Oh Sri Lanka…you stole our hearts and blew our minds
I will never forget the colour of the ocean; aqua blues and tropical greens, how clean and clear the ocean was, the hours we spent diving into the waves with the sun bronzing our skin and how lucky we felt to be in this incredibly beautiful, tear-drop shaped country.
How incredible it felt to spot giant wild turtles swimming in the ocean and feeding them seaweed right by our feet. Being fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to watch baby turtles hatch on the beach and make their journey to the ocean. I hope they all make it. It was a precious experience. Seeing monks get just as excited as us seeing wild turtles was special too, because we could only communicate by smiles.
How magical it felt waking up early to watch the sunrise over Coconut Tree Hill in Mirissa, whilst appreciating its raw beauty and wondering how on earth this place is real.
How we felt like we had stepped back in time as we strolled around the oh so chic Galle Fort, admiring the colonial architecture and dutch influences.
Jump in a tuk tuk and watch local life zip bye as you speed along. Winding through the back streets and arriving at Dondra Lighthouse, which was eerily quiet except for the crows hawking overhead.
Waiting in anticipation to catch a glimpse of these majestic elephants in the wild. Spotting month old baby elephants and seeing them cosy up at the feet of the parents was adorable. As was watching them swing their tails with happiness as they eat away at the lush green grass using their trunks and feet. It was peaceful and our hearts felt full.
The food, oh the food…the curries were spicy – just as they should be! We got excited ordering unknown food and smiled as we tasted all of the delicious new foods to us. Go on, order as much Sri Lankan cuisine as you can, like roti, kottu, devilled prawns, buffalo curd and honey, milk and rice, egg hoppers, damn, even the bananas are the best we ever tasted! Sip on fresh king coconuts for less than 50p and eat delicious local cuisine for less than £3.
I love my temples and Sri Lanka had them in abundance! Discover both modern and ancient temples, not just inside the “cultural triangle”.
Escape the crowds and take a hike to enjoy stunning views of Sigiriya Rock, a UNESCO World Heritage site from Pidurangala Rock.
Take an early morning hike up to Little Adam’s Peak before the temperatures soar. Soak up the views of the lush green rolling hills of Ella whilst you catch your breath. Then cool down at Ravana waterfall.
Whilst in Ella, walk along the train tracks across 9 Arch Bridge and wait for the iconic blue train to roll by. If thats not enough, purchase a train ticket and jump on board one of the worlds most picturesque train journeys from Ella to Kandy for a few rupees. If you dare, hang outside the carriage or pop your head outside of the window.
So I hope this glimpse into our travels in Sri Lanka has made you book that flight. There is still so much more to discover and enjoy in Sri Lanka and we will certainly be going back next year! Below is our 2 week itinerary from March 2019, along with accommodation details we stayed in, contact details for our friendly driver Sam and some information on what not to miss along with fee’s.
Hikkaduwa (2n) Mirissa (4n) Udawalawe (1n) Ella (2n) Kandy (1n) Sigiria (2n) Negombo (2n)
We arrived into Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport and jumped into our pre-booked taxi to take us straight to Hikkaduwa beach. I booked Hikkaduwa Taxi Service via Instagram which cost a very competitive £45. The journey took approximately 90 minutes.
Location: Hikkaduwa, 2nights. Accommodation: We stayed at Mountain Wave Guesthouse, right on Hikkaduwa Beach front, £31 per night booked via booking.com. Great places to eat: Neela’s (make sure you try the prawn curry <£3 and keep it spicy), Sorry Mom for delicious calamari and prawns, any roadside roti stand and Salty Swamis for delicious colourful food! Don’t miss: Stroll along the beach and feed giant wild turtles in the ocean near Hikka Tranz hotel beachfront (free). Jump in a tuk tuk and head to the beautiful Kamarakanda temple (free). Relax on the beach or jump through the huge waves! Plenty of spots to hire a board and catch a wave if surfing is your thing.
Location: Mirissa, 4 nights. We took a taxi from Hikkaduwa to Mirissa, which took about 1 hour or so and cost £18/4,500 rupees. Accommodation: We checked into “On The Rock” guesthouse which was just off of the main strip but in a lush green tranquil surrounding. This cost us £19 per night. Great places to eat: Salt Beach Bar & Restaurant. I loved the seared tuna and beetroot salad. They have happy hour on cocktails too. Rumba for a fresh fish BBQ on the beach. We loved the ,local dishes as R&R Hotspot which was on the roadside. We went back several times for the vegetable Kottu, banana and chocolate roti and the vegetable curry. Every dish was delicious and cost less than £3. Shady Lane cafe for breakfast is a must! Great food, cool vibes and good service! Don’t miss: Coconut Tree Hill (free). Be sure to wander around this area as its beautiful and unspoilt with killer ocean views – you may even be lucky to spot more wild turtles! We went here for sunrise and during the daytime – its so beautiful that anytime of the day is a great time to visit. Right next to the coast guard hut (and Salt restaurant) you maybe lucky to be in the right place at the right time to see baby turtles hatching and making their way to the ocean. Hire a tuk tuk driver to take you to Galle Fort and wander the streets and admire the dutch influence and colonial architecture, eventually arriving at Galle lighthouse. On the way back to Mirissa we stopped at the Japanese Peace Pagoda (free), Welligama beach and saw the colourful fishing boats, the fisherman stilts at Koggala. Dondra Lighthouse (free) is worth a visit which will only require 1 hour of your time, its just as nice as Galle Lighthouse but not as touristy. Enjoy a few hours at the beach each day in Mirissa, the water is gorgeous and so clear with huge waves!
