Impressions Of Amangalla In Galle, Sri Lanka

Ford and I are just wrapping up a week in Sri Lanka, and in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions of the first hotel we stayed at, Amangalla.

I’m an Amanjunkie. They’re my favorite hotel group in the world, and I’ll specifically visit destinations to stay at them, because the properties blow me away without fail (for example, in the past couple of years I’ve reviewed Aman Sveti Stefan and Amanzoe, both of which were incredible).

It’s not just that the hotels as such are cool, but they’re consistently in unique and unforgettable locations.

In Sri Lanka we stayed at both Amangalla and Amanwella, doing what they call the “Fort & Beach Journey.” This included all kinds of additions, which you can see at the previous link. For what it’s worth, our rate was $775 per night (which is obviously steep, though it at least included quite a few things). If you’re interested in booking the hotel you can email Ford at [email protected] and he can help figure out the best deal for you.

While I’ve been to Colombo many times before, this was my first time venturing out into the country, and it was Ford’s first time in Sri Lanka at all.

So in this post I wanted to share my initial impressions, with a full trip report to follow.

Amangalla location

Amangalla is located in the town of Galle, which is in the Southwest of Sri Lanka. It’s about a two hour drive from Colombo Airport, and most of this is on a pretty newly built highway, which is better than just about any highway you’d find in the US.

The hotel is located within Galle Fort, which is a 17th century Dutch fort that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More on that in a bit.

Amangalla rooms

Amangalla has just 28 rooms, and each room is a little bit different, as far as I know (given what an old building it is). I loved the classic colonial design of the rooms, which reminded me a lot of the Raffles Singapore.

We just booked a base room, and I think that’s exactly what we got.

Amangalla amenities & public areas

While the rooms were beautiful, I loved the public areas even more. The focal point of the hotel is what I guess feels like the “living room” which is also the hotel’s restaurant and bar. It has both an indoor and outdoor area, though the big doors are kept open all day, so you always feel like you’re kind of outside.

The grounds of the hotel are surprisingly big, including a beautiful outdoor courtyard and pool.

Then there’s a library, which is a feature that every Aman that I’ve been to has.

There’s also an impressive spa, with several treatment rooms.

I was surprised, however, that the hotel didn’t have a gym. I get that this is a fairly small hotel in an old building so I’ll certainly give them a pass, though I won’t do the same for Amanwella — stay tuned. 😉

Amangalla service

Amans consistently have exceptional service, the best of any hotels out there, in my opinion (along with Fogo Island Inn).

So here’s the thing — service at Amangalla was still very friendly and well intentioned and mostly professional, but not as polished as at some other Amans.

The problem is the ridiculously high standard that Amans set, so my complaints will sound absolutely ridiculous to someone who hasn’t done several Amans. For example:

  • 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

Again, I know this is all incredibly petty, but in the case of Aman, this is the standard they set. So I’d say service was still very good, but among Amans it’s probably the weakest service I’ve experienced.

Amangalla food

I love Sri Lankan food, and Amangalla didn’t disappoint. The quality of the food, both Western and Sri Lankan, was excellent. My one constructive feedback would be that the menu didn’t have that much variety. So for three days it was great, but for longer I may have longed for more variety.

Prices at Amangalla

While the initial room rate is expensive, the prices once you’re there are very reasonable, I thought. Of course I’m talking reasonable by Western standards and not Sri Lankan standards, but that’s to be expected because international hotel chains can get away with charging higher prices.

Including all taxes and service charges, hour-long massages were under $100, appetizers were $8-12, mains were $10-20, desserts were $5-10, etc. Our rate included half board.

Activities at Amangalla

The town of Galle is really cute, though there’s not necessarily all that much to do. And I quite liked that, because a lot of the charm was just walking around the town and relaxing at the hotel, given what a cool setting it has.

You could walk the entire perimeter of the fort in about an hour.

There’s also a cool lighthouse by the beach.

And as you might expect, there are several temples you can visit.

A lot of people also seem to like going whale watching, though that was super expensive and I read that their methods of doing so are questionable (using motor boats that disturb the whales), so we didn’t do that.

Personally I’d say two full days in Galle is more than sufficient.

Bottom line

Overall we had a great time at Amangalla. I loved the colonial building, the food was excellent, and service from some people was very good. I also found the town of Galle to be really cute, and I think it’s worth visiting for a couple of days.

In terms of service I’d say this is one of the weaker Amans, though. That’s not to say that service isn’t good, but it’s just not as amazing as some of the other properties.

Comments

  1. $775 for Galle? There has to be a limit on the ridiculousness of paying these prices. You can get equally “beautiful” rooms for a fifth of the price. And this isn’t even full board or all activities included? Sorry but this is beyond insane

  2. @A – there is no limit on ridiculousness. Clearly people are willing to pay these prices – the power of a brand. Are there infiitely better rooms/hotels in Sri Lanka for a fraction of the price – of course.

