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“Hidden gem”
Review of Lunuganga

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Lunuganga
Ranked #16 of 26 Hotels in Bentota
Reviewed 15 January 2012

We stayed for two nights in the Gate House and enjoyed every moment of it. The place feels as though it has been landscaped by Capability Brown himself. With each step a new vista seems to open up giving you a glimpse of another hidden view of the estate.

The Gate House is a set away from the main house but just as comfortable and inspiring. Our room was made up every morning and beds also folded back in the evening.

I was particularly tickled by the response I got when asking for the menu: 'when you would like to eat' and 'what you would like to eat...'. So we had a beautiful seafood treat that evening, local fresh catch of the day. Just plain magic. After being there for a few hours you begin to feel how the world seem to slowly start to fade back and you fall into the spell of this place. It's a place to sit in the garden with a good book and be spirited away to outer tranquility.

The lake at the foot of the estate looks incredibly inviting but is apparently not suitable for swimming although we did see people washing and swimming at the side of it. We took a tuktuk down to one of the hotels at Bentota — also designed by Geoffrey Bawa — and enjoyed a swim in the ocean, lunch, and a spot of complimentary wifi as well (withdrawal symptoms were beginning to set in). Just ask one of the ever helpful house sprites.

Our driver did initially have a little trouble finding the place but a few calls to his friends and relatives soon resolved this. We drove up from Galle which was about 2.5 to 3 hours. Next time we would try and take a water taxi and head straight to Bentota.

It's the ideal hideaway to escape from everything for a few days. Thank you again to Asha, Michael and Damian for letting us feel so at home.

  • Stayed: February 2011, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank briefescape
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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46 - 52 of 75 reviews

Reviewed 3 January 2012

First and foremost it is important to let you all know that this hotel is not for you if you want a place that is buzzing and hip. However, if you want serenity, calm and nature then this can count on your top places in the world. The resort basically is the last home of Geoffery Bawa, the renowned Sri Lankan architect. It has lush gardens, borders a beautiful lake and has brilliantly done up rooms. Each unique and completely different from the other. There are only 6 rooms so you have to book in advance. The staff is intuitive, perfectly trained and above excellence. The food is deliciously - the biscuit pudding was a big hit with our family. The facilities in the room are perfect. The service is personal and you feel like you are a guest in someone's home. Asha, Michael and Damien personally spend time with each guest and ensure your stay is customized to whatever it is that you are looking for. I, not only recommend it but i fully intend to keep travelling there everytime i need some serenity and time with myself. Thank you everyone at Lunuganga for making my family's trip so special.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled with family
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Thank radz_radia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2012

My husband, teenage daughter and I booked in for 2 nights near the end of our holiday after an enjoyable but busy time on safari in Yala and whale-watching at Merissa. It was just what we needed to help us unwind before the trip back to Singapore. Lunuganga is one of the most tranquil, scenic places we have ever had the good fortune to stay. It presents a veritable feast for the eyes, given the natural beauty of the setting on the peninsula between two lakes, together with an architectural style which instils a feeling of harmony between man and Nature. We stayed in Cinnamon Hill, the cottage which is set slightly away from the main house. It was previously the residence of an artist and I cannot imagine a better place to inspire creativity. The guardians of the estate have remained true to Bawa's wishes and avoided commercialising the place, which is very refreshing. Whilst air conditioning has recently been installed we found that we did not need to use it and in fact, were happy to benefit from the natural air-flow built into the design of the rooms. A refreshing change from the excesses of air-con in Singapore! During our stay, it felt as if we had been thrown back into a simpler time, where the pace of life is more attuned to the natural rhythms of nature. Michael, Aasha, Damian and the rest of the staff made us feel very much at home and we appreciated the personal treatment we received from all of them. The dogs were friendly too, but unobtrusive. They are all real characters and their presence just adds to the relaxed atmosphere of the estate. Special thanks go to Aasha and Damian for their informative tour of the house and gardens and the treasures contained in both. However, the highlight of our stay was undoubtedly the riverboat tour at sunrise. With mist shrouding the surface of the water as the sun began to peek over the horizon, we were guided by our boatman through a carpet of pink lotus flowers, accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and background chanting from monks in the nearby monastery. Damian's love for nature was infectious as he shared his knowledge of plant and bird-life. He also kindly let us visit the island on which the trust is hoping to establish a deer sanctuary for injured deer, some of which have been wounded on the new road from Colombo to the south coast. On our return, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, eggs and toast. The food throughout our stay was wonderful - a huge variety of simple Sri Lankan dishes, prepared with fresh ingredients and spicy but not overly so. On one occasion we opted for a Western dish of fish, which was also delicious. I do hope that Lunuganga can continue to maintain its unspoiled character for many years to come. It is a peaceful refuge from urban living and a tonic for the soul.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled with family
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2  Thank ElaineNO
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 January 2012

