An Ultra Luxury Island Sanctuary
By Shafiya Nawzer
Visiting Ulagalla by Uga Escapes, Anuradhapura was always on my bucket list, I have admired the pictures of the hotel and was eager to visit them someday. When the day finally arrived, I excitedly packed my bag and left from Colombo and reached the destination in a 5-hour drive (we made a pit spot for breakfast).
Located in an idyllic setting at Anuradhapura, among the vast paddy fields, Ulagalla is a property that entices you with its understated elegance inviting you to enjoy a luxury holiday, in total privacy. Nestled in a sprawling 58-acre among lush green gardens with an antique 150-year-old mansion at the centre, the place boasting rich cultural heritage and historical significance. Interposed within this natural habitat, there are 25 villas with private pools, cautiously designed and built to maintain the ecological balance of the surroundings. The size of the property is so vast it ensures privacy with a variety of nooks and crannies for guests to rest and also explore.
As you enter, you are greeted by striking smiles and ayubowan, from showing me to a seat, handing me cold towels, followed by a glass of cold or warm drink, pol pani pancakes, and asking me about my travel. I soon found myself relaxing, exhaustion wafting away. I had to undergo the safety measures that are in place due to the pandemic, I was more than happy to see the protocols being followed for the well-being of everyone. My temperature was checked and all luggage’ were sanitised; they required my travel history and if I had any symptoms of a cold or cough. They handed us each a package with sanitiser and facemask, which I think is an excellent gesture in the current situation. I was invited to light the traditional oil lamp and ring the bell three times which has a historic story that dates back to a century; KiribandaPanabokke built this property in 1916, the window and bell at the welcoming point are originally from the wallawa. When the villagers visited Panabokke, who was then the village’s Chief, they had to ring the bell three times to notify that they are here to see him; this was a touch that I absolutely loved! They also took a picture of us at the entrance.
I was escorted to my private villa on a buggy ride, watching the surroundings I couldn't help but be marvelled by the azure hue of the verdant trees, peacocks roaming around and vast paddy fields; leaving me stuck in a reverie.
Beautifully renovated, the main wallawa house is home to the lobby, restaurant, and bar, and overlooking the pool and nature. Spread across 58-acres of verdant land, the 25 villas are scattered around the property. They are spacious and overlook the lush green valley which provides fantastic sweeping views of masses of greenery. A haven of intimate luxury and absolute comfort in a setting infused with the serenity of being close to nature. If you are in search of inner calm, peace, and rest for the mind and soul this certainly is the place to visit.
We were escorted to our Deluxe Pool Villas, boasting 2,100 sq feet of splendour. The villa was sanitised and sealed, the interior and architect were truly unlike any place I have ever been to.
Tasteful decorated and furnished, stepping through the welcoming foyer into the comfort of a spacious bedroom augmented by a dressing space and flanked by a blissful bathroom with a shower and bathtub. My villa is fit for a king with its own private pool and secluded surroundings. The ample living room is spaciously designed with elegantly handcrafted wood furniture. All rooms are air-conditioned and fitted with amenities such as a TV with satellite, WiFi, hairdryer, toiletries and minibar with complimentary savoury bites, tea and coffee. The living room also had a second bathroom and a sitting area, which can be utilised as dinning space and work area. Hands down the best parts about the villa are your very own private outdoor deck with a plunge pool, sunbed, lounge chairs and sitting area. It’s a perfect way to relax and take in the serene lush paddy fields, green forests, and shimmering lake at this stunning property.
The rooms are the epitome of luxury. The ambiance of the room is designed in such a way that not only is it pleasing to the eye; it also has a very homely atmosphere. The beds are extremely comfortable and guests are guaranteed a good night’s sleep. One of the things that I loved about the hotel is the sense of privacy it affords its guests. The villas are all situated at a vast distance from one another so all guests can enjoy some peace and quiet. And there was something utterly serene and beautiful waking up to find peacocks running about. We also had bicycles in our villa, which you can use to cycle around the property.
The property is filled with many options and places to dine at, Kamatha - a dining experience set in the centre of a working paddy field. They offer exclusive dining experiences to guests according to their preference. From romantic candlelit dinner at the observation deck or an intimate experience, under the stars at your private terrace or by the poolside; anything of your choice can be arranged. Throughout my stay, we dined at the Liyawela Restaurant at Ulagalla. The restaurant’s upper deck provides a charming view of the lush green vegetation that surrounds the resort and the magnificent main pool. The food here was exceptional at every turn. Each meal was simple but lavishly executed. While their continental cuisine was absolutely divine, it was their Sri Lankan meals that were truly outstanding. Even as a local who has had more than their fair share of rice and curry – I found the local dishes delectable, and with just the right balance of heat and goodness! All vegetables used are organic and grown in the hotel's vegetable garden.
During my conversation with the staff, I discovered that the villas are made from local materials to harmonise with their surroundings, wildlife thrives within the grounds and the hotel obtains most of their energy requirements from their own solar farm. The place boasts tranquillity throughout, and within the property harbours organic garden and centrally located paddy fields – border two reservoirs.
Ulagalla is within easy reach to many attractions, being situated at Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle itself. There are various in-house activities to keep you occupied. The hotel has an abundance of choices in terms of varying excursions. I was more than excited to try horse riding, they have two resident horses. I got to ride Rolex, which is well trained and friendly, although it was my first time, their staff made it a breeze through. Some of the other activities are:
Nature walk – a guided walk around the estate and beyond. This nature walk in Anuradhapura includes a walk along the banks of Wannemaduwa Tank, a traditional irrigation reservoir designed and built over 2,000 years ago.
Jungle Kayaking - Take to the waters of the Wannemaduwa Tank in a kayak at dawn or dusk, and experience the breath-taking wildlife.
They also have activities such as archery, organic garden tour, and cookery demonstration, village bicycle excursion and kite making.
The property is conveniently located within a 30-minute drive to the archaeological sites in Anuradhapura and an hour away from the rock fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From the beginning to the very end of our stay the service provided was of high caliber, where our needs were met with prompt attention and warmth. Not only are the staffs courteous, helpful, and efficient, they also engage with the guests frequently and go out of their way to cater to any special needs or comforts. Ulagalla is designed to make you feel luxuriously pampered from the moment you are welcomed till the time you depart. Courteous service, fine food, great entertainment, and a convivial ambiance all add to the lure of this magical place. When we were checking out they handed us a wooden picture frame with the picture of us that was captured during our check-in. With a heavy heart, I left and was regretful that the time had come to leave, but I do know that I shall be back another time.