Amangalla, Sri Lanka
The Amangalla is housed in Galle's most famous landmark mansion built inside the fort in 1684, that was originally a private residence for the Dutch Commanders and then transformed into hotel into the New Oriental Hotel in 1865. Luxuriously sprawled over nearly nine thousand square metres the property is the ultimate sanctuary in this historical town. It is one of the most recognisable and sizeable properties within Galle Fort that has been sympathetically maintained and modernised to its majestic glory to create the most luxurious colonial hotel on Sri Lanka's South Coast by the Aman Group in 2005. The name Aman is Sanskrit for peace and Galla being the ancient name for Galle.
Strolling towards the hotel on the historical Church Street and entering is immediately like being transported into an exotic bygone era with elements of this heritage towns rich history enveloping you as soon as you enter the large 'Zaal', or or main room through the large veranda, with its richly intertwined mozaic floors complimenting the old timber floors and soaring ceilings. Elegant colonial accents run throughout the property, the main room furbished full of antiques and rich sophistication, it is the perfect place to enjoy afternoon tea or a distinguished dinner under the vast archways and modern chandeliers.
The Amangalla has twenty-eight rooms and suites, a two bedroom suite and a sophisticated two storied Garden House for the height of privacy that are spread throughout the vast property along with an incredible Ayurvedic Spa and bathing houses, as well as a large pool flanked by cool cabanas to relax after exploring the incredible UNESCO World Heritage Galle Fort. This is the ultimate retreat within this unique and picturesque town to spend a few days absorbing the old world charm that both the fort and property have to offer and totally immerse yourself in the rich and tapestried past of this incredible corner of the world.
Exquisite simple interiors mix with rich tropical wood and authentic antiques to create a refined space that is filled with a serene tranquil space whilst wandering throughout the property. Rooms are spacious and filled with classical charm in four poster teak beds, antique tubs and writing desks full of parchment reminiscent of love letters written that must have passed over the seas in the past. Large living areas have sweeping views over Galle and each night Amanglla adds its own magical touches before you sleep, such as Sanskrit mantras on handmade papyrus for bookmarks and small notes. Lounging in bubbles in the oversized freestanding baths or writing down your daily adventures from the comfort of a chaise lounge in the study is a perfect way to finish off the day.
The exclusive Garden House is a small colonial cottage hidden in the foliage of the grounds that is the perfect hideaway within the property itself that has a balcony overlooking the pool and is a luxurious option for those who want to enjoy all the property has to offer but have complete privacy. Laid over two stories it is mere steps from the swimming pool or yoga pavillion but suspended in a secret spot of its own of graceful antiques and soothing interiors. Opposite the library that houses the mini museum on the history of the building and is also a relaxing spot for adults and children alike, this is the perfect place for a unique holiday.
A short stroll from the hotel are all the wonders of Galle and the museum, maritime museum and fort walls are a few minutes away, as well as the iconic Dutch Reform Church next door. Gallle is such a beguiling and bustling town full of colonial charm and hidden marvels in its meandering streets and coastal paths. Of course the iconic lighthouse is a highlight and wonderful before sunset time. One of the best views across the town and a wonderful place to watch a golden light come over the rooftops is the lounge area at the top of the hotel has a sweeping view over terracotta rooftops and fragrant frangipani trees across to ships gliding over the sea and is a special spot away from the streets below.
Meals are taken on the terrace or main Zaal and dinner time is especially mesmerisig at dinner time amongst the twinkling lights of the town and fishing boats out to sea. The odd tuk tuk passes or chattering people ambling home or around town, the grand piano play, whilst the chefs create some incredibly fresh local and international courses. Being so close to the sea a traditional Sri Lankan fish curry is definitely an aromatic and pleasurable end to perfect day or a tender steak. Freshly sourced ingredients mean that a medley of spices are combined in every dish to tingle on the taste buds. High tea is a particularly popular time too indulging in famous Ceylon tea and cucumber sandwiches reminiscent of days gone by.
The wonderfully hospitable and permanently smiling staff can organise a range of mini adventures to give you a true taste of this wonderful culture and incredibly diverse area. A guided tour around the city to whale watching or a visit to the tea plantation. A beautifully serene spot to visit nearby is the Yatagala Raja Maha Viharaya Temple that is carved into a boulder and a beautifully serene early in the morning with the monks going to morning meditations and colourful Buddhist murals that are said to be two thousand years old. There is a myriad of things and places to explore in this part of the island that this is the perfect little enclave to totally escape after a days exploring.
The most soothing thing about the property is its famous Ayurvedic spa and wellness facilities known as 'The Baths' where you can book a consultation with a private doctor or even indulge in a bit of hydrotherapy in private in rooms that house a sauna, steam room, large jacuzzi and private plunge pool. The ancient medicinal practice of Ayurveda dates back thousands of years and is particularly helpful for inflammatory diseases. The Amangalla treatments are reputed as being some of the best in the area, and even if it is just for relaxation, a treatment such as Shirodhara that is the constant pouring of oil on the Third Eye is enough to soothe even the most stressed of minds. For men wanting a cut throat shave there is a beautifully preserved antique barbershop, and of course the tranquil palm lined pool in an oasis of green lies mere steps away from the wellness area.
A stay in Amangalla is an iconic experience in Galle and incomparable in terms of history and tradition. The amazing preservation by the Aman Group to retain the authentic and historical past of this property combined with a few modern touches has created a stunning and sympathetic space. This is a truly luxurious, peaceful and authentic corner of Galle and its history that is an ultimate eco escape for those wishing to experience the real colonial charm of this lovely little town.
Photos Courtesy of Aman Resorts & Electra Gillies
Words by Electra Gillies