“A taste of rural Sri Lanka with an appealingly personal touch. The perfect start or end to any trip!”
Visited in November 2021
Tranquil, spacious and soothing, Horathapola Estate has been in the hands of the same family for almost a century.
The main house – bedecked with carefully chosen antique pieces – is white-walled and green-roofed, with cool, terracotta tiles underfoot. You’ll find naturalist’s paintings of birds on the walls, coffee table books with scribbled inscriptions to the owner’s family, and a rejuvenating sense of calm in big, beautiful rooms.
The estate itself is studded with coconut palms and fruit trees which chirping birds flutter between at dawn and dusk. With ample opportunities to cycle or stroll within the grounds and beyond, this is a brilliant base for nature lovers of all ages – you can be as lazy or as active as you like.
Set only an hour’s drive from the airport, we’d suggest Horathapola Estate as the first or final stop on your Sri Lankan journey. Stay at least two nights to really make the most of the activities, the fantastically friendly service and the terrific food.
Of the four expansive rooms in the main house, the Maha Camare was our favourite, featuring an intricately carved wooden bed and a big private veranda with views over the pool and gardens. Also upstairs is a two-bedroom Family Suite, which is well-suited to groups of up to five guests.
All rooms – including the Watte Camare on the ground floor – come with private terraces bedecked with cane planters’ chairs. Antique furnishings and teak floors add to the house’s heritage charm, whilst four-poster beds are topped with pretty block-printed quilts and mosquito nets. Rooms are air-conditioned, although we found that the fan was more than enough on a cool November evening.
The sizeable bathrooms have plenty of character, too, with terracotta-tiled floors, wooden toilets and huge rain showers. The property’s commitment to sustainability is seen in the absence of single-use plastics: eco-friendly toiletries come in ceramic jars and there are bottles of filtered water by the bed.
You’ll find that the Pokuna Camare is decorated in a more modern Sri Lankan style, with polished concrete floors and a built-in plinth for the bed, just steps from the swimming pool. Slightly further back is the Family Lodge, with a small kitchenette, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Pitched wooden ceilings bring to mind a European chalet, nestled amidst tropical vegetation. This hideaway is brilliant for a family or honeymoon couple eager for some extra privacy.
Breakfast & dinner
Bullock cart tour
Drinking & dining
Food is at the heart of the Horathapola experience – it was an absolute highlight of our stay. Much of the produce used in the kitchen is home-grown in the estate’s vegetable gardens or plucked from the plantation’s fruit trees. There are coconuts everywhere: perfect for rich, fragrant curries and delicate pol sambol.
Enjoy the amber glow of sunset on the terrace, before gathering at the big wooden dining table for convivial evening meals. In the morning, sip aromatic coffee while keeping one eye on the birds flitting between the branches. There are no set menus: the team discuss preferences with guests, and the chef works his magic. Sri Lankan dishes are Horathapola’s speciality – as mild or as spicy as you like – but Western options are also available.
We devoured a huge spread of vegetable and fish curries at lunchtime, followed by delicious string hoppers in the evening. Nip into the kitchen to see the chef balancing traditional clay pots over the fire, or try your hand at Sri Lankan cooking under his expert guidance.
Generous breakfasts are a brilliant way to kickstart the day. We savoured a fresh fruit platter, toast heaped with homemade lovi jam, pol roti paired with dhal and sambol, plus spicy, sizzling omelettes. As part of any trip to a country famed for its food, Horathapola exceeds expectations
Facilities & activities
Restful and rural, this is a wonderful place to simply unwind. Spend your days floating in the saltwater pool or giggling in the jacuzzi. Take an amble around the leafy gardens – home to the biggest frangipani tree we’ve ever seen – before putting your feet up on the verandah. There are beautiful birds to be spotted all around, if you take the time to sit for a moment.
The house’s sitting room also boast a collection of fascinating books about Sri Lanka, including a volume dedicated to Lionel Wendt’s photography and a collection of seventeenth-century maps. Request a pot of homegrown herbal tea, and relax.
If you’re up for exploring, guided bullock cart rides of the estate are excellent. We learnt all about coconut cultivation, as well as sampling fruit and spices – pepper, belli fruit, cinnamon and more. The rides are sure to be a hit with little ones!
Horathapola also has a collection of bicycles, perfect for discovering the estate or the nearby village. There are nearby coconut oil and coir rope factories to visit, as well as a bustling Saturday market – while guided village walks offer a glimpse of everyday life. Back at the house, hone your culinary skills with a fun afternoon cooking class.
Off the beaten track, this secluded spot is ideal for nature lovers, or curious travellers keen to understand Sri Lanka beyond the tourist trail.
Things we love
• Fantastic Sri Lankan cuisine, using estate-grown produce cooked in traditional clay pots.
• The laid-back feel and beautiful, old-school interiors, with the owners’ personal touch.
• Bullock cart rides are hugely informative – and good fun for guests of all ages!
• Friendly, unobtrusive service is a real stand-out.
Things to note
• Much of Horathapola’s appeal lies in its rural setting. It’s worth bringing your own books and board games for quiet evenings.
• The nearest ATM is 20 minutes’ drive away, so do bring cash with you for market visits or tips.
• Country roads in Sri Lanka can be a little rocky, but the house is well signposted and easy to find using Google Maps.
When to visit
Horathapola Estate is a year-round destination – an ideal first or final stop on any Sri Lankan itinerary. The island’s south coast is in season from November to March, and the east coast is at its best from May to September. Temperatures reach their peak in April, and rain is most likely in May/June and October/November – the house is a lovely place to nest and escape the drizzle.
Location & information
The journey from Bandaranaike International Airport to Horathapola Estate takes just one hour by car. See our travel tips for further info.
Horathapola Estate No. 6, Wadumunnegedara
Ready to book your stay? Mention Lanka Hideaways when contacting Tharani for a free Sri Lankan cooking demonstration.