Review: Amangalla, Galle, Sri Lanka

Filed Under: Hotel Reviews, Trip Reports

Amans are my favorite hotels in the world. I find that the group consistently delivers an experience that’s unparalleled, and I’ll go out of my way to stay at Amans, and will even plan trips around them.

It’s not just that all of the hotels are stunning, and that they have amazing service, but they’re also consistently in unique locations that don’t disappoint.

There are two Aman properties in Sri Lanka, and we were excited to check both of them out.

Booking Amangalla

Amans most definitely aren’t cheap, and even the ones in Sri Lanka are no exception. We spent a total of seven nights at the two Amans — three at Amangalla, and four at Amanwella.

Our nightly rate at Amangalla was ~700USD.

However, we booked the Fort & Beach Journey, as they call it, which came with some extras. Since we were spending seven nights between the two hotels, we received the following:

  • Daily breakfast
  • Afternoon tea
  • Guided tour of the Fort
  • Sandalwood facial for her and a traditional shave for him at Amangalla
  • Visit to the Handunugoda tea plantation (during complimentary inter-resort journey)
  • Visit to Mulgirigala Rock Temple and one 60-minute Amanwella massage for two at Amanwella
  • Daily choice of lunch or dinner (excluding alcoholic beverages)

So obviously this was still really expensive, though we ended up spending very little beyond the room rate, given all that was included.

Getting to Amangalla

Amangalla is located in the town of Galle, Sri Lanka, which is about a two hour drive from Colombo. We had the hotel pick us up at the airport, for which the hotel charges 195USD.

I was impressed by the quality of the road — there’s an incredible highway (it’s brand new and empty) for the first two thirds of the trip, and then the last third of the trip is more in line with what you’d expect driving around Sri Lanka.

But overall the transfer was much easier than I was expecting.

Amangalla basics

Amangalla is located within the walls of the Galle Fort, which is a 17th century Dutch fort and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The hotel has quite a history. The complex was originally built in 1684 as the headquarters fo the Dutch commanders. Then under British rule it changed hands.

In 1865 it was converted into the New Orient Hotel, before finally being converted into an Aman in 2005.

I love the architecture of the hotel, and they did a fabulous job maintaining the essence of the building while still giving it most of the comforts you’d expect nowadays. Amangalla is also right in the center of town, so you can easily get anywhere on foot.

Amangalla exterior

Amangalla room

Amangalla has just 28 rooms, and given what an old building this is, no two rooms are identical. We just booked the entry level room, and I think that’s exactly what we got. We were assigned room 31, which was back in the hotel’s garden, right next to the pool.


Amangalla walkway

Amangalla walkway

Amangalla room exterior

At the door to the room was a chair along with a side table. I can’t imagine actually sitting out there, but…


Amangalla room exterior


Amangalla room exterior

I loved the classic colonial style design of the room. While the room wasn’t huge, it was more than sufficient. There was a comfortable four-poster bed in the middle of the room.


Amangalla bedroom


Amangalla bedroom


Amangalla bedroom

Along one side of the room was a desk with a chair.


Amangalla room desk

On the other side of the room was a table with two chairs.


Amangalla room table

Waiting on the table was a fruit plate as a welcome amenity, along with a letter.

Amangalla welcome gift

The room also had a minibar. As is standard at Amans, the soft drinks in the minibar were complimentary, while the alcohol was chargeable.


Amangalla minibar

There were doors separating the bedroom from the bathroom, as the bathroom was almost as big as the rest of the room. It had double sinks, a soaking tub, a walk-in shower, and a toilet in a separate room.


Amangalla room bathroom


Amangalla room bathtub


Amangalla room shower


Amangalla room toilet

Aman has a focus on sustainability, so as usual toiletries were in reusable containers, rather than being in bottles from brand names.


Amangalla room toiletries

Amangalla’s residential approach

Amangalla almost feels more like a beautiful, huge residence, than a hotel. Reception is located just inside the entrance, and includes a bit of seating.


