Dambulla, located in the island’s central province and at the center of the cultural triangle, is famously home to the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site and Sri Lanka’s most visited historic site. From the cave frescos and giant lion’s paws to the gardens that surround the rock fortress, the site counts over 600,000 visitors each year. But Sigiriya is not the only reason you should be visiting Dambulla!
Domestic tourists often travel in groups with friends or extended family. After being a stopover destination, the Dambulla region has evolved into a serious contender for a few days break.
We’ve listed some abodes that are sensitive to their surroundings and offer visitors an experience attuned with the region’s culture.
Located in Lenawa,the inconspicuous road leading to this villa can only be spotted if you are looking for it. At the end of the road lies Wild Grass Nature Resort, covered 360 degrees by forest-like vegetation; so much so that it doesn’t even matter that the entire villa is glass encased because no one is anywhere around to see in! Privacy is the ultimate luxury provided here.
The main pavilion houses the restaurant and lounge area, while the chalets lie a few metres away. Five chalets provide double or triple occupancy, while the other two have two bedrooms each and cater to families and groups (sleeping four to six adults each).
The best thing about Galkadawala Forest Lodge is that its owner already knows what you are looking for! Twenty five years ago, he set up a lodge in the wilderness to enjoy nature and serenity. The home is located by a lake and guests are sure to be awoken in the morning to the calls of birds.
According to the owner, the Galkadawala area is rich in endemism. Around 133 of the 453 bird species, 50 of the 230 species of butterflies and 88 varieties of Ayurvedic medicinal plants can be spotted or are found in the area.
In line with its commitment to maintain harmony between man and nature, the lodge is designed to allow natural lighting and cooling ventilation to minimise electricity use, and serves only vegetarian food.
Sigiriya Lodge is best visited for an authentic Sri Lankan holiday. The mud hut-style house fits into its surrounding greenery perfectly. Located around 15 minutes from the main road, it’s not even visible at first due to this blending with nature.
However, once inside, the lodge adds a touch of luxury by providing amenities like air-conditioning, cable TV and wireless internet. Bikes are also available to explore the surrounding areas.
Sigiriya Lodge is located 4.7km from the Rock Fortress and 9.7km from Minneriya National Park, making early morning excursions to these sites easy.
Set on a seven-acre land, the Back of Beyond camp is perfect for those travelling in groups. The variety of abodes – tree houses, boulder cottages and a family house – are strategically set around a central lotus pond.
The Damba and Kon tree houses can accommodate three to five people. The upper floor is a large sleeping area, while the bottom deck is a comfortable living space. The Seru and Sepalika boulder cottages are built on large granite boulders just across from the pond. The Mayila Family Long House is perfect for small families, with three triple rooms and common spaces.
All six houses are designed to be open to nature, with thatched roofing, folding bamboo tats as walls and wooden floors, but provide comfortable beds, mosquito nets, linen and modern toilets. Dim lighting minimizes night-time disturbance to environment and conserves energy.
Designed by Channa Daswatte, the newly opened Water Garden Sigiriya has the potential to become an iconic hotel. Against the backdrop of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, 30 chalets set above water on stilts make up the aptly named resort. The view from each chalet is breathtaking and waking up facing the sunrise helps guests feel one with nature. Some even feature their own mini pools, making it ideal for those travelling with children. The spa and wellness center add luxury, but those willing to explore have much to see around the resort, as well as on excursions to surrounding sites.
Set on a ridge at the edge of a 100-acre teak estate, Dambalè Boutique Chalets overlooks Dambulla. Each cabin accommodates two persons, with the west-facing ones made entirely of glass offering the most spectacular views. The resort’s pool terrace, which also allows a commanding view of the area, is a serene place.
Located 24km from the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and 39km from Minneriya National Park, it is not the most convenient location for sight-seeing travelers, but a short drive will take you where you need to go, including to the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.