Take one step from the door of the Mango House Villa and you are entering the rich landscape of Sri Lanka, which offers you a breathtaking choice of wonderful holiday experiences.

Mango House has four double bedrooms all with hand carved mahogany four poster beds and ensuite wet rooms Mango House has four double bedrooms all with hand carved mahogany four poster beds and ensuite wet rooms Enjoy panoramic views over the Peelagoda temple from our terraces The golden sands of Unawatuna, voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world by the Discovery Channel and Mark Ellingham, founder of 'Rough Guides'.Enjoy panoramic views over the Ganahena temple from our terraces

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The Hakgala Botanic Gardens Print
The Hakgala Botanic Gardens are situated in the montane zone at an altitude of 1,700 metres some 10 kilometres from Nuwara Eliya. These Gardens, which are 24 hectares in extent, were established in 1861 to conduct trials with cinchona, a spindly South American tree cultivated to extract quinine from its bark, which was used in the treatment of malaria. In 1859, the Indian government commissioned Clements Markham to travel to South America to obtain cinchona seeds. This was part of a larger project devoted to the enhancement of European imperial botany, whose goal was to supply cinchona bark within the boundaries of European empire, independent of South American producers. Initial experimental trails were held in South India, but the search for suitable places to grow cinchona widened to include Ceylon. The director of the Peradeniya Gardens proposed the establishment of an experimental station in the upper highlands. This proposal was accepted, and a site at the base of the Hakgala rock became the Hakgala Gardens in 1860.

As a result of the trials carried out at Hakgala, cinchona plants were sold by the Gardens to planters who wished to diversify their coffee holdings. Cinchona was a major plantation crop from the 1860s to the 1880s, and Ceylon briefly dominated the market, producing three-quarters of the world's supply. However, cinchona ultimately failed as it suffered from waterlogged roots. The Hakgala Gardens were then instrumental in introducing the tea plant, which replaced both coffee and cinchona. In 1882 the proper laying out of the Gardens began, and trials were made with a large number of exotics likely to be suited to the higher elevations of the island. It is little known that Hakgala was responsible for the introduction of a number of trees, shrubs and plants now found acclimatized over large areas of the up-country.

Hakgala's plantations of roses, shrubs, orchids, ferns, camphor, eucalyptus, and montane woodland, are delightfully located with dramatic mountain scenery as a natural backdrop. In fact they are considered one of the most beautiful naturally landscaped gardens in the world. The Gardens are open to the full blast of the south-west monsoon - from May to August - and practically all the trees in the Gardens are one-sided, owing to this strong wind. Throughout the north-east monsoon - from December to January - Hakgala is often shrouded in thick mist. The Gardens are visited by over 400,000 people a year, most of them coming in the months from April to August, when all the herbaceous borders and annual plants are in bloom.

The imposing mountain of Hakgala - which means Jaw Rock in Sinhala - rises some 650 metres above the Gardens. Like so many places in this region of Sri Lanka, it is connected with the Indian epic, the Ramayana. Hakgala rock is said to have been carried here from the Himalayas by Hanuman, the mythical monkey general, who had been sent to bring a special herb to cure wounds. But by the time Hanuman arrived he had forgotten its description. So he brought back a fragment of the Himalayas containing many herbs twisted in his tail, in the hope that among them might be the correct one. However, the mountain fragment slipped and fell while Hanuman was over Lanka, and it broke into three pieces. These landed in different locations, one of which was Hakgala and the other two Ritigala and Unawatuna.

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The Sunday Times Travel

Last One in's a... Beach bum? Culture vulture? Intrepid adventurer? On Sri Lanka’s south coast, you can be all three. By Jeremy Lazell published on Sunday 21st September 2008 in The Sunday Times travel guide.


Rough GuidesMark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides votes Unawatuna the best tropical beach for The Guardian Travel Edition on Saturday May 24 2008