Mahaweli Reach Hotel Hotel


The old-world charm of Mahaweli is just the tonic after a day spent amid the frenetic bustle of this central Sri Lankan city. Arriving here is almost like turning up at the house of your favourite aunt: richly furnished and so comfortable you can instantly kick off your shoes and start to relax. Home of the Panabokke family, they have grown the hotel from four to 116 bedrooms, all with balconies that overlook the flower-filled gardens and pool.

The fact that the family still lives in the hotel is what gives it such a friendly atmosphere. It’s luxury without the stuffiness; traditional, but with the facilities of a five-star hotel; and with food for every taste. The dinner table groans with the likes of Sri Lankan fish, chicken and vegetable curries, sweet and sour devilled dishes, dal and sambals. Forego the international desserts and opt for traditional sweetmeats such as watalappan, (rich steamed egg custard with jaggery, coconut milk and spices), kevum (an oil cake made with rice flour and treacle), and the irresistible aasami (crisp lacy pancakes made from coconut milk and the sticky juice of a ground leaf, drizzled with caramel).

A must-do is breakfast (full English or Sri Lankan-style) on a private boat down the Mahaweli River for a spot of birdwatching – you’re almost guaranteed to be rewarded with flashes of blue kingfishers darting among the foliage just outside the hotel. Doubles from £150.

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