But the real joy is the huge, luxurious villas, each in their own scenic cocoon of nature, filled with bird and animal life. This is no bird spotter’s hideout, however, as interiors resemble a high design apartment complete with glass-walled panoramic views. Your tasteful bedroom is the height of comfort and pared-down luxury, the expansive bathroom shimmies with minimalism, and the cherry on the cake is the deep blue plunge pool bedecked by a chic double lounger. And there’s no need to worry about your eco impact - Ulagalla has created the largest solar farm in Sri Lanka, walls are made from recycled rice paddy, and there's an organic edible garden with over 40 varieties.
Drop in at the Coco Spa for a Balinese therapy, listen to birds coming to roost at dusk, then whisk to the 100-year-old mansion for a gourmet 5-course dinner. Wonderful.
- Striking and spacious accommodations, many with private plunge pools
- Leaders in environmental design, from reverse osmosis water purification to production of ethane gas from food waste: a hotel for the future
- Great service and a warm welcome from staff, who have a high level of conversational English
- Seeing nature from your room - we spotted a troupe of monkeys and a peacock doing his impressive mating dance, plus numerous brightly coloured birds; over 70 types of bird and 100 species of butterfly flit in the grounds
- Delicious 5-course dinners in the serene dining room - we loved overlooking the ever-changing luminescent fibre-optic swimming pool
- Not only are the rooms expensive, so are drinks, activities and spa treatments
- Air-conditioning hum disrupts the peace outside (a reminder to turn it off whilst not in the room!)
- No local restaurants to explore for a change of scene; vary your nights by having dinner in a paddy field or a DIY barbecue at your villa
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Eco-Resort
- 25 rooms
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car recommended
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Pool Table
- Bicycles Available
- Board games
There are 19 stilted chalets, 5 pool villas and a 2-bed villa. The property spans 58 acres so each maintains a sense of privacy and space.
The chalets are set in the Ulagalla Wing and just 2 are without plunge pools, with bathtubs instead, and are closest to the main swimming pool. Some chalets are more private than others, so honeymooners might like to specify their preference when booking. For a great view ask for one of the chalets that look onto the distant reservoir. Two chalets are twin bedded - request when booking.
Nikawewa Villa is suitable for a family or group as it has 2 bedrooms and a large communal area with a 180 degree view onto the lush paddy fields. The plunge pool is really a small pool (10x12ft) flanked by ornamental ponds with stepping stones. The master bedroom has a stunning cinematic vista of the paddy plus a gorgeous bathroom with corner tub and an outdoor shower. The smaller second bedroom has an equally good view but a smaller bathroom with shower only. If travelling as 2 couples or a family it makes economic sense to hire this one.
The Deluxe One Bedroom Pool Villas are new since we last visited. They each feature a spacious ensuite bedroom, a large living and dining area, a second bathroom and an enormous outdoor deck with loungers, plus a shimmering plunge pool.
Bathrooms are lovely and big, with a dinner-plate sized rain shower, and twin basins on a marble slab. Shampoo, conditioner and bath soap are provided as well as bathrobes and slippers.
- Safe box
Meals times are very flexible and there's an all-day breakfast menu plus 24-hour room service with cheese and tomato sandwiches and Asian spring rolls. Breakfast can be served to your villa, but Ulagalla prefers guests to come to the 1st-floor restaurant. It’s a calm spot, and we loved the view over the pool and frangipani trees.
Breakfast has 5 set options and a fantastic fruit platter including soursop and papaya. The 'Sri Lankan' offers string hoppers, a beef or chicken curry and sambol. My 'Healthy' included muesli, yoghurt and an egg white omelette, although good intentions were swayed by the pastry basket which accompanied my husband's 'American', filled with mini doughnuts, muffins and banana bread.
At lunch choose from the 5 course or a la carte menu. Starters include a delicious tumble of Parma ham and artichoke. Our main was a succulent filet of kingfish speckled with capers and crunchy vegetables from the garden. Other choices included tom yum soup, tiger prawn and melon salad for starters and beef fillet with mushroom sauce or pork medallions for mains.
