The Polonnaruwa Rest House initially built in the 1870’s as a Circuit Bungalow for British Government Agents (GA), with the first British GA occupant being with Mr. W. Harington.
Seamlessly blended with the power of nature, the Polonnaruwa Rest House offered a breath-taking and panoramic view of Sri Lanka’s largest man-made lake Parakrama Samudraya from many of its simple, yet tastefully designed 09 rooms and its very own Queen’s Suite – built in 1954 to mark the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip to Ceylon.
The Rest House was an ideal location for boating and fishing or a break-in journey before driving on to Kandy. A drive to the east would take you to the hot and cold springs of Maduru Oya, and to the west side of the Minneriya Tank. Wildlife enthusiasts could make a visit to the Wasgamuwa National Park, south of the Rest House.
The Polonnaruwa Rest House was carefully refurbished in the style of the early 1950’s, whilst retaining its colonial charm, after been taken over by the then Ceylon Tourist Bureau in 1954 and thereafter by Ceylon Hotels Corporation (CHC) in 1968.
The resthouse was small with only 10 rooms and all were renovated to something like an upper-end motel in the US. With air conditioning and nice and large bathrooms.
Polonnaruwa Rest House served Sri Lankan food for breakfast and lunch, which was famous as “Rice and Curry Luncheon” among the locals. Dinner, however, was the weak link. Back then, the CHC Rest Houses have all been instructed to serve fried rice, fried noodles or (western) courses for dinner. No hoppers, no thosai, none of the excellent choices that Sri Lankans have for dinner were available.
Accommodation was different from any other typical rest house room, bed and grimy bathroom experience. It had great facilities and an ideal location for families or couples to spend some time indulging in the combination of romance, natural beauty, and history that the resthouse provided its guests.
In the early 2000s the rates were around 5,000 LKR for double full board for locals and expats.
EKHO Lake House
In 2014 Polonnaruwa Rest House was restored and renamed as EKHO Lake House, Polonnaruwa. Managed by Ceylon Hotels Corporation, it was restored to portray the inherent characteristics of the CHC’s Resort Collection, a tribute to all things traditional with a modern feel to it.
The Lake House, Polonnaruwa, is a boutique hotel that accommodates 14 superior deluxe rooms and the landmark being the Queen’s Suite.
The restaurant which cantilevers over the lake has retained the famous Rice and Curry Luncheon featuring fish from the lake and freshwater lobsters that have become the signature delicacies at the CHC’s Resort Collection.
Two items that could be tasted whilst you are in Polonnaruwa are the Ruhunu Rata Jumbo Catla, popular in the Sea of Parakrama and as delicious as it sounds when grilled. Polonnaruwa Sea of Parakrama makes for a veritable paradise for culinary fans of freshwater seafood.
Special evening menus, bicycle tours, elephant safaris and historic site tours are also conducted.
Since 1870s EKHO Lake House overlooks the panoramic Sea of Parakrama Samudraya and offers magnificent views of the historic centre of Polonnaruwa’s UNESCO World Heritage site of Kingdoms past.
Credit – EKHO Hotels, Sunday Observer, Lanka Reviewed, Lankapura, The Archives, Explore Sri Lanka, Udiptha Basnayake, Lalith Salgado