The History of Sri Lankan Rest Houses

One of the hidden gems of Sri Lanka, and we are very privileged to have them, are “rest houses”.

They date back to a bygone era when they served as a refuge for government officials who were visiting parts of the island for work. Almost every large town would have one and they were a convenient stopping off point in the days before cars and motorised transportation was freely available.

It is sad to say that over the years many have fallen into a state of disrepair as visitors to the island have chosen to stay in the fancy resorts or the smaller boutique hotels.

However, they do still exist, and you just need to know where to find them.

The Kelani Gange - the setting for the Bridge on the River Kwai

My favourite stopover point when visiting the tea country is the rest house at Kitulgala about halfway between Colombo and Maskeliya. It is a great place to break the journey. It is a small more intimate hotel, probably closer to a large guest house, and the views are just spectacular. Set on the banks of one of the country's longest rivers, Kelani Ganga, it is famous as the filming location for the 1957 film Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness. 

The restaurant at the rest house is known as the Bridge Restaurant and carries several images from the cast and crew when they were filming in the area.

It is just a perfect spot to take a well-earned rest, have a cup of tea or just do a spot of bird watching. It has been known to see crested serpent eagles perched in nearby trees.

Tea in the Bridge Restaurant on the way to Maskeliya

So, when you decide to visit Sri Lanka and visit some of our tea plantations stop off at the rest houses and enjoy the ambience and friendly service.