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One For the Bucket List: Sri Lanka's Legendary Amangalla Hotel

There is nothing (except, perhaps, a catacomb) quite like an historic hotel to plunge the discerning traveler into a destination: its zeitgeist, its unique culture, and its history.  What says “London” quite like the Savoy?  Does anything reek of Singapore’s pre-war glamor the way Raffles does?  And where else do New York’s literati head to except the (slightly down-at-the-heels, but still fun) Algonquin? 

These hotels aren’t in the center of cities — they are the center of cities: their walls are a living archive.

Sri Lanka’s venerable Amangalla is just this sort of hotel, and there is no better base from which to explore that lush, verdant, and fragrant island.  

The Amangalla’s foundations and thick sandstone walls are over three hundred years old, and its development parallels that of the southwestern garrison town of Galle, which was known from ancient times as a key crossroad of several busy trade routes.  

The Portuguese first conquered Galle in 1505, during the heyday of the voyages of discovery, but like so many Asian colonies, it was soon wrested from Portuguese control by the Dutch, who left the most lasting cultural legacy in Galle.  The initials “VOC” and coat of arms of the “Verenigde Oostindische Compaignie” or Dutch East India Company can still be seen on gateways and door lintels, and it was for the Dutch military commanders and their staff that the Amangalla was first built in 1684.  During British rule of the island (1817-1948), the mansion was converted into a hotel called “The New Orient Hotel,” to accommodate burgeoning numbers of passengers traveling east on the P&O Line. 

The Amangalla’s design is a quintessential example of the understated elegance of the Dutch colonial style: high ceilings, on which languid fans whir, dark teak floors, thick sandstone walls, and fine antiques all evoke a bygone era of luxury travel and accommodation.  The Aman Resorts took over the hotel in 2005 and introduced a number of present-day five-star amenities such as a pool and an Ayurveda spa, but they have also wisely retained many of the hotel’s older traditions such as their renowned high tea, which features an extensive menu of the fragrant brew, many coming directly from Sri Lanka’s plantations. 

Relish both the history and the luxury of the Amangalla Hotel on Alexander + Robert’s Private Journey, The Captivating Isle of Sri Lanka.

Posted: 6/22/2016 12:59:57 PM by Alexander + Roberts