The Cultural Triangle, Sri Lanka

Ulagalla Resort

Rates from (ex tax)$208.48

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 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD269.11), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

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Style

All creatures great and small

Setting

Rice paddies and ponds

Curious about the Cultural Triangle and Sri Lanka’s wildlife in equal measures? Join the monkeys, peacocks and elephants at Ulagalla Resort: this handsome hotel lures guests of all shapes and sizes with its ponds and peaceful grounds, dignified Dutch architecture and obliging staff.

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

A free activity for two (archery, kayaking or a nature walk)

Facilities

Photos Ulagalla Resort facilities

Need to know

Rooms

20, including one suite.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.

Rates

Double rooms from $208.48, excluding tax at 29.08 per cent.

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 21 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (USD269.11), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

More details

Rates usually include breakfast (Continental and hot options) and WiFi.

Also

Volunteer to help out with the rice harvest if you're here in March, when the rice is in season. You'll learn about traditional harvesting techniques and will wield a sickle alongside fellow rice-pickers (if you'd rather help eat it, the restaurant puts its crop on the menu).

At the hotel

58-acre grounds, stables, day spa, basement wine cellar, library, stash of CDs and DVDs. In rooms: TV, DVD player, iPod dock, minibar.

Our favourite rooms

Villa 21 is the most private and romantic of the sleeping quarters, set furthest from the main building, overlooking a little lake (a hammock for two swings temptingly by the water).

Poolside

All rooms come with a private plunge pool, except for One and Two, which have an in-room Jacuzzi instead. There’s also a large, family-friendly communal pool, whose pretty azure and opalescent tiles are a vivid contrast to the hotel’s lush green foliage and red-tiled roofs. A lifeguard keeps watch over the pool between 6am and 11pm daily (timings may vary).

Spa

Two rooms built within a mud-brick-walled natural depression – in view of a pond with a water feature, reeds and glimmering fish – make up Ulagalla’s serene open-air spa. Opt for the Royal Body Ritual, which kicks off with a traditional herbal foot bath, foot scrub and forehead massage, and leads on to an exfoliating back scrub and full body massage.

Packing tips

Binoculars to spy on the elephants, monkeys and peacocks.

Also

Each villa has his 'n' hers bicycles so you can wheel around the verdant 58 acres.

Children

Little Smiths are very welcome: extra beds cost US$15 a night, cots are free, babysitting can be arranged (US$15 an hour) and the hotel has plenty of activities and extras for junior adventurers, including horse riding (US$25 for half an hour).

Best for

Little ones old enough to toddle around and hop on horseback.

Recommended rooms

Opt for the two-bedroom Nikawewa Villa for lashings of space.

Activities

Kids will love trying archery or going horse riding in the grounds (both are chargeable activities). They can splash happily around the lifeguard-supervised pool and go for rambles in the gardens, looking for monkeys, peacocks and even elephants.

Swimming pool

A lifeguard keeps watch over the pool between 6am and 11pm daily (timings may vary).

Meals

Highchairs are available and the restaurant has a children’s menu.

Babysitting

Babysitting costs US$15 an hour.

No need to pack

There are kid-friendly board games in each villa.

Also

Kids will love spotting the resident giant squirrels and colourful chameleons.

Eco‐friendly

The hotel has a LEED certificate and an onsite solar farm that generates half of its energy.

Food and Drink

Photos Ulagalla Resort food and drink

Top Table

Try out each of the flexible dining options on offer here: poolside, in the thick of things; out in the romantic rice paddies; on top of the observation platform under the twinkling stars; in the privacy of your own villa; out on the helipad.

Dress Code

Easy breezy: light layers, short sleeves and a dash of spicy cologne. If mozzies find you irresistible, opt for longer sleeves or hemlines during the wetter months.

Hotel restaurant

Liya Wela occupies the top floor of the main building, with views of the gardens, pool and surroundings. Because it’s open to the elements, a pleasant breeze blows through the dining room. Furniture is traditional, crafted from timber; the menu ticks off international options and Sri Lankan classics (mostly vegetarian, including a delicious sweet-potato curry – though the chef’s signature Wallawa chicken with curry leaf, spicy sauce, rice and home-grown vegetables is also worth sampling).

Hotel bar

The bar sits directly below the restaurant and shares its open-air, unfussy design. Timber rafters and sturdy pillars punctuate the space. If you're thirsting for something fruity, order two Pink Millenniums – a zingy muddle of sparkling wine, vodka and cranberry juice.