    Sad that Ben only ate at the hotel. There are so many nice restaurants in Galle.

  3. The Aman General Managers are currently on a European trade roadshow so perhaps the Galla GM was still away. He/she wasn’t at the London event however there were 8 others. So that may explain the lack of GM greeting

  4. What disgusts me are people that will pay $800 for rooms like sheep with no negotiation, haggling nothing and then haggle over $1 on the street with a street hawker that barely earns $10.

  5. My BF and I stayed there in 2015 and had a wonderful time. Our butler was always around when we needed him. 2 days is about right. I would say it is way overpriced for Sri Lanka but hey at the Aman’s you don’t look at the prices you feel special. Pity you didn’t do the “pool dinner”. They spend the entire day decorating the pool with candles and flowers and have a musician playing in the background just for you and your companion. The food was pretty good although Indian/Sri Lankan food never photographs well.
    Is the French woman still the manager there? She was great. Hope you enjoyed Wella too.

  6. Fascinating. Thank you. Unlike others, I take no issue with the pricing or the premise of the trip. Glad you’re out there discovering for us

  7. You got majorly ripped off given that a better experience can be had in Galle for a fraction of the price.

    Same for most other Amans in cheaper countries tbh

  8. I’m a big Aman fan but your stay seems underwhelming. You’re not being petty; it’s the small things that set Amans apart from other hotels… I’m not sure if this is a symptom of Amans to come but if you lose what makes you special then there’s no justification for the expense…

  9. I haven’t stayed at an Aman, but it seems like the items you are complaining about brings it to the level of a Luxury Collection hotel.

    I hope you get to see some of the Ancient Sri Lankan sites in the cultural triangle. The historical sites are mind blowing.

  10. $775 per night for that? Looks really similar to Raffles Le Royal in Phnom Penh or any old colonial era hotel in SE Asia. No idea why you’d pay so much for that.

    The Shang in Colombo is quite a lot nicer (and way cheaper).

  11. I understand the purpose of this blog is to “experience luxury for a fraction of the price”. Spending $4000 for miles to book a flight that costs $20k otherwise? Sure. Spending $775 for a room that should cost $250. Ridiculous. I realize the cost to you might be nil because you classify it as a business expense, but you are doing your readers a disservice by visiting and reviewing hotels that even folks who can afford it shouldn’t stay at, purely from the principle of value. Folks who spend this kind of money in Sri Lanka tend not to have the money for long …

  12. I love Aman hotels too, but this one looks underwhelming at every level, from the rooms to the service. I wonder what your opinion may have been if it wasn’t branded Aman and you had paid the same price for the same room and same service.

  13. One of the great things about visiting countries like this is getting great rooms, food and drinks for a fraction of the price you’d pay at home.

    Grossly over-paying or eating at Western chain hotels is the polar opposite of that. It’s not travel at all in my opinion if you isolate yourself from the local culture and/or just “relax in our hotel”.

    Where is the adventure here? Seems like pure self-indulgence for the sake of it.

  14. Much like the Sveti Stefan this place looks underwhelming. I get that you like Amans and you wanted to go there, so that’s okay but…. Review it robustly, not only were you disappointed (and I get why) but given that the hotel looks like any other “colonial” hotel in Asia admit that the price was simply too steep.

  15. I know the comments here might seem like get-at-Ben-day but I don’t think it’s just the hotel. Your photos are terrible. There is no indication of proper lighting (carrying a couple of flashes and stands isn’t much for a travel blogger) for the interior shots and the white balance is way off apart from the ones taken in full sun. Even in full sun, the one of the lighthouse is disappointing – it shouldn’t have been shot into the sun.

    If you are going to review quality hotels, high quality photos are an essential. Oddly your photos on planes are generally of pretty decent quality, including the food, so not sure why your hotel shots are often poor – even the food shots in this post are below your usual standards (lighting, white balance, focus and depth of field).

  16. Sounds like Sean was not around while you were there. That’s too bad. He came from Amanoi with tons of experience. He was moved from to Sri Lanka to spiffy up both properties.

    I love staying at an hotel that’s part of UNESCO world heritage site (like aman Sveti Stefan). Did you by any chance do the dinner in the rice field? It’s really nicely done and very romantic.

    I hope you visited the Bawa Brothers properties. They are the most famous architects in Sri Lanka and openly gay….Pretty incredible during the time when they were alive.

    I understand that they try to monetize the hotel as much as possible. But because of that, sadly restaurant is open to public which lead to uneven experience for staying guests. I have sworn off from staying at another city aman hotel since as it’s next to impossible for staff to recognize who’s staying at the hotel and who just come to eat. They really should take a page from Alan Sveti Stefan and block general public from hotel ground.

    I hope you are off to the Maldives after Sri Lanka. I highly recommend Cheval Blanc. Hotel grounds and rooms are stunningly beautiful and food is delectable (but with eye watering food prices that make Cipriani’s in nyc look like Kmart special).