Amangalla reception


Amangalla public areas

The focal point of the hotel is the restaurant and bar area, where you can just lounge throughout the day if you’d like. What a well maintained and stunning space. On one side of the room is some casual seating, and then on the far side of the room is the restaurant area, with dining tables.


Amangalla restaurant & bar


Amangalla restaurant & bar


Amangalla restaurant & bar


Amangalla restaurant & bar

There’s an equally large seating area outside. The hotel is right in the middle of town so it gets a bit loud out here, but it was cool to watch all the locals walking and driving by.


Amangalla restaurant terrace

Amangalla library

Each Aman has a library, which is just a cool place to chill out, play games, read, or whatever. The Amangalla library wasn’t far from our room, and even had an outdoor seating area.


Amangalla library


Amangalla library


Amangalla library


Amangalla library

Amangalla pool

The pool was right by our room. It blended perfectly into the space, and never got busy. It had lounge chairs as well as some covered areas you could sit. This was such a peaceful area, given that it wasn’t near the street.


Amangalla pool


Amangalla pool


Amangalla pool

There were also some tables at the pool. While this wasn’t formally the restaurant, you could have meals here.


Amangalla pool seating

Spa at Amangalla

Amangalla has quite a nice spa with multiple treatment rooms, as well as a jacuzzi.

Amangalla spa


Amangalla spa


Amangalla spa

The rate we booked included a wet shave for each of us, which we both enjoyed. We also each got a 60 minute massage, which cost 95USD per person, including tax and service charge.

Obviously that’s super expensive for Sri Lanka, though not bad at all for an international luxury resort (just look at some hotels in Mexico that charge 300USD for an hour-long massage).

The spa menu read as follows:

Amangalla’s (lack of) gym

Ford and I both like to work out when we travel. While I suck at working out when I take quick whirlwind review trips, when I actually spend time somewhere I work out every day, because then I feel better about indulging in great food.

Unfortunately Amangalla doesn’t have a gym. Yes, I get it’s an old and small property, but I don’t get why they don’t have a basic gym setup.

This didn’t bother me that much, but what did bother me is that Amanwella (the next resort we went to) didn’t have a gym either.

To me that’s completely unacceptable.

Dining at Amangalla

Breakfast

Breakfast was included in our rate, and could be had via room service or in the restaurant. We had breakfast in the restaurant all three mornings. The menu read as follows:

Over the course of our stay we tried quite a few things. To drink, the mango juice was excellent. The cappuccino wasn’t, as it tasted watery and bitter.

Amangalla breakfast

So going forward I just had the french press coffee.


Amangalla breakfast

We had the bircher muesli…


Amangalla breakfast

The oatmeal with stewed apples…


Amangalla breakfast

The ruhunu curd with kithul treacle…


Amangalla breakfast

The Sri Lankan omelet…


Amangalla breakfast

And the string hoppers…


Amangalla breakfast

I thought the breakfast was excellent.

Lunch

Our rate included half board, so it included either lunch or dinner, whichever was more expensive. There were no real limits on what you could order.

While some other Amans restrict visits from non-guests, this one allowed tourists to make reservations for lunch and dinner. So the restaurant was never crowded, though it was definitely noticeable that there were quite a few non-guests.

The lunch menu read as follows:

Over our stay here we had the Thai beef salad…


Amangalla lunch

The pumpkin salad…


Amangalla lunch

We also tried several of the Sri Lankan options.


Amangalla lunch


Amangalla lunch

The seared sea bass…


Amangalla lunch

A couple of the desserts were also excellent.


Amangalla lunch


Amangalla lunch

Dinner

The dinner menu at Amangalla changed slightly every night, though here’s a sense of what the menu was like:

We arrived at the hotel late at night after landing in Sri Lanka and had work to do, so we just ordered the traditional rice and curry dish via room service. The portion was so big that we just ordered for one person, and below is what we got.


Amangalla dinner


Amangalla dinner

The next night we ate in the restaurant (since we had Sri Lankan food for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, we decided to try something from the Western menu).

