Hotels for the sophisticated traveller are attracting more visitors to the jewel of the Indian Ocean.
Long regarded as one of the friendliest and most welcoming countries, Sri Lanka has managed to surmount the challenges of its recent past and is again high on the list of the world’s most rewarding travel destinations. Extraordinary cultural attractions and scenic beauty may be enough for some people, but for travellers to whom the hotel experience is an integral part of their overall impression of the country, Sri Lanka offers many outstanding properties to cater to urbane visitors accustomed to high levels of quality and service.
Much of the focus of Sri Lanka’s tourist renaissance is on Galle Fort, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southwest of the country that is the oldest European settlement in Asia. First constructed by the Portuguese, commandeered by the Dutch, and taken over by the British, Galle Fort today is a microcosm of Sri Lanka’s history of European interaction. Charming buildings in decrepit condition a decade ago have been revitalised and transformed into smart boutiques, restaurants, and hotels. Australian Karl Steinberg, whose career in the film industry perhaps endowed him with the power of future vision, saw the potential among the ruins; he and his business partner Christopher Ong purchased the largest Dutch-era mansion in the fort and restored it to become Galle Fort Hotel, the most graceful of the small hotels that have since opened inside the fortress walls. Galle Fort Hotel’s simple façade on Church Street belies the spectacular style of the rooms and suites inside, glimpses of which are also seen in the airy public areas and the hotel’s restaurant. Galle Fort Hotel immediately became the darling of architectural magazines across the world and remains an inspiration in the restoration of historical properties in Sri Lanka and beyond. The atmospheric rooms of Galle Fort Hotel vary in size and style, but all of them present guests with memorable accommodation whether in the Porcelain Suite, the Chinese-influenced Admiral Cheng Ho Suite, or the traditional Grand Apartment where antique Dutch furniture recreates a sense of a bygone era in a spacious two-bedroom suite.