The Ullagalla Resort, without a doubt, is the most luxurious hotel I have ever been to. This is a boutique hotel in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, about 15km South of the town of Anuradhapura.
Thee hotel takes its name from the old Ullagalla Walawwa (“Walawwa” meaning “mansion” or “manor house”), which was a grand aristocratic mansion that dates back a couple of hundred years. The mansion has been restored beautifully and is now the reception and main restaurant of the hotel.
The “rooms” at Ullagalla are 19 private villas scattered on a 58 Acre estate. Each villa has its own bed room, living room, bathroom and an outside plunge pool and sun deck. Everything is built to a very high standard and the villas are beautifully decorated.
For transport between your villa and the main house, you can either walk, bike or they’ll take you in a golf buggy. There is also a large swimming pool at the main reception.
What really sets Ullagalla apart from anywhere else I have been is the service. It start with someone opening your car door saying “Welcome Home”. Then, there is a “Welcoming Ceremony”, where you light an oil lamp and ring the bells to let everyone know that you have arrived. This coupled with a cold drink is enough to make your shoulders drop, and you start to relax and enjoy your holiday.
This feeling continues throughout your stay. The staff are genuinely pleased to have you stay at their hotel. Everyone – from the gardeners to the reception staff have a warm smile and nothing is too much trouble. But in my opinion, the best thing about Ullagalla is that there is no time limit on breakfast. Let me explain what I mean. We always try to book hotels with breakfast included in the room rate. Every such hotel I have been to has a time at which breakfast is served (6 am to 10 am, 7 am to 9 am etc.) But not at Ullagalla. You want breakfast at 2 p.m.? You’ve got it. You want it at 5 a.m.? Not a problem. It may seem like a small thing, but trust me, it gives you a truly relaxed feeling knowing that you don’t have to work to a schedule whatsoever!
After the Welcoming Ceremony, you are whisked to your villa in a golf buggy. Your check-in paperwork is already partially complete and waiting for you at the villa. After you have seen the villa and if everything is to your satisfaction, you can complete the rest of the paperwork. They will also collect your ID/passport at this point, take a copy in reception and return to you soon after. (If like me, you don’t like to have your passport out of sight, you can of course go to the reception yourself).
You can also choose to have you breakfast (or any meal in fact) at your villa. Food can be served inside in the living room, or outside on the terrace (Although we once tried to have lunch on the terrace, and ended up getting surrounded by a pack of monkeys who wanted our leftovers).
Ullagalla is a very eco-friendly hotel. They have their own solar panel farm, as well as a kitchen garden. Wildlife is free to roam in the 58 acres. So do expect to come across a monkey or a monitor lizard on your terrace or a chameleon in the reception. (Once, I also found a small turtle in the swimming pool).
There are many excursions and activities available at Ullagalla.
You can try nature walks, cycling, canoeing, cooking classes etc. or enjoy the spa. You can also take a day trip to see the sights of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle – at Anuradhapura, Sigiriya Rock Fortress or Dambulla Temple, or visit one of the many nature reserves.
We are always really sad to leave Ullagalla at the end of our time there. It is even harder when they wave you off with a box of cakes for your onward journey. I look forward to the day I return to Ullagalla.
At the time of writing, a Pool villa at Ullagalla costs about £200 per night, but prices vary a lot depending on the time of the year. Book early and book direct for the best rates. The resort can be booked here.
About Great Hotels: As a rule, I try to avoid staying in the same hotel twice when I travel. But, every now and then, I come across a hotel for which I would happily break this rule. Some are well known hotels, topping best hotel lists on every travel website, some are hidden gems. Either way, these hotels have made it to this list because of something special – location, architecture, food, service or a combination of any of these things. I started this series of “Great Hotels” posts to share my findings with you. I only blog about a hotel if I truly like them and have no affiliations with any of the hotels in these posts.