Uga Ulagalla – Sri Lanka
Once the home of local nobility, this 150 year old manor house is now a luxury retreat in one of the most culturally significant and historic parts of Sri Lanka. It’s a delightfully peaceful, rural setting, with immaculate gardens, ancient kumbuk trees full of monkeys and birds, lakes topped with lotus flowers and surrounded by paddy fields and tiny villages. Resident naturalists guide guests by bike or kayak around the grounds and beyond, uncovering the layers of unique flora and fauna.
It’s a place to rest and restore your batteries, and the ideal location from which to explore this haunting and colourful part of the country.
At A Glance
Why We Love It:For its tranquil setting and gardens full of wildlife.
Location:In a 58 acre private estate in the village of Tirappane, between Dambulla and Anuradhapura in the Cultural Triangle.
Rooms:25 spacious pool villas with lake, paddy field or jungle views.
Swimming:Large infinity pool and villa pools.
Children:A haven for families.
Accessibility:Some of the villas are specially adapted for guests with limited mobility.
Open From:All year round.
Dotted around the grounds, screened by ancient trees and surrounded by nature, the 25 villas are fabulously private. Picture windows and glass walls look out over paddy fields and jungle and each one comes with a pool, a large terrace with daybeds and plenty of shade. The interiors are stylishly furnished with handcrafted teak kingsize beds, comfortable living areas and local artwork. All one bedroom, except for a single two bedroom villa, they can accommodate a family of four. Each villa comes with its own bicycles for guests to explore the grounds.
The atmospheric open sided restaurant serves a mix of Sri Lankan and international dishes. It is fresh and delicious, with much of the produce grown in Ulagalla’s own organic garden, or sourced locally. By special arrangement, guests can dine in their own villas, by the pool, or in a clearing amongst the rice paddie, and picnics can be made for day trips.
The perfect base for trips to Dambulla and Anuradhapura, no visit here should be without time spent at these ancient sites, and guided tours can be easily arranged. There are smaller, equally fascinating sites that we recommend – Mihintale and Ritigala are both ancient and historical religious complexes which attract fewer visitors. Not far away is the spectacular Sigiraya Rock, which can be seen for miles around. But scratch the surface, and there’s a whole lot more to discover, much of it off the beaten track.
Take a scenic drive by jeep through tiny villages and farmland, through indigenous forests where herds of elephants and buffalo roam. In the grounds themselves, guests can kayak through the reservoirs (dawn is our favourite time), where you’re surrounded by extraordinary birdlife. Ulagalla has its own stables, and riding around the grounds is a great way to explore and witness the incredible range of wildlife found here. For gastronomes, a cookery class starts with the chefs picking seasonal ingredients with your from the gardens, then teaching you how to use traditional Sri Lankan spices and methods. And naturally, the Spa here is a serene sanctuary, with a range of therapies, using local ingredients.
Ulagalla is especially magical for families. The freedom that the grounds give to children is priceless, and who can’t fail to be excited when the surrounding trees are teeming with monkeys? Each and every one of the activities is ideal for children, and there’s a Junior Ranger Programme, designed to teach them all about the surrounding nature.
Ulagalla’s commitment to the environment and local community is far reaching, and guests are encouraged to engage with this ethos when staying. The entire design of the retreat has taken its surroundings into account, whilst mostly solar energy is used and wastewater is recycled. Plastic is a huge issue in Sri Lanka, so at Ulagalla there is a plastic-free policy and educating the local community is seen as a priority.
They have close ties with the community, using bathroom amenities produced by a rural all-women cooperative; supporting local farmers and producers and engaging with local charities.
In a 58 acre private estate in the village of Tirappane, between Dambulla and Anuradhapura in the Cultural Triangle.