Amangalla dinner


Amangalla dinner


Amangalla dinner

Special roti dinner

In the activities book I saw that they had a “traditional roti dinner in garden pavilion” as an option, and I figured we should give this a try for our last night. The cost was 285USD — obviously that’s steep — but they sure do make it a special experience.

The garden pavilion is basically the outdoor area of the library, and they had set up candles along the walkway leading to this area.

Amangalla special roti dinner

They really go all-out in terms of setting this up, as usually there’s no grill here. But waiting there was the chef, the waiter, as well as live music from a local guy.


Amangalla special roti dinner

Here’s what our menu looked like:

While we didn’t really want to drink, a cocktail was included, so we figured we might as well. 😉


Amangalla special roti dinner

The food was spectacular, and every step of the way they explained how they were preparing it, what we were having, etc.


Amangalla special roti dinner


Amangalla special roti dinner

While we absolutely loved the dinner, the issue is that roti is basically just stuffed bread, and there’s a diminishing marginal enjoyment on that.


Amangalla special roti dinner


Amangalla special roti dinner


Amangalla special roti dinner

The food was truly excellent, though, and it was a special experience.

Amangalla activities

To be honest, I didn’t find Galle to be the most exciting city in the world, though it did have a cool vibe. To give you a sense of what you can do, here are some of the activities offered by the hotel:

We spent one day touring the city. It was charming, but I’m also not sure you need more than a couple of days here. In our case I thought three days was perfect, especially since we were getting over jetlag.

Galle, Sri Lanka


Galle, Sri Lanka

Galle, Sri Lanka

Amangalla service

In addition to the unique destinations where the hotels are built, one of the things that I generally love about Aman is the service. In my opinion they offer the best service of any hotel group.

Here’s the problem, though. When you stay at your first Aman you’re usually blown away by the service. However, the more Amans you stay at, the more you know what to expect. Therefore you start to expect the things that make Aman service unique, rather than view them as exceptional.

I’m not trying to sound jaded, but as a brand standard Aman does have a specific approach to service, and the more Amans you stay at, the more you notice when things aren’t fully being followed.

With that in mind, I thought Amangalla had genuinely friendly and well intentioned service — some people were overly friendly and seemed to love their jobs, while others were friendly enough.

Here are a few observations, which many only Amanjunkies will appreciate:

  • They “only” refreshed our room once a day plus turndown, and often didn’t do so while we were at breakfast; other Amans refresh your room every single time you leave
  • At Amans you never sign anything and they’re supposed to know your room number, though a couple of times we had to provide it; for that matter, in general the hotel didn’t seem to get to know their guests as well as some other properties
  • They didn’t remember drink preferences, etc., in the same way some other Amans do
  • Usually Aman general managers are almost annoyingly attentive and check on every guest every day, though I’m not sure if this hotel had a general manager, because we weren’t greeted by one once

So service was good, but this definitely isn’t a top tier Aman in that regard.

Amangalla bottom line

We enjoyed our time at Amangalla, though I’d say I liked this hotel, and didn’t love it. I’ve never been disappointed by Amans, though this is perhaps the Aman I’ve stayed at that least exceeded my expectations.

On the plus side, I loved the building itself, and I found the food to be excellent. Galle is a cute town, and is worth seeing.

However, the hotel lacked some of the amenities you’ll find at other Amans — there was only one restaurant, there was no gym, and in general the attention to detail wasn’t quite as good as other Aman properties.

So if you’re going to Sri Lanka and are into Amans I’d visit Amangalla, though I also wouldn’t go out of my way to visit. As I said in the introduction to this post, I really regret not going to Sri Lanka’s tea trails, which seem to be the coolest thing to see in the country.

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Comments
  1. Thanks for the review. My wife and I recently completed a stay at Aarunya Nature Resort near Kandy, which was one of the most amazing properties I’ve stayed at (vastly preferred to our stay at Al Maha a few days later). Being in the middle of the country allows for easier access to the tea plantations, which are just as spectacular as everyone says. I really hope tourism picks up again following the Easter bombings–we went a couple of weeks after the attacks and most attractions seemed deserted.

