Ayubowan (Hello)!! Filled with romantic landscapes, rising mountains, lush forests and mesmerizing beaches, Sri Lanka is a perfect vacation spot for people who love nature.
Ceilão, the name given to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese Empire when it arrived in 1505, was transliterated into English as Ceylon. As a British crown colony, the island was known as Ceylon; it achieved independence as the Dominion of Ceylon in 1948. The culture is influenced primarily by Buddhism and Hinduism. Sri Lanka has rich & diverse flora and fauna.
Last year, we visited this beautiful island for 5 days in August. Here is a little insight to the island, what to expect, must see, food and much more. Most important thing you need to know when you plan to visit Sri Lanka is that you need to travel a lot!!
Below is an itinerary for 5 days:
Transfer for Pinnawala- Elephant Orphanage
Transfer to Dambulla
Minneriya National park
Elephant back safari
Transfer to Kandy
Watch Cultural show
Visit The Tooth relic Temple
Visit tea factory
Visit Spice garden
Transfer from Kandy to Bentota
City tour Colombo
Transfer to Airport
As you can see, there are limited number of spots covered. Trust me, this a very realistic itinerary. Our tour agent had more spots in our plan, but we could not cover all of them.
Those who want to see the tamed and semi wild elephants in close proximity the best place is the “Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage”. This facility was established in year 1975 as a conservation breading center for Elephants.
The Elephants go for a dip at 10.00 am and at 2.00pm every day at river Maha Oya. Make sure you reach there on time. Unfortunately, we reached here at 2.00pm and the elephants were out and we could not wait till they were back from their bath. But we still got a glimpse of them walking towards the river.
There are many restaurants around this place and you are required to purchase the tickets for orphanage to eat in them as the area is owned by the orphanage. However, a little outside the area are many other restaurants where you can eat.
Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka from 1017 A.D to 1235 A.D. Polonnaruwa is also a UNESCO world heritage city. You will be able to see the ruins of Royal Palace king Parakramabahu, Audience Hall, the statue of king Parakramabahu, Watadage, the Galpotha, Parakrama Samudraya which was built by King Parakramabahu I, and an elegant Lotus pond. There are also famous monument of worship such as the Gal Viharaya which has 4 magnificent carved Buddha statues, Kiri Vehera and Shiva Temple.
These are places of worship, so please dress conservatively. You will also need to walk barefoot into the temples, which are made of stone that gets burning hot. So take care while walking. (Look at my feet in the pic above.. i actually jumped to a shady place after the pic)
Minneriya National Park
Jeep safari in Minneriya National park was an amazing experience for us. Riding in an open jeep in the jungle and getting close to the beautiful wild Elephants was a major highlight of our trip.
The elephants come to the lake to drink water in the evening, hence we could get so close to them.
There are separate charges for the jeep ride and entry to the park. Also, try to arrive a little early so you can go far in the jungle in the jeep. We reached there in the evening and it was around closing time, so we couldn’t go very far.
Elephant Back Safari
You will find many places which offer Elephant back safari. The only disappointment for us was that, we were told that the elephants will cross rivers which turned out to be a small dirty pond and the elephant just took a few steps into it.
Sigiriya citadel was built in 5th century by King Kashyapa. Sigiriya is treated as one of the most remarkable creations in the world. There is a museum as you enter followed by beautiful gardens which lead to a huge Rock. As you walk up the stone stairways you will reach a huge Lion Gate which leads to the ruins of the palace of the King. It is a total of 1202 steps to climb up.
We got a local guide to explain the history of this site. He walked up with us explaining about every corner of this place.
Cultural show at Kandy
Kandy was the last capital of Sinhala Kings. The valley of Kandy is surrounded by magnificent hills. This place has a lot of ancient temples buildings, handicrafts, souvenirs, bazaar and gem museum and the Temple of tooth relic which houses the most sacred Buddhist relic in the world, the Tooth of Lord Buddha.
Enjoy a colorful dance and song cultural show.
Temple of Tooth Relic
It was amazing to know the history behind this temple and to see the preserved tooth of Buddha. The temple is beautifully built and has a calming environment. You can’t actually see the tooth as it is kept in a gold casket, and is heavily guarded. But the whole aura of this temple is magical.
Beaches in Sri Lanka are very less commercialized and clean, so you have some quiet relaxing time. We had a relaxing time at Bentota beach right next to our resort.
City tour of Colombo
Colombo is the commercial and business center of Sri Lanka located on west coast. The city blends together with old colonial type building, high-rise commercial buildings and hotels. You can visit the malls, enjoy at Bally’s Casino and visit handicraft stores to shop for souvenirs.
What to eat
All the resorts we stayed offered amazing food. Also, the places where we stopped for lunch were home cum restaurants, so we got a taste of traditional Sri Lankan food as well. These places have ala cart and buffet style lunch spread which include vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.
Deviled Chicken: Spicy chicken in rich sauce
Kottu: spicy Sri Lankan stir-fry of shredded roti bread with vegetables and meat
Hoppers: based on a fermented batter, usually made of rice flour and coconut milk with spices
Vegetarian: So we are not very vegetarian loving people when it comes to eating out. But we did try some veggie preparations like Okra curry and mixed veg, and they were quiet tasty as well.
Cheese: The variety of cheese offered at the resorts were just.. OMG!!! Everyday they would put out this amazing platter.. and we have become cheese fans since then. Don’t miss it.
PS: I know cheese is not a staple of Sri Lanka.. but this is just my take away from there 🙂
Where to Stay
These are places where we stayed, and would highly recommend them:
Chhaya Village, Habarnna: This is the first place where we stayed in Sri Lanka and it was just beautiful. Cottage style rooms, natural environment, a lake, a pond, elephant back rides, live music, food, drinks and lovely staff. Sounds like a complete package.. yeah! well it is! A must try.
Cinnamon Citadel, Kandy: From one place to another, this is another awesome hotel. You can have breakfast with a pool and lake view in chilly air.
Centara Cey Sands, Bentota: Save the best for the last… bam!! you end up at this beautiful resort. The entrance is so dramatic.. you drop off by car at the reception.. get into a boat which takes you across the lake to the resort.And that is not the end… once you enter the resort.. there is huge pool followed by the beach.. yes I said it!! Enjoy the night breeze near the pool listening to a wonderful live band.
One thing for sure.. you will get awesome service anywhere you go. The people in Sri Lanka are just so beautifully humble, caring and lovely.
- Get your visa- For Indian passport holders, there is an Electronic Travel Authorization which has to be applied online. The process is very simple and quick. Please check the requirements for your country and get the visa appropriately.
- Book a tour guide- Having a tour guide ensures you have a vehicle with an English speaking driver.
- Make hotel reservations- As you will be travelling most of the time, making hotel reservations at all the destinations ahead of time a very good idea. You don’t want to be searching for rooms after a tiring day. Also, Sri Lanka is busy with tourists, chances of unavailable rooms are high.
- Discounts on entry fees- many places have discounted entry fees for Indian Passport holders, so check at the counter before buying a ticket.
- Expenses- It is not very cheap in Sri Lanka. Most places have costs comparable to Singapore.
- Keep hydrating- It was very hot and sunny when we went and most places are open. So keep a water bottle with you always and keep hydrating.
We had a wonderful time in Sri Lanka, amidst nature and lovely people. It is hard to cover the entire place as its quite a huge country, but we managed to see a lot of places and gather beautiful memories.
I hope this blog will help you plan your visit to Sri Lanka.
Keep reading more for new destinations coming up!!