  17. Really can’t understand being a slave to a brand (and paying the inevitably exploitative prices) when places like Sri Lanka offer far more rewarding hotel experiences to those willing to be a little bit adventurous. You seem to have squandered a great opportunity to discover that Sri Lanka has a wealth of old properties that have been converted into first class accommodation with equally fine food and services at a realistic price. The hospitality industry presume that most travellers to the country will be visiting in order to experience and enjoy the natural charms of the island rather than spending too much time in a gym. When we visited Galle, we based ourselves in the neighbouring village of Unawatuna where an early morning run and work-out on the beach was an ideal way of starting a new day of exploration and discovery.

  18. Service in Sri Lanka, overall, is not on a par with other Asian/SE Asian countries. I fear that mass tourism is looming and the country really isn’t ready. Decent accommodation is expensive and yep, Galle is cute but only for a couple of days – like most other major centres in Sri Lanka, unless you just want to loll at a beach resort, in which case other countries are better prepared and waaaay less expensive for better value.

  19. Maybe its just the photography but that room looks like a 1* Spanish hostal. The “impressive”/”big & beautiful” superlatives don’t come thru at all.

    I look at the photos and can’t help but think you paid ~$700/night too much, lol.

  20. Having stayed at a few Aman properties, I’m still seeking a reason for the high prices for their properties. The hotels are excellent, but not memorable to be. I’m more inclined to stay at Taj and Oberoi lux properties where available, since both chains are much smaller. The Taj Lake Palace will always be one my in top five hotels list.

  21. This is what was written:

    “For what it’s worth, our rate was $775 per night (which is obviously steep, though it at least included quite a few things).”

    Not, we paid $775 per night.

  22. Lucky, Amangalle was once known as the ‘NOH’ which stood for New Oriental Hotel. It was once a local hotel of a decent standard but deteriorated in the latter part of the last century and became a dingy hangout for drunks. What the Aman group has done for the hotel is quite amazing. Galle Fort is now quite an interesting place but it was once a neglected backwater with a languid pace of life.

    Too bad that you and Ford appear to have restricted yourselves to the Fort. Outside, on the streets around the bus station, you would have encountered the common folk of Sri Lanka at their noisy, chaotic best. Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, and Christian churches sit cheek by jowl reflecting the cultural and religious diversity of the island. Galle has a long history; it was supposedly the ‘Tarshish’ mentioned in the Bible.

    I get why you confined yourself to the Aman branded hotels but if you get a chance to visit again, there are so many other fantastic properties you can consider. Look at some of the Uga Escapes hotels. My sister stayed at the Ulagalle near Anuradhapura and she loved it. But, like many of the high end hotels in Sri Lanka, the prices are ridiculous especially for a country with a low cost of labour. Who is making all this money?

    Make sure you visit sites such as Anuradhapura, the ancient capital that dates to the 2nd C BC and Sigiriya, the ‘Macchu Picchu’ of Asia. The former is still a living, breathing city with extensive ruins and exotic stupas. And you should’ve gone whale watching — while there are some injudicious operators there are some, like Raja and the Whales, that are respectful of the swimming giants. I once saw 16 Blue Whales on one 3-hour trip out of Mirissa that is between Galle and Tangalle.

  23. I think it’s hard to explain the service experience at an Aman hotel in a blog post and I think bashing Lucky, if you haven’t stayed with Aman is unfair.
    I dismissed Aman for being crazy expensive, until I had the chance to stay at Amanpulo, a private island hotel in the Philippines. The level of attention is incredible, light-years ahead of a Four Seasons, RC or similar:
    For example, we were welcomed by name when we stepped of the plane, without ever identifying ourselves and we never had to provide our name or room number throughout the stay, even to staff members who met us for the first time,, making service feel incredibly personal.
    The attention to detail is beyond belief: Everytime we parked the the golf cart that comes with each Villa, staff would check the charge of the battery, replace warm water with cold, straighten out or replace the towels on the seats – and do any number of little things I’d not even thought of asking for. All of that happened without being noticeable and created a sense of being perfectly well taken care of.
    In fact, a lot happens behind the scenes, including incredible security. You can’t even approach the private island without security knowing well in advance…
    All of this effort creates an experience that is incredibly personal and attentive, yet unassuming at the same time, none of the pomp and pretense you’ll find at other luxury hotels.
    So, if you typically stay at a Fairmont, 4Seasons or Ritz Carlton, I’d recommend giving Aman a try. The experience is worth the price, if the stay experience is what you are looking for.
    If you want the best value bed & shower to explore the destination, Aman isn’t it…

  24. I agree with @Rupert. Aman properties are nice compared to the big major western hotel brands.

    I also agree with @Emily – Aman properties pale in exclusivity and service compared to some very special hotels owned by smaller luxury brands, such as the Taj, Oberoi, or ITC. I think Aman is great with regards to making a guest feel special, but some of these smaller brands are phenomenal and just so discreet. Aman is my back-up.

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