Sri Lanka is said to have entranced Marco Polo, and its beauty is undiminished, but it’s been under the cloud of civil war for the past and is only now showing its light as a wonderful holiday destination. The Cultural Triangle is one of the island’s most magical regions, so you’ll definitely need to book into one of the best hotels in the Cultural Triangle for at least some of your Sri Lankan stay!
Our Guru’s list of the best hotels in the Cultural Triangle opens up the fascinating sights of this region in the hilly centre of the country, which can be happily combined with lotus eating along the coast - where tourism has always thrived, thereby offering the best of two worlds.
Travel by car (with a driver) is not expensive and train journeys are a delight. The beaches are magnificent and the choice of hotels throughout the country is ever increasing. The best hotels in the Cultural Triangle at the top end of the price scale are the island’s healthy crop of small, individual boutique hotels, often with fewer than twenty rooms, and at the cheaper end, the best hotels in the Cultural Triangle are the restored guest houses which trade, with good reason, on the charm of their colonial past. The perfect time to visit is between January and April.
Vil Uyana in Sigiriya is a complex of 25 luxurious, thatched cabanas which sit on stilts, hovering over a lake popular with birdwatchers. Lake Lodge in Dambulla, is a lovely lakeside, 12 room B&B with simple, airy rooms, panoramic views of the hills.
St Bridget’s Guest House in Kandy is a delightful guesthouse with lovely spice and fruit gardens, offering 10 simple rooms and fantastic home cooking.
The Kelburne Cottages are a collection of tea planter’s houses on a spectacular bluff overlooking the plains, and offer great options for families and groups, as well as incredible views. Or for a romantic, but still family-friendly option, consider The Sun House in Galle, a charmingly restored merchant’s house with seven exquisite bedrooms and suites decorated all in white, excellent communal dining and spectacular, frangipani-scented gardens.
The Polonnaruwa Rest House, near the sites of Polonnaruwa, is a wonderful colonial bungalow with 40 large bedrooms, incredible lake views and a great restaurant, or you might try the Maya Old House, a restored villa on an elegant estate turned into a beautiful, colonial era retreat, surrounded by paddy fields.
Giritale is a well placed lakeside hotel in Giritale, near the sites of Polonnaruwa, with lush gardens and an ayurvedic centre, starting from around £60 per night.
Buckingham Place is a newly built, 12 room hotel by the side of a lovely lagoon and close to the beach in Tangalle, or in Galle itself you might try The Dutch House, an elegant 18th Century mansion overlooking the city, but peacefully positioned on its own hilltop.
Helga’s Folly in Kandy is a kind of Basil Fawlty meats Kubla Khan experience, a decadent red, 1930s home surrounded by jungle, offering 40 rooms with eccentric details.
Amanwella is a luxurious, 30 room resort overlooking a wonderful beach beside a coconut grove, with fantastic facilities and absolute relaxation and seclusion.
Basil Fawlty meets Kubla Khan in Helga Blow’s decadent chic home. A red 1930s building surrounded by jungle. Dark muralled rooms full of historical paintings, photographs and antiques. Home cooked food and a well stocked bar. A truly eccentric stay that should be on everyone's 'to visit' list.
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Luxury thatched cabanas set on stilts over a man made lake filled with nature. Huge rooms, large windows and decks overlooking the wetlands - perfect for birdwatching. Peaceful library, large infinity pool, and spa. A unique retreat in natural surroundings.
Giritale, Sri Lanka
Well placed lakeside hotel near the sites of Polonnaruwa. Rooms are simple yet very comfortable with breathtaking vistas - which can also be enjoyed from the terrace and the swimming pool. Luxuriant gardens and an Ayurvedic centre. A secluded spot to relax in and explore the wildlife in the area.
Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Formerly known as Polonnaruwa Rest House this colonial bungalow has undergone much modernisation since the Queen stayed here in 1954. Overlooking Giritale lake bedrooms and dining areas boast marvellous views. Delicious Sri Lankan dishes are served. A great spot to explore historic Polonnaruwa.
Haputale, Sri Lanka
Teaplanters’ houses spectacularly sited on a 2,500ft bluff above the plains. Fantastic views from the tea terraces over the plains and blue hills. Traditional interiors with large glass windows. Dine in your villa or make your way to the hotel restaurant. A great choice for families or groups.
Beliatta, Near Tangalle
Restored villa with a central courtyard in its own elegant estate filled with flora and fauna. A retreat for nature lovers, families, or romantics. Contemporary rooms with colonial influences, beautiful verandahs, and surrounding paddy fields. Excellent home cooked food. A lovely relaxing retreat.
Dambulla, Sri Lanka
A charming B&B well placed for sightseeing in the Cultural Triangle, overlooking a Kandalama Lake. Simple airy rooms with large balconies and panoramic views of the hills, a swimming pool and leafy terrace. A great spot for enjoying Sri Lanka's abundant wildlife.
A newly built and cleverly designed hotel, in spacious grounds brimming with exotic plants. Minimalist guest lodges with stunning views, excellent food and friendly service. A tranquil escape yet close to the beach - a great spot for nature lovers and couples.
Kandy (Sri Sumangala Mawatha, Asgiriya)
Unpretentious but delightful guesthouse with a lovely garden. Fantastic home cooking, simple rooms with balconies for birdwatching, and a lovely spice and fruit garden. A charming spot for nature lovers.
Top end luxury and serene zen spaces on the edge of a coconut grove overlooking a wonderful beach. Sparing contemporary-chic design and fantastic facilities in this natural location. Sumptious cuisine enjoyed with a lovely sea view. A contemporary beach haven.
A peaceful 18th century mansion overlooking Galle. Elegant interiors decorated in rich ochres, antiques, and contemporary art with lovely gardens to unwind in. The adjoining hotel has the best restaurant in Galle. A tranquil and romantic base to explore Galle and its surrounding areas.
This charmingly restored merchant's house has great hillside views. Exquisite bedrooms and suites in all-white-ethereality are the piece de resistance for any romantic. An intimate atmosphere with communal dining and lovely gardens. A hip hotel, with many accolades, ideal for completely unwinding.