In the early years of the millennium, as Sri Lanka was rapidly ascending to its current station as the hip travel destination of the moment, the colonial-era New Oriental Hotel was in rather desperate need of refurbishment. Still, nobody could have dreamed it would turn out quite like this — the Amanresorts chain and the Australian architect Kerry Hill have turned this fading landmark into the best of both worlds, a hotel that’s at once top-shelf luxe boutique and authentic Sri Lankan cultural experience.
Here the hotel is not removed from its surroundings. Though the rooms are indeed luxurious, their contemporary décor is visibly colonial-inspired, and the location, within the walls of the old Galle Fort, means guests are necessarily steeped in Sri Lanka’s history.
Butlers swarm, seeing to guests’ every need, but an armada of drivers is waiting to show off the town. Galle Fort is for exploring, not hiding out — though there are plenty of in-house temptations, from the pool deck and library to the understated spa, the Grand Verandah Hall, and the elegant colonial dining room. It’s enough for a more than satisfying escape on its own, but for good measure Aman recommends pairing it with a stay at Amanwella, set in seclusion on a palm-fringed beach, two hours scenic drive east.
10 Church Street, Galle
(94) 91 223 3388