After being transferred to dinner by golf buggy (just ring and one appears), we tried the epicurean 5-course menu. We ate very well: chef’s salad with smoked salmon and quails eggs, mulligatawny soup, passion fruit sorbet then breaded fish with béarnaise sauce followed by an avocado cheesecake on caramelised pineapple. It was great to see the cheerful chef come out and talk to guests at coffee. There's a good choice of international wines, although it was disappointing there was only one choice of wine by the glass, a South African chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon red.
Ulagalla has ambitious plans for signature dining where guests can have a romantic table laid in a paddy field or lakeside. We couldn’t help wonder how well soup and sorbet would travel! We liked the sound of the DIY barbecue in your villa (accompanied by a chef and waiter).
- Organic produce
- Room service
- Vegetarian options
- Explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura (35km away) and admire the huge dagobas, crumbling temples and sacred bodhi trees
- Practice your aim on the hotel's archery field; paddle around Ulagalla’s scenic reservoir on a kayak or saddle up the hotel's horses, brought over from India
- Take your binoculars to spot birds on one of the nature trails, led by the resident naturalist
- Enjoy a Culinary Class which involves a tour of the organic garden where you can pick your own vegetables to cook
- Cool off in your plunge pool, catch some rays by the 30m swimming pool or work off all that curry with a bike ride (followed by a cocktail, poolside, to reward yourself)
- Soothe tired muscles by indulging in a traditional Balinese massage in the open-air spa
- Start early and visit famous Sigirya to climb its challenging rock for stupendous views; don’t forget to admire the ancient drawings of celestial nymphs (apsaras) on the way up. Private guided tours are available on request
- Don a floor-length sarong to examine the cave temples at Dambulla; take your time in the Temple of the Great King which is the largest and most impressive
- Visit Ritigala, a 2,000-year-old monastery on top of a hill, for great views and the chance to see a leopard in the wild. On the way back, admire the tallest statue of Buddha in Sri Lanka, 45 minutes from the hotel
- Take a tour to Wilpattu, 40km distant, famed for leopard and sloth bear sightings
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Pool table
- Private guided tours
Children are welcome and will enjoy the back to nature vibe (look out for wild monkeys, reptiles and birds). Baby cots and highchairs can be organised for babies and toddlers. Bikes are available for all the family to cycle around the property at their leisure.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
The Nikawewa Villa is suitable for up to 4 people, with 2 double bedrooms and enclosed by a wall, but note that the rooms interconnect over stepping stones so perhaps is not suitable for toddlers. Note that in the Chalets, only one extra child is permitted per chalet on an extra bed or baby cot
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available, Family Rooms
Baby cots and highchairs on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Activities on site:
- Horse riding
- Archery (for older children)
- Kite making
- Nature walks
- Airport: 3h40m (Colombo)
- Hospital: 35 minutes (Anuradhapura)
- Shops: 35 minutes (Anuradhapura)
Ulagalla Resort is located in the village of Thirappane, 45km north of Dambulla (on the Dambulla - Anuradhapura road). The ancient city of Anuradhapura is 35km from the resort and the Cultural Triangle sites are nearby.
The nearest international airport is Bandaranaike International Airport (165km) - aka Katunayake International Airport and Colombo International Airport. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving the airport. You could also make use of the hotel's helipad (it's a 45-minute flight from Colombo).
From the Airport
It's a good idea to arrange a transfer with the hotel, although it is possible to organise a taxi from within the airport - they're very reliable.
The trains in Sri Lanka are a great way to see the country although they are rather slow and can be delayed. You can take a train from Colombo Fort railway station (Colombo) to Anuradhapura (35km) or Kekirawa town (5km), then take a tuk-tuk to the hotel.
If travelling by bus take Route Number 15 to Anuradhapura, via Maradankaduwa.
If you are planning to explore more of Sri Lanka it is a good idea to hire a car with a driver so you can plan your own itinerary without having to rely on public transport.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Sri Lanka and getting around
- Bandaranaike International Airport 165.0 km CMB
- Beach 80.0 km
- Shops 23.0 km
- Restaurant 23.0 km