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Sri Lanka’s 20 Best Boutique Hotels

Clingendael boutique hotel

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James Ellis

1. Casa Colombo – Colombo
Winner of the recent “best classic boutique hotel” gong at the World Boutique Hotel awards, this 200-year-old Moorish-style mansion is a capital classic. There are 12 individually designed rooms with Italian and Indian-tiled mosaic floors, carved arches, moulded ceilings and fretwork-fringed balconies, as well as butler service. A new Chill Spa has just opened, and there’s an outdoor pool, along with a newly renovated pool that turns into a romantic evening dining space by night.
Details: B&B doubles are from £200 per night (00 94 114 520130, casacolombo.com)

2. Clingendael – Kandy
This über-luxurious hotel up in the Kandyan hills on the Victoria Golf and Country Resort is for serenity seekers. With just five rooms and suites, it is mainly for couples, though children are allowed. The stunning mountain and reservoir views make eating on the veranda or in the garden a treat. Rooms are filled with reclaimed Dutch colonial antiques, there is a library of books and DVDs, free wifi, an outdoor hot tub, and plenty of peace.
Details: B&B doubles with free soft drinks and beer cost from £365 (0330 100 3180, mrandmrssmith.com)

3. Helga’s Folly – Kandy
Overlooking Jungle Lake and magnificent mountains, and founded in the 1930s by Helga’s mother, this hotel is totally unique. Wax drips from candelabra, old 78s play on the gramophone, and a labyrinth of corridors leads to rooms with pink walls and black mosquito nets, dripping with antiques. Rock band the Stereophonics were so moved by a stay, that they penned Madame Helga, after its eccentric owner.
Details: B&B doubles are from £135 per night (00 94 81 447 4314, helgasfolly.com)

4. Tea Trails – Hatton
Head inland for a cooling stay in Sri Lanka’s tea country around Hatton and Nuwara Eliya,hilltop towns that were once a favourite escape of the British colonial gentry. Housed in four tea planters’ buildings that were built between 1888 and 1950, this luxury retreat, owned by the people behind Dilmah Tea, features rooms restored to their former glory, butler service and “tea experience” trips to factories and the fields.
Details: B&B doubles are from £355 per night (00 94 11 774 5700, teatrails.com)

5. Vil Uyana – Sigiriya
With Sri Lanka’s iconic lion rock Sigiriya looming in the background, this collection of thatched villas around a reintroduced wetland combines high-end stays with eco principles. Old watering holes were excavated and allowed to refill with rainwater during building, and birds and wildlife have returned to offer guests close-up encounters from their private balconies. Inside there are woven ceilings, wooden floors and high-tech touches such as flat-screen TVs with satellite channels.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,540pp, including flights (01752 878024, expressionsholidays.co.uk)

6. Ulagalla Resort – Anuradhapura
Housed in a 150-year-old mansion surrounded by 58 acres of land, this luxury hotel in the cultural triangle gives you the chance to take in Sri Lanka’s ancient capital Anuradhapura and get up close to monkeys, peacocks and elephants in the surrounding jungle. Elegant suites with a contemporary colonial design have sitting areas and private plunge pools. In addition, the resort has a spa and a restaurant specialising in Sri Lankan curries.
Details: Five nights’ B&B is from £1,458pp, including flights (01494 678400, turquoiseholidays.co.uk)

7. Cape Weligama – Weligama
Just two months old and on a headland overlooking the Indian Ocean, this showstopper owned by the Fernando family of Dilmah Tea-fame is laid out in a village style. The estate is dotted with coconut palms and there are dramatic cliff-edge infinity pools. Villas designed by the architect Lek Bunnag have a contemporary classic feel. When you want more action, there’s a 10-person speedboat offering diving and whale-watching trips.
Details: B&B doubles are from £383 per night (0330 100 3180, mrandmrssmith.com)

8. Tri Lake – Koggala
Just inland from Weligama, this slick
10-suite design hotel overlooking Lake Koggala is opening this spring. The brainchild of the British owner Rob Drummond and the renowned green architect Raefer Wallis, it promises high-end rooms as well as eco activities including a tree-top yoga space, lake kayaking, a viewing deck and natural exercise areas in the surrounding jungle. They’re also building a private beach club and restaurant on Kabalana Beach, so that guests can combine lakeside living with coastal excursions.
Details: B&B doubles are from £120 per night (00 94 777 485 132, trilanka.com)

9 Kahanda Kanda Lake – Koggala
Set on a hilltop overlooking a 12-acre tea estate and with distant views of Koggala Lake, this evocative retreat for couples has been curated by its owner, the interior designer George Cooper. He has chosenfour-poster beds, antiques and double showers for the nine suites andone room is in an antique Javanese joglo house. Activities include bike rides, sailing trips to Talathuduwa Temple Island on the lake and yoga.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B is from £2,799pp, including flights (020 7426 9888, blacktomato.com)

10. Jungle Beach – Trincomalee
In previously war-torn Trincomalee on the island’s east coast, this new hotel is on a pristine, undeveloped beach with no other resorts in sight. Rustic-chic rooms designed like jungle cabins give the place a treehouse feel and there’s a large deck area with a pool. Nearby there are hot springs, as well as a romantic “Lovers’ Leap” where, in 1687, the spurned Francina van Reed hurled herself to the sea 400ft below.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,779pp, including flights (01494 678400, turquoiseholidays.co.uk)