  2. Thanks for the review. Sri Lanka has been on my list; mostly the Amans and Tea Trails…

    This review; however, doesn’t seem to get me to want to jump on a plane. Also, was the property full? I’ve never not received an upgrade at an Aman unless the property was fully committed….

    FDW

  3. Hi Lucky, always look forward to your trip reports.
    This hotel reminds me a lot of the Tower House Cochin, a Neemrana Property in Cochin, India. I think it is the colonial architecture and the Dutch influence that renders a similarity.

    Always a pleasure to read,
    SG

  4. The things you refer to as “service” – cleaning up every time you leave, being over attentive – most people would consider annoyances. At $700 a night, please leave me tf alone!

  5. To @Sam’s point, this didn’t look luxury like a lot of the Amans in Asia. It looked peaceful and historic, but pretty OK at best.

  6. Great report.

    One minor correction – the hotel used to be called the “New Oriental,” no the “New Orient;” I only know because I stayed there 15+ years ago, well before Aman got its hands on it. It was certainly showing its age. My friend and i were assigned a giant room on the floor above the main floor facing the street. The hotel had no air conditioning and no elevator, so just walking up the one flight of stairs left us a bit sweaty. Because there was no a/c, we had to run fans at night, which barely helped. It was still a great trip, and yeah, a couple of days or nights in the fort is probably plenty for most people.

    With the gym, well, there’s not really any excuse not to take one of the guestrooms and turn it into some sort of a serviceable gym, unless the hotel regularly sells out and they want to keep the extra guest room for revenue. For example, at the Amanjiwo in Java, they used one of the suites for their spa, so using a room for a non-guest room certainly has precedent.

    It’s too bad you didn’t go to any tea plantations. Maybe on another trip? We were there for ~10 days, so had a lot more time to explore the middle of the country as well as Yala National Park as well as the south.

    One other fun fact: If you look at the photo of the chairs (posted here: https://onemileatatime.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Amangalla-15.jpg), you’ll notice the curved armrests. Under these armrests a two pieces of wood (it’s easier to see on a tablet where one can make the picture bigger). In practice, the bottom slat swivels outwards to the front of the chair, allowing the person sitting to place their legs on the extension, as shown here: https://a.1stdibscdn.com/archivesE/upload/12152/26_15/1979c/1979C_l.jpeg

    It’s not a very dignified look, but, well, yeah, there you have it…

  7. @cara lockwood: You say “The things you refer to as “service” – cleaning up every time you leave…”

    I don’t think you understand that you NEVER EVER see the people servicing the room. It’s weird, they’re in and out like magic, so there’s no “over attentiveness” and no annoyance associated with it whatsoever.

  8. When I was in Galle I just did one night at the Tamarind Hill which used to be the governor’s mansion way back when (17th century). My room was very historic feeling. Giant king size bed. The bathroom was a sort of outdoor patio that had been converted. It was a very unique place. I think I paid something like $300 for the night. Service was very good but unobtrusive for the most part.

    There are so many fascinating places to visit around the country. I think the mountain areas are more interesting and the weather is more comfortable. The cultural triangle is not to be missed IMHO. I’d say that service was maybe not as polished as it is in other places I’ve been, but it was always quite sincere and friendly.

    I’m headed back early next year. My guide friend who’s organizing things for me says that tourism is starting to pick back up and getting back to normal

  9. One other note of history this hotel became a makeshift hospital after the tsunami right as the among was going to open they volunteered to open it up as needed.

    interesting I had a very very different experience at this hotel we had a private Butler who made sure everything was taken care of and was everywhere we asked to be If we order drinks at the pool somehow he brought them even though we ordered from someone else he gave us our guided tour of the town he was there breakfast is there when we went to bed when we went to bed. General manager was always available but our butler took care of us. He even gave us reserved spa space for a full hour without anyone else allowed in. This day was definitely a amn quality and very memorable and not my first aman.

