ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 08, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 54

Colourful hotel adds to Haputale’s holiday cheer

Resort report by Royston Ellis

Haputale has always been one of my favourite places to visit in Sri Lanka. The confident commerce and friendly bustle of this town straddling the upcountry railway line, and the staggering views as the high street seems to soar off into the distant horizon, are captivating. People go about their business without worrying about strangers in their midst, and the easy-going atmosphere of the place appeals to independent travellers, both local and foreign.In the past the problem when visiting Haputale has been: where to stay?

View from the interior stairs

The choice used to be between renting a plantation bungalow or staying in a cheap and cheerful, but not always salubrious, guest house. After a night spent in one such place where it was so damp and cold I had to don several sweaters and sleep fully clothed, I abandoned my guest house there for the cosiness of the Bandarawela Hotel.

There is now another option for holidaying in Haputale, the classically named Olympus Plaza Hotel. The name is as distinctive as the hotel. Creeping down the hillside with a bright frontage of glass, it is vaguely reminiscent of a window-paned tea factory. Its lurid orange and yellow walls make it stand out boldly in its rural, overwhelmingly green setting. The hotel is so positioned on its apparently precarious site that its entrance lobby is actually on the fifth floor and guests go downstairs to the bedrooms. These stairs are lined with chrome railings to prevent people falling out through the huge glass windows into the view.

Some of the rooms have balconies overlooking the winding road where lorries carrying goods toil uphill against a backdrop of distant valleys stretching down to the south coast. There is a powerful telescope available at the hotel’s gift kiosk to see the scene in detail. The entrance patio is laid out with wrought-iron chairs and tables and makes an ideal spot for sampling the hotel’s special tea in the early morning sunshine. Packets of this exclusive Haputale Tea Garden FBOPF can be bought at the kiosk.

Forecourt of the hotel

There is a famous luxury hotel in Trinidad which has its entrance lobby on the top floor and its rooms below, and the layout of Olympus Plaza is similar. The hotel has 16 standard, six deluxe and four superior rooms, graded according to their location and view. There are some rooms on the entrance level and some one storey up. That’s where the colourfully decorated bar, with even more views, is located. There is no lift, nor space for one, so the hotel – like Haputale itself – is a place for the fit.

Bedrooms are large with basic bathrooms (and hot water) and all have splendid views, either of the plains, the Sleeping Warrior mountain range or the renowned Fox Hill. They all have telephone and television and heater, but no air-conditioning as that is superfluous in the bracing climate. Some floors feature private sitting areas.

Much of the furnishings and fittings have been imported from China, and are used to create a bright, cheerful holiday atmosphere.

The hotel’s dining room is on the reception floor and is open to non-residents as well. Buffets and local dishes are specialities, delighting the many families who make the hotel their base while visiting the attractions of the area, like Adisham, Horton Plains and the Lipton’s Seat lookout point in the Poonagala Hills.

For children there is a Kiddies’ Park in a garden on a bluff by the hotel entrance, and there is also a gym.

The hotel’s reasonable rates, with a discount for local visitors, makes this a pleasant and welcome addition to the choice of places to stay in Haputale. It’s good to see that, now it has a star-class hotel of its own, this charming, hill country town is moving up in the world. (

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