The Cultural Triangle
The Cultural Triangle has a plethora of history with entire lost cities, ruined temples, sacred caves, centuries-old murals and some amazing early engineering intertwined with the history of Buddhism. Five of Sri Lanka's seven UNESCO World heritage sites are in the area but you could definitely feel 'ruined-out' if you attempt to see them all. There are some lovely hotels and lodges in the area which you can use as a base or you can move around a bit more staying in lodges nearer to each area.
It's all about space and nature at Ulagalla - and the 25 eco friendly chalets are spread out within the 58 acres of paddy fields, organic vegetable plots and ornamental gardens. Golf buggies drop you off and pick you up but bicycles are also provided to scoot about the estate and visit the horseriding centre, driving school, spa, archery school and kayaking lakes. The chalets are huge and extremely comfortable with a sitting room, bedroom and wet room bathroom. Each has a huge terrace with a large plunge pool and sunbeds with views either over the paddy fields, lakes or gardens which are filled with a plethora of birds. The main restaurant and bar are in the 150 year old restored manor house, once home to the village chiefton which combines contemporary elegance without detracting from its traditional, rural design. In front there is an amazing 50m swimming pool which is lit beautifully in the evening with stars along the bottom of the pool. The staff are lovely and welcoming and there is a traditional candle lighting ceremony on arrival. Ulagala is great place to relax but also to explore the ancient ruins and temples of Anuradhapura.
Vil Uyana, only a stones through from the famous Sigiriya is a natural haven with hotel built on an around a lake and wetland nature reserve surrounded by paddy fields and the sound of birds. The central lake surrounded by the 25 chalets is home to otters, crocodiles, dragonflies, birds and butterflies. The main restaurant and bar areas has numerous indoor-outdoor spaces to enjoy the views and take the breeze. It’s a very stylish hotel with some excellent food and extremely smart walk in temperature controlled wine celler and lovely frescoes on the walls of the restaurant. The free form swimming pool makes you feel as if you are swimming in the lake and at near eye level to the small croc eyes that peep up through the waterlillies! Of the 25 chalets there are 10 within the trees, 6 over the paddy fields, 6 over marsh lands and 3 over water, some have private plunge pools. All the rooms are open plan with that clever combination of polished cement and wood that feels organic and modern, nice touches include the welcome message spelt out in leaves on your bed and the sarongs to wear during your stay - very comfortable beds and a massive bath and shower. A lovely place to relax but it's in a good central area to explore the temples and ruins of the Cultural Triangle.
Designed by Geoffrey Bawa, Sri Lanka's world renowned architect, the Kandalama Hotel is not a building to look at, but definitely a building to look from. The hotel is built in a modern minimalist style set into a rocky outcrop with sweeping views over the natural forest, the Kandalama Lake and the magnificent rock of Sigiriya in the distance. There are 3 swimming pools one free form and the sunset from the top pool is magnificent. With a six senses spa, tennis courts, balloon trips and nature walks around the lake there is plenty to keep you busy if you decide to give the temples a rest and have a day at the hotel. It is a big hotel,(172 rooms) but the rooms are modern and comfortable and all have the same magnificent view. Spacious bathrooms have luxurious rain showers, bathtubs or jacuzzis and you will bathe with a view. There are three restaurants, two a la carte and an excellent buffet restaurant where breakfast is also served. It's a great base to visit Sigiriya and the Dumbulla Cave Temples and only an hour or so from the UNESCO temples and ruins of Anuradhapura.
Not far from Dambulla in the heart of the countryside is the lovely modern private villa the Kalaundewa Retreat. The entrance to the 100 acre estate is along dusty roads lined with mango and pomegranate trees winding through paddy fields and crops. When you arrive at the reception area you get an idea of where you are staying with its modern minimalist architecture which blends in with the nature around it. It's quite a surprise to see such a place in such a rural setting. You can cross the water by boat or walk round through fruit trees to get to the villa which is building made of glass and steel over 2 floors with two bedrooms, one on each floor and a glass fronted sitting area and pool out the front. It's perfect for families (it can sleep up to 6) or honeymooners or anyone wanting to get away from the world as it's booked on an exclusive basis. It really is a peaceful rural retreat and you can wander around the estate on foot or by bicycle, looking for birds or chatting to the locals working the land.