Teardrop Hotels is the kind of boutique hotel group we wish existed in every foreign country. Each of their six renovated properties speaks to the history and distinctiveness of the location, but has enough contemporary flair and sophistication to keep them in the design hotel category. There's also a reassuringly consistent thread woven through them so you feel a sense of familiarity when you arrive at each one – from the trio of refurbished bungalows in tea country or the former spice merchant's home in Galle Fort, to the beachfront property on the south-west coast or this, The Wallawwa, an 18th-century manor house that was used as a base by Lord Mountbatten and his troops during World War Two. Thanks to Teardrop's extensive yet graceful renovation, it still looks and feels like a traditional governor's abode, but has been spiced up with modern design and furnishings.
The Wallawwa is only a 15-minute drive from Colombo's international airport, but to label it an airport hotel would be misleading since it feels much more like a retreat. Tucked away among two acres of 200-year-old tropical gardens, the mood is tranquil and serene, despite being just a half-hour drive to the buzzing streets of Colombo and the beaches of Negombo.
After a long-haul flight, the first thing you'll want to do is throw yourself in the stone-lined 16-metre pool, surrounded by jungle-like gardens and cushioned loungers. There are plenty of other tranquil nooks in which to snooze off the jet lag, too – the wicker lounges on the lawn from where you can watch the birds, squirrels and mongooses; the wide veranda strewn with comfy armchairs and quietly whirring fans; and the elegant library. These public areas comprise the original 200-year-old structure, while the new wings off to the rear and side house the 18 contemporary-styled guestrooms. This is also where you'll find the Z Spa which focuses on pre- and post-flight relaxation, with massages, scrubs, wraps and facials that blend Asian techniques with a hint of Ayurveda. There's also a small boutique selling vintage-style posters and postcards that supports local charities.
My light-filled garden suite (there are also two family suites and a two-bedroom pool suite) has vaulted ceilings and double doors opening onto a terrace and tropical plant-fringed lawn, making me feel like I'm staying in a small home rather than a hotel room. There's a cushioned banquette window seat overlooking the garden and four-poster king-sized bed with muslin drapes, both ideal for post-flight swooning, while the cavernous bathroom has a heavenly rain shower. It's nice to see refillable bottles used for toiletries and drinking water, part of an eco-friendly philosophy that runs through the property – fresh water is pumped from the garden's wells, for instance, and solar power is used.
The open-sided Verandah restaurant has a relaxed and friendly vibe that extends to the service. The food is excellent – there are plenty of Sri Lankan dishes, including a moreish spicy prawn curry, as well as terrific pizzas, salads, pastas and grilled meats and fish. Many of the fruits, vegetables and herbs come from the three-acre on-site kitchen gardens, where they grow everything from zucchini, capsicum and peppercorns, to pineapple, papaya, mangoes and more. Stroll through them and you'll have a new appreciation for the fruits on your breakfast plate, served with buffalo curd and coconut jaggery. Speaking of breakfast, don't miss the crispy egg hoppers, with spicy sides including chicken curry and seeni sambol (onion relish).
Start with a guided two-hour heritage walk through Old Colombo with Colombo City Walks, where you'll see traces of the city's Dutch and British legacies. Everyone will say you must eat at Ministry of Crab and they won't be wrong; set inside a 400-year-old former Dutch hospital, it serves delectable brown crab, done with either pepper, garlic or chili, that you tear apart with your hands. Head next door to browse the Ayurvedic products at Spa Ceylon, and on your way back to the hotel look out for the roadside stalls selling lovely handmade terracotta pots and plates. See colombocitywalks.com; ministryofcrab.com
More revitalising retreat than airport hotel, this is the ideal place in which to rejuvenate pre- or post-Sri Lankan holiday.
Rooms from $277 a night. Minuwangoda Road, Opatha, Kotugoda, Sri Lanka. Phone +94 773 638 381. See teardrop-hotels.com
The abundant kitchen garden, and the tropical pool.
Mosquitoes can be pesky, so you can't really leave your patio doors open in the latter part of the day.
4.5 out of 5.
Nina Karnikowski stayed as a guest of Teardrop Hotels.