Sri Lanka Hotels

We are always very positive about the range of hotels on offer in Sri Lanka. Over the years they have managed to produce and develop a huge choice of individual properties with great character and charm covering a broad part of the price spectrum. We very rarely, if ever, use international chains and what hotel groups there are tend to be locally owned. This has meant a constant improvement across the board with great staffing and service. When we were in Sri Lanka in September (2023) we stayed at a number of excellent properties and made a point of visiting others too.

Notary’s House, Gampaha

On a Sri Lankan touring holiday we usually suggest a first night in the region of the airport as a way of getting into the country and decompressing. I am often in two minds about it, thinking it is often best to push on, however this is what we did and yes, it definitely worked. Within an hour we were relaxing at the lovely Notary’s House – a spacious manor house with expansive gardens and looking out over a lake. It worked really well and, if time permits, I would strongly recommend it.

Notary’s House is an airy open=plan building with most of the ground floor devoted to living and dining area. The rooms (6 in total), on the first floor, are spacious with views out over the gardens and towards the lake from their balconies. There is a really good sized pool and the gardens stretch down to the lake with a temple on the opposite side. Much of the garden is made up of a coconut plantation and there is a large kitchen garden which the team will happily show you around. The food is delicious and Ingredients are pretty much all from on-site, or the local village. It is very much like staying in a welcoming friend’s house, a theme of many places we stayed in, with efficient, friendly and very personal service. There was no menu as such although they could rustle up most things you would want – a superb rice and curry dinner was followed in the morning by a sumptuous breakfast feast.

We relaxed by the pool, admired the plentiful birdlife and then joined one of the team in a gentle cycle through the local forest reserve, local village and around the lake. It was about 1 hour total, mostly along quiet lanes, and gave a feel of the village bustle at the end of the day with the baker’s van following the same route playing its tune to attract custom (The Godfather theme tune) a sound we got used to over the next couple of weeks. All in all a brilliant way to start a Sri Lankan holiday and perfect for families and adults.


The Mudhouse, Anamaduwa

We stayed a couple of nights at the unique Mudhouse, a really special place. Built in a forest zone, just outside Anamaduwa, this eco-lodge gives a real insight into a rural area without any tourists. The lodge is made up of different villas, all built using local materials and open sided, Our house had an open central area and had 6 beds (with nets) dotted around the building. There were two open shower areas, water ingeniously coming out of tree branches , and a separate loo. Drinking water, tea, and locally made toiletries were provided.

The lodge had a central basecamp area with deck over-looking the lake. As well as the dining room it also had hammocks and bean bags to relax in. While not fully off-grid, power is minimal and everything is grown on the on-site farm so local and seasonal. It is safe to say we ate magnificently, fed by Guna and his team, and joining in for cooking was fascinating.

We walked the locale, explored the site and went birdwatching in the area. The lake (and others around) was a magnet for birds from hordes of kingfishers through to eagles and kites. There were mongoose throughout the property and the lake bed was full of peacocks/hens. We spent hours on the deck, relaxing and watching the lake – as well as the birds the villagers came down to fish and collect lily roots to cook. There was not enough water to go swimming but any visits from November through to June/July you can swim off the deck

We cycled out through the fields to a nearby rock massif to watch sunset go down over the forest and another evening drove to one of the longest rock-inscriptions in Asia, carved in another rock monolith – again a spectacular sunset greeted us. The stay was simply a wonderful experience, led by the constant enthusiasm of Kumar, as a place to relax and soak up rural life and the noise of the forests. As a place to get away from it all it is a really special slice of Sri Lanka. Perfect for families or adults looking for something a bit different – bring a sense of adventure.

