Travelled in: July 2016
So Facebook keeps kindly reminding me that this time last year I was in Sri Lanka. This has made me realise that whilst I have posted my top tips for travelling Sri Lanka, I haven’t actually posted a full account of what I got up to during my time there… Sri Lanka was one of the most incredible/beautiful/cultural places I have ever been. I would jump at the chance to go back.
Sri Lanka was badly hit by the Tsunami in 2004 and has since struggled to engage the tourism it once had, prior to this tragic natural disaster. Sri Lanka is a gem and I struggle to understand why it is not a more popular holiday or backpacking destination. The food here was incredible, the people are super friendly, it is relatively cheap, as a female I felt really safe, the beaches are lush, the hills are even lusher, and the culture and history definitely make this amazing Asian country a must visit!
As I mentioned in my last post I struggled to plan my Sri Lankan itinerary as there were so few blogs I could find that had a full account of all the places I wanted to visit. I am going to break this post in to two as there is SO MUCH to cover, but for any travelers that are interested in travelling here I hope this helps.
For more tips on travelling Sri Lanka you can check out my post here…
We started our travels in… Colombo, the capital city, where we stayed for just one night. One night in this bustling city was more than enough as there is not a great deal to do or see here.
We stayed at… City Rest Fort Hostel, which was pleasant enough, and perfectly located. The only quarm I had was the bathrooms, they were pretty horrific, but otherwise it was fine for a one night stay.
As you will probably arrive in Sri Lanka via Bandaranaike International Airport anyway, the city is a good starting point. There is a big train/bus station which makes onward travel easy and there is enough to do here to occupy yourself for a day or so…
The best things to do here are: Head down to Galle Face and watch the locals fly their kites on the beach, whilst watching the sunset. Take a walk around Beira lake in the city center. Explore Pettah market.
Next we headed east to… Uppuveli, for 2 nights of some much needed beach time.
We traveled here with… Superline luxury buses, which you can read more about here.
We stayed at… The Tobiko Hotel, which ended up being one of our favourite places that we stayed. This family run hotel went above and beyond to serve us. We arrived here at 5am and they let us in to sleep on the sofa in the lobby until our room was ready. The hotel is a strole away from a local fishermans beach, then if you walk along the beach for 10 minutes you come to Uppuveli beach. The hotel also served us the most amazing home cooked food, we actually ended up eating here most nights, filling up on traditional Sri Lankan Curry or FRESHLY caught fish 🙂
We didn’t do much in Uppuveli, but that was what was so lovely about it. The beach was probably my favourite in Sri Lanka and the sea was fairly calm, so it was nice to swim in, unlike the south coast beaches, which are lot more rough. We did go on a boat ride over to Pigeon Island to embark upon some snorkelling. Worth a visit if you get bored of sunbathing, but the island is not as amazing as the reviews you will read online!
Our favourite thing to do here was help the fisherman bring in their daily catch on the beach, an amazing local experience.
This purpose built luxury resort is NOT for the budget traveler. I had seen some amazing resort images on instagram and decided I HAD TO GO HERE for a little bit of luxury.
We traveled here with… a driver who took us from Uppuveli to Pasikudah in roughly 2 hours, passing through miles of beautiful Sri Lankan countryside on the way through.
We stayed at… Amaya Beach Passikudah. We paid roughly £250 for a 2 night stay. The hotel is beautiful, right on the beach front. The food was great, but the service was lacking slightly.
I would only recommend a trip here to get some perfectly instagrammable hotel and sunset snaps and a few days of pure luxury relaxation…
Habarana & The Culture Triangle:
Habarana was our base for the culture triangle. If I could do this again I would probably chose to stay in neighboring town Dambulla. I later found out it was much more centrally located, plus had a lot more going on.
We traveled here with… Superline buses. A little story for anyone else that attempts this journey as our experience was rather comical… The bus was supposed to pick us up at the local town next to Pasikudah around 10pm, at a café which apparently the bus stopped at for their evening dinner break. On all buses in Sri Lanka the driver has an assistant who manages the passengers coming on and off the bus. When 2 buses turned up we were unsure of which one was ours, so we asked the assistant who seemed very confused about us getting on at this point, even though we had a reservation. We got on anyway hoping for the best and asked him to let us know when we were at Habarana. Unfortunately our pre-booked seats were right at the front of the bus so I had full vision of the crazy driver speeding along the bumpy roads at about 200mph, it still haunts me to this day. When we got to Habarana the driver just kicked us off on the side of the road. It was all very random, it was the middle of the night by this point, and actually a little bit scary. Luckily we had arranged for our hotel owner to come and pick us up and thankfully he arrived shortly after we did so we weren’t stranded out on the streets for too long!
The Culture Triangle… is the main attraction of central Sri Lanka. To travel around the area most people opt to get a driver. We were receiving super expensive quotes for this option, so decided to rough it a bit and use local buses. It was super easy. You can pretty much just stand anywhere on a main road and flag down a public bus, they will nearly always stop as they want as much custom as possible. The public buses stop at all the main attractions: Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa, and costs as little as 15p per journey.
Sigiriya aka as the “Lion Rock” and/or the “Eighth Wonder of the World” is the main attraction of the area and a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. There is a lot to see here on the sight of this ancient rock fortress. The grounds in themselves are a place to get lost in, wandering around the ruins of the old city, before you embark on the painfully steep hike to the top of the rock. At the top you will be greeted with the most amazing views…
What goes up must come down and when you get to the bottom it is also worth a visit to the on site museum, where you can learn a little bit more about what you have just experienced.
Dambulla is where you will find the cave temples, well worth a visit. Watch out for the resident monkeys and do not take photos with your back to the buddah – it is incredibly insulting and very much frowned upon.
Polonnaruwa we regrettably didn’t manage to get to, but here you will find the great ruined capital full of history, which tells the story of early Sri Lankan civilization.
Another must whilst in the area is to go on Safari at the Minneriya National Park. Again I have written about this here, so check it out as this was one of my favourite experiences in Sri Lanka!
Part 2 coming soon…