11. Sunrise by Jetwing Passikudah Bay
Jetwing is Sri Lanka’s premier hotel company and this new resort, due to open in May, and exclusive to Kuoni in the UK, is on what is said to be the country’s best stretch of beach. Contemporary rooms decorated with local artwork are spread over three wings. There are also two restaurants and the Sky Bar for cocktails.
Details: Six nights’ all-inclusive at Sunrise by Jetwing and one night’s B&B at the Jetwing Sea, Negombo, is from £1,637 including flights (01306 747008, kuoni.co.uk)

12. Anilana – Nilaveli
This latest addition to the high-end Anilana family of hotels is on an unspoilt stretch of sand north of Trincomalee. The modern rooms have clean lines and there’s a great pool deck, plus a spa and six restaurants, bars and cafés, including The Rooftop, a perfect spot from which to watch the sun dip into the Indian Ocean at the end of each day. Activities include dolphin watching tours and cooking classes.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,250pp, including flights (0203 468 6268, experiencetravelgroup.com)

13. Gal Oya Lodge – Gal Oya National Park
Yala, on the south coast, is the Sri Lankan national park that has dominated the headlines for decades, but the end of the civil war has opened up new green opportunities, including visits to this forgotten eco reserve on the east coast. This lodge is the first to open in Gal Oya and features nine spacious suites on 20 acres of land. There are chances to see elephants swimming in the park’s lake — the country’s largest — and meet the Vedda people, one of the country’s last indigenous tribes.
Details: Ten nights’ B&B is from £2,350pp, including flights (020 7426 9888, blacktomato.com)

14. Uga Bay – Kalkudha
New to Virgin Holidays for 2015 is this recently opened east coast escape close to Batticaloa, a sister hotel to Ulagalla. Fusing tropical and Mediterranean architecture, it has 46 rooms in a semi-circular formation, so all get views of the beach. There’s a restaurant and an underground spa, plus a watersports centre. Experienced divers will love the chance to explore the First World War shipwreck of HMS Hermes, which lies just offshore.
Details: Six nights’ B&B is from £975pp, including flights (0844 557 3859, virginholidays.co.uk)

15. Treetops Jungle Lodge – Yala
While new national parks may be opening up around the country, the density of leopards is higher in Yala National Park than anywhere in the world, so it’s the perfect place to try to spot these fêted felines. Recently re-opened and revamped, Treetops, one of the park’s iconic lodges, has changed tack this year, from its original basic set-up to boutique tents that are closer to the park’s entrance. The food remains largely vegetarian and there are complimentary guided jungle walks thrown in. The setting is pretty remote, so expect to see elephants parading by too.
Details: Seven nights’ full board is from £1,615pp, including flights (020 3468 6268, experiencetravelgroup.com)

16. Bethany 101 – Puttalam
Nestled between Puttalam Lagoon and the North Western Province’s dry zone, this 19th-century Moorish villa has been renovated into a beautiful six-bedroom hotel. There are period design features, manicured lawns and verandas overlooking the pool, as well as the chance to explore the nearby Wilpattu National Park and go kitesurfing on the beaches of Kalpitiya.
Details: Seven nights’ B&B is from £1,470pp (020 3355 4716, experiencetravelgroup.com)

17. The Galle Fort Hotel – Galle
Tucked away across several buildings in the winding streets of Galle’s evocative 17th-century Dutch fort, this favourite haunt of writers such as Paul Theroux claims to have the largest hotel room in Sri Lanka. The Grand Apartment comes with 12-inch teak floorboards, 15ft lime-washed ceilings, a four-poster bed draped with white chiffon and a large balcony. Booking the standard Garden Rooms won’t disappoint though — they also have four-posters and private gardens with water features.
Details: B&B doubles are from £127 per night (00 94 91 2232870, www.galleforthotel.com)

18. Amangalla – Galle
Also within the fort ramparts, this elegant mansion, originally built in 1684 and once the home of the Dutch governor, has 28 rooms with original teak floorboards and a mix of antique and colonial-style furniture. A veranda stretches the length of the building, perfect for watching the fort’s bustling streets, plus there’s an ayurvedic spa, a swimming pool, gardens and a library.
Details: B&B doubles are from £465 per night, including afternoon tea (00 800 2255 2626, amanresorts.com)

19. Why House – Galle
A cross between a boutique hotel and a private holiday home, this smart retreat just south of Galle is split between the main villa, a garden house and two cottages surrounded by a three-acre private walled garden of tropical plants, fruit and spice trees. The elegantly styled rooms with period furnishings have bespoke artwork, plus there is a pool and activities include elephant rides and visits from snake charmers and face painters to keep the kids happy. New for this year is a family room with a mezzanine level.
Details: B&B doubles are from £140 per night (00 94 91 222 7599, whyhousesrilanka.com)

20. The Wallawwa – Kotugoda
If you’re looking for an airport stay after the long flight, look no further. This boutique hotel is less than 15 minutes from Bandaranaike International Airport but is the proverbial world away. Wallawwa is Singhalese for manor house and stays feel positively baronial. The 17 classy suites are surrounded by seven acres of land, including two that have been turned into a fruit and vegetable garden, with most of the produce — from pineapples to passion fruit — being used in the restaurant. Bag the two-bed Mountbatten suite if you can — it comes with its own plunge pool.
Details: B&B doubles are from £100 per night (00 94 773 638381, thewallawwa.com)

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