VOYAGE

Boutique

Sri Lanka

Hotels

ON THE LANKAN
HERITAGE TRAIL
In the morning sun, colorful little birds gather for a quick
dip in the small, tiled fountain which forms the center of
the open courtyard, inside what was formerly an 18th
century Dutch mansion. Gigantic pillars create tall shadows
in the corridors of the refurbished mansion, while the pale
walls and high ceilings offer a sepia-toned throwback to
Dutch-era Sri Lanka.

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Exploring Sri Lankan history and heritage
through its boutique hotels sheds light on some
amusing, colorful and delightful stories, writes
Priyanka Pradhan
As sunbeams illuminate the ancient doors and windows
on the façade of the iconic Galle Fort Hotel, stories from the
pages of Sri Lanka’s history come to life. The estate has seen
times of strife and turmoil as well as that of prosperity, as it
morphed from a princely Dutch mansion to barracks for the
Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II, a post office, a
bakery, and most recently, a pitch for Galle’s adolescent

VOYAGE

BELOW: A white
canopied bed
FACING PAGE: The
lavish indoor pool

ABOVE: The making
of Lankan tea
LEFT AND BELOW:
The hotel’s luscious
surroundings

cricketers, before it was finally refurbished to become The
Galle Fort Hotel in 2003.
The boutique hotel offers some unique insights into Sri
Lanka’s journey through the ages. For instance, a suite
named after a seven-foot tall eunuch, the Chinese Admiral
Cheng Ho, commemorates his visit to Galle in 1406. The
admiral had halted at Galle en route to an expedition to
explore the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific with seven
voyages, long before Cristopher Columbus set his anchor
down on the sandy shores of Ceylon.
Recipient of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of
Distinction, The Galle Fort Hotel is a treasure trove of such
stories unearthed from history, culture and folklore. The
architecture of the renovated estate also reflects more than
one style and school of design. While a majority of the
boutique hotel retains its Dutch charm, parts of it pay
tribute to Sri Lanka’s British heritage as well as its ethnic
Sinhalese flavor.
The Galle Fort Hotel’s sister property, the Thotalagada
estate pays homage to this indigenous Lankan flavor. About
5 hours from Galle, in Haputale, a sprawling heritage
boutique bungalow is nestled in the lap of hills, among 8,000
hectares of lush green. Formerly a tea planter’s bungalow,
the 145-year-old property is restored to give connoisseurs
from across the world an opportunity to sample the rich,
homegrown essence of Ceylon tea. As the estate is fully
functional, guests of the boutique property have the
privilege of going tea picking with the planters for a more
immersive experience and a glimpse into the traditional
lifestyle of a tea planter.
A closer look inside the bungalow reveals seven luxury-

AS SUNBEAMS ILLUMINATE THE ANCIENT DOORS
AND WINDOWS ON THE FACADE OF THE
ICONIC GALLE FORT HOTEL, STORIES FROM THE
PAGES OF SRI LANKA’S HISTORY COME TO LIFE
themed suites based on personalities that shaped the
history of tea culture in Sri Lanka- particularly Sir Thomas
Lipton, who has the master suite dedicated to him in honor
of his contribution to Lankan tea. Memorabilia from the
British Colonial era, picnic breakfasts in the tea country and
the traditional English cigar room in the bungalow make for
an indulgent experience. Add to that, a kitchen with an
exhaustive menu of local and international gourmet
cuisines and on-demand services, Thotalagala aims to offer
a decadent experience.
As the sun sets over the sea of green, just over the edge of
the high tea table, it illuminates the not just the panorama
of peaks and valleys but also that of history and heritage
waiting to be explored through Sri Lanka’s luxury boutique
stays. galleforthotel.com

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