I stayed at the Ceylon Tea Trails (---) in April 2007 for two nights. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and agree with many of the comments posted here in regard to their superior service, great food, comfortable rooms, scenic bungalows, etc. I have a couple of cautions if you decide to stay there (and I do recommend you stay): 1) it's isolated (by car 2 hours south of Kandy, or 2 hours west of Nuwara Eliya) so don't plan too much in the way of out and back sightseeing, 2) be cautious about staying here if you have a reputable car and driver that you retain during your stay--look at the last few paragraphs.
I had a difficult time locating their properties on a basic map when I was doing my initial search for a place to stay in Central Sri Lanka. If you can find city of Hatton in the Bogawantalawa Valley on the map, the four bungalows are located to the east of that city on the reservoir (Castlereagh and Summerville bungalows) and in the tea estate hills (Norwood and Tientsin bungalows). To see a good local map, go to their website, click on the bottom "Locate" link and "download directions" to get the map.
They also have an activities link on their home page which will give you an idea of what limited activities and/or sightseeing trips are available from their general location. If you take the train to the area, get off at the Hatton station (on the Kandy-Ella line) and there are plenty of drivers there able to take you to any of the bungalows. The only feasible out and backs by car sightseeing (in my mind) are Kandy city, local waterfall hikes, local bungalow hikes, train from Hatton to Nanu Oya (the station nearest to Nuwara Eliya) and return by car (prearranged since Nanu Oya is a small station). Doing out and backs to the Elephant Orphanage or to Ella (one way via train) could be do-able but only by a very, very long day. You can't visit Dambulla or the UNESCO triangle area by car out and back from here.
It may sound unexciting, but I thought the Tea Factory tour of the local tea estates was the most interesting thing I saw after the elephant orphanage (now 1000 rupees) river "play time". The factory tour can be arranged for free by asking on arrival to give them time to get it set up for a following day. I tipped the butler (for the entire staff) 600 rupees per day (the local manager had suggested 400 as appropriate), and my driver 500 rupees per day (plus I reimbursed his meal costs--see below). I used the 2nd edition of the rough guide published in Nov. 2006 and found it to be accurate, complete, and informative. I stayed in a luxury room rather than suite, and thought it was just as nice. They are all big rooms regardless of where you stay. When it's scorching hot and the dry season, I would recommend staying in Norwood then Tientsin bungalows. If it's the rainy season or it's mild then a stay at Castlereagh then Summerville bungalow on the reservoir would be great. Both Castlereagh and Norwood have pools and Castlereagh seems the most popular for families. Of the four bungalows, Norwood was my favorite unless you were expecting rain everyday then a lower altitude at the reservoir would probably be better. If it's cold, then Tientsin has fireplaces in the rooms, but Norwood doesn't. Norwood has shower curtains set up within the cast iron tub if you wish a shower. Castlereagh has baths with a handheld nozzle with no curtain in contract (don't know about the other two). There are enough differences that it's worth taking the time to look at the entire website and email with any questions you may have.
I'd recommend these areas to stay for central Sri Lanka: Dambulla, Kandy, Hatton (Ceylon Tea Trails), Nuwara Eliya, and Ella. All of these locations except Dambulla are, in order, on the train line from Colombo to Kandy to Ella. The best part of the train line is from Nuwara Eliya (the nanu Oya station) to Ella or vice versa.
Now to my major complaint against the Tea Trails if you are not going by train and instead have a car and driver. I assume if you're contemplating staying at a price point such as this, your car and driver are probably reputable and not the dregs of society. If so, you don't want your driver staying in the driver's accommodations provided by the Tea Trails CURRENTLY. Typically, most of the good properties provide accommodations for your driver and meals--all included in the price you pay the property for your room. If an upscale property doesn't provide this service for the driver, they generally say this specifically on their website or in the guidebook listing. Tea Trails used to provide for driver's accommodations at the bungalow you were staying at, but they apparently had problems with behavior, noise, or drinking at times. Nowadays, outside of Hatton, they CONTRACT with a very poor property to house the drivers in a central location for all 4 bungalows. My driver NEVER complained about anything my entire trip, but he did speak up about his accommodations at this contract facility. He said his room was barely habitable, the bathrooms almost unusable they were so filthy, and the utensils provided were very dirty and he had to clean them prior to use. (He had been a children's English teacher before getting into the better paying tourist industry.) He also said the place was infested with mosquitoes and flies and the bedding was not clean. The food was of very poor quality and he had to pay 120 rupees for breakfast and 150 rupees for dinner--and he had no other choice since the property was isolated and he had no other possibilities to eat. He said the place was so bad because it was taking all sorts of drivers--not just Tea Trails drivers. (Envision 3rd world bus station bathrooms and facilities to get a sense of this place.) I, of course, made mention of this to the local "butler" to pass onto management and put it in my comment form and now I post it on this forum. If you stay here with a driver, give them about 1500 rupees (US dollars 14) so they can get their own choice of place in Hatton to stay and they will have multiple food choices there too. Or, when you contact the Ceylon Tea Trails for booking, ensure that they've stopped using this contract facility--which hopefully they will if they see that one night's lost business is worth more than all the meals they aren't providing to the drivers over the course of a year!
I hope management uses their response capability to this review and provides information that they've changed policies on driver's accommodations.
I don't want to leave on a negative note as I expect/hope for this to be fixed, but I need to make some "noise" about it in the mean time. Please, if you contact the Tea Trails, inquire about this problem to put them on notice that it IS an issue with customers. I would certainly recommend this place for all the other reasons listed above and thoroughly enjoyed the balance of my stay.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Ceylon Tea Trails, Sri Lanka's first Relais & Chateaux resort, is a collection of five colonial era tea planters' bungalows restored to impeccable style, offering a taste of gracious living in 27 suites and rooms, with butler service and original furnishings, accompanied by gourmet meals. Walking trails connect the bungalows which are from 2km to 15km apart. Follow the Tea Trail from one unique bungalow to the next, staying a night or two at each or just laze in one. Rates are fully inclusive of gourmet meals and drinks, including spirits and wines. Even service charges, taxes and laundry are included. We won't bother you with bills. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ceylon Tea Trails Hatton
- Ceylon Tea Trails Sri Lanka/Hatton