Hill Country, Sri Lanka

Thotalagala

Rates per night from$190.43

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD190.43), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Steeped-in-history bungalow

Setting

Aromatic tea plantation

Hillside tea-planter’s bungalow turned boutique hotel Thotalagala is a colonial-style, seven-room stay, decorated with original 19th-century furnishings and odes to the heritage of Sri Lankan Hill Country. Take alfresco breakfasts on the emerald-green lawn and look out over rolling tea plantations as you nibble baked goods and sip locally grown tea; in the evenings, dine in old-world splendour at the long antique dining table. Spend your days exploring the grounds, climbing up to nearby Lipton’s Seat, or simply lounging on the cream-coloured sofas in-between tea times.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

One three-course dinner for two (not including drinks)

Facilities

Photos Thotalagala facilities

Need to know

Rooms

Seven, including four suites.

Check–Out

Noon; earliest check-in is 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $190.43, excluding tax at 31.28 per cent.

More details

Rates usually include Continental breakfast.

Also

When in tea country, stopping for afternoon tea is basically compulsory. Take yours – with tiered plates of scones, lashings of whipped cream, cucumber sandwiches and cakes – in the antique-dotted living room, or outside on a table-for-two with views of the rolling hills.

At the hotel

Manicured gardens, cigar room, free WiFi throughout, laundry service. In rooms: free WiFi and Spa Ceylon bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Each of the seven rooms is individually decorated with antique furnishings – a roll-top desk here, an artfully arranged taxonomy of fragrant plants there – and named after a historical figure with a tea-country connection. We especially like the stunning four-poster bed in the Rev Walter Senior room.

Poolside

The adults-only unheated pool has views of the rolling green plantation and poolside sunloungers on which to lie and sip tea (or G&Ts).

Packing tips

Bring your hiking boots and binoculars: Haputale is ideally located for trekking and birdwatching.

Also

The architecture of this historic home and the surrounding hills may make this stay less suitable for guests with mobility issues.

Children

Over-fours are welcome to stay in suites for US$100 a day; cots and extra beds aren’t available, but there are sofa beds in the larger suites.

Food and Drink

Photos Thotalagala food and drink

Top Table

Be sociable and share your day’s experience with the other guests, or ask for a more private table outside. The terrace is tops for alfresco lunches.

Dress Code

There may be a little chill in the air, so pull out a cosy jumper or cardigan. Add ornate cufflinks, an antique broach or a string of pearls.

Hotel restaurant

The large, colonial-style dining room has a one long table that seats up to 14 guests. Choose between Sri Lankan and western-style dishes on the evenings set menu, or the á la carte menus; the set menu changes daily, based on what’s available locally, and the chef discusses options with guests at the start of each day. Expect to see an assortment of curries served with Sri Lankan roti and spicy sambal sauce; if it’s on offer, don’t pass on the lentil dhal. In warmer months, elaborate candle-lit barbecues can be arranged for alfresco dinners. Dessert options range from banana fritters and cinnamon ice-cream to chocolate tarts and fresh fruit. 

Hotel bar

There’s no dedicated bar, but G&Ts aren’t hard to come by, and a fireside armchair in the teak-panelled cigar room is the perfect place for a post-dinner cognac.

Last orders

Meals are arranged at times that are most convenient for guests; if you fancy breakfast at 11am or dinner at 5pm, just ask.

Room service

You're made to feel at home here, and room service can be arranged at any time.

Location

Photos Thotalagala location
Address
Thotalagala
Dambatenne Road
Haputale
Sri Lanka

Planes

It's a five-hour drive to Thotalagala from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport. SriLankan Airlines flies direct to Colombo from Sydney and a handful of European destinations; one-stop operators include Emirates and Singapore Airlines. Call our Smith24 team to arrange flights and transfers.

Trains

Haputale Railway Station is 15 minutes away by car; let the hotel know when your train is due, and they’ll arrange a free pickup (and drop-off) for you.

Automobiles

It’s best to leave driving to the professionals in Sri Lanka, but if you are careening around on your own set of wheels, there’s limited free public parking down the street; however, it’s not monitored and spaces aren’t reserved for guests.

Worth getting out of bed for

Enjoy leisurely walks around the estate’s gardens or lounge with a book on one of the cream-coloured sofas. Ask nicely and hotel staff will rustle up breakfast picnics and afternoon teas.
Tour nearby Dambatenne Tea Factory, then take a page from Sir Thomas Lipton and hike up to his favourite look-out spot; you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and tea estates. To get there, it’s an eight-kilometre trek through lush tea plantations, but it’s also possible to hail a tuk-tuk up to Lipton’s Seat, if you’re after a more leisurely outing. Just three kilometres west of Haputale, Tudor-style home turned Benedictine monastery Adisham welcomes tours through its library and English-country-style gardens. After you’ve poked around this former home of tea-planter Sir Thomas Lester Villiers, swing by the shop for a jar of monk-made pineapple jam or mango chutney.
 

Local restaurants

Dining spots are few and far between in this remote region, but luckily all meals are included with your stay, so you’ll have no trouble finding sustenance; in fact, it will be delivered to you with a flourish worthy of tea time with Sir Lipton himself.

