Heritance Kandalama Sri Lanka: five-star nature retreat

The Heritance Kandalama Hotel in Dambulla, Sri Lanka is one of those unforgettable places you find hard to put in words simply because there is no other hotel like it in the world. Built into the stone cliff mountain that overlooks the Kandalama lake, the building was designed by Sri Lanka’s most famous architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa. Instead of isolating you against nature, Bawa designed open spaces that immerse you into the lush forested hillside. Monkeys climb onto your balcony and birds fly in and out of stairwells and corridors. The granite crags of the mountain form part of the walls of the hotel. There’s always a gentle cool breeze blowing through the hallways, public spaces and stairwells, so the hotel does not waste energy on air-conditioning vast areas of the building.

heritance kandalama sri lanka

Here’s what I liked very much about the Heritance Kandalama:
– open-air hallways and stairways that give you terrific views of the lake and mountains as you are walking around the hotel;
– large sitting rooms with views over the countryside;
– the cozy all-glass library perched on a promontory;
– infinity pool that is large enough for swimming laps (this was such a wonderful experience after the long, long drive from Colombo airport);
– spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and open balconies (beware of the monkeys, though, because they are aggressive and will enter your room if you don’t lock the balcony door);
– lush vines climbing up the hotel’s façade.

heritance kandalama interior

heritance kandalama architecture

heritance kandalama sri lanka

heritance kandalama room

The food at Heritance Kandalama is excellent. I love spicy Sri Lanka food so I indulged in the Sri Lankan breakfast options at the buffet: hoppers (thin crepes made from rice flour batter, in the centre they cook an egg and top it with lunu miris which is fried red onions with spices); milk rice (short-grain rice cooked in coconut milk); dhal; sambal; vegetables with curry; grated coconut with spices (like a chutney); porridge with jaggery (palm sugar); fresh fruit (mango, papaya and pineapple).

For dinner you can go to the a la carte restaurant or the buffet restaurant. The latter serves Western, Asian and Sri Lankan specialties. My favourite Sri Lanka dishes at the dinner buffet of Heritance Kandalama were red rice, sambar, dhal, curried fish, cream of curry leaf soup, spicy onion stir-fry, vegetable curry.

What to see in the area:
– Rock fortress of Sigiriya;
– 12th century Rock Temple that consists of a series of cafes used as a monastery complex filled with carved Buddhas;
– Ruins of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa.

Heritance Kandalama has 152 rooms with satellite TV, digital safes, free Wi-Fi, ceiling fans and air-conditioning. There is a Six Senses Spa that offers beauty treatments and massages. There is a gym, two swimming pools, a conference centre, two restaurants and a library.

Heritance Kandalama Hotel
Dambulla, Sri Lanka

About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.