    Amanwella was a big disappointment for me so I look forward to review of that see if it’s gotten any better

  10. Funny how you let yourself scam again and again. that roti dinner is a joke! sure it looks yummy, but Aman is really perfect in selling 1-2$ dishes for innocent westeners. Sorry, but there is no excuse for such an overpriced meal, if you get basic stuff like roti.

  11. thanks for the review. Sorry to hear it, though. I, too, love the Amans. I’m going this weekend to Amanpulo and hope it’s as wonderful as the other Amans I’ve visited.

  12. When I was in Galle, I stayed at the Tamarind Hill, which was an SLH property at the time. We got upgraded to their enormous Admiral Suite replete with antique furniture, huge living room, bedroom, bathroom and wraparound veranda. It’s located outside the historic fort area, but a quick and cheap tuk tuk ride got us there and back easily, and if I recall the price was about one-third what the Aman’s were charging.

    Never stayed at an Aman as the ones I’ve looked at were either priced at $2000/night, which is beyond my max hotel budget of $1,250/night, or were double the price of really good hotels that I already trusted (ie. in Tokyo where the Aman is priced higher than 4S, Peninsula and other very good comparable properties). I did notice when planning our Sri Lanka trip a few years ago that the Amans there were priced lower than other Amans ($700/night as you said)… but I also read reviews which suggested they weren’t quite at the same level as other Aman properties.

  13. Good review, as always.

    For me, I would never spend $700 a night here. It just doesn’t look anywhere near that good/worth it. I’m not sure I’d spend $350 a night for this property.

  14. Honestly i am tired of reviews of 700$++ Amans with 150$ per person dinners, give me decent price/quality ratio four- and five-star hotels instead. This blog used to talk about hotels where anyone could stay, now it has ascended into rockstar territory and became boring.

  15. I personally don’t think you paint a very accurate picture of Galle, having been four times myself. Galle is a small, relaxed ‘hipster’ town situated close to the beach resort areas of Thalpe and Unawatuna. It’s not the sort of place I’d recommend for a city holiday, but is a nice place to explore if you’re staying at one of the nearby beach towns. Also, going to Sri Lanka and staying in a £700 hotel in a town area isn’t worthwhile, you’re much better off staying at a hotel closer to the beach or in a more remote area – and you certainly do NOT need to pay $700 a night to get luxury (of a much higher standard than this Aman property) in Sri Lanka. I’d also really recommend not getting half board in a hotel in this area of Sri Lanka, there are loads of really nice restaurants in the surrounding areas that are much cheaper and generally have food of better quality than the hotels. And I wouldn’t recommend drinking the milk from Sri Lanka, it has given my family and I stomach issues in the past.

  16. Seems like any decent hotel in South Asia to me. I have never been terribly impressed with Amans. I prefer the Taj and Oberoi properties for luxury.

  17. @Max – [email protected] $2 roti. I wonder what the cook is thinking, and how much they laugh at the people who do this, afterwards or in the kitchen.

    @Emily – I agree, the Oberoi hotels are more luxurious, and authentically so, for half the price.

  18. This hotel looks like a 3 star hotel when compared to the luxury and elegance of the Oberoi Vilas properties such as Udaivilas, Rajvilas and Amarvilas.

    Also roti, by definition is a type of bread preparation. Any roti dinner would therefore be a heavily carb laden bread driven dinner (with low amount of protein).

  19. It is a dream to stay at an Aman but not necessarily this one – just seems underwhelming. I’d like to do the one in Turks/Caicos, just to keep it relatively close to home.

  20. @William: I’d agree with you that it seems like not all Amans are created equal. The one in Utah (Amangiri) looks really interesting to me, but at a minimum of $1900/night (and usually priced more than that), it’s just too much for me. When I consider that you can get pretty amazing hotel rooms for half that rate, it’s difficult for me to justify $2000/night for a hotel no matter how good it is.

