Looking for colonial charm, impeccable service and understated luxury amid a tropical UNESCO World Heritage Site? Welcome to Amangalla.
After driving for about two-and-a-half hours from Sri Lanka’s Colombo airport – on a smooth-going highway surrounded by dripping greenery – Amangalla is found within the gate to Galle’s centuries-old fort town. The heritage building sits on a quiet street steps away from the charming town’s busiest areas, making it easy to access the bevy of museums, shops and cafes while being just far enough away to ensure tranquility when relaxing after a day of exploring the town and its surrounding sights – which can include tropical beaches, verdant tea plantations, serene temples, and even whale watching.
Aman resorts are renowned for offering their guests unparalleled experiences in luxury holidays – so much so that the term “Amanjunkie” was coined to describe the clientele (generally of the wealthy and discerning variety) who return to their resorts again and again, even going so far as to plan their holiday destination around the location of an Aman property. And now that I’ve experienced it, I can see why. The service is genuinely some of the best I’ve ever experienced, entirely discreet yet picking up on all of your wants and needs. The hotel itself, while following Aman’s minimalist design philosophy, is beautifully and thoughtfully decorated, filled with antiques and touches that take you back to the romantic era of the 1800s when Amangalla was the famed New Orient Hotel – albeit with the modern comforts of electricity, air conditioning and in-room iPhone docks. Sister-property Amanwella (click on to read that review) offers a nice contrast to this town-based heritage stay, with its secluded beachfront location in Tangalle and full-on, contemporary minimalist style.
Each of the 30 guest rooms and suites features period antiques and pretty views over the old town’s roofs and lanes or verdant gardens, with comfortable beds, stately desks and elegant free-standing bath tubs. I took to the stairs to make my way to the top floor (note: no lifts here so request a lower room if you’re averse to stairs), where a hallway open to expansive views over the town and out to sea led to my room’s entry. In my corner suite I swooned over the views of the neighboring 18th-century Dutch Reform Church from the grand shuttered windows, and made quick work of filling up my enormous wooden wardrobe with colorful, island-chic frocks. There was plentiful space within the room for lounging, dining and sleeping (the four-poster bed was utterly plush), and the bathroom included a separate rain shower from the stand-alone bath, as well as his and hers vanity areas.
When entering the hotel from Church Street, the first thing you’ll notice is the grand veranda and open-air zaal (Dutch for “great hall”), punctuated by gorgeous (and ginormous) flower arrangements and chandeliers. Here is where you’ll do much of your dining, be it a fresh breakfast, civilized afternoon tea, aperitif tipples or local-inspired dinner. Jazz and other live tunes are lightly played in the evenings as incredibly flavorful coastal curries are dished up alongside more western fare, and – of course – fresh-from-the-ocean seafood such as succulent tiger prawns.
Other can’t-miss opportunities to nibble can be found at sunset on the top-floor balcony veranda that overlooks Galle’s warmly colored terracotta-tile roofs. Sit back, breathe the setting in, order a champagne cocktail, and thank me later. Earlier in the day, you can try a more relaxed afternoon tea from within on of the pool’s expansive lounging gazebos. There’s nothing quite like dressing perfectly baked, carbed-up scones in clotted cream while wearing a bikini – the diet always starts tomorrow in my world.
Amangalla is made for leisurely relaxation. While the hotel offers plenty of activities to help you discover the surrounding area (such as the previously mentioned tea plantations and temples), once you’re within Amangalla itself, it’s nearly impossible not to naturally unwind. The pool, set within the confines of the property, is surrounded by a mature garden and soaring coconut palms, with family-sized loungers to spread yourself out on. It’s peaceful to the max – even when the neighboring cricket field has got a game on with jubilant music playing in the background and making its way over the hotel’s tall walls.
Aman is also well known for its wellness offerings, and the spa – called The Baths here – follows format with minimalist contemporary interiors set within the old building next to the pool. Here guests can find the region’s famed Ayurveda treatments practiced in candle-lit spaces.
Where: 10 Church St, Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka
Call: +94 91 223 3388
Rates: Rooms from appx. $550 per night; Suite from appx. $700
*images © Amangalla