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Sri Lanka - stay away at your own folly

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Take one dose of eccentricity, add a touch of whimsy and you get Helga’s Folly in Sri Lanka

Roughly half the size of Ireland, Sri Lanka packs in more beauty and variety than any small island has a right to claim. Surrounded by stunning beaches, lush green tea plantations, lavish scenery and archeological sites, as well as monkeys, leopards and elephants galore, what more could one tiny island boast?

If Sri Lanka itself wasn't enough to drag you all the way across the Indian Ocean, the lure of its indulgent and eccentric hotels just might.

Enter Helga's Folly, a boutique hotel overlooking Kandy Lake in Sri Lanka's hill country.

This is the ancestral home of owner Helga de Silva Blow Perera – former model, London society gal and granddaughter of the architect of Sri Lanka's independence George de Silva.

Family portraits and newspaper clippings create wall murals among a labyrinth of antiques, chandeliers and candles. Barefoot waiters serve coconut arak cocktails under candlelight as French murmurings drift from a huge gramophone.

Crazy colour schemes complement disconcerting puppets that hang from the ceiling among huge red Christmas tree baubles, while cabinets hold dolls, spears and masks.

And this is just the lobby. Helga's Folly has 40 rooms all individually styled, and rooms housed the likes of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier when it was Helga's childhood home.

Helga still lives on the premises today and it is she herself – the woman who inspired the Stereophonics to write the song Madame Helga – that is as much a drawcard as the place itself. Guests wait in anticipation for the tall woman in huge Jackie O glasses to glide into the room with two Dalmatians at her feet with the feeling that they are visitors in a friend's home more than guests at a hotel.

It’s this sense of home that Helga tries to maintain. She describes Helga's Folly as an “anti-hotel” preferring never to fill all the rooms so as not to spoil the family feeling.

When asked about the eclectic design of the hotel, Helga was quoted as saying: “My mother designed the house but the madness is all me.”

And what enchanting madness it is.

Helga's Folly might be the place where scenes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show actually live. It would be as unsurprising to see Dr Frank N Furter bust out a song in a corset and fishnets in the 'lobby' as it would be to see Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow glide through the doors of Helga's Folly.

Here, you can let your imagination run wild and experience something truly unique. But be careful – you may, as many others testified in the huge guestbook, come for a night and stay for a month.

Helga's Folly
32, Frederick E. de Silva Mawatha
Off Mahamaya Mawatha, Kandy
Sri Lanka

Getting there:
Many airlines fly to Sri Lanka. Qantas has flights from Sydney to Colombo Airport return for $1260 + taxes (peak season). Visit or contact your local travel agent.

For more information:
Contact the Sri Lankan Tourism Board at
While travel to most areas of Sri Lanka is safe, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs does not advise travel to the north and east of Sri Lanka at this time due to political tension.


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