Lunuganga

Dedduwa, Bentota, Sri Lanka
Book from GBP Book from £150 per night

Lunuganga

Dedduwa, Bentota, Sri Lanka

The dream house and magical lakeside gardens of Sri Lanka's most famous architect, now a blissful hotel for those seeking peace and quiet

The dream house and magical lakeside gardens of Sri Lanka's most famous architect, now a blissful hotel for those seeking peace and quiet

Lunuganga is, quite simply, a work of art. Its resplendent gardens are an oasis of tranquillity in a rugged slice of Sri Lankan wilderness. The late Geoffrey Bawa, renowned architect of Sri Lanka’s Houses of Parliament, spent 40 years transforming this once abandoned rubber and cinnamon plantation – a few miles inland from the island’s west coast beaches – into a tropical idyll. He fashioned elegant Italianate gardens with courtyards, lily ponds, walkways, romantic pavilions and inspirational views over blissfully quiet Dedduwa Lake. This was his consummate legacy, the place he dreamed of retiring to, and now it's ours to enjoy.

Among the greenery are 10 sumptuous rooms and suites housed in converted plantation buildings. Bawa’s iconic style – monochrome motifs, exquisite compositions of light and shade – shines throughout. You’ll get a guided tour of the garden, then you can retire to your chosen resting place – the sunset spot, the G&T corner, the meditation zone... you pick. There’s a spectacular infinity pool and a peaceful dining terrace beside the lake, where delectable fare is served by lovely staff. If you need some quiet respite after landing in Colombo or visiting busy Galle Fort, this is where to go. We left feeling totally Zen.

Highs

  • There are 15 acres of gardens – immaculate lawns of frangipani, palms and banyans – providing hours of idle wandering; garden tours are included
  • The tranquillity is intoxicating – it’s just you and the jungle (monkeys, monitor lizards, mongoose, peacocks)
  • The elegant suites are packed with quirky collections of art and antiques, especially the Gallery Studio Suite
  • The hilltop infinity pool has a magnificent view of the lake and its forested banks
  • The food was some of the best we tasted in Sri Lanka – try the curries!

Lows

  • If travelling with children under 16, you'll be required to pay a child supplement
  • The lakeside setting attracts mozzies – bring some good repellent
  • The gardens are open to the public, so you might see some visitors wandering outside your room
  • Some of the exterior paint and woodwork is a bit grubby, but maintaining the estate is a huge undertaking and weathering is part of its natural order
  • There isn’t a lot to see in the immediate vicinity; you’re here to unwind

Best time to go

November to April are the best months for sunshine and dry weather; December to January are the busiest months and we’d recommend booking well in advance. June to October is the monsoon season, though the days are still pleasantly warm.

Our top tips

Do your garden tour during the late afternoon, when it tends to be cooler. There's often more cloud cover at this time too, and most day-trippers have departed.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 10 bedrooms
  • Restaurant & bar
  • Welcome but not ideal
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Laundry Service
Room:

Rooms

The plantation houses are clustered at the top of the hill, with the gardens spread out below. Left much as they were in Bawa’s lifetime, rooms are furnished with antique Dutch furniture, sculpture and artworks. All are elegant, interesting and intensely personal.

The Glass House spans the entrance loggia. Its all-glass walls let sunlight pour in, and the four-poster bed has garden vistas. Up from here, in the main bungalow, is the Main House Studio, a double room with a private courtyard, ideal if you prefer to be close to the restaurant and guest lounge. If you want a twin room, choose the Gate House, located at the entrance to the garden.

We stayed in the beautiful Gallery Studio Suite, housed inside a converted cow shed. This is where Bawa kept his private collection of international art and artefacts, and they're still here today – we particularly loved the enormous antique apothecary unit. The room is vast, and there’s a separate dressing room and a bathroom beyond.

The Cinnamon Hill House has vistas that roll across lawns, hardwood forests and the lake, to rest on a distant Buddhist stupa. With two ensuite double rooms and inside and outside living areas, it’s a restful retreat for two couples or a family. Larger families could choose No. 5 Lunuganga. It has three bedrooms (booked individually) and is set around a serene internal courtyard with Japanese influences. Colour comes from beautiful batik artworks created by the house’s former resident, artist Ena de Silva, a close friend of Bawa’s.

Wherever you stay, you’ll get big comfortable beds draped in white mosquito netting, low lighting, and hints of Bawa’s distinctive monochrome décor, expressed through black-and-white paintwork, printed textiles and tiled floors.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe box
  • WiFi

Eating

Dining at Lunuganga is a real treat. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on a pretty, covered terrace which gazes out over a wide lawn and the lake beyond. At night, tables are dressed in white linen and candles flicker beside vases of floating frangipani flowers. You can also dine in your room, on your terrace, or in the garden if you prefer.

The a la carte menu offers a mixture of Sri Lankan dishes and international flavours. Breakfast for us was pancakes, homemade granola and egg hoppers with spicy curry and pol sambol; lunch, a mango salad with sticky teriyaki tofu. But it was the curries that blew us away, beautiful feasts of fragrant dishes served in little coconut bowls, with fluffy rice and poppadoms to mop up the sauces.

There’s a decent drinks menu with cocktails, local beers and a small selection of wines. You can also stop by at the restaurant for daily afternoon tea, served with delicious warm banana bread.

Due to the hotel's remote location, you probably won't be eating out for dinner, but if you do want to explore, the nearest restaurants are in Bentota (15-20 mins by car).

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Kids' meals
  • Restaurant
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Allow plenty of time for soaking up the gardens and browsing the artworks in the house. The grounds are open to the public, though numbers are limited
  • This is an inspiring place to read, sketch or finish your novel
  • If you're particularly interested in gardens, those of Geoffrey Bawa's brother Bevis can be visited at Brief, a few miles away
  • Take a leisurely boat trip on Dedduwa Lake. No motorised vessels are permitted, so it’s blissfully quiet, and the island at the centre is a protected bird sanctuary
  • The bird watching in the area is hard to beat and nature trails can be arranged
  • Head to one of the many long, sandy beaches around Bentota, where you can swim, dive, sail, surf, jet ski, or watch fishermen unload crayfish and squid
  • Colombo and the UNESCO World Heritage town of Galle are both about 60km (1-2 hours) away and are feasible as day trips by car or train
  • Discover the art of mask making in Ambalangoda, which lies a short drive to the south

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Historical sites
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Watersports

Kids

Well-behaved children are welcome at Lunuganga, but due to the tranquil nature of the property, it's not a place that's aimed at kids.

Family friendly accommodation:

Families can stay in the Cinnamon Hill house, which has two bedrooms and private living spaces, or No. 5 Lunuganga, which has three bedrooms and a dining area. Baby cots are not available.

Extra Beds Available

Children's meals:

Kids' menu available

Families Should Know:

If you're bringing a child below the age of 16 you'll need to sign a disclaimer upon check-in, as some areas may not be suitable for children (e.g. some rooms have stairs without railings, and some terraces do not have balustrades).

Kid Friendly:

Location

Lunuganga is in Bentota, on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. It's midway between Colombo and Galle, about 1.5 hours' drive from both.

By Air:
Colombo Bandaranaike (112km away) is the closest international airport.

From the Airport
Request a transfer when booking, or take the train to Bentota and catch a taxi from there (a 15-minute drive).

Getting Around
Staff can help arrange tuk-tuks or cars with drivers for day trips.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Colombo Bandaranaike International 112.0 km CMB

Other:

  • Beach 4.0 km
  • Shops 4.0 km
  • Restaurant 4.0 km

Rates for Lunuganga

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