Since my list of visited Asian countries needed expanding, and I was after somewhere outside the more commonly-treaded locations of South East Asia, I ended up dropping my finger on the little tear-drop of an island off of India known as Sri Lanka. I knew very little about Sri Lanka so I decided to do some research - what does it offer? What is the food like? What can I do here?
It turned out Sri Lanka met then exceeded all of my expectations for somewhere to soak in some culture; the food is delicious (for fans of spice) and the culture is reminiscent of India, with an incredibly friendly population. The more I read, the more I couldn’t wait to go; images of clear blue waters, turtles, fantastic curries, great surfing, temples and elephants began circling in my mind, and the anticipation was too much to bear – roll on Sri Lanka!
We had 12 days in total so we decided to create an itinerary based around a small handful of locations rather than bouncing around the country trying to squeeze it all in.
Upon arriving into Colombo, we spent only one night in the city – which as you can expect from a capital is very busy and full of hustle and bustle. If you’re a fan of seeing larger cities when travelling, I can imagine the markets pack quite a punch here, but we decided to hop on the first train down the coast.
Train travel in Sri Lanka is one of the most fun and visually exciting ways to get around, and the coastal train from Colombo to Matara was wonderful! The railway runs right by the coast, and views of beaches and palms whizz by the open windows as a warm breeze flows through each cabin.
Upon arriving at Matara, we ended up finding a great little hostel called “Tropiturtle” where we stayed for a night – great beachside location and very secluded. After a rest and a cool Lion Beer, we decided to head further West along the Southern Coast to Mirissa.
Of all the beaches I’ve visited in Sri Lanka - and possibly even Asia - Mirissa is one of my favourites!. The town itself is just the perfect size; not too big to be overcrowded with tourists, but lively enough to have a wonderfully relaxed and enjoyable nightlife. The beach comes alive in the evening as locally caught, fresh fish is hauled in and beachside restaurants begin lighting their table candles.
Mirissa beach has a great surf spot on each end of the bay, with the right hand end breaking over a reef. The left side of the beach hosts a small wave breaking on the sand and a lovely rock headland to clamber up and catch the sunset from.
The South Coast beaches of Sri Lanka are great and are all within a short distance from each other (15 minutes by tuk-tuk, or a 45minute cycle ride will get you to most of them) and there are ample small guesthouses and hostels in each town. We ended up using Mirissa as a base and cycled between Unawatuna, Weligama and Midigama over 5 days, and had a blast.
After soaking up all the surf and snorkelling we could handle, we ended up making our way into the centre of the country and one of the national parks called Uda Walawe.
Taking buses is easy and very enjoyable in Sri Lanka. All are brightly decorated and blast out Srilanese music as they wind through the mountain roads and past tea plantations. The centre of the country is home to many old tea plantations, including some very famous names you will recognize (Mr. Lipton has been busy!). As the buses take you higher, the climate becomes cooler and wetter – perfect for growing the finest tea.
Most bus stops have small “Roti-shops” located nearby – a great way to grab a cheap and delicious snack. Rotis soon became my favourite food in Sri Lanka – parcels of soft chapatti bread filled with vegetables, curry and meat. Just so tasty!
We decided to stay in an eco-lodge in Uda Walawe, and booked a Safari starting at dawn the next day.
There are many national parks in Sri Lanka, but we were very happy with our choice. Uda Walawe is not the largest, but it is home to a lot of elephants. We were just in awe as they plodded past our truck. The driver was great and really let us take our time when animals were nearby.
Following the national park, we headed over to another attraction on my list; my namesake - Sri Prada, or “Adam’s Peak”.
I decided I wanted to make the climb to get the sunset, and seeing as it was a weekend, I was joined by thousands of locals of varying religions. The peak is a multi-faith site of pilgrimage and the climb to the top is about 3-4 hours - worth preparing for. The elevation is steep and a good pair of shoes is certainly recommended. Making our way down after the sunset was hard on the knees, but a cup of hot Ceylon tea at the bottom was most welcome!
We then decided to head back down to the Southern towns – stopping and staying in the old fort town of Galle for some respite and relaxation, before catching a train back up to Colombo and flying home.
I flew from London to Colombo with Emirates but it’s also easy to include Sri Lanka in a multi-stop ticket.
We can arrange independent touring in Sri Lanka (private car and driver) – so have a look at some of our suggested itineraries for Sri Lanka.
I travelled independently by bus and by rail, but if you’re travelling on your own, you might enjoy a Sri Lanka group tour, which will include accommodation, local transport and some meals:
If you’re looking for something a little different, rich in culture and more off the beaten path than Koh Samui, Sri Lanka is for you. We can help you plan a tailor-made holiday to Sri Lanka as a single destination, as a combination with the Maldives or as part of a wider multi-stop itinerary. Call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote by email.