We stayed two nights at Lunuganga in the guest room and had a wonderful experience. The managers, Michael, Asha and Damien, made every possible effort to make guests feel welcomed and special. This is impressive especially since they do not have a hotel management background but are rather, the architects that Mr Bawa brought on to help restore the property. They really do love every nook and cranny of the estate and are making great efforts to further Mr Bawa's vision. The aim of the property is to just generate enough income to cover the costs of running of the estate and to continue to provide jobs for staff that has been there for decades or their children. This is a really magical place and I hope we will have a chance to visit again with our friends and family.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Ladybug789
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 October 2011

Reading other reviews before I write my own, it occurred to me, that Lunuganga IS for everyone, that is, everyone should visit it at least once because it gives a glimpse of how life could be, should be, (albeit in possibly an ideal Arcadian world), the sweeping lawns cut out of an old rubber plantation bought by Sri Lanka’s most widely known Architect, (Geoffrey Bawa), in 1948. Bawa’s man-made interventions of clearings, stairs, terraces overlooking vistas, ha-ha’s and various shelters to engage with various parts of the property in the face of the fecund growth of the tropical rain forest are simple yet deeply poetic.
(NB: Lunuganga is a noteworthy omission from the book: “1001 Gardens: You must see before you die,” – such a silly titled book anyway!)…And it is all the better for you the reader, discovering this special place via other research…

Aasha and Michael, who are both Architects themselves, (and who both worked for Bawa when he was alive), and a more recent addition to the management team: Damien, (who used to manage tea plantations in the North of Sri Lanka), are all endeavouring to preserve and enhance this fragile piece of environment in a holistic and compelling way for the enjoyment of one and all. They, along with all the house boys, chefs and all the various labourers provide an amazingly soft and generous spirit to the place, where nothing seems too much trouble, (from providing fresh limejuices to quench ones thirst to an amazing array of daily curries, to a wake-up on my door when I slept 80 winks instead of 40…as was going to miss my meal!). Thank you one and all!

I travelled down to Lunuganga from Colombo on the train, (which was ridiculously cheap), and then happily haggled in an “in your-face” Tuk-tuk driver, (500 SLR in August 2011), to take me the 15 minutes or so along various non-signposted roads to the property. These journeys provide the contrast that the peace and tranquility that Lunuganga provides the arriving traveler. (In my humble opinion this option is much better than getting a driver and a car – which seems to be the norm from most of tourists in Sri Lanka – save that for more inaccessible regions).

The welcome was unique – no “check in,” no hassle about passports – they knew my name, the house boy told me to dump my bag at the house door and come out onto the terrace verandah overlooking Dedduwa Lake and relax with a ice-cold limejuice, before Damien came and introduced himself with a warm welcome. (NB. other places of accommodation should look and learn to treat people as humans…not passport numbers).

I had chosen the Glass Room as my abode, and it was an amazing feeling to have read about the property, viewed the photographs in the books over many years, and then upon opening the copper green painted Portuguese entry doors – it was mine! (Albeit for 2 nights…lol…). The long light filled room with a four-poster bed with its mosquito net drapes was indeed a welcome nest. (It has to be said the shower is from its original time, but I took that as a genuine Bawa “time warp” detail, and it was still wonderful to stand under a stream of water and cool off).

The lunches and evening dinners, (in the gloom of flicking kerosene watering-can like lamps were very atmospheric), the food was simply the BEST and in such generous portions. Breakfasts were also particularly wonderful: fresh orange-red papaya, pineapple, bananas, that lovely creamy yoghurt that Sri Lanka seems to specialize in, followed by toast and jam and a choice of coffee or tea…all whilst you watch the morning awake over the Lake. Thank you all to the Cook staff! (Would love to come back and be allowed into the kitchens and watch you cook, as it seems to me Sri Lankan cuisine is much under-rated. Perhaps one day there might be scope to do cooking visits?)

Next day I was given my own tour of the property by Aasha and Damien, humbling to get such personal treatment and indeed felt honoured to be allowed to hear the detail behind the spirit of this place through these two generous people. Also felt rather accepted when the resident Bulbul, would flit into its nest not 2m away whilst I ate lunch on the Verandah, or one of the house dogs would flop against my chair in the afternoon heat, with an accompanying sigh…

They even organized a tour for me over to “Brief” (Geoffrey Bawa’s brother: Bevis’s house and garden), which was a one hour Tuk-tuk ride, along rather ancient roads and lanes, but they had given me an extremely patient driver who went slowly over or around the many potholes. Worth a visit too –if only in contrast to Lunuganga…

The final morning Damien gave me an individual boat ride around the lake, (including the Carpet of Lotus flowers), pointing out the various local bird-life and explaining the situation of Lunuganga within the context of its neighbouring properties and the long-term plans of the Lunuganga Trust. Again, a warm thank you Damien for your time!

But don’t listen to me rave on about Lunuganga…GET a plane ticket to Sri Lanka and BOOK today…. then find out for yourself!...isn’t travel about “Being There” or in the case of Lunuganga, perhaps: “There Being”

(The only regret I have: I never got to meet Michael – who was away on business – but who sent me many helpful emails both before and after my visit). Thank you Michael…perhaps when I revisit we can share limejuice together?

  • Stayed: August 2011, travelled solo
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2  Thank JJR08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 March 2011

Lunuganga is not for everyone, certainly, but we loved our stay in this stunningly beautiful and peaceful home and gardens of Geoffrey Bawa, the renowned Sri Lankan architect. The buildings he designed and decorated are just as they were at his death in 2003. Full of lovely objets d'art he collected but lacking what some might consider to be required mod cons (bathrooms dated, air conditioning just being installed for next season, etc). We were kindly upgraded by the gracious Asha to Bawa's Gorgeous bedroom in the main bungalow (has a/c already) from our rather distant and simpler Cinnamon Hill accommodation. Meals on the terrace overlooking the lake (and especially dinner on the lawn lit by candles and torchlight) were simple but delicious. Be sure to ask for a tour of the gardens. We were able to see most of the other lovely and unique guestrooms, along with the magical hidden gazebos and places for tea. Located about 3 km from the coast at Bentota, it was easy to visit another Bawa-designed hotel, the Club Villa, for lunch and some pool/beach time (neither at Lunuganga).

  • Stayed: March 2011
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3  Thank Julie R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 December 2010

The gardens are amazing!! Every turn, every corner has something to see and when you think you have seen it all……you turn the corner…… and there is more!
The garden looks so fresh and crisp in the morning sun against the beautiful blue sky and the fresh green grass. You don’t feel the heat of the midday sun as you stroll under the large shady trees in the estate exploring the gardens. It looks even more amazing in the evening sun. The reflection of the orange sky on the lake and pond full of water lillys looks so spectacular.
Breakfast was simple, delicious and complete starting with a tropical fruit platter and ending with a cup of Ceylon tea. The 10 o’clock fresh lime juice is a must, after a stroll in the gardens. The setting is perfect for a typical Sri Lankan Lunch of red rice and curry set along the verandah over looking the lake. Oh yes, the poached pineapple with ice cream was just perfect finale for my lunch before I could relax with a book on the garden bench by the ‘Na’ tree. The 5 very friendly dogs take turns to come and great you during the day, while a couple of them insist on showing off their playful skills to you.
Freshly made scones at tea time were divine. I wasn’t too sure if they were scones or soft shortbread…. either way they were divine with fresh cream and strawberry jam! I couldn’t resist…. I had two!!
After my G&T , I joined Asha, Micheal and Dameon at the head table for my meal of traditional Idi appam with curries. Again the meal was scrumptious with a crème caramel for desert. All this with a hint of Beethoven in the background. Again the setting was perfect with a few lamps to light up the garden and the cloudless starry sky.
The rooms are clean and fresh, with a bout 4 pedestal fans in each room. I didn’t need to use any of them. I am being told the rooms will have AC in the future….. but really I don’t think it is necessary! The wonderful thing in each room is that there are no mosquitos which is most welcome in the tropics. I didnt need to use the net around my bed.... but I thought it looked good anyway!
The staff are very polite and courteous. The rooms are clean and spacious. The service is very friendly and warm, second to none!

  • Stayed: December 2010, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank tash17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Lunuganga

Address: Dedduwa Lake, Bentota, Sri Lanka
Region: Sri Lanka > Southern Province > Galle District > Bentota
Hotel Style:
#8 Romantic Hotel in Bentota
#8 Luxury Hotel in Bentota
Hotel Class:4 star — Lunuganga 4*
Number of rooms: 6
Also Known As:
Lunuganga Hotel Bentota

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