Is Helga’s Folly In Kandy Sri Lanka The Most Amazing Hotel In the World?

Looking for things to do in Kandy in Sri Lanka? Make sure you go and visit the amazing Helga’s Folly Hotel. I know you might be thinking it’s a bit random to visit a hotel but it’s more of an incredible art gallery to be honest.

Whilst people have a love / hate whilst staying in the hotel, make sure you pop by just for a visit during the day. The history at Helga’s Folly is so amazing, you’ll be blown away.

Here’s what it was like when we visited this amazing hotel in Kandy.

Whilst we were staying in Kandy in Sri Lanka, we found out about Helga’s Folly Hotel, a famous hotel known for quite literally being the anti-hotel. I somehow managed to arrange an interview with Helga De Silva Blow Perera to find out more about her fascinating family history.

Helga de silva blow perera. Image source: www.cedricarnold.com

To give you a very quick run down, Helga’s mother designed the hotel back in the 1930’s and was a painter whilst her father was a politician and ambassador to Paris. Her Aunt was one of the first female architects of The East, and her brother Desmond was the United Nations Chief Prosecutor For The War Crimes in Sierra Leone. The list honestly goes on and Helga herself became a model for Dior at just 17.

The living room at Helga’s Folly

After her first marriage ended with the tragic death of her husband, her children Detmar Blow married Isabella Blow who was famed for creating the careers of model Sophie Dahl and Alexander Mcqueen to name but a few, as well as being the muse for hat designer, Philip Treacy.

Isabella Blow. Image source: www.vogue.com

Selina Blow. Image source: www.westlondonliving.co.uk

Her daughter Selina Blow, is a fashion designer and has designed for various famous people including Angelica Houston and Debbie Harry.

Helga moved back to her family home after the end of her second marriage and dealt with the situation by painting the hotel which originally had white walls and clean lines, and a hotel for package tourists. Her creativity and most likely her biggest reward to date was turning the Folly into a wonderland of creativity.

The grotto at Helga’s Folly

Local art students came to Helga’s Folly to help with its creation to become one of the world’s most interesting hotels. But, it’s an ever ongoing piece of art work, a space that will keep on evolving throughout time.

The dining room at Helga’s Folly

That day, as I went to meet Helga, unfortunately she wasn’t well but I was lucky enough to be shown around by her daughter Selina Blow who was just visiting her mother from England.

As I walked into Helga’s Folly hotel, an Alice In Wonderland mix of incredibly beautiful furniture, murals painted by Helga herself and pieces of kitsch items collected over the years bared all of their stories in every single room. The music played throughout was absolutely perfect with songs like Blue Velvet and other classics that just suited this hotel and brought out more of the atmospheric vibe. 

The upstairs area at Helga’s Folly

What I loved most about Helga’s Folly hotel were the many photos of family and friends hung up on the walls. It really made you feel connected to them and their mind blowing history.

Some of the many family photographs stand on display at Helga’s Folly

Pictures of family friend Ghandi are displayed in the hotel

Previous guests have been of many one could only ever dream up including family friend, Ghandi (yes, that’s right, he was a family friend), David Lean, Vivien Leigh, Peter Finch, Sir Laurence Olivier, Paula Yates and even the Stereophonics wrote their song Madam Helga after their stay. I could only ever imagine the stories that must have been made in this hotel.

Whilst I was there, I met an older couple who were staying there for a couple of nights and they absolutely loved it.

Capturing a couple having breakfast after their stay at Helga’s Folly hotel in Kandy Sri Lanka

It’s an experience you won’t forget because for Helga and her family, the hotel has been created to put a smile on people’s faces, to not take things too seriously and it certainly does that. They like to break away from the norm, to be different from the boring, lifeless hotels out there and they couldn’t have done it any better if they tried.

As a creative person, there is so much going on in this hotel that it’s no wonder the Stereophonics walked away writing a number 1 hit. I asked Selina what her mother thought of the song and they had no idea they had even written it until they were told by her daughter in-law Isabella when it had reached the charts. It’s funny to think they thought it was a joke, but by no means it was true.

Stereophonics wrote the song Madam Helga after their stay at Helga’s Folly

Selina Blow has a wealth of knowledge, she pointed out so many pieces of furniture to paintings that all told a story, but not like any story, the kind of stories that would make you literally wonder how any family could have such a big history.

Some of the many family photos hang proud on the walls at Helga’s Folly

From the ceiling designs that inspired Philip Treacy, to how Selina herself lived with him and Alexander Mcqueen, and the stories about what it was like when Vivien Leigh and Peter Finch stayed with them at Helga’s Folly, I could have spent hours listening to her. 

Outside the cinema room at Helga’s Folly

I spent a couple of hours there at Helga’s Folly in Kandy, completely blown away by Selina’s tour and utterly overwhelmed by every single item in the hotel. Every single room of the 40 room hotel was completely different and inspiring. It was an incredible experience.

One of the bedrooms at Helga’s Folly

For me, visiting Helga’s Folly is without a doubt a highlight of my entire Sri Lankan trip and a must visit if you’re in Kandy.

The fairy which protects the swimming pool from the monkeys in the jungle behind the hotel.

It costs approximately AU$120 a night to stay at Helga’s Folly in Kandy Sri Lanka, and worth a night’s stay purely for the experience. If you prefer, like me you can just visit the grounds and have a nosy around, or come for dinner. Best of all, when I went there, it was literally like an oasis from the chaos in Kandy as there were hardly any tourists around and it was wonderful.

To get to Helga’s Folly in Kandy, it’s just a 10 minute tuk tuk ride up the hill out of Kandy.

The stairway up to Helga’s quarter of the hotel.

Have you been to Helga’s Folly? Let me know in the comments below.

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Helga’s Folly, Kandy Sri Lanka


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  1. Yes, I have been to Helga’s Folly in 2010. My memories stretch much further, as my father and Helga’s mother are brother and sister…. I therefore remember holidays when it was their home, when Helga was approaching her teenage years…
    After 50 long years of living in Melbourne, Australia, I returned to my motherland in 2010. Helga’s Folly is a complete contrast to the home which Aunty Esme designed, and I had to look at it with new eyes. Helga’s “stamp” is visible throughout. A remarkable resonance of a remarkable family.

  2. There’s no could be about it it is the most unusual hotel in the world in my opinion. We first went a long time ago just to visit the Folly we had read an article about it in the Sunday Times written by Isabella. We immediately found an affinity with Helga and Desmond her lovely husband. We met Selina and her family when her children were very little. We never regretted our visit and have been back quite a few times to see Helga and her extended family.

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