Last orders

The restaurant stops serving food and drinks around 11pm.

Room service

Available 24 hours, room service spans all the restaurant’s breakfast options, plus a selection of light dishes such as salads, sandwiches and soups.

Location

Photos Ulagalla Resort location
Address
Ulagalla Resort
Ulagalla Walawwa, Thirippane, Ulagalla Rd, Anuradhapura 50072, Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura
50072
Anuradhapura
Sri Lanka

Planes

Anuradhapura domestic airport is 25km from the hotel (a half-hour drive). Connecting flights leave daily from Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. Call our Smith24 Team on 03300 376 891 to arrange flights and transfers.

Trains

Anuradhapura train station is the same distance as the airport, served by SriLankan Railways.

Automobiles

Maintain the holiday mood and leave wheels at home; it’s cheap and easy to get around by taxi. You might find yourself loath to go far, anyway.

Other

The hotel has a helipad, if you fancy bringing your chopper.

Worth getting out of bed for

Have a cookery class with the chefs (US$40 per adult); you’ll learn to make a traditional curry and perfect rice in the resort’s organic garden, where produce for the restaurant is plucked. There's an onsite archery range (staff will lend you all the kit) in the gardens (US$20); the friendly staff will show you the ropes and coax you into hitting some bull's-eyes. Set off on a guided nature walk (US15–US$30) along the two reservoirs adjoining the resort (keep your ears and eyes peeled for elephants), or hop onto the hotel's two horses and canter around the property. Staff are on hand to guide beginners. Take your bikes and cycle to the local village – be sure to hop off by the Buddhist temple. You can also borrow kayaks and take to the water (US25–US$35).

Reviews

Photos Ulagalla Resort reviews
Molly Oldfield

Anonymous review

A small blue bird is tapping at the window of our luxurious eco-house in the trees. ‘Wake up!’ it says, ‘There’s so much to fun to be had – let’s go.’ Soon enough I’m ahead of Mr Smith as we cycle to breakfast; we’re chasing the trailing feathers of a peacock which is weaving through the paddy fields. Butterflies tumble alongside us, and the air is filled with the scent of freshly cut grass. Whizzing past Ulagalla’s archery station, we say hello to a guest out horse-riding, and wave to another who is birdwatching. Arriving at the wallawwa – the Sinhalese word for mansion – we’re at the heart of the hotel.

Ulagalla was built in the Dutch colonial style in 1916 as a family house. It still feels like a home – we rang the original doorbell when we arrived – and as a resort it still feels wonderfully private. Guest have their own chalet on stilts, and like us, are treated to a private plunge pool. The peaceful abodes are dotted around the 60-acre estate so that everyone has their own space, but if you feel more sociable you are invited to gather for meals and relaxation in the wallawwa.

Saranga and Kasun seat us at a table upstairs overlooking the epic swimming pool. A white, linen mechanical fan sways above our heads. It’s friendliness like this that sets stays in Sri Lanka apart from other destinations. Contentedly we eat poached eggs and pastries and drink tea, coffee and sip king coconuts that have been grown inches away from where we are.

Our first adventure is to the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura where we see the Sri Bodhi Tree, the oldest planted tree in the world. It’s said to have been grafted from the very plant under which Buddha became enlightened while meditating in India. Mr Smith and I sit beside the temple beneath the swaying branches, watching monks and families offering lotus flowers. We listen to the leaves rustling in the wind thinking it’s the same sound that Buddha must have heard thousands of years ago in India. We chat to the monk who takes care of the Sri Bodhi temple, we light butter lamps and explore Jetvana stupa, believed to be the largest structure made out of bricks. (We’re stacking up some impressive stats.)

Back at Ulagalla as we swim we watch a peacock whose haunting call has drawn our eyes to its perch at the top of a tree. Supper is exactly what we crave – an array of spicy curries served in clay pots, savoured by candlelight in our chalet, us cosy in our dressing gowns. By the time we roll to our bedroom there are tiny meringues in boxes on our pillows with a note that bids us to ‘Sleep tight, and dream happy’.

Climbing 1,200 steps up Lion Rock, the ancient palace of Sigiriya, the next morning is worth the exertion to check out King Kassapa’s former home atop the huge peak. We mount the final stairs to the summit through the paws of a giant lion and we look over swathes of jungle, a huge golden Buddha in the distance and the tops of stupas poking out of the canopy. We can’t help but wish the King’s pool could be full of water as it was back in the day – a refreshing swim would feel amazing right now.  

