Colonial opulence at its zenith

Thotalagala Plantation House is a tea planter’s bungalow in South East Sri Lanka that lets you enjoy a vintage-style luxury stay
The outdoors at Thotalagal
The outdoors at Thotalagal

A cup of tea, they say, is modelled after the silence of retreat; a time to enjoy life far removed from daily existence. And when it happens to be in an antique bungalow in the middle of a flourishing emerald tea plantation, even better. Thotalagala, a vintage-style, baronial planter’s bungalow away from the plains of South-East Sri Lanka, balanced on the crest of the Haputale Escarpment offers the perfect spot to realise this envision.

The 145-year-old tea estate is located in the Pitaratmalie Estate, which is a part of the Agarapatana Plantations. The tea plantation, spread across 8,000 hectares in Sri Lanka, produces one of the finest teas in the world.

Thotalagala features seven uber-luxe, vintage-themed rooms with gorgeous antique furniture, teak panelling and nostalgic artwork. The themed suites, as a tribute, are named after the eminent figures who shaped the history of Sri Lanka’s foremost tea-growing region, the Province of Uva. They are Major Rogers, Sir Thomas Lipton, Rev Walter Senior, James Taylor, Sam Popham, John Duncan and George Pilkington. The suites have been reconfigured to perfection and historical memorabilia has been incorporated impeccably, according to the distinctive personality of the room. The archives, artefacts, photographs and poems from the origins of the bungalow have been restored in the form of framed wall decors and displays, referred to as a ‘Whiff of England and Scotland’. Simultaneously the modern, upscale amenities offer contemporary sophistication.

Local tea is at the very centre of the Thotalagala experience. The bungalow serves zero-mile tea, sourced and processed on the very same estates, to support and showcase the tea industry, and to keep the thriving tea culture alive. If you enjoy afternoon tea, the staff will arrange a feast while you sip locally grown and brewed tea on the gorgeous wooden deck of the property, enjoying finer things of life.

The bungalow has an adjoining vegetable, fruit and herb patch from where some of the exotic and artisanal ingredients for the meals are freshly sourced. The chefs with their creativity and inspiration customise gourmet meals every day, to create a tempting spread of dishes, which is then served by liveried butlers. They will even pack you sandwiches, cakes and nibbles for an alfresco experience across the spacious lawns and flowerbeds surrounding the bungalow.

Thotalagala houses one of the country’s best infinity swimming pools. Amrit Rajaratnam, the owner of the property says, “This historic planter’s bungalow, Thotalagala, translates my vision of creating immersive luxury in Sri Lanka. Thotalagala is just that for the understated, luxury consumer. This thriving tea plantation constantly links back to local food, heritage, tea, art, and more. Experiential boutique luxury is the most sustainable way forward for Sri Lankan boutique hotels.”

Thotalagala crafts a local experience for the discerning luxury traveller, without any pretence. The bungalow, situated on a living tea plantation, offers an unique experience of indulgence, while honouring its rich history and appreciating the sheer beauty of things.

Adjoining the estate is Dambatenne, one of the only tea estates in the world that Sir Thomas Lipton (Lipton tea fame) planted himself. He chose to stay at Thotalagala, while visiting the plantations.

Five-hour drive to Thotalagala from Bandaranaike International Airport, Colombo Haputale, the nearest railway station, is a 15-minute drive

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The New Indian Express