  21. Enjoyed the report as always Ben. But Wow $1000AUD a night. I know Aman’s are supposed to be the best but this looked like it didnt live up to the hype……? And as for the cost of the roti bread meal WOW that’s a lot of cash for bread and candles !

  22. Dear Lucky,
    Just out of historical accuracy, we – the Portuguese – were the first to settle in Sri Lanka and the fort was built (partly) .
    The Dutch arrived many years later 😉

  23. As for the Amans, I’m really not a fan. As you said, they are normaly very small hotel where you barely cross another guest. Hence, no interaction, no travel chit-chat.
    This said, I praise the Amanpulo in the Philipines as one of the best hotels in the world…

  24. The biggest problem for me at this Aman is they open the restaurant to the public. Because of that, staff don’t know who’s actually staying at the hotel and who’s just there for lunch/dinner. Thus out goes one of the perk at staying at an Aman: every staff knows who you are. With every non city Aman, staff knows who you are and when you come back from an excursion, staff is ready with cold towels and your favorite cold drinks and warm smiles. But because they let non staying guests into this Aman, staff can’t possibly differentiate who’s staying here and who’s not. So no hellos and no warm smiles when you walk back to your room from the forte. I can’t say I blame the staff. With so many people trekking through front part of the hotel, it’s not possible to remember who are the staying guests.

    With that said, once you are inside the private part of the hotel… ie spa and pool, service standard is similar to what you would find at other Amans. It’s a beautiful property, sadly owner decided to open restaurant part to public to earn those extra coins thus lowering experience for staying guests. I’m sure management would rather not have the non staying guests trekking through front part of the hotel.

    Lucky it’s too bad you didn’t experience the Bawa brothers tour. They are the most famous architects in Sri Lanka and were openly gay during mid to late 20th century. Their architecture sets the precedent of what we see today at various tropical resorts.

  25. I’m sorry Ben/Lucky,
    I understand that value is subjective to each of us. However, One would have to be a FOOL to spend their own money on that hotel for $700 a night plus a near $300 for a roti dinner! Seriously, one would have to be out of their mind!

    Good thing Ben can claim it as a business expense.

  26. So … $700/night, no gym. Apparently they can’t put a few treadmills into a spare room and they can’t even make a decent cappuccino. No thanks. Better off staying at the Weligama Marriott which is under $80 USD/night (highest-tier suite is under $200/night). I’m sure they have well-intentioned people working there too who can make a stay enjoyable and memorable at a more realistic price point.

    “We ended up spending very little beyond the room rate, given all that was included.” Really?! I saw an additional $670 = $195 for an airport transfer, $190 for 2 massages, and (the kicker for me) $285 for a candlelight dinner consisting of … sandwiches.

    Amans may be our host’s favorite hotel chain. The reasons, however, escape me. Every one reviewed on here has some sort of glaring flaw. One commentator put it best that they are basically short-term assisted living facilities.

  27. Thanks for this review. I have been researching what Aman to choose as my first Aman experience, and nothing about this one compels me to ever stay at this one – unless they do some major revamping. What is your favorite Aman out of all the ones you have visited?

  28. Seems like a bit of a shame to visit Sri Lanka and miss out on the most beautiful parts of the country (tea trails, mountains, etc.). I’m sure 700 USD a night would have gotten you a spectacular stay in those areas as well.

  29. agree with the commentors. not worth the price at all!
    i stayed at tamarind hill as i saw a couple others post–lovely accommodation there but i would not recommend for solo travelers

  30. If you have $700 to throw around per night stay at a Taj Hotel or Oberoi. You’ll get a suite and a meals which make these seem like McDonald’s. Seriously seems like you got shortchanged while staying here. Rates in USD lol

  31. Hi Lucky,
    Finally got to read your review. My 1st visit to Lanka was in May 18…but I am sure many more visits will follow. I simply love the place, the food, the music (baila) and most importantly the people.

    I did notice your breakfast picture is incorrect. You were served Pittu and not String Hopper…both are solid options!

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