Water Garden Sigiriya

Our next stop was the Cultural Triangle, the area which most visitors to Sri Lanka will head. It is central-north on the edge of the wet/dry zones and contains a wealth of historic sights as well as wildlife parks and tanks (man-made reservoirs). Our base was the wonderfully relaxing Water Garden Sigirya with the eponymous rock rising majestically in the distance over the lakes and ponds. This was as much a contrast as possible to the MudHouse and you are immediately struck when you arrive at the spectacular open air reception for a welcome neck massage while looking out over the gardens to Sigirya. Modern and stylish the bungalows and villas are spread around several water tanks (complete with crocodiles) giving a spacious feel to the hotel. The villas are extremely comfortable and well equipped with good sized terraces as well as pools in some categories. There are a handful of duplex family bungalows with extensive roof terraces too.

The public areas are open plan with restaurant, spa, huge infinity pool and bar are in the middle with fine views over towards Sigiriya. The restaurant was really excellent with lavish Sri Lankan breakfasts and huge rice and curry dinners as well as dishes with a more international twist. Service was superb – welcoming, helpful and friendly. It was the largest hotel we stayed in and the most ‘modern’ and is amongst the best options in the Cultural Triangle. This would work well for families, the bungalows are spacious, or adults.

Coffee Bungalow, Kandy

The capital of the Hill Country, Kandy itself is built around a lake surrounded by forested hills. While it is a big sprawling city the centre is small and compact, easily walkable, so you do not get the sense of a large urban area. The centre-piece is the wonderful Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This is the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka, and a major pilgrimage centre from across Asia. There is a good choice of smaller properties around the city and getting a hotel with a lovely view, as we did, is a must. From the Coffee Bungalow we could see the lake and temple in one direction and the beautiful Knuckles Mountain range in the other – what a great place to relax.

A relatively newly opened property Coffee Bungalow has charm and style in abundance. With only 6 rooms it is very small and personal with a gorgeous sitting room and dining area as well as a lovely outside verandah. All the rooms have views out over the lake, are extremely comfortable with luxurious bathrooms. The service is exceptional with really excellent food – the breakfasts were superb with ‘mum’s tomato curry relish being a real favourite. The infinity swimming pool is in the prefect location and just what is needed after exploring the town. A real bonus is that you can walk down to the end of the lake in about 10 minutes and into the town centre in 20-25 mins. it is a short rickshaw ride back. Coffee Bungalow is probably better suited to adults than families.

Villa Rosa, Kandy

We have used Villa Rosa for a number of years and am really glad we took the time to visit it while in Kandy. It has simply unbelievable views high up above the Mahaweli River, while there we saw a fish eagle passing below us. In the past our hesitation to use it has been because there was no pool but now they have built a gorgeous pool in the centre of the property – it looks fabulous. This is a relaxed property with a range of different room types in wooden, colonial styles and really nice public areas. Popular with yoga followers it has a really welcoming feel. It is further out of town, up some very steep hills, so you can’t walk in or out however it is probably only 5-10 mins in a rickshaw.

Nine Skies, Demodera

In the hill country we stayed at the gorgeous Nine Skies on the Demodera Estate. Tea We arrived by train and could see the famous Demodera Loop beneath us and here the trains whistling as they approached. There were wonderful views across the valley and towards Little Adam’s Peak. The infinity pool was the perfect spot to relax, we played croquet on the lawn and watched the myriad birds and bustling fireflies. Most visitors here will visit the tea planation itself, Ella (15+ mins away) and do walks to local viewpoints. We walked to Ella on section 16 of the Pekoe Trail.

With only 5 rooms this is a wonderfully relaxing spot with wide lawns, spacious terrace and cosy drawing room. Rooms are all on the ground floor and opened out onto the garden. Built in the 1920s, and thoroughly modernised, the whole place oozed  charm. Service was immaculate and the food and drinks of the highest quality. It is all inclusive and you really can make yourself at home. Perfect for adults this would be a great honeymoon spot but also good for families.

Mahoora Safari Camp, Uda Walawe

Out base to visit Uda Walawe National Park was the Mahoora Safari camp. Located up against the eastern border of the park it was located in a thicket surrounded by lakes and fields. The tents, all en-suite, were spaced out throughout the area with torches lit and night and dinner, under the stars, in the main area. The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable and the visit to Uda Walawe aside a morning walk along the National Park boundary with the head guide Solomon was a real highlight. We saw elephant spore, signs where they had broken down the park fences the night before and wonderful birdlife. The tents were comfortable and well appointed although not luxurious. Food was excellent, as it was everywhere.

