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Lunuganga
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Reviews (79)
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Reviewed October 1, 2011

Reading other reviews before I write my own, it occurred to me, that Lunuganga IS for everyone, that is, everyone should visit it at least once because it gives a glimpse of how life could be, should be, (albeit in possibly an ideal Arcadian world), the sweeping lawns cut out of an old rubber plantation bought by Sri Lanka’s most widely known Architect, (Geoffrey Bawa), in 1948. Bawa’s man-made interventions of clearings, stairs, terraces overlooking vistas, ha-ha’s and various shelters to engage with various parts of the property in the face of the fecund growth of the tropical rain forest are simple yet deeply poetic.
(NB: Lunuganga is a noteworthy omission from the book: “1001 Gardens: You must see before you die,” – such a silly titled book anyway!)…And it is all the better for you the reader, discovering this special place via other research…

Aasha and Michael, who are both Architects themselves, (and who both worked for Bawa when he was alive), and a more recent addition to the management team: Damien, (who used to manage tea plantations in the North of Sri Lanka), are all endeavouring to preserve and enhance this fragile piece of environment in a holistic and compelling way for the enjoyment of one and all. They, along with all the house boys, chefs and all the various labourers provide an amazingly soft and generous spirit to the place, where nothing seems too much trouble, (from providing fresh limejuices to quench ones thirst to an amazing array of daily curries, to a wake-up on my door when I slept 80 winks instead of 40…as was going to miss my meal!). Thank you one and all!

I travelled down to Lunuganga from Colombo on the train, (which was ridiculously cheap), and then happily haggled in an “in your-face” Tuk-tuk driver, (500 SLR in August 2011), to take me the 15 minutes or so along various non-signposted roads to the property. These journeys provide the contrast that the peace and tranquility that Lunuganga provides the arriving traveler. (In my humble opinion this option is much better than getting a driver and a car – which seems to be the norm from most of tourists in Sri Lanka – save that for more inaccessible regions).

The welcome was unique – no “check in,” no hassle about passports – they knew my name, the house boy told me to dump my bag at the house door and come out onto the terrace verandah overlooking Dedduwa Lake and relax with a ice-cold limejuice, before Damien came and introduced himself with a warm welcome. (NB. other places of accommodation should look and learn to treat people as humans…not passport numbers).

I had chosen the Glass Room as my abode, and it was an amazing feeling to have read about the property, viewed the photographs in the books over many years, and then upon opening the copper green painted Portuguese entry doors – it was mine! (Albeit for 2 nights…lol…). The long light filled room with a four-poster bed with its mosquito net drapes was indeed a welcome nest. (It has to be said the shower is from its original time, but I took that as a genuine Bawa “time warp” detail, and it was still wonderful to stand under a stream of water and cool off).

The lunches and evening dinners, (in the gloom of flicking kerosene watering-can like lamps were very atmospheric), the food was simply the BEST and in such generous portions. Breakfasts were also particularly wonderful: fresh orange-red papaya, pineapple, bananas, that lovely creamy yoghurt that Sri Lanka seems to specialize in, followed by toast and jam and a choice of coffee or tea…all whilst you watch the morning awake over the Lake. Thank you all to the Cook staff! (Would love to come back and be allowed into the kitchens and watch you cook, as it seems to me Sri Lankan cuisine is much under-rated. Perhaps one day there might be scope to do cooking visits?)

Next day I was given my own tour of the property by Aasha and Damien, humbling to get such personal treatment and indeed felt honoured to be allowed to hear the detail behind the spirit of this place through these two generous people. Also felt rather accepted when the resident Bulbul, would flit into its nest not 2m away whilst I ate lunch on the Verandah, or one of the house dogs would flop against my chair in the afternoon heat, with an accompanying sigh…

They even organized a tour for me over to “Brief” (Geoffrey Bawa’s brother: Bevis’s house and garden), which was a one hour Tuk-tuk ride, along rather ancient roads and lanes, but they had given me an extremely patient driver who went slowly over or around the many potholes. Worth a visit too –if only in contrast to Lunuganga…

The final morning Damien gave me an individual boat ride around the lake, (including the Carpet of Lotus flowers), pointing out the various local bird-life and explaining the situation of Lunuganga within the context of its neighbouring properties and the long-term plans of the Lunuganga Trust. Again, a warm thank you Damien for your time!

But don’t listen to me rave on about Lunuganga…GET a plane ticket to Sri Lanka and BOOK today…. then find out for yourself!...isn’t travel about “Being There” or in the case of Lunuganga, perhaps: “There Being”

(The only regret I have: I never got to meet Michael – who was away on business – but who sent me many helpful emails both before and after my visit). Thank you Michael…perhaps when I revisit we can share limejuice together?