Location: Udawalawe, 1 night. Accommodation: We stayed at Udawalawe Elephant Park homestay £4 per night, booked through booking.com. This homestay can cook you breakfast and an evening meal at an additional charge. Don’t miss: As we left Mirissa for Udawalawe, we stopped at Talalla beach on the way. Oh My God. It was to die for! Enormous beach, raw rugged beauty, gorgeous aqua ocean and no-one around! I would recommend 2 hours here if time is tight, if I had longer, definitely a night or 2! We booked a morning safari for Udawalawe National Park, through our guesthouse and ended up sharing a jeep with 4 other guests despite us paying full price for entire jeep and park entrance fee. Therefore, I would recommend booking the tour through your driver so that you get the entire jeep to yourself. This cost us £25pp. We saw only 10 elephants in the wild along with lots of other wildlife but it was a lovely experience.
Location: Ella, 2 nights. Accommodation: Pearl View Guesthouse, £21 per night including breakfast, booked through Booking.com. Do not look anywhere else – this guesthouse was special and stole our hearts. Not only was the view from the highest guesthouse incredible at any time of the day (waking up to sunrise and tweeting birds was heavenly), but the family were so, so sweet. They always greeted us with smiles and the breakfast was superb. Great places to eat: Chill Restaurant for burgers and coffee shop for banana fritters and ice cream. Many guesthouses offer to cook you dinner for a small additional fee. Don’t miss: Little Adam’s Peak (free), a relatively easy hike up into the rolling green hills, overlooking Adam’s peak. Suggested time 1 – 2 hours. On your return from the hike, stop at 98 Acres Hotel for coffee or breakfast and soak in the killer views. Ravana waterfall to cool down in the afternoon heat. Walk 25-30 minutes along the train tracks from Ella train station to 9 Arch Bridge and wait for the famous blue train to roll by. If that’s not enough, take one of the worlds most scenic train journey’s from Ella to Nanuoya 2.5 hours (80p – £2/150-500 rupees depending on class and if you purchase in advance or not). Or stay on the train until Kandy. Hang out the door way if you dare! Tickets sell out super quickly, so book in advance if you can, ideally 2nd class reserved or 3rd class as the windows and doors in 1st class don’t open.
Location: Kandy, 1 night. Accommodation: Nook rest, £19 per night including breakfast. Don’t miss: Escape the craziness of the city for a few hours inside the Royal Botanical Gardens (£2.50/600 rupees), wander the stunning grounds at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (£6/1500 rupees) and make sure you check out the elephant museum dedicated to Raja Tusker – you will be gobsmacked at the preserved elephant. Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue (£2/500 rupees) over looks the city. As with all temples, cover your shoulders and knees and remove hats and shoes (some tourists wear socks as the floor can be super hot) and ensure you don’t have your back towards the buddha if you pose for a photo.
Location: Sigiriya, 2 nights. Accommodation: Liyara Home Stay, £10 per night including breakfast. Great places to eat: Pradeep Restaurant. Make sure you try buffalo curd and honey. I loved the chicken and avocado salad from Pradeep Restaurant. We ate there a few times as the food was delicious, fairly cheap and the service was great. Our homestay prepared us a lovely Sri Lankan breakfast and if we had more time, we would’ve had dinner with them. Don’t Miss: As we took a driver from Kandy to Sigirya, we had the opportunity to stop and visit places of interest along the way. Here, you are inside the cultural triangle and you can get your fill of temples and buddhas until your heart is content. the first temple we stopped at was Aluvihare Rock Cave Temple (£1/50 rupees) which had really pretty gardens and some cool temples carved into the sides of rocks housing Buddha statues. 30-45 minutes here is all you need. of course, you cannot drive through Dambulla without paying a visit to Dambulla Cave Temple, a world heritage site! This place is unreal but there is a steep walk with lots of steps leading up to the temple and it costs (£6/1500 rupees). If time or budget is an issue, I would visit the lesser known cave temple instead. Polounaruwa (£20pp) ancient temples. we hired a bike for £2/500 rupees and cycled around the grounds. 3-4 hours here is suffice. We booked our second safari, this time an afternoon safari at Minneryia National park, organised through our driver and we had our own jeep. The safari lasted 2-3 hours and cost £50/12,200 rupees which included the park entrance and the jeep. Here we saw approximately 80 elephants including lots of young baby elephants mostly gathered around a huge watering hole and surrounded by lush green grass. It was so incredibly beautiful watching the elephants graze and play in the wild. We took an early morning hike up Pidurangla Rock £2/500 rupees which took about 30 minutes to reach the most incredible view point which over looks Sigiriya Rock. Hiking early morning helped avoid the heat and there was less tourists. We decided not to hike Sigirya Rock as it was very expensive at £25pp/ rupees and was packed full of tourists. Also the view wouldn’t have been as good as we had from Pidurangla Rock. We saved money and had a better experience in our opinion!
Location: Negombo, 2 nights. Accommodation: Amagi Aria £50 per night including breakfast. Here we just chilled out for the last 2 nights before our flight home.
In hindsight, we wished we did the following 2 week itinerary which includes a mixture of beaches, cultural highlights and wildlife:
Hikkaduwa (2n) Unawatuna (1n) Galle (1n) Mirissa (3n) Talalla (1n) Ella (2n) Kandy (1n) Sigiriya (2n) Negombo/Colombo (1n)
Our driver we hired, Sam who we cant recommend enough. contact him with your itinerary and he will quote you. He can also provide accommodation for you to consider, regardless of your price range and if you book via him, he will get you a cheaper price than on hotel booking websites. Reach him via Whatsapp +94 (77) 633 1953 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.