Things are looking good. From Amaara Forest Hotel in Sigiriya
It is not hard to spot the great ‘pink lotus’ at the 109th milepost in the town of Sigiriya. The signboards lead me to the entrance of a sprawling resort-like hotel in the heart of this historical city. And after about 175 kms of driving (from Colombo) the welcome at the Amaara Forest Hotel is warm and refreshing!
Having heard so much about this hotel from other guests and all the great reviews on TripAdvisor, I can’t wait to find out for myself.
Sprawled across 25 acres of forestland, the Amaara Forest is aptly named. Thick jungle borders the outer periphery while the main hotel grounds have been replanted with over 1500 plants that will grow to be big trees in a couple of years.
But a word of warning…there is a resident elephant lurking in the bushes! If you are brave enough, stretch out your hand and rub his trunk. He is harmless.
The reception is a vast open-floor area that gives me the first impression of this property- clean-cut and classy. Perfectly manicured lawns spread out until it meets the forest. Purple water lilies and pink lotus in a large man-made lake adds colour to this picture perfect garden. Forty-four twin chalets (vertical) are situated around this garden, discreetly hidden behind tall trees. Gravel pathways lead to the chalets.
My room, No. 202 is upstairs. It has a king sized double bed, and room enough to put a couple more of these because each room is approximately 650 square feet! It has Cable TV, a DVD player, coffee/tea station, mini refrigerator, hair dryer, and much more. The en suite bathroom is also large and has so many amenities that put many 5-stars to shame.
The private balcony overlooks the sprawling gardens, replete with indigenous trees that offer ample shade from the scorching sun. It’s a great place to settle down to read a book or just daydream. Or you can just loll in the pool.
The Amaara Forest Hotel is conveniently and closely located near many of Sri Lanka’s famed sites. As always, I am impatient to explore and set off to see the ruins of Ritigala (more info below). The ruins span across 59 acres of the Ritigala Mountain. After a moderately easy climb up stone steps, I come to the foot of the reservoir named Banda Pokuna. This ancient man-made reservoir is a feat of engineering with a bund of polygonal plan completing a circumference of 366 meters. The construction of the reservoir is credited to King Pandukabhaya (437 -367 BC) and is supposed to have served as a ritual bathing purpose for visitors before entering the monastery.
Further up are stone structures, bridges and raised platforms that were once courtyards, an Ayurveda hospital and libraries.
However, I am perplexed at the lack of descriptive signboards anywhere around to inform the many tourists who visit these beautiful sacred grounds. Maybe this is something the Archaeological Department can look into.
Back at the hotel, it’s time to tuck into my lunch. A four-course a la carte menu offers me plenty to choose from and I’m not disappointed. The meal was filling and by the time I finish, it is time to head off the Kaudulla National Park, which is just 40 minutes away.
This hotel has its own safari jeep and driver Nandasiri is ready to battle the crowds at the entrance. Today there are approximately 300 jeeps jostling to get ahead. Finally we make it and along with the ‘jeep sightings’, we see herds of elephants grazing gently by the lakes in this vast park.
I can never get enough of watching these gentle, majestic animals in their natural habitat and try to get the image of those tied, shackled, and abused in temples, zoos and circuses, just to perform unnatural acts for human entertainment out of my mind.
The Amaara Spa is the next thing on my agenda and soon I am in 7th heaven as nimble fingers knead the tension from my neck and shoulders. This is the perfect ending to this busy day. A chilled bottle of white wine, another delicious meal and last but not least, a house-special – Flambéed Arrack Coffee completes this day.
The Amaara Forest Hotel has one unique feature, and that is their courteous staff. No matter where you are, they will always share a smile and offer a kind word. I always say that no hotel is perfect but if the staff is hospitable, then you can excuse minor glitches. And what you see on their website is what you get-not some photo shopped version of what might be.
What you get at Amaara Forest Hotel
- 40 air-conditioned deluxe rooms
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
- DVD Player
- Flat Screen TV
- Mini Bar
- Safety deposit box
- Satellite TV Channels
- Tea/Coffee Facility
8 Things to Do Around Amaara Forest Hotel
- Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 9 km
This is one of Sri Lanka’s most visited sites and according to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle, the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) as his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Sigiriya, today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.
- Minneriya National Park
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 25 km
This Park is popular for the large numbers of elephants that gather here in the dry season- herds of up to 400 elephants have been seen. The gathering of Elephants in Minneriya National Park is the largest seasonally recurring concentration of wild elephants found in the world.
- Kaudulla National Park
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 35 km
This Park has established a 6656-hectare elephant corridor between Somawathie Chaitiya and Minneriya National Parks. The park is centred around the ancient Kaudulla Tank (reservoir) and is home to over 250 elephants (including herds of juvenile males), leopard, fishing cat, Sloth bear, Sāmbhar deer, and the endangered Rusty-spotted cat.
- Dambulla Cave Temple
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 23 km
This cave had first been constructed during the reign of King Vattagamini Abhaya (103 BC and 89-77 BC). During a South Indian invasion, the king had to abandon his Anuradhapura Kingdom and for the next 12 years he was in hiding and had frequented these caves for his safety. After regaining the kingdom of Anuradhapura and becoming the King, he converted these caves into Buddhist temples by constructing walled partitions under the rock overhang which spans the entire area as a single large cave. He got drip ledges made along this large cave and made it suitable to withstand rainy weather and avoided water seeping inside the caved areas. The three cave temples named as Devarajalena, Maharajalena and the Paccimalena were constructed by him.
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 20 km
Ritigala is home to 70 rock caves that were believed to have been inhabited since the first century BC. According to the Mahavamsa, the great historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, Ritigala was known by the name of “arittha-pabbata” during the reign of Pandukabhaya (377-307 BC), the third king of Sri Lanka. Since then Ritigala had been, at intervals, a sanctuary for the kings at war against the Dravidian invaders to the island till the 7th century: King Dutugemunu (161-137 BC) and King Jetthatissa in the seventh century.
- Sacred City of Anuradhapura
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 63 km
The city of Anuradhapura was named after a minister called Anuradha who founded this area as a village settlement. He was one of the ministers who accompanied King Vijaya from India, who founded the Sinhalese race in Sri Lanka. In the 4th century BC, King Pandukabhaya made it his capital and it was during the period of his grandson King Devanampiyatissa that Buddhism was brought to Sri Lanka by Arhath Mahinda Thero, the son of Emperor Asoka in India.
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 45 km
Sri Lanka’s splendid medieval capital was established as the first city of the land in the 11th Century, A.D. It replaced Anuradhapura, which was plundered, made desolate and laid hopelessly bare to the invading armies from South India. Three Kings dominate the chronicles of the city and the period. The ruins of the ancient city stand on the east shore of a large artificial lake, the Topa Wewa Lake, or Parakrama Samudraya (the Sea of Parakrama), built by King Parakramabahu I (1153-86), whose reign was Polonnaruwa‘s golden age. Within a rectangle of city walls stand palace buildings and clusters of dozens of dagobas, temples and various other religious buildings. A scattering of other historic buildings can be found to the north of the main complex, outside the city walls and close to the main road to Habarana and Dambulla.
- Pidurangala Rock
Distance from Amaara Forest Hotel – 9 km
Pidurangala, located adjacent to the Sigiriya rock is believed to be the Royal Temple where King Kashyapa worshipped. According to legend when Kashyapa arrived in Sigiriya to build his rock fortress capital, the caves around here were occupied by Buddhist monks for meditation. The King shifted that “Sigiriya monastery complex” to Pidurangala.