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Heritance Kandalama

  The Heritance Kandalama was our hotel choice for the first part of our Sri Lanka holiday.  We had figured that Dambulla was a good location for exploring the nearby area as apart from the local caves had in its relative vicinity both Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa.  As the Heritance Kandalama appeared to be the best hotel in the area we picked it over all other options.  After a long plane journey, an exciting visit to the Pinawela elephant orphanage and riding on the unfamiliar roads of rural Sri Lanka, we finally arrived in Dambula sometime in the afternoon.  Despite us thinking we had arrived, a further 15 minutes were needed to reach the isolated hotel that is built on a hilly rock overlooking a man made water reservoir.
  Staff service
  When it comes to service, Sri Lanka's five star hotels seem to have it figured out correctly.  Our first taste of it was at the Heritance Kandalama with everyone being very polite and excellent at their service.  For the check in we were taken not at the reception but at a small cafeteria overlooking the infinity pool and the Kandalama lake.  We were offered wet towels and refreshing cool drinks.  Despite a slight mix up in our reservation, within minutes we were led to our room and our luggage was delivered shortly thereafter.
  Hotel Location and Ambiance
The hotel blends in with the surrounding nature in a very non intrusive way.  Its architect was Geoffrey Bawa whose pioneering work labeled as "tropical modernism" earned him a spot in the list of the region's most influential architects.  Despite the hotel being rather big, a sense of intimacy is prevalent in all areas with the notable exception of the main restaurant.  Adding to the integration with the surroundings is the fact that monkeys are pretty much everywhere.  They roam the open air corridors and visit room balconies on a regular basis.  By the way, make sure you don't touch the balcony rails as sometimes monkeys do their messy monkey business there...
We were fortunate to be upgraded to a fifth floor Deluxe room, which is the hotel's highest room category. From the third floor up there are spectacular views of the surrounding area.  We stayed at the Sigiriya wing and the Lion rock was silhouetted in the distance with the Kandalama lake in the foreground.  Both our bedroom and bathroom had floor to ceiling glass windows and all the time you had a tremendous feeling of connecting with what is outside.
  The room was very clean and tea/coffee making facilities with complimentary water were available.  Furnishings were of solid wood as was our floor.  The piped in music was not working very well but we did not really mind that.  A balcony chair had become unhinged (from the monkeys no doubt!) but as soon as we let reception know about it repairs were made.
  The bathroom was equipped with a jacuzzi right by the window so we could relax in it while enjoying the view.  Two small caveats; no curtains means uninterrupted views from inside and outside.  Also the shower head, fixed on the ceiling gives a nice tropical shower feel but will get your hair wet.
  Food and Beverage
  Breakfast, included with our stay, was in the pleasant but slightly chaotic when busy main restaurant.  There is quite a big selection including spicy carries which we gathered are a must for local customers.  The cook to order station prepared waffles, omelets and what later became our favorite, hoppers.
  We had dinner three times at the same restaurant and never tried the a la cart option on the seventh floor.  There was always plenty to choose from and food was good in general.  Starters could have been a little better and most of the cold cuts and cheeses were uninspiring.  Every night a different theme night was on and the cooking stations offered good options.  As cooks think nothing of overcooking meat or fish you might want to choose an uncooked piece and have it made to your liking.  For some reason no coffee is served after dinner.
  Facilities and Entertainment
Regretfully we did not take advantage of all the facilities the hotel offered.  We were too busy touring the area and in all honesty our room was quite comfortable and didn't feel like leaving.  Heritance Kandalama has three outdoor swimming pools but we only spend time at the wonderful infinity pool overlooking the Kandalama lake and Sigiriya.  Quite pleasantly live Sri Lankan music was played in the afternoons and night.  A visit to the spa proved that it was adequate but nothing to write home about.  Free WiFi is available.
  Our opinion
  You have to stay here and get a high floor room with view toward Sigiriya.  And don't feed the monkeys...