The magical caves of Dambulla are filled with Buddha statues. Here we buy lotus flowers too and place them at different Buddhas, taking in the cool stillness of the caves as we make our offerings. As we head back to Ulagalla our souls are soothed and we’re happy to take it easy for the rest of the day. But who could not get diverted by signs for an elephant safari? Next we’re in an open-top jeep watching families of elephants munching grass. By the time we make it through the carved wooden gates of Ulagalla we’re really ready for that swim. Our splash is under the stars until Mr Sumanaratne – a man with the most wonderful moustache – whisks us back to our chalet in his golf buggy, having given us swimming towels to swaddle ourselves in.

The garden around the wallawwa is by now lit up with lanterns. Our evening segues to us stuffing ourselves with the most tantalising fish curry and crisp salads made from ingredients plucked from Ulagalla’s organic vegetable garden. After such an extraordinary 24 hours, we’re happy to enjoy our last day without a schedule. Happily, we read in the sunshine by the pool as we listen to the birds singing; we watch frangipani blossoms drop from the trees into the swimming pool. We contemplate yoga or a cooking lesson but instead relax with a massage in the Coco Spa grotto care of two amazing Balinese therapists.

Renewed, we head for a bike ride along the reservoir at the edge of Ulagalla, then curl up on a sofa with Nuwara Eliya tea. Tiny birds swoosh in and out of the wallawwa to their nest above the snooker table. I think they are swallows, but Jevan who takes care of the hotel’s guests assures me they are paradise flycatchers – he tells me it’s good luck if they nest in your home. There are 90 varieties of birds here, plus giant squirrels, colourful chameleons and plenty of other gem-bright lizards. Mr Smith and I wish we could remain in our cosy nest at Ulagalla. It’s been a remarkable base from which to explore central Sri Lanka, and we hope, like swallows, to be back next year. We’d love to see more temples, and ancient cities and revel once again in the heavenly grounds of Ulagalla.

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 Ulagalla Resort’s Guestbook below.

We loved

The chalets with private plunge pools, delicious food and extremely helpful staff.

Don’t expect

Busy/lively nights.

Rating

Stayed on 14 Sep 2017

We loved

Our villa felt like a home away from home. The food in the restaurant was excellent, and the curries were some of the best we tasted throughout our week-long stay in Sri Lanka. The staff was so lovely and welcoming. Plenty of wonderful activities available on the property if you like to keep busy, but it's also an equally wonderful place if you just want to kick back and relax. It was sad to say goodbye after our 3 night stay. We would definitely stay again!

Don’t expect

Wild nightlife.

Rating

Stayed on 7 May 2017

We loved

The setting, the grounds, the spa, the villa were all absolutely fabulous. The staff was helpful, friendly and accommodating to all our needs. Ulagalla is a great place to stay when visiting the cultural triangle. After a long day coming back is heavenly.

Don’t expect

...there is no nightlife - so prepare for a long quiet lovely dinner.

Rating

Stayed on 28 Nov 2016

We loved

Friendly, attentive, personalised hospitality service; bike rides around the resort; peacocks and monkeys nonchalantly hanging out outside our villa :) The safari to Minnerya / Kaudulla is a MUST :)

Don’t expect

...Any night life.

Rating

Stayed on 9 Nov 2016

We loved

Riding horses, cooking class with the chef and tour of organic garden, morning kayaking, beautiful grounds, kind and courteous staff. Recommend a day trip to Sigiriya.

Don’t expect

lively nights

Rating

Stayed on 29 Apr 2016

We loved

Very spacious well designed villas with wild life right at the door step. We saw monkeys, squirrels and peacocks on our terrace a few times. Breakfast deserves a special mention with a great selection and quality!

Don’t expect

We felt lunch and dinner were a little pricey for rather average quality.

Rating

Stayed on 1 Dec 2015

We loved

The villas are spacious and has a romantic feel to it. Staff were helpful and will go out of their way for you. The spa has a really nice ambience and will definitely relax anyone getting a treatment there.

Don’t expect

Lively night out anywhere nearby.

Rating

Stayed on 24 Nov 2015

We loved

The bungalows overlooking wild jungle!

Don’t expect

Nightlife.

Rating

Stayed on 13 Nov 2015