The tiny island that offers so much. Sri Lanka is one of those destinations which went under the radar in recent times, probably due to the civil war. However, tourism is growing at speed all across this Indian Ocean island. The hill country in the centre, the south and west coast of the island, all have a well-established tourist scene. These locations are definitely the easiest to travel between. They are the areas I will concentrate on with this 3 week Sri Lanka route.
The 3 week Sri Lanka route below offers a variety of experiences to suit all tastes. The hill country offers some unique hikes and unbelievable views. Udawalawe National Park gives you the opportunity to spot herds of enormous wild elephants. The beaches are as picturesque and as beautiful as you get.
Clanging and banging will become a recognisable noise in Sri Lanka. Those kotthu chefs are the ones doing the banging, prepping the favoured Sri Lankan food. Whats kotthu you ask, well, it’s spicy, fresh, stodgy and everything in between. The perfect kotthu is made with a combination of chopped roti hot off the griddle, mixed with fresh, crunchy vegetables, aromatic spices, a tender meat of your choice and recommended by most – topped with gooey cheese. A perfect introduction for what was to come, with many unbeatable meals in Sri Lanka.
More often than not, Sri Lankan cuisine can be overshadowed on the international scene from its much larger neighbour, India. I’m betting many people back home wouldn’t even know what Sri Lankan food consists of and most would probably come to the conclusion that it is similar to Indian food. Before my trip, I would have guilty of just that. However, it wouldn’t give the culinary prowess of this Indian Ocean island much justice to give it the label of ‘similar to Indian’.
If you ask anyone who has ever been to Sri Lanka the question; ‘what do you love most about Sri Lanka?’ You’ll be sure to get a whole range of different answers. It’s almost impossible to give just one answer to that question! There are absolutely tonnes I love about this South Asian gem. From the moment I stepped off that plane at Bandaranaike Airport, I had a very good feeling, I knew this island paradise was going to be unique like nowhere I’d been before.
I could literally name hundreds of different reasons to book a flight to Sri Lanka. However, I doubt a list of one hundred reasons would make for an interesting read. I initially attempted to narrow my reasons down to five but found it impossible, so before you lies a list of seven reasons why you should get yourself to Sri Lanka.
You’re in Sri Lanka, it’s low season in the south, but you really want to hit some of the south coast beaches to see what they have to offer. Well, this was exactly the conundrum we had while we were in Sri Lanka. We decided to go for it and head down to Sri Lanka’s south coast beaches. In total, we visited four beach towns as we made the journey around the south coast (technically Hikkaduwa is on the west coast, but we’ll count it as the south for the sake of this post).
There are the obvious cons to visiting places during the low season (hence why it’s the low season and the least amount of people visit during this time), but there are also pros at the same time. The pros might not be for everyone, but they could be perfect for others. It all depends on your preferences and tastes.
After enduring a sleepless night on a crowded night bus – most of that night was spent being stared at by numerous people – signs leading to Kalkudah Village finally start to appear. The time is 4 am and the sun still hasn’t risen. The coach doesn’t go directly through Kalkudah, so we know in our minds it is a bit of a guessing game when to ask the driver to let us off. We wearily stroll off the bus and down the long main road, while the stars and the moon still shone above us. The journey from Colombo on the west coast of Sri Lanka to the village of Kalkudah – close by to Passikudah and Kalkudah Beach – on the east coast is a long journey. We’re in search of paradise though and no journey is too long when you’re heading to paradise. After all that, are Passikudah and Kalkudah paradise?
A safari to Udawalawe National Park wasn’t in our original plan, it was Yala National Park. Naturally, with Yala being the most popular safari destination for tourists in Sri Lanka, this is where I did think we would find the best safari. Of course, you probably know from the title of this post that we did, in fact, go to Udawalawe National Park and not Yala. Our decision to go to Udawalawe rather than Yala was fairly easy in the end, after being warned off Yala from numerous people, locals and tourists alike and hearing rave reviews regarding Udawalawe. All we heard about Yala was “too busy, too big and overpriced” and one thing a few people mentioned about Udawalawe which hooked us in was “it’s definitely the best place to see Elephants”, well, that made our decision easy.
After our first few hikes up Sigiriya Rock and Adams Peak, we thought what more could this tiny island in the Indian Ocean have to offer? It really does amaze me how diverse and amazing Sri Lanka truly is. The Hill Country was certainly a great place to start our month long Sri Lanka adventure. Next up was a hike through Horton Plains National Park, to the famous Worlds End.
Where To Stay
The majority of people who go Horton Plains will stay in Nuwara Eliya, due to its proximity to the national park and ease to travel to, with the town having its own train station. It’s around 35km away, which takes around an hour to drive in a tuk-tuk.
You might know it as Adams Peak, or you might not. The mountain has various significant meanings to different groups of people, which also go hand in hand with the name that they know the mountain by. For example, the mountain is often referred to as Sri Pada, which would more than likely be used by Buddhists, who believe that the foot shape of the summit was left by Buddha. Hindus believe it to be the mark of Shiva. Muslims & Christians feel that is, in fact, the first location where Adam step foot on earth, hence the name Adams Peak. As you can see the mountain holds great significance to many people and religions, which makes the walk to the summit so popular amongst pilgrims from around the world.
Adams Peak stands at a height of 2243 metres. Although I was excited to start the laborious climb up the longest staircase I’ve ever laid eyes on, I knew in my head it would be a massive challenge…
If you Google Sri Lanka some of the first images which appear are those of the iconic Sigiriya Rock. OK, so it’s not as well known as the Eiffel Tower, Niagra Falls or Christ the Redeemer, but it’s certainly one of the images which pop into my mind when I think of this wonderful country.
Located in the Matale district in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Rock towers nearly 200 metres above its surroundings. The rock is the centrepiece to the ancient city of Sigiriya. According to an ancient manuscript, King Kasyapa selected the site of Sigiriya for his new capital. The King had a palace built on top of the giant rock and the city was built in the surrounding areas. However, after the Kings death, the city was abandoned and then used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th Century. More recently in 1982, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Colombo prior to our arrival in Sri Lanka. I suppose, I kind of expected it to be similar to what I imagine Indian cities to be like, but not so intense. After two delayed flights from Bangkok and then again from Kuala Lumpur (thank you Malindo Air), we finally landed in Colombo at 3 am. The drive to our hotel in Colombo 3 was fairly uneventful, as you might expect at 3 am, apart from when we to one part of the city which seemed to be functioning as if it was midday, market stalls were open, shops were open, very strange.
We ended up spending 3 nights in Colombo having now moved onto Kandy. As a whole, there isn’t a great deal to do and see in the city. It’s quite like many other Asian cities and capital cities, used as a transit point into the country, due to the proximity of the international airport. It was a nice introduction into Sri Lanka though and certainly a welcoming first taste of authentic Sri Lankan food.