The Cinnamon Chain is undoubtedly the largest in Sri Lanka, with 14 hotels in total (3 in the Maldives) many are unique to their specific area whether old country houses, grand mansions or tasteful & contemporary newly-built developments. Most unique perhaps is the Cinnamon Wild, found in the heart of Yala National Park bringing guests right up close to Sri Lanka’s wildlife & definitely high on my list for my next trip.
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My June trip took me to Colombo and Kandy, Sri Lanka’s major cities worlds apart in size, climate & scenery, Cinnamon offered the perfect base to explore both, each full of personality, luxury details and flavour for the area.
Arriving in Colombo after a 12 hour Air Sri Lanka flight from Heathrow a short drive brought us to Cinnamon Lakeside where we headed straight for the pool. Entering the grand lobby the first view is across the Beira Lake, seen through the floor to ceiling windows that line the back wall.
The pool is almost an extension of the lake and from here you can watch the many rowing boats passing back and forth. This view can also be seen from most of their rooms and suites whose specially designed lighting and interiors create a calm oasis in the busy capital.
The hotel itself is a huge complex accommodating both business and leisure, its swimming pool is the largest in the city and its 9 restaurants welcome both hotel guests and others to try their international cuisine.
3 hours train ride the next morning took us to the mild and misty climate of Kandy, in central Sri Lanka where a bus collected us from the station for the 15 minute drive to Cinnamon Citadel. As the gates opened and we pulled up to the stepped entrance we were greeted by a group of dancers in colourful and elaborate costume while the staff handed us warm towels to refresh ourselves after the journey.
Although still luxurious Citadel Kandy’s ambiance is much more homely with the feeling of entering a grand country house coming through the curving reception to the lounge area. Again you immediately look out onto an inviting pool area from where the Great Sandy River or Mahaweli is just metres away. The proximity to the gently moving water and its surrounding jungle-like trees sets the pace of the hotel and the city itself, known for being the more relaxed of Sri Lanka’s cities.
All rooms are open & spacious with dark wood detailing and a warm, natural colour scheme adding to the lodge atmosphere. The hotel’s layout allows all guests to benefit from views of the river and my ground floor room opened onto a secluded terrace, a great spot for tea after a day exploring the local area.
The main restaurant on the second floor extends onto a full length wide balcony where breakfast, lunch & dinner is enjoyed looking out over the quiet river below. While all meals are served buffet style several chefs are on hand to prepare pasta, noodle and salad dishes exactly to your liking, the array of expertly prepared local curry dishes and accompaniments make it hard to choose and resist going back for seconds.
Dessert is no less elaborate with a separate room just for tropical fruits, indulgent cakes and multiple flavours of homemade ice-cream which we were invited to see in the process with a tour of the kitchen. With Citadel Kandy as your base you really get to immerse yourself in the peaceful, natural surroundings, with the chance to take the hotel’s little boat upstream to see the many birds and monkeys in dense riverside treetops.
The atmosphere throughout a stay here is of understated luxury and guests are encouraged to begin at least one day on the terrace bridging pool and riverside for a champagne breakfast. The quiet un-intrusive staff are always on hand to help plan your days, whether suggesting the best spot to see the sunrise over the mountains or arranging tours of the local crafts workshops (the city is known for its woodcarving and batik artworks).
The same attention is found at Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo although on a grander scale of choice with the option to dine aboard 8 Degrees, their two storey barge, by night following a day in the city or a pamper session at Amare Spa, the hotel’s award-winning spa whose therapists are trained in Balinese and Swedish massage and beauty treatments. Their sister hotel Cinnamon Grand Colombo is just a few streets away with a similarly impressive interior and was the location for the TBC Asia Travel Blogger Awards. Guests from either hotel would be warmly welcomed to dine in Nuga Gama, a village style restaurant set in the Grand’s gardens, before returning to Lakeside for drinks in The Library, the hotel’s private lounge and bar.
My experience in Sri Lanka, while only encompassing a small portion of the island’s cultural and natural offering, with the care and attention to detail of the Cinnamon team showed me so many insights into each thriving city, their rich histories and the incredible landscapes that connect them.