Amangalla is a gracious resort on Sri Lanka’s fabled south coast, housed within the colonial-era buildings of the Galle Fort. The oldest operating hotel in Asia, having first opened its doors as the New Oriental Hotel in 1863, it reflects the elegance of the colonial period dating back to the 1600s, when Dutch settlers strolled the town’s cobbled streets.
Being welcomed inside Amangalla’s Great Hall, or Zaal, as it was known by the Dutch, is like stepping back in time. Its soaring fin de siècle ceilings, overhead fans and chandeliers, not to mention the veranda facing the tree- lined street, speak of days when travel was a past-time enjoyed only by a fortunate few. The hotel features many of its original furniture pieces including four-poster beds and pettagama chests. It also provides the perfect base for exploring the rich heritage of the town and the scenic countryside and picturesque villages around Galle, as well as the wildlife reserves and beaches of southwest Sri Lanka.
The suites are decorated in tasteful colonial style with glorious antiques, from Para Mara four-poster beds to pettagama chests, and high quality reproductions on polished Burma teak floorboards that shine on after 300 years. The bedrooms, chambers and suites offer a variety of views from Galle Fort itself to the hotel’s mature gardens. The bathrooms, in hardwood and white, are genteel and comfortable, with an ample armoire, twin vanities beneath large wooden mirrors, free-standing bathtubs and shower rooms. The two-storey Garden House, situated within the lush frangipani scented gardens, is filtered with natural sunlight and features a collection of the original antiques.
A large swimming pool, surrounded by palms, is centred within the resort’s established gardens; a cool respite from exploring, the pool courtyard has several wooden sun loungers and five serene shaded ambalamas, or rest pavilions. The classical hotel also offers remedial pleasures from ‘The Baths’, the resort’s relaxing, holistic, and traditionally inspired Spa, which creates bespoke programmes for guests, while hydrotherapy pools, saunas, steam rooms and a cold plunge pool, provide a sanctum for whole body rejuvenation.
Seven bedrooms are located adjacent to Amangalla’s reception, on the ground level of the Middle Street Wing. Views are either overlooking the garden or the nearby historic Groote Kerk (Great Church). The bedroom and separate bathroom are similar in size with furnishings including a twin or king-size four-poster bed, writing desk, dining table, pettagama chest – all set within the original polished jack-wood floors. The spacious bathroom offers twin vanities, free-standing bathtub, separate shower and toilet. Three bedrooms are set within the property’s gardens. French windows and doors open onto the garden entrance of each room. The bedrooms offer a combined sitting and sleeping area but are otherwise similar to the those located adjacent to Amangalla’s reception.
Six chambers are located within the Church Street Wing and face the Fort ramparts. The entrance leads into the open plan room, featuring first the bathroom, followed by the bedroom and a separate sitting area. The bathroom has a large shower, free-standing bathtub, and toilet. A gracious and authentic turn-of-the-century ambience is recreated with use of a four-poster king-size or twin bed arrangement, a planter’s chair, writing desk, dining table and a pettagama chest perched atop gleaming teak floorboards.
There are four Garden Wing Chambers, three with balconies and one with a twin porch – all over-looking the treetops of the resort garden. The large rooms feature the same furnishings as the chambers in the Church Street Wing, these have the addition of either antiques or reproductions which complement the highly polished timber floorboards and the shuttered windows on the balcony or porch.
There are eight suites, of which six are located in the Church Street Wing and two in the Middle Street Wing. The Suites look onto Para-rubber trees, the ramparts of the Fort and the harbour, or the mature well-tended tropical gardens. The spacious Suites feature the original polished teak floorboards dating back over 300 years. The entry hall leads to separate bedroom and lounge area. Adjacent to the entry hall is the bathroom with a free-standing bathtub, twin vanities, separate toilet and shower. The bedroom has a twin or king-size four-poster bed and arched, shuttered windows. The lounge is furnished with a chaise longue, writing desk, dining table, planter’s chair and pettagama chest. This furniture is either a property original or careful reproduction.
Situated within the resort gardens, this two-storey house features a private terrace and balcony offering leafy, treetop views. The original, antique furniture of the house has been restored. At the entrance is a sitting room fitted with a chaise longue, armchairs and coffee table. Double doors lead to the bedroom, furnished with a king-size four-poster bed, writing table and dressing cabinet. Adjoining this is a spacious bathroom, bathed in light from the pool garden outside. It offers twin vanities, a free-standing bathtub, toilet and separate shower. An internal stairway rises from the sitting room to the upper level, featuring a daybed and banquette. Other facilities include a pantry serviced by a private butler.