanka is just above the equator so does not have truly distinctive seasons. However the Cultural Triangle can be affected during one of Sri Lanka’s two yearly monsoon seasons. Typically from May to August, the rainy season does not make visiting prohibitive and some say it is their favorite time of year.

Image credit: Ulpotha and Susanna Scott

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