This blog could’ve come to you sooner only if I could’ve fought my own demons in time! Sri Lanka was my last very cherished and happy vacation of 2016. The most special thing about the trip was not the place but the people who came along (isn’t that the case every time?). A month of research, split into four people and a visa issue later we were all set for Ceylon – Sri Lanka’s old name. And even though your travel list might not go any less than Bali but Sri Lanka is definitely a place you shouldn’t miss out on!
So since we had only a week in hand we could either choose North or South of Lanka. We choose to go South and touch a bit of central. Our group of four was divided into beach loving and hill loving people so we had to see the best of both worlds Lanka had to offer. We started off with the beauty of hills and ended up under the coconut trees and musical waves. Let’s take you through place by place.
This little township nestled between the hills is great to enjoy a laid back day walk around the Kandy lake and doing some street shopping. This town houses many sacred Buddhist sites among which Buddha Tooth Relic Temple a.k.a Temple Of Tooth is a popular attraction.
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- Keep 2 hours minimum to explore the Temple Of Tooth as it has a park, many shrines and museums inside.
- We stayed at Muduna Walawwa resort which is a great place with a very hospitable host.
- Kandy town is extremely small, you can walk from the epicenter of the city to anywhere.
- You can even shop around the town as they have some great wholesale retail shops.
- Keep an eye out for some great local food shops and some cozy cafes.
2. Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is just 2-3 hours away from Kandy so we decided to take a train ride to the hill station, which backfired as the train was so crowded that we had to get off after a couple of stops and reach our destination via bus. Nuwara Eliya is a hill station, just like Munnar or Ooty and it is famous for it’s lush, tea plantation and the typical hill station vibe (of course there is a lake!).
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- If you love the hills then you can book a cute hotel by the lake and re-kindle some romantic memories or do a quick day trip from Kandy (which is what we did).
- Single Tree Hill Trek is an easy one for anyone to go for. It starts from a Buddha Temple, which has a giant elephant right outside.
- You can also go to the highest peak of the hill station but you need your own vehicle to reach the peak. You cannot walk to the place or use a taxi.
- If you ask any local there, they would point you towards the small restaurant that claims to have the best burgers in town. Since we were too early for the burger place, we stuck to a recommended place from the Lonely Planet guide.
- DO NOT MISS the popular bakeries on the streets to grab delicious chicken patties and puffy muffins! (I still dream about them).
After completing the hilly areas it was time to hit the beaches, but we made a pit stop on the way to Colombo at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. And boy, we had never seen anything like it before! Imagine seeing a river bed filled with at least 50 Asian elephants having fun in the water. It’s a sight worth seeing. Make sure you time your visit to the place when the elephants are going to bathe in the river, that’s the highlight of the place and we were in luck!
Check out more images in the gallery below:
Hikkaduwa is by far my favourite place in Sri Lanka (as I am a beach person). Imagine clean white sand with gorgeous hues of water right next to some restaurants serving sumptuous meal and draanks! The road parallel to the beach has all the cool shops for shopping, boutique hotels and restaurants.
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- Best place to buy a new bikini. They have one of every kind!
- Must take some surf lessons while you’re there.
- Hire a bike and explore the entire stretch of the beach.
- Crowd is mostly all firangs and locals who provide the stay/ food or activities and services.
- One can even go for a relaxing Ayurveda massage, they claim to be really good at.
- Galle is only 20 mins away from Hikkaduwa, so it’s a good idea to take a day trip to Galle while you’re there.
Apart from being the Southern most tip of Sri Lanka, Galle is a cute little Portuguese city 20 mins away from Hikkaduwa. It has romantic vintage lanes among the cluster of cozy boutique hotels and eateries, historical museums and over-priced shops (because firangs everywhere!).
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- You can visit the Dutch fort, the light house and take a walk in the winding streets that have a lot to offer
- A day trip is perfect but even a night stay in one of the boutique hotels will be great for the experience.
- Shopping can be restricted as it is highly-priced but I still managed to buy a pair of shades (hey they are really cool, okay?).
- Do have a meal at The Heritage Cafe (it’s worth it being on their waiting list if you have to).
Again a place worth visiting to experience the beach bliss. Bentota reminded me a lot of Galle with it’s little miniature-city-like design. The beach only has luxurious resorts and hotels by the waves, so it’s worth to splurge and wake up to the waves in your hotel comfort.
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- Bentota has a cute railway station – that’s a must visit.
- A river safari is worth the morning wake up alarm.
- The Golden Grill, Bentota is one of the best places to dine in the vicinity.
Before heading back to Colombo we made a pit stop at one of the many Turtle Conservatories and Protection Institutes you will see spread all over the coastline. This place definitely goes in to my must-visit list as it shows how wildlife is being conserved in the best way possible.
- Hunting for turtles is banned in Si Lanka and therefore they protect them.
- Such institutes are not always funded by the government so it is great to see how individuals have set up such turtle rescue farms on their own, charging a small entry fee from tourists.
- One can even volunteer to work at the institute for few months and visitors who stay for a long time in Sri Lanka tend do to this.
- They take care of a varied breeds of turtles and even the ones who are wounded by the hunting/attack.
By the time we reached back to Colombo we were extremely exhausted hence by default the urge to constantly click pictures decreased. Colombo is like a typical city and like all capitals has great nightlife and shopping stores. We were to ring in the new year in the capital and catch a noon flight the next day. So we had a low key NYE which ended up in Casino Marina and me winning 8,000 Rs on the black jack table! Woohoo!
- Shopping places: Odel Store, Paradise road & House Of Fashion
- Places to chill: Must visit Dutch hospital and courtyard, it has great cafes and shopping in one ground.
- We stayed at Lafala Services Apartments and Hotel which was really comfortable but recomended place is the Cinnamon Grand Hotel.
7. Home sweet home
A week of Sri Lankan madness is more than enough to love the experience and the culture. After all ‘aakhir dil hai Hindustani!.’ Here are a couple of quick take-aways you need to see, if Sri Lanka is on your travel list for 2017. Sri Lanka can definitely see me again but maybe this time I shall explore the North – Jaffna.
Date of travelling: 26th-1st Jan 2016
Currency: Srilankan Rupees (which is half of INR Yay!)
Places visited: Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Bentota (yes, we left nothing!)
Must visit: Hikkaduwa (beach) and Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.
Must try: EGB (ginger beer), Kottu with curry and Arrack (local daru!)
Need to be careful about: Local crowd in Colombo (especially if you’re a girl or have girls in your group).
Activities to do: Shopping in Colombo, River safari in Bentota, beach water activities at any beach, tea-picking at Nuwara Eilya and trekking
- The country is extremely clean and well kept.
- Most workers/laborers you see in the city areas are all sent from China (yes, China is being their BFF!).
- The people are hospitable and sweet but you might face little bias as they too are obsessed with fair skin firangs.
- If you’re a girl then you need to be as cautious to travel around the country as you need to be in India (in fact a little more).
- The food is amazing, must try their Kottu with curry (prawn/chicken)
- Since the currency is 50% lesser than INR, one can afford to have a great time but do not go overboard because everything might seem cheap to you (I am guilty!).
- Make sure you always carry your passport with you as the entry fee will differ according to your nationality.
- If you plan to travel by train then you need to make a reservation first, travelling without a seat will result in a very uncomfortable journey. Picture yourself in a Virar fast during peak hours with firangs stomping on you instead of Indians!
Hope this blog could help you plan a good trip to the Lanka land. have a great trip!