May 07, 2009

Recovering from a 20-year civil war, Sri Lanka is attracting a fashionable crowd with its palm-lined beaches, rugged hill country, and mountaintop fortresses. Adrian Zecha is developing two Aman properties, including one in the colonial town of Galle set to open next month, and Christina Ong is scouting locations for a COMO hotel in the same area. A 17-room house in Bentota designed by the great Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa has been converted into a luxury boutique property, Club Villa. Two other Bawa escapes (Kandalama, overlooking the fifth-century Sigiriya fortress, and Blue Water, near the beaches of Wadduwa) are used as backdrops for photo shoots as often as they are for British celebs escaping the limelight. The Pearl of the Orient has earned back its nickname.

THE FACTS Amanresorts, 800/477-9180; www.amanresorts.com. Club Villa, 94-34/227-5312; www.club-villa.com. Kandalama, 94-11/230-8408; www.aitkenspencehotels.com. Blue Water, 94-38/223-5067; www.jetwing.net.

The Blue Water

Heritance Kandalama

Carpeted in vegetation and hugging the side of a jungle hill, Heritance Kandalama, when viewed from afar, resembles an ancient temple grown wild with disuse. In fact, the vegetation and location have nothing to do with neglect (note the handwoven tapestries and stunning floor-to-ceiling windows in each room) and everything to do with ensuring that rainwater flowing from the hills collects in the hotel's reservoir below. Such environmentally conscious touches made Kandalama a shoo-in for LEED certification. They also make the area a favorite for a multitude of monkeys (including toque macaques and purple-faced langurs) and 170 species of birds.

Club Villa

Amangalla

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