Set in the hills of central Sri Lanka, the Kandelama is the astonishing creation of prominent Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bauer. Its kilometre-long mass presides over a huge lake, yet it is barely visible from the far side of the water as jungle growth veils much of its façade. On closer inspection, the exterior is unremarkable, some might even say ugly, in contrast to the surprises afforded by the interior. It is, however, neither the clever compromise between elegance and comfort, nor the art works that adorn much of this giant caterpillar of a building that make it so special, but the views of the landscape around it, framed in every room. Sipping a cocktail on your balcony at dusk, you can watch elephants bathing down below, listen to the avian nightlife and make the acquaintance of the odd monkey swinging from balustrade to balustrade in search of hospitality.
I could happily have stayed in my room for the entire weekend, but there are three swimming-pools, including a rock pool; a gym; an ayurvedic health centre; and several bars, cafés and restaurants.
Location, location, location
Kandelama Hotel is in Kandelama, Dambulla Sri Lanka (00 94 66 84 100; fax 00 94 66 84 109; www.aitkenspencehotels.com). It is situated above the Kandelama Tank, along a private road from Dambulla. Avid sightseers can visit a number of places, including the bewitching eighth-century gedige at Nalanda, a cross between a Buddhist and a Hindu temple, the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the rock fortress of Sigiriya, and the cave temples at Dambulla; the hotel can arrange trips to most places.
Time to international airport: a 165km journey of around three and a half hours, costing around £36 in a taxi. Buses are for the brave or the poor.
Are you lying comfortably?
The 162 bedrooms are comfortable yet unfussy, furnished in a minimalist combination of cream and black that allows the eye to be drawn to the colourful view instead. In almost all of the bedrooms and bathrooms, one wall is almost entirely of glass, so you shower against a filmic backdrop. For a supposedly eco-friendly hotel, however, one must wonder at the lavish lighting and gadgets.
Freebies: not unless shower caps are your thing.
Keeping in touch: TV and phone in bedrooms; fax and internet in the business centre.
The bottom line
Doubles with half board, $155 (£108). Full board $179 (£125).
I'm not paying that: Try the Gimanhala Transit Hotel in Dambulla (00 94 16 68 4864), which has made a good name for itself. Doubles $22 (£15.50) per night, breakfast included.Reuse content