There are so many surprises I discovered about Sri Lanka during my vacation there and I will try to share with you everything that I loved about this small and exotic island.
The former name of Sri Lanka was Ceylon, and you probably heard of Ceylon tea which is popular all around the world, and Sri Lanka’s top exports. Visiting a tea plantation it’s a must as it offers incredible scenic views, the most impressive places for me were at Kandy. You can’t leave Sri Lanka without a taste of the country’s famous tea!
Sri Lanka is also famous for safari lovers. If you’re into big cats, head straight to Yala National Park, it contains the highest density of leopards in the world.
The small island of Sri Lanka has a wonderful culture that was influenced by Indian, Portuguese, the Netherlands and of course, the United Kingdom (it was part of the British colony until 1948). There are eight World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka recognized by Unesco.
What to take in consideration:
- When to visit: from December until March is the dry season in. Shoulder season is from April and September until November, while the low season is from May until August.
- Transportation in the country: The popular option for travel around Sri Lanka is to hire a car and driver (that’s how we did it), another option is to take a taxi or tuk-tuk, or use public transportation like trains and buses (it’s inexpensive, it’s safe, with amazing views, and you can meet a lot of locals).
- Visa: Check before if you need a visa to enter the country, you can apply here.
- Vaccination: For up to date vaccination advice, check out the CDC or NHS advice sites, which will tell you everything you need to know.
Sri Lanka Itinerary
The island is perfect for water sports lovers. You can do diving, snorkeling, kiting and surfing. In the middle of the country, you can hike among tea plantations above 2000 m.
When traveling throw the country I advise you to rent a guide + driver, it’s pretty cheap and a lot easier than driving by yourself. The driving is chaotic and there are limited companies that offer car rentals. Please contact me if you need to be advised with a local guide.
Colombo is the capital of the country. With 647 000 inhabitants, the city is full of bog contrasts – it offers huge old colonial buildings and ruins from the time when it was the capital of the British Ceylon (from 1815 until Sri Lanka got its independence in 1948), with big parks with creepy temples, chaotic areas and narrow streets with people shopping everything you can name it. The vibrant city is divided into 13 districts, with Colombo 1 or Fort Area being the center of the city.
The best travel option via the city is to jump on a tuk-tuk (they will hunt you down anyway so just accept their offer) and let the tuk-tuk driver take you around the highlights of Colombo. This will save you a lot of time. You can also choose the train option but it’s not that comfortable as in your own car.
- The Galle Face Green – huge area by the sea promenade. Don’t miss the perfect sunset up here.
- National Museum – built in 1876 and founded by the British governor of Sri Lanka at the time it’s the largest museum in the country.
- Temple Gangaramaya (Vihara) it’s a Buddhist temple that has several buildings filled with an enormous amount of things.
- Pettah, Colombo 11, is one of the oldest districts and walking around in this area is a real adventure full of sound, smells, and people watching.
- Captain’s Garden Kovil – Colombo´s oldest Hindu Temple
Galle Fort is the oldest part of the city and it was built by the Dutch in 1663. The narrow streets with many unique artistic shops and galleries will make you fall in love with the city. This is also a great area to watch Sri Lanka’s famous stilt fisherman. Perched at the top of Bamboo poles, these amazing and incredible guys catch small fish swimming in the clear waters below them.
Try to go in the afternoon so you will have the full sunset experience with the scenic view of the ocean and the moon.
In this place, you will find the real no stress atmosphere, with just a few beach vendors. If you are a surfer – that’s one spot you can go, or you can just relax and swim as long as you wish 🙂 In the evening, you can enjoy fresh fish from local restaurants on the beach. That’s the perfect place for a romantic candle-lit dinner by the sea.
Also, from this spot, you can go on a whale safari. It’s hard to miss this opportunity as the locals are selling tickets everywhere on the beach.
This amazing resort is all about the sand, the water, and the beach. It is one of the most romantic places with white sand and exotic.
Here you can visit the sacred Buddhist ‘Temple of the Tooth’, it houses the relic of Buddha’s tooth (you will have to remember to cover your knees and shoulders out of respect), strolls around the outside of scenic Bogambara Lake (Kandy Lake), visit Memorial Garden, or simply explore the cute town.
A popular thing to do from Kandy is to take the train to the next place on this list- Ella. The train journey takes you through stunning scenery, running along hillsides through bright greens of tea country and showing off the best of Sri Lanka’s landscapes.
There are plenty of things to do in Ella. You can climb Little Adam’s Peak, take a natural shower in Ravana Falls (a popular waterfall for bathing among locals ), or walk along the rails of the 99 foot high, Nine Arch Bridge.
Tip: The most scenic train rides in the world are considered to be from Kandy to Ella, but it does take over 7 hours.
Into The Wild At Yala National Park
There are two times each day for entrance into the Yala National Park; 6 am in the morning or 2 pm in the afternoon.
The only way to visit the Park is as part of a Safari in one of their Jeeps. We got a Jeep all to ourselves and had a really nice driver who managed to spot animals that were impossible to see, at least for us non-trained-animal-spotters.
The entrance to the Park is about 21 km from Tissa town. Once inside, the landscape opened up into beautiful scenery of lakes, jungle, and complete silence and peacefulness!
Our accommodation was at Jetwing Yala, you can arrange the tours from the hotel and I totally encourage you to book this hotel.
PS. in Sri Lanka people usually eat with their fingers. In bigger restaurants, you will find anything you need but if you place to enjoy some street food – be prepared to get dirty. Here is a small video of me learning to eat like a real local. 🙂
Sri Lanka is being rediscovered by travelers from around the world. For a relatively small island, there are so many things to see and do. There’s the history, the culture, the art, the natural beauty, the friendly locals, and incredible food to experience and enjoy.
I hope this article has provided some inspiration for planning your trip here.
A special Thank you to our driver, guide and now, friend – Sidath. He helped us a lot with everything and negociate for us at souvenir shops and took really nice care of us 🙂