This 10-room property is the perfect place to revel in the raw beauty of Sri Lanka’s central highlands
The National News (WEEKEND): Hidden high in the hills above Kandy, Sri Lanka, W15 Hanthana Estate is an early 20th-century tea planter’s bungalow that has been transformed into a boutique hotel.
Home to 10 individualised rooms, surrounded by expansive gardens, it harks back to colonial-era Ceylon, providing an evocative retreat in the heart of the central highlands.
After a three-hour drive from Colombo airport and a dizzying 20-minute ascent up the mountain-hugging roads from Kandy, I am deposited in the heart of the Hanthana Tea Estate.
An unassuming, low-lying bungalow surrounded by a wide wraparound veranda, W15 Hanthana emerges slowly from the vegetation as we proceed up its wide driveway.
A barefoot, sari-clad butler is waiting to greet me and whisk away my luggage.
The check-in process is informal, completed as I settle into one of the comfortable rattan armchairs lined up along the property’s terrace.
The views captivate from the offset. The property is perched on the side of a mountain, offering uninterrupted vistas of Kandy’s jagged mountains, including the Knuckles range, so-named because its dramatic folds and peaks resemble the contours of a clenched fist.
W15 Hanthana feels wonderfully isolated. Kandy’s sites, including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, are a relatively short drive away, but this is really a spot for solitude and silence, interrupted only by birdsong and the sound of chanting from Kandy’s newest temple, Sandagiri Maha Seya, which sits on an adjacent mountain.
Although it has been extensively restored, the property retains the intimate feel of a historic home.
At its heart is a central living room, decorated with plush sofas, a baby grand piano, an overflowing library and charming dark-wood writing desks.
Statement chandeliers resemble ancient candleholders, while artworks include old advertisements for Tetley Tea, historic maps and hand-drawn illustrations of local flora.
My bungalow suite is spacious yet cosy, with wooden floors, a four-poster bed, a three-seater sofa, sumptuous armchair and foot rest, and a writing desk.
It leads on to an enclosed terrace, which is lined with plants and affords plenty of privacy.
Service is smooth and highly personalised. On my first night at W15 Hanthana, I am the only guest, and the small team of butlers and staff do a wonderful job of ensuring I feel entirely comfortable.
The property also has its own in-house naturalist who leads nature walks and other activities, and is constantly on-hand to share fascinating insights into Hanthana’s nature-laden surrounds.
The bungalow dates back to the early 20th century and has been completely restored. Photos: W15 Hanthana Estate
Facilities include a tennis court, an infinity pool and a sizeable lawn where you can play croquet and boules. Evenings can be whiled away playing board games or in the company of a good book from the library.
I am here because W15 Hanthana is the perfect starting point for exploring the Pekoe Trail, a new 300km network of hiking routes that snake through Sri Lanka’s tea country.
The first stage of the trail passes directly in front of W15’s gates.
Dining at W15 Hanthana proves to be an exceptional experience. Meals are taken on the veranda, where the views can be appreciated at length.
I have a one-on-one chat with the chef before every meal, where he outlines what delicious three-course concoction he is planning and checks if I have any special requests.
Bountiful baskets of freshly baked bread come as standard, while one lunch consists of a shrimp salad with orange and pomelo, followed by seer fish with a bean stew.
My hearty evening meals include a perfectly cooked seafood platter brimming with lobster, seared tuna, red snapper, squid and prawns, and a traditional Sri Lankan curry, consisting of several small dishes paired with fluffy white rice.
Highs and lows
The entire set-up is designed to make you feel like you have been transported back in time, and have taken up residence in your own private home in the heart of the Sri Lankan hills. The views are a definite high point, as is the food.
W15 Hanthana does feel isolated, so this spot is better suited to those who are happy to stay put and revel in the solitude.
The Insider tip
Get your walking shoes on and explore the tea plantations, mountain tracks and rich natural biodiversity that surround this property.
W15 Hanthana is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and sample the raw beauty of Sri Lanka’s central highlands, without forfeiting on luxury accommodation and excellent gastronomic experiences.
The bottom line
Room prices start from $480 on an all-inclusive basis. hanthana.w15.lk
Source: The National News (WEEKEND)