Natural Haven Living Heritage Koslanda
By Shafiya Nawzer
Travelling somewhere further to the hill country has been on my mind for some time now. It just so happened that I stumbled Living Heritage Koslanda. If you are travelling to the hillside and on the lookout for the perfect juxtapose between adventure and relaxation, this is the ideal place.
I took the train from Colombo Fort to Haputale; a drive would take you accurately four to five hours. I personally decided to take the train because I wanted to have a well-rested journey and enjoy the scenic view.
I was in contact with the hotel and they arranged transport for me, as the hotel was only an hour’s drive from the Haputale Railway Station. I always check up on pictures of the place before my visit, and therefore had a rough idea of what to expect. This was one place that I found it to be way better than the pictures in person. Upon reaching the property, I was welcomed with a beautiful flower garland and a refreshing cold juice.
Trees of various shades dominated the landscape, swaying in a frenzy to keep with winds. Blending the old with the new, the main property is a combination of a colonial and a state of the art modern boutique.
The story of Living Heritage Koslanda began more than 30 years ago when Manik Sandrasagara, a Sri Lankan film director and cultural visionary, dreamed of creating an oasis in one of the most sacred and secret places. Devoted to preserving Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and traditional heritage, Manik was a pioneer whose numerous projects sought to preserve the island’s traditions, while keeping them relevant in the modern world and protect its natural biodiversity.
All of Manik’s passions and beliefs were brought together at this property, which was designed in collaboration with renowned Sri Lankan architect Channa Daswatte and completed by his wife Lucy in 2012, four years after Manik’s death. Living Heritage Koslanda was a dream of introducing sustainable tourism to Sri Lanka. It is an eco-resort that respects and preserves local culture, Sri Lankan heritage, and the natural movement and growth of the surrounding forestry.
The hotel is rich in design and character. In keeping with its environment, it has retained many of its original features and has married modern design with historical elements paying homage to the colonial past. The boutique offers nine rooms and suites. All the rooms offer a different experience, from the open sides Forest Pavilions allowing spectacular views of the forested estate, the rustic romantic Pepper Garden Cottage, and the spacious Luxury Villa Suites with romantic open-air bathrooms and plunge pools.
I stayed at the Luxury Villa Suite; the room was luxurious, spacious, and comfortable. The room was furnished tastefully with soft furnishings and statement pieces of beautiful antique wooden furniture. The ensuite bathroom was exceptionally large, fully equipped and the best part being the outdoor terrace with a plunge pool that can be converted to a jacuzzi. The décor is pleasing and creates a homely and comfortable ambiance. It is evident from the design and ergonomic features of the room and bathroom that great emphasis has been placed on the comfort of the guests. The large living area has plenty of space to relax and an open-air central ambalamas, situated gracefully in the middle of the living area. The suite also has ample board games to keep you occupied, a mini-fridge, and complimentary coffee and tea.
The restaurant serves hearty food that warms the soul. They have a simple menu with a selection of good comfort food which will delight diners with a discerning palate. They take great pride in preparing a range of cuisine using the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients. Meals can be taken within the intimate atmosphere of the open-aired restaurant or by the infinity pool. Trust me; the food here would easily put any restaurant in Colombo to shame. They prepare some of the most delicious dishes that I have tried in the country.
The pagoda-roofed open-sided restaurant lighted with candles at night is a perfect spot for a romantic dinner too. Something that I personally loved was they serve you a platter of seasonal fruits with curd and treacle to start with in the mornings. Some of my favourite dishes throughout my stay were the egg hopper, sticky teriyaki chicken winglets served with a side of rice and salad, spicy fried chicken, pizza, and brownies to name a few.
The Luxury Villa Suites combines and embodies the concepts of luxury and homely comfort to give guests a pampered vacation. The suite also has a veranda, equipped with vintage chairs perfect as a cosy nook to pen down your thoughts or read a book, and seating facing the astounding scenic view. One of my favourite features in the room was the Jacuzzi, the outdoor shower area which was utterly spacious and luxurious with its majestic interior.
The room was visually stunning with pastel shades as its interior and was aesthetically pleasing but more than that it was absolutely comfortable – the kind of room you find difficult to ever leave.
I also got take a look at the Forest Pavilions, situated at different elevations and scattered within the expansive property and yet providing utmost privacy. They are set amongst the trees, filled with natural light and swept by the tropical breeze. They are designed to have an almost ethereal quality, with mosquito nets and a light colour theme. Ideal for the nature enthusiastic; traditional bamboo-lined pavilions on raised platforms offering a unique experience with nature. A private deck provides amazing views of the forest canopy and mountains beyond.
One of my favourite and the most iconic spot of Living Heritage is their infinity pool overlooking the most picturesque paddy fields. You can easily indulge for hours by the poolside taking in the spectacular views, or even practice yoga or meditation at the ambalama at the end. I caught the most beautiful sunset while enjoying a relaxing swim.
For those who want to explore the striking forest to walk in, and it’s a perfect base if you want to discover wildlife. This is one rare place that puts nature before everything else as despite being situated on 80 arches of land and having ample space, they only have nine rooms. This ensures that there is more nature. I was almost surprised to find no plastic use here, not even a coffee packet or bag, and even the water in the room was placed in glass bottles.
A combination of the lust nature, period features, charming ambiance, wooden furniture, and excellent service make this one of the most desirable hotels thus earning plaudits from travellers from across the world. Staying true to its concept everything from the architecture has been designed with no disturbance to nature while following sustainable and eco-friendly practices every day. Wildlife surrounds you, monkeys rustle in the trees above and elephants can be heard (sometimes seen) in the forest beyond.
An unusual attraction at the hotel is the private waterfall, accessible through a forest path. It’s not every day that you have the most eye-catching private waterfall and river situated in the hotel premises. Visitors are encouraged to visit the in house waterfall and other sites that are situated close by. You can also experience a guided tour by a local naturalist of the estate.
The area is ripe for trekking and exploration; top sights include Diyaluma Falls, Ella Gap, Poonagala Tea Factory, and Buduruwagala’s Buddhist statues. Other attractions include a visit to nearby rubber or tea plantations.
The Diyaluma Falls, the second largest waterfall in Sri Lanka is only a walk away from the hotel. This is one of the most Instagramable locations in the country and a must-visit waterfall for some jaw-dropping scenery.
I had a two-night stay at the hotel which was nothing short of spectacular. There’s a reason we can so easily call Living Heritage Koslanda a ‘home away from home’ – it’s because of the impeccable service they offer. Every one of the staff was so warm and helpful. From the second we entered to when we said goodbye, the staff was all smiles and super accommodating. Thanks to them, it was natural to feel comfortable and walk around the property and relax as one would do at home.
Living Heritage Koslanda is perfect for anyone looking for a quality vacation. The place ticked all the right boxes for me; a perfect location secluded and serene, great food, great accommodation, and amazing service. I would like to mention a special thank you and a word of gratitude to the owner Lucy Adams for creating one of the best and most beautiful places in the country, for the hospitality her staff offered. I have done a fair bit of travelling around the country, and it’s safe to say that this place captured my heart and is undeniably the best hotel I have ever visited so far. I would love to revisit the place any day!