  • Stayed: August 2011, traveled solo
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2  Thank JJR08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 23, 2011

Lunuganga is not for everyone, certainly, but we loved our stay in this stunningly beautiful and peaceful home and gardens of Geoffrey Bawa, the renowned Sri Lankan architect. The buildings he designed and decorated are just as they were at his death in 2003. Full of lovely objets d'art he collected but lacking what some might consider to be required mod cons (bathrooms dated, air conditioning just being installed for next season, etc). We were kindly upgraded by the gracious Asha to Bawa's Gorgeous bedroom in the main bungalow (has a/c already) from our rather distant and simpler Cinnamon Hill accommodation. Meals on the terrace overlooking the lake (and especially dinner on the lawn lit by candles and torchlight) were simple but delicious. Be sure to ask for a tour of the gardens. We were able to see most of the other lovely and unique guestrooms, along with the magical hidden gazebos and places for tea. Located about 3 km from the coast at Bentota, it was easy to visit another Bawa-designed hotel, the Club Villa, for lunch and some pool/beach time (neither at Lunuganga).

  • Stayed: March 2011
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3  Thank Julie R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 16, 2010

The gardens are amazing!! Every turn, every corner has something to see and when you think you have seen it all……you turn the corner…… and there is more!
The garden looks so fresh and crisp in the morning sun against the beautiful blue sky and the fresh green grass. You don’t feel the heat of the midday sun as you stroll under the large shady trees in the estate exploring the gardens. It looks even more amazing in the evening sun. The reflection of the orange sky on the lake and pond full of water lillys looks so spectacular.
Breakfast was simple, delicious and complete starting with a tropical fruit platter and ending with a cup of Ceylon tea. The 10 o’clock fresh lime juice is a must, after a stroll in the gardens. The setting is perfect for a typical Sri Lankan Lunch of red rice and curry set along the verandah over looking the lake. Oh yes, the poached pineapple with ice cream was just perfect finale for my lunch before I could relax with a book on the garden bench by the ‘Na’ tree. The 5 very friendly dogs take turns to come and great you during the day, while a couple of them insist on showing off their playful skills to you.
Freshly made scones at tea time were divine. I wasn’t too sure if they were scones or soft shortbread…. either way they were divine with fresh cream and strawberry jam! I couldn’t resist…. I had two!!
After my G&T , I joined Asha, Micheal and Dameon at the head table for my meal of traditional Idi appam with curries. Again the meal was scrumptious with a crème caramel for desert. All this with a hint of Beethoven in the background. Again the setting was perfect with a few lamps to light up the garden and the cloudless starry sky.
The rooms are clean and fresh, with a bout 4 pedestal fans in each room. I didn’t need to use any of them. I am being told the rooms will have AC in the future….. but really I don’t think it is necessary! The wonderful thing in each room is that there are no mosquitos which is most welcome in the tropics. I didnt need to use the net around my bed.... but I thought it looked good anyway!
The staff are very polite and courteous. The rooms are clean and spacious. The service is very friendly and warm, second to none!

  • Stayed: December 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank tash17
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 3, 2010

If you have a love and appreciation of architecture and wish to be surrounded by beauty, serenity and lush tropical gardens, a stay at Lunuganga should be something you do at least once in your life! I felt so privileged to be able to experience this magical place and it will be a stay I will always remember. I had so much fun with the fellows who run the estate - from great dinner table discussions, to Damien being so kind as to allow me to join him on his morning work (along with the dogs!) Krishna also gave me an illuminating and insightful tour of all the Bawa designed buildings, and the lovely dogs escorted me on all my strolls (the review saying they were aggressive seems very odd to me, as they were very placid and friendly wee dogs the whole time I was there, I loved having them around) The grounds and view of the lake really need to be seen rather than described - suffice to say they were enchanting and I often found myself lost in a reverie staring out at the scene before me! The room I was meant to be in was being occupied by an artist in residence when I was there so I was upgraded for free... obviously the cottages are all amazing being designed by Bawa - the use of light and the attention to detail made staying in them a delight. I can't praise the staff enough for their friendliness and humour, I was made to feel welcome and at home straight away, and found them some of the interesting conversationalist on the island of Sri Lanka. This is not your typical tourist spot, but for those who appreciate refined company and surrounds... you will be in heaven here!

More about my stay at Lunuganga on my blog... if you are still not convinced!
http://andnothingmatterswhenweredancing.blogspot.com/2010/10/lunuganga.html

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled solo
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Thank pikkujen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 16, 2010

The management of the estate is very poor, slow in replying email and if you ask 3 things they may answer only one.

During night walk, be warned of the dangerous dogs, they will come out in crowd and surroud you aggresively.

Finally if you do not want to be overcharged, please prepare all the printout of all room quotation as proof of room price. We have to waste more than one hour to avoid being overcharged egregiously more than USD100. They even refused to give the itemised charges of the total billing.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled as a couple
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6  Thank offstone
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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