Reviews

Photos Thotalagala reviews
Alison King

Anonymous review

Nestled at the top of the lush green landscape and overlooking the plantation fields beyond Haputale you’ll find Thotalagala: a converted plantation house steeped in history.

It may have the warm nostalgic glow of past colonialists, but it’s not shy of modern conveniences: Wi-fi, infinity pool and a completely laid-back sensibility that makes us feel immediately relaxed.

Arriving on a wet Monday afternoon, Mr Smith and I are warmly welcomed and shown around the 100-year-old residence and its grounds. Even in bad weather, the views of Lipton’s Seat enveloped in the distant mist are stunning. 

We’re lead to the rather kitsch though cosy-as-you-like cigar room and served cinnamon hot chocolates, homemade jackfruit-bread rolls and Ceylon tea-infused cookies. Over our treats we hear a little of the bungalow’s backstory and of the local sightseeing spots and available activities, should we wish to venture out.

Each room is named after a British colonial-era heavyweight; from the Sam Popham suite to the George Pilkington. Our room, the Major Rogers suite is, like all others, furnished traditionally with grand, period details like wall-mounted Sambar deer horns, a mahogany four-poster bed, glinting chandeliers and a claw footed bathtub.

On meeting our masterful chef we discuss our plans for dinner that evening. We settle on a Sri Lankan feast fit for Major Rogers himself: a pleasantly spicy chicken curry, dahl, seer curry, chilli, and coconut sambal, coconut milk, string hoppers, pittu, and roti. It’s beautiful. 

We sit around the shared dining table and chat to the other guests, exchanging tips and stories while the wine (from a decent list, it must be said) flows freely.

The staff make our dawn start the next morning is as comfortable as 5am can be. Responding to a gentle knock on our door, we’re met with a fresh coffee, and a breakfast picnic hamper loaded with fruit, mini pastries, fruit juice, and sandwiches. The misty route up to Horton Plains National Park can be somewhat hairy with the sheer drops down, but it ensures we’re awake.

The park is majestic, with wildlife in abundance. Its rocky pathways and grassy plains are home to sambar, leopards, horned lizards, squirrels and a host of bird life. But the true reason many people come here are for the spectacular views at the World’s End where, from a 1,200-metre-high cliff, you can breathe in incredible views of the cloud forest plains below and the lakes of Udawalawe National Park beyond.

Not that you can’t be adventurous at Thotalagala – if you want to take a 45-minute walk to explore their grounds, the staff happily show you the way; resident dog Leila might even escort you, tail wagging all the way. It’s a charming stroll through the surrounding hills, filled with tea bushes used by the local factories.

For another local excursion you can visit the peak of Lipton’s Seat – supposedly where Lipton sat each morning to overlook his plantation; now commemorated with a statue where you can sit right next to him. After our meeting with Mr L, we head down a winding road to the Dambatenne tea factory for a fascinating tour and a tasting. Highly recommended.

Staff here strike that amazing balance of being attentive without ever overdoing it. They’re always at hand and happy to help to make your time at Thotalagala worry-less, but also your time in Sri Lanka as good as it can be – whether it be giving tips about your next stop, translating for your driver over the phone (often needed!) or making menu suggestions. At one point the manager tells us it should ‘feel like this is your home’ and we quickly slip into that thinking as they work around our routine with the utmost hospitality. 

Special mention must go to the chef. His team seem genuinely thrilled to cook whatever your heart desires, and they do it superbly. We have perfectly grilled seer fish with vegetables and a luxurious butter sauce, ending with a proper creme brûlée (the western dishes are just as good as the Sri Lankan ones).

The devil as they say, is also in the details. Here, the details are consistently spot-on. From the little pot of Ayurvedic nightcream on the pillow to the jars of handmade plantain crisps and sugared cashews laid out in our room for midnight munchies. We even get chocolates on our last night. It’s a masterclass in giving you what you didn’t even know you’d want.

Thotalagala also provide their own recipe of mosquito repellant, Spice Island shampoos and conditioners, bath salts, and a selection of books and magazines for you to read in the lounges. There’s even a selection of board games in the cigar room. Mr Smith and I take advantage of Scrabble in front of the living room’s roaring fire before bed.

On our last morning we take advantage of the (unheated) infinity pool for a dip, enjoying the views before the clouds roll in. It’s both bracing and relaxing, and works up a good appetite for our leisurely breakfast. Sat on the lawn, we enjoy a spread of local fruits and juice with tea, coffee, pastries, toast, jams, granolas and yoghurt. And eggs benedict because, well, we’re on holiday.

As we leave to catch a train at Haputale for the ride to Ella (a two-hour route actually recommended by one of the couples at this hotel; well worth it for the spectacular views) we can’t help feel as if our stay has been far too short. We find ourselves immediately planning a return visit as we compare notes on our favourite bits while the train rattles away down the tracks. No doubt when we do return the chef will remember how we like our eggs, and the management will remember what we’ve yet to explore… 

 

The Guestbook

Whenever you book a stay at a Smith Hotel with us, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Thotalagala’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The service – nothing was too much trouble. The view from the rear of the property. The staff, who were so friendly and helpful.

Rating

Stayed on 24 Aug 2017

You’ll also find Thotalagala in: