Kotugoda, Sri Lanka

Photo: Teardrop Hotels

It happens all the time. You’re exhausted after flying halfway around the world. In this case, it was nearly 20 hours in the air. You’ll be happy to reach your destination. Eventually. Right now, you’re in a mood. You’re grumpy, irritable, and probably not very pleasant to be around. So the last thing you need is a long ride to your first hotel.

It’d be great if you could spend the first night near the airport. A quick transfer would speed up the time standing between you, a long shower, a hot meal, and a warm bed. Airport hotels aren’t very welcoming, though. They tend to value basic function over comfort and style. They could also be anywhere since they provide little personalization or even a sense of place.

A hotel in Sri Lanka didn’t receive the memo about these boring rules. The Wallawwa is at least, depending on the time of day, a 45-minute drive from Colombo. It’s only 15 minutes from Bandaranaike International Airport, though. Many people book the hotel as a pre- or post-flight crash pad. They’re shocked by what they find upon their arrival.

Photo: Teardrop Hotels

The Wallawwa is a colonial country estate. Its pillared manor house, which was occupied by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force during World War II, was lovingly restored into a boutique hotel. The library is filled with old books and board games. A chic shop donates all of its profits to local charities. Eighteen rooms sit in a new wing behind the house. The large spaces feature wood-beamed ceilings, polished stone floors, and four-poster beds. Their terrazzo-lined bathrooms are huge, too. Living areas, including plush window seats, and terraces are added to the suites. They lead to the beautifully landscaped garden and, eventually, the hidden, stone-lined pool.

This hotel is starting to seem like a cozy resort. The restaurant only increases that feeling. Veranda is an open-air space that overlooks the garden. Its stone terrace is sheltered by frangipani. Its dishes highlight homegrown herbs and vegetables, seafood from a nearby fishing village, and homemade ice cream. Freshly baked cake is served with afternoon tea. While gin and tonics are poured from the roving bar.

Then there’s Z Spa. The spa offers both single and double treatment rooms. Each one has an open-air bathroom attached. All of its products are made in Sri Lanka; many of them include local tea. But the best part is the hours. There are no set times for the spa. You can schedule a massage or a scrub any time of day. With service like this, you might want to consider spending more than one night at the Wallawwa. It can be your home base as you explore Colombo, Negombo, and the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.

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