Travelled in October 2019.
Sri Lanka may be small in land size (in comparison to Australia), but is big and rich in culture, history and people.
Every year I like to plan my birthday trip to somewhere exotic but relatively untouched away from the masses of tourists, this year I’ve decided to travel to Sri Lanka to ring in my 32nd birthday with my best friend R and her partner M.
I arrived in Colombo (capital of Sri Lanka) a day before my friends, flying in from Cambodia. From the moment my plane landed in this striking country I knew I would have to embrace this country with an open heart and an open mind.
Sri Lanka is relatively affordable and travelling as a group of 3 makes it cheaper than doing it solo. To make our 10 day trip extra comfortable, we decided to hire a private driver. Which I highly recommend, not only are they affordable (no hidden charges/fees in their quoted price) but they play such a quintessential element in making your trip worth wild. Our driver named was Janak, he was very professional, kind-hearted, and was also our pseudo tour guide.
Day 1: Janak greeted me at the airport to a warm welcome, we then drove to Bentota, a small coastal town for my first day alone. Exactly what I needed to unwind after a few sleepless days of travelling.
To be honest, because I was so tired I didn’t really leave further than my hotel to explore. I went for a long walk on the beach at sunset, spoke to a local restaurant owner who told me how global warming has affected his business. The change in temperature altered the seasons, this caused delays to the warmer seasons which lowered the amount of tourism coming to Sri Lanka. Tourism plays a major part in the Sri Lankan economy. I know I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but it’s important to support the smaller local businesses – plus I find most of the time their prices and services are better than those from high end hotels.
Day 2: Janak picked me up from my hotel and we drove back into Colombo to pick up my friends, who landed the night before. Mind you, because Sri Lanka is fairly small, driving to our next destination was only 3 hours away. Coming from an Australian, that is not far.
Our first safari in Sri Lanka was Wilpattu National Park, located west of Anuradhapura. I would recommend this national park if you are short of time and wanted to see a diverse amount of animals, other than elephants.
We arrived in time for the late afternoon session, you can argue that you might see more animals in the morning session as that is their hunting time. But I say, late afternoon is great to beat the rush in crowds.
We saw plenty of deers.
Along with water buffaloes, crocodiles, many different types of birds, and a turtle.
We were very lucky to get a short glimpse of a leopard, a very rare experience!
Day 3: After spending the night in Anuradhapura, the next morning we explored this city which was known for its high number of temples, before making our way to the East Coast of Trincomalee.
Trincomalee is the popular coastal town on the East coast, popular for its array of cuisine and scuba driving classes. For us, it was a chilled night by the beach drinking cocktails and playing card games. Kicking it back to basic living and enjoying the company of other travellers.
Day 4: We arrived at Sigiriya, the famous Sigiriya’s Lion rock. We stayed 2 nights at Hotel Sigiriya, which I would highly recommend. They have great facilities, a great view of the Lion Rock and the staffs were very attentive.
The next day we hiked up to the Lion Rock. Once you pay the park fee, you are free to roam around the park and slowly start making your way up the rock. Bring your water bottle and some snacks if hiking isn’t your usual activity.
Sigiriya is an ancient fortress, the story follows a King who started building his palace on top of this rock, but unfortunately did not finish it before his death. At the foot of his palace are two Lion’s claw to welcome the beginning of the staircase to the top of the palace.
The magnificent view at the top of the rock. Highly worth the sweaty climb!
Once we got back down to our hotel, I booked myself in for a much needed head massage.
This hotel was also known for their perfect egg hoppers. A local breakfast dish, and also common street food. This was my favourite dish from Sri Lanka.
Day 6: We made our way to beautiful Ella, we spent 2 days in Ella.
Ella is quite high in up in the mountains, and is famously known for the train ride from Kandy to Ella, as the world’s most beautiful train ride, riding up the mountains. We didn’t do this as we had a driver and were pressed for time, the train ride would have taken 5 hours.
We spent the first day exploring the town in Ella, relaxing with some local dishes and drinks, before the rain started to roll in. Ella is very green and luscious, now I know why.
The next day we drove to Nurwara Eliya, to experience tea leaves picking. Exporting tea is something that Sri Lanka is well known for. An interesting fact I discovered is most most tea brands around the world all import from Sri Lanka, then add in their flavours and packaging before it goes to sale.
Tea tasting in the tea fields.
Afterwards we drove back to Ella and did a short hike to the instagramable 9 Arch Bridge.
Then of course, more rain rolled in…
Tasting local Sri Lanka Prawn curry. The aromas in Sri Lanka curries are out of this world.
You have to try their local beer – Lion.
Day 7: The next day, we visited Dambulla Cave Temple, up in the mountains. A world heritage listed site, home to the golden temple of Dambulla.
Definitely feeling zen and appreciating this ancient heritage site.
Day 8: On our last morning in Ella, we hiked up to Little Adam’s peak. The view was worth it. The morning clouds rolling out against the tea fields surround the mountains, was a beautiful sight to see.
From Ella, we drove down to Udawalawe National Park, this was my favourite day!
Elephants are my favourite animal, I get so excited to see them in their natural habitat.
Especially, when they’re not afraid of you, and are only metres away.
We were lucky to enough to spot a newly born baby elephant.
This national park is known for its elephants, but you will also spot peacocks, and water buffaloes.
Day 9: We spent our last two nights in Galle. Also known as the Portuguese district in Sri Lanka. I enjoyed our time there, however, because we had started from West moving to East then started making our way South, we were more on the local culture trail. Galle was more on the touristy side and catered to western hotels and visitors.
I enjoyed walking around the fort in Galle, and seeing how they preserved the Portuguese heritage and architecture.
Made a quick visit to the famous Coconut Hill in Mirissa, a beach town known for its stilts fisherman and surf camps.
Soaking up all the joys of Sri Lanka, on an unforgettable trip!
And of course, a picture of my favourite time of the day, sunset.