Work-Save-Travel-Repeat has been my mantra ever since I’ve started Travel Blogging. In the process of making memories around the world, Srilanka happened! With its 2000 years of culture, fascinating ruins, endless beaches, oodles of elephants, Buddhist temples, ancient monuments, famous tea and delicious cuisine made Srilanka was the perfect destination for a much needed holiday.
Southwest coast and the central province of Srilanka are at its best in December and hence my itinerary was more focused on these areas. I split the trip into two segments: First was to visit the places packed with history, culture & the popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the second was to go beach hopping along the great arc of sun-baked coastline & sleepy villages of South Srilanka.
Flew into Colombo late night and headed straight to Negombo – a quiet beach town located close to the airport. The next morning, visited the popular Katuwapitiya Church, Angurukaramulla Buddhist temple, St Mary’s Church, Dutch Canals, Fish Market and the Negombo beach in the evening for a sunset view. Later in the evening was the nightlife of Negombo.
The next day was an early morning trek to the ancient ruins of Sigiriya – a city built at the summit of a huge granite peak. The panoramic 360-degree view was absolutely stunning! Later we headed to Dambulla Cave temple – a sacred pilgrimage site for over 22 centuries that still holds a sense of benevolence and spirituality.
Over the next few days we covered Kandy- the cultural capital of the island nation, Pinnawala elephant orphanage, The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – possibly the most sacred Buddhist shrine in the world, Bogambara lake, Ranweli Spice Garden, Nuwara Eliya – often referred as Sri lanka’s Little England, Macwoods Labookellie Tea Factory – one of the finest tea plantations, Horton Plains National Park – one of world’s best nature reserves, Trek to the highest plateau at World’s End, Train trip through the magnificent views of tea plantations, Ella – a little town on the Hill country known as backpackers paradise with spectacular views and Hike along the railway tracks of magnificent Nine Arch Bridge – a century old architectural marvel!
While in Nuwara Eliya, I highly recommend the train ride to Ella – one of the most beautiful train rides I’ve experienced.
We then headed to Galle – an unmissable destination which is exotic and packed with a wonderful collection of Dutch-colonial buildings. Everything you’ve heard about Galle Fort is true; with its endless ocean on one side and architectural marvels on the other – its worth a visit! The town’s narrow lanes were filled with coffee shops and were bustling with tourists from across the world.
Mirissa was easily accessible from Galle, our first beach destination. Mirissa is a tropical paradise on the south coast where watching blue whales and dolphins was truly a unique experience. Unawatuna – the lovely banana shaped beach of golden sand and turquoise water surrounded by green palm trees is where I spent the following evening. The beach is lined up with lively bars that stay up late night.
My next destination was Hikkaduwa, which is like the Goa of Srilanka. This fun coastal town is a heaven for adventure water sports like surfing, diving, scuba & snorkeling during the day and buzzing place for beach parties by night. Scuba & snorkeling was on cards. The underwater world is truly magnificent. Experiencing a whole new ecosystem of flora and fauna that unfolds before your eyes, the translucent sunlight that seeps in, colorful corals that shine in multi-colored hues and shoals of fish that swim by was absolutely magical.
A peaceful abode, the quaint little beach town of Bentota is where we headed to witness the Turtle Hatchery Project later which we headed to our final destination Colombo – the commercial capital and largest city of Srilanka. Colombo with its rich culture is a potpourri of races, religions, and cultures. Unfortunately, there was nothing much that this city could offer other than the last minute shopping at the chaotic Pettah Market and then retire at Galle Face Promdenade for a spectacular view and also delicious street food.
Where did I Stay?
I opted for Homestays instead of the plush hotels to experience the most authentic Sri Lankan hospitality and culture. All of my hosts were super helpful in helping with the local culture, history and local traditions that I might not have learned otherwise. The food each of the hosts provided was great.
What did I eat?
Srilankan cuisine although has parallels to South Indian food, it still was distinctly different. Liberal use of local fruits like coconut and jackfruit, seafood and an arsenal of spices was quite evident. I absolutely relished Fish Ambul Thiyal – a sour fish curry and Lamrais – a one meal dish of meat, rice, and sambol chili sauce. Egg hoppers and String Hoppers were breakfast staples in addition to the different varieties of tea on offer.
As Marco polo rightly called Srilanka “the most beautiful Island in the world” there is so much that this little country has to offer. I’d definitely recommend this beautiful country for every traveler and I am definitely coming back to explore more of it.