Visiting new holiday destinations is more than just crossing off one of those places from your travel list. It is also about studying the history and culture of an area, and the best way to do this is by immersing in the past and its remnants. In Sri Lanka, landmarks and museums are a good place to start. But staying in historic hotels in Sri Lanka is an ideal way of exploring the past. Let’s talk about a few vintage hotels in the country that gives you the look and feel of a bygone era.
1. Paradise Road Tintagel – Colombo
Located in one of the most fashionable neighborhoods of the city, the Tintagel is an old mansion of the colonial era and is now transformed into a hotel. Built in 1930, the mansion remained a private residence for a decade or so and then was taken over by the British military during the independence struggle in the 1940s. a prominent Sri Lankan family then bought over this residence and from that house is where Sri Lanka’s first female prime minister and female president came. In 2005, this family leased the home to an individual, who converted it into a unique boutique hotel in the heart of Colombo city.
2. Ceylon Tea Trails – Hatton
The Colonial bungalows at Ceylon Tea Trails were once residences of tea planter’s and are now a means of luxury accommodation amidst lush tea estates. These houses were built in the late 19th century, each building equipped with 4-6 rooms, a dining room, a library and a verandah, everything designed in the original colonial style. Surrounding each bungalow are beautiful English gardens and tea plantations that you can visit anytime.
3. Suisse Hotel – Kandy
This building was constructed in the 17th century and during the latter part of the Kandyan Kingdom, it was once used as the residence of Chief Minister Pilimatalauva. The British then captured the Kandyan Kingdom and in 1818, the building was named Haramby House. A new owner came about in 1846 – Madam Burdayron – a Swiss lady who launched it as a guest house.
Then came about the first and second world wars where it was used as a headquarters for South East Asia Command during the reigning of Earl Louis Mountbatten. Till 1951, a few government officers used this building as their residence, after which it was converted into the hotel that stands today.
4. Grand Oriental Hotel Colombo
Located in the heart of Colombo, the Grand Oriental Hotel has a history of about 180 years. It is said to have been used as barracks in 1837 for British soldiers. In 1873, there is evidence that it was converted into a hostelry for the Army. Soon after that, Governor Sir Robert Wilmot – Horton undertook the project of transforming the building into a hotel within a remarkable time and cost frame. The Grand Oriental Hotel was officially declared open on 5th November 1875 with a whopping 154 rooms for accommodation!
5. Mount Lavinia Hotel
The history behind this iconic hotel is the cherished love story of British Governor Thomas Maitland during the early 19th century. During one of the dinners at the Governor’s house, he met Lovinia, a dancer from the Rodi caste. Not only was she much younger than the Governor but was also of a lower caste, hence causing uproar from Sri Lankans and Europeans from the high society. This resulted in Lovinia throwing herself into the sea and Maitland being summoned back to England. To fulfill his final request, they named his residence “Mount Lavinia”.
6. Heritance Tea Factory – Kandapola
Where else in the world can you find luxury accommodation in a converted tea factory? Not only do you get to stay in a tea factory but here you can pluck your own tea and take it home as a souvenir as well! The restaurant is the former sifting room of the tea factory where original girders and ironworks still remain intact along with factory packing cases that decorate the service stations of the restaurant. Revealing the rich heritage of tea production, the interior of Heritance Tea Factory – from ceiling to elevator to staircase, is a stunning sight worth capturing on your camera.
7. Amangalla – Galle
In 1684, Amangalla was used as a commanding station by the Dutch. Later, in 1796, the British converted the building into an accommodation site for soldiers. In 1865, this site became known as the “New Oriental Hotel” and provided accommodation for tourists from the West. Aman Resorts took over in 2005 and named it Amangalla, restored its beautiful colonial interior and gave it a ‘boutique hotel’ status.
8. Queens Hotel – Kandy
During the reign of the last King of Sri Lanka, this building was created and named “Dullawe Walauwa”. It then became the residence of a British Governor after the Kandyan Kingdom was overthrown. At the same time, the Rifle Regiment used the building as barracks. In 1840, the building was used as a hostel and was later looked after by James Stanton, which is why it was known as Stanton Hotel for 6 years until he passed away in 1863. For a few years, his wife took charge and later on, the Queens Hotel Company took over. From 1895 onwards, till today, the Queens Hotel prospers as one of the oldest in Sri Lanka.