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Sublime Sri Lanka: A Stay at Ulagalla Resort

Morning at Ulagalla Resort Located in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

During my trip to Sri Lanka, the two days and nights I was a guest at eco-friendly Ulagalla Resort that truly made me fall in love with the country. Located in Anuradhapura in the country’s cultural triangle, Ulagalla is both intimate (2o guest chalets) and grand (the property is spread out over 58 acres of rice paddies). Ulagalla is member of SLH, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, where all the properties are privately owned and small but have high standards for service.

When I arrived at Ulagalla, The smiling staff greeted me with cool towels and said, “welcome to your home.” Then I took part in a smoky and mysterious check-in ritual which involved bell ringing and incense. I was utterly charmed.

The original colonial mansion was built in 1885. It has been meticulously restored and now houses the resort’s reception area, bar & restaurant.

Lotus flowers and water lilies open in the morning on a pond in front of Ulagalla’s main building

With a spa, pool, and stables on the property you could happily spend days at Ulagalla without leaving the property. I have to recommend taking a nature hike or canoe trip with one of resort’s guides to watch the sunset at one of the two lakes which border the property.

But most of guests who stay here are cultural travelers who want to visit the nearby sites in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle.  Ulagalla is perfectly situated to be a luxurious home base for those who want to visit the ancient capital and Buddhist shrines at Anuradhapura, which is only about half an hour away (and the hotel can help arrange a car and driver/guide).  You can get breakfast at the hotel and explore the he rock cave Buddhist temples of Dambulla an hour later. Or check out the rock fortress of Sirgirya, another of Sri Lanka’s UNESCO World Heritage sites located nearby.

The reception area at Ulagalla Resort is filled with antiques and teak seating areas

Ulagalla’s main building and restaurant are located in a 150 year old old exquisitely restored colonial mansion.  The 20 guest chalets (eaeh with a private plunge pool) on the property are spread out over the resort’s grounds which stretch over lush working rice paddies between two lakes. As fabulous as Ulagalla’s buildings and property are, it’s the genuine warmth of the staff that makes this place special in that rare way that is far harder to describe than gloating about it’s silver LEED certification. The  local ladies and gentleman who work at the resort all share a special spirit. They are perfect brand ambassadors- pleasant, helpful and understated. They are proud of Sri Lanka and Ulagalla and simply delightful to be around. I really enjoyed chatting with several different staff members during my stay.

The whimsical wine tree in the restaurant at Ulagalla was one of my favorite touches. If only Chateauneuf-du-Pape grew on trees!

I really liked the “bio-clock” dining attitude at Ulagalla- there are no set meal times. The hotel’s management knows that it’s guests have traveled far to get here and might be experience jet lag or simply be hungry and tired at odd hours. You eat when you are hungry. It’s that simple. The hotel accomodates the

The reception area at Ulagalla resort

The zen check-in ritual at Ulagalla was enchanting and beautiful

Warm Sri Lankan smiles and hospitality are everywhere at Ulagalla. The staff is proud of their country’s cultural heritage and happy to show it off. I really enjoyed chatting with whichever member of the staff was driving me around the grounds in golf cart.

Leaving Ulagalla it’s this fellow I will miss the most

Ulagalla’s staff is genuinely warm. This charming fellow used to work heavy construction when the property was being built. The hotel’s general manager, Lalin De Mel, recognized his special spirit and felt he would be a great addition to the staff, so he was asked to stay on and work at the property.

“I won the lottery with my first hotel job a bit late in life,” he told me. I think the guests at Ulagalla who get to experience this sort of special charm are the real winners.

The building that houses Ulagalla’s restaurant and bar once belonged to a village chieftain

Ulagalla’s 25 individual guest chalets are spread out over the property. You can travel the grounds on a golf cart, by bicycle (two come with each chalet) or even horseback (there are stables on the property).

Ulagalla is green & gorgeous. Nature lovers can enjoy the wildlife and scenery right on the property. I saw peacocks and monkeys during my stay. You can also take a canoe ride on one of the two lakes which border the property, or a nature hike.

Early morning view at Ulagalla. Birds and peacocks abound.

Ulagalla is located about 3 1/2 hours by car from Columbo’s Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB). You can also arrange transfers by helicopter if you want to avoid the bumpy roads. Rates at Ulagalla start at about $403 per night and can be booked through SLH.

Stay tuned for future posts with more details on this very special resort.

Editor’s Note: My stay at Ulagalla was sponsored by SLH and Ulagalla Resort