Sielen Diva, Talpe, Galle Coast

Most people will end up on the coast, maybe on the beach, at some stage on their trip and ideally at the end. There is always a big debate about where to go when. Our view is to generally head to the southern or Galle coast. At certain times of year, the weather might not be perfect or the seas might be too rough to swim however it is always going to be warm/hot, there is the best choice of hotels, the best things to see/do and in Galle, you have a really magical town to visit and explore.

Sielen Diva is a small 7 bedroom luxury hotel with a lawned garden that opens right onto the beach. Originally built as a private home the feel is very personal with huge rooms, floor to ceiling windows and long drop showers in the dramatic bathrooms – you can laze in bed looking straight out to sea. The open plan downstairs living area have an immense main dining table, smaller tables, sofas and loungers  by the spacious pool.  You can look right through the building as you arrive with the sea visible through the building. It is dramatic and stylish and yet the staff are very friendly and personal. Breakfast was brilliant with string hoppers and fish curry a must. We had, possibly, our best rice and curry here one lunch and also a wonderful seafood platter – full of the finest items available that day.

We were in Thalpe about 10km from Galle – it was 5 mins in a rickshaw from Unawatuna and 15 mins in rickshaw from Galle. The seas were quite rough where we were, you could swim in some sections, although there are plenty of spots along the coast that are safe. We loved walking along the beach, chilling by the pool and went into Galle a couple of times – once to explore and once for dinner. There were also restaurants nearby you could walk to. If you are looking for a hotel with lots going on then this is not the place – if you want a wonderful relaxing spot with personal service then this could be the spot. It is probably better suited to adults than families.

KK Beach

Slightly further east than Sielen Diva, 5 mins drive, is KK Beach hotel, an offshoot of Kahanda Kanda (see below). This small property is right on the beach with a lovely lawned garden, good sized pool and gate opening onto the sands.

The ground floor has a a spacious living area with comfy sofas, tables and library while to the side is a stylish bar and the dining room. It is all open plan out to the garden and has a good feel. The are two floors of rooms above, all with wonderful sea views and balconies. Smart, stylish and comfortable this small property would be ideal for adults and families with older children,

Kahanda Kanda

This super stylish retreat is set back from the coast about 5km from the beach (they run a shuttle to KK Beach above). There are a total of 12 villas (many with pools) is 12 acres of tea plantation and lush gardens. The main area, with the bar, living area, restaurant and main pool is set at the top of the hill and the open-sided building have great views out. It is small and personal with outstanding service and charm.

The villas are all totally uniquely designed and styled and 8 of them have private pools. They are dotted around the property and some are a short walk down the hill (there is a rickshaw). All have outdoor space and a wonderful luxurious tropical feel – they are full of elegant art and antiques. This is a perfect south coast retreat – you can get to the beach easily if you want but equally can relax in this tropical hideaway.

Fort Bazaar, Galle

Set in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage, Galle Fort, this atmospheric boutique hotel is a brilliant bolt-hole in one of Sri Lanka’s favourite towns. With 18 rooms and suites, most set around a central courtyard, it has a buzzy restaurant and bar plus library area. A swimming pool is in the pipeline. This would be the perfect spot for adults looking to enjoy time in Galle itself.

Maniumpathy, Colombo

If you are looking at a Colombo stay then this is a grand old mansion, in the central Cinnamon Gardens, that is now a stylish 7 bedroom boutique hotel. The rooms are really comfortable and atmospheric, the central courtyard (with pool) is charming and relaxing and the service is superb. If you do stay here don’t miss the superb (and fiery) Jaffna Thali, it was a real highlight and very different from the many fine ‘rice and curry’ meals we had had over the previous two weeks.


More Posts

Eating our way around Sri Lanka

I always remembered Sri Lankan food fondly, with the seafood and fruit being particular favourites. However, it is safe to say that the food was