Having travelled to Sri Lanka, a new and up and coming tourist hot spot, we thought we would share our thoughts on tips, tricks & to dos in Sri Lanka (with help, of course, from other incredible travel bloggers). Please check it out…..
Map of Sri Lanka thanks to Exotic Holidays International – Sri Lanka
Firstly, our thoughts:
Luxury Travel Hacks By #ljojlo – Hurulu Eco Park Safari & Adventure
An elephant safari with a difference was our highlight of Sri Lanka. Arriving at Hurulu Eco Park (close to Sigiriya) with our infamous leader and safari guide, Ba Ba, we were off to see elephants with out tour group. Driving around in an open top jeep saw us tackle mud, large puddles and finally overgrowth as high as the jeep. Ba Ba was determined for us to get up close and personal with the elephants. and hence we went off the beaten track through shrubbery higher than the jeep to achieve this. It was at this point the safari got “real’ interesting. On seeing our first elephants we realised our jeep was now broken with a damaged clutch due to extreme driving through shrubbery and we were stuck in the wilderness off the beaten track. Ba Ba assured us to stay in the jeep as he went for help. At first we were worried, being stuck in the heat in the middle of no where, what were we to do?
Ba Ba came and went but finally returned with equipment to fix the jeep. After being stranded for at least an hour we were on the move and looking forward to going home at this point. After hitting the open road Ba Ba took us on another detour because quote unquote ‘I want to take you closer to the elephants’. We entered a local dump and wow the smell was overwhelming but my god there were elephants…..everywhere. It was an incredible but also sad to see elephants rummaging through the trash! Following this we saw elephants on the side of the road, which was way better than in the trash. Apparently we didn’t even need to go to the Eco Park but to be frank that was certainly an experience in itself and I am glad we did.
To end our incredible adventure Ba Ba took us to his home where he showed us around his families rice paddies and had his mum brew up some local tea. This was an unexpected side note to our adventure and one that made it all worth while. Ba Ba’s spirit, humour and adventurous nature made this trip one I will certainly remember. However, the star of the show was obviously incredible wildlife witnessed. Asia is home to incredible wildlife and Sri Lanka certainly lived up to its name.
Our best tip/trick for travelling in Sri Lanka:
Get used to Sri Lanka ‘time’. For anyone who has travelled to Bali you may be aware of Bali ‘time’ and this is a similar phenomenon. You maybe told it will take an hour to get from A to B when in fact it could take 3, due to road conditions and traffic. A train may be scheduled to arrive at 8:30 am when in fact it will arrive at 11am. These discrepancies in time are something to embrace. Enjoy the extra few hours on the journey taking in the scenery, make a few more stops and give yourself tonnes and tonnes of time to get to a destination.
Nomadic Boys – Udawalawe National Park
We are Stefan and Sebastien, the Nomadic boys: gay couple travelling the world. We visited Sri Lanka for a month last year as part of our big Asia trip.
One of our many highlights of the country was the safaris at Udawalawe National Park in South Sri Lanka. Udawalawe is considered to be the Sri Lankan national park that best rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. It was established in June 1972 as a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River. We splashed out and did a 3 days safari with Master Campers, visiting both Udawalawe and the more famous Yala National Parks and got to compare the two. Udawalawe is not as popular and therefore with fewer jeeps. There’s also a family of leopards living there, which you can usually spot if you’re patient. We got lucky and spotted them playing about. From afar they look so docile, gentle – like large cats, as opposed to the fierce killers they are.
Our best tips/tricks for travelling in Sri Lanka:
- Buy a SIM card as soon as you arrive at the airport. Internet in Sri Lanka is hit and miss so having the option of using it on your phone if you need to check a few things online is invaluable.
- We personally didn’t like Colombo, Negombo or Kandy and unless you’re really into Buddhism, we advise go directly to Nuwara Eliya and start from there. Some will want to visit the Cultural Triangle, but we’re not into temples enough to justify the journey there or the high prices the government now charges foreigners to visit them. Kandy is completely overrated in our opinion.
- The train rides from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and then to Ella was one of our favourite experiences ever. You are literally steaming through the clouds with incredible views of the tea plantations around you.
- Ella Rock is a nice easy trek to climb, free for all and some breathtaking views.
- Whale watching at Mirissa is another highlight, but with a reputable company like Raja & the Whales.
- Obviously a safari for us was another highlight. It’s worth paying that little bit extra for an excellent guide – they are the ones who will make it special for you.
Want to read more? Check out Nomadic Boy’s experience of Udawalawe National Park.
Jon Is Travelling – Haputale
Sri Lanka’s hill country is home to some breathtaking vistas of mountains and tea plantations. Haputale is a great place to see this amazing scenery, either from the outskirts of town or from Lipton’s Seat, a viewpoint enjoyed by the famous tea tycoon Sir Thomas Lipton. I got up early one morning and walked from my guesthouse, which was just outside of town, into Haputale and then took a tuktuk up to the viewpoint. The view close to my guesthouse was actually better! I also ate one of my favourite meals ever in Haputale – a pineapple curry with about 10 other dishes by its side. The town itself is a little rough but the people are really friendly and you can’t beat that scenery!
Jon’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
My travel tip for Sri Lanka is a simple one – talk to people about where they’ve stayed and trade business cards. A lot of family run guesthouses will give you a few business cards to take with you as you make your way around the country. You’ll meet lots of other travellers in Sri Lanka and it’s great to trade knowledge about the awesome (and usually very cheap) guesthouses you’ve stayed in. I found some really nice places that I wouldn’t have otherwise and it’s also good to help out a family who treated you so well during your stay.
Want to read more? Check out Jon’s experience of Haputale.
TravelliAMO – Mihintale
Mihintale is a mountain peak near Anuradhapura and It is known as the first place to have hosted Buddhism in Sri Lanka. It’s great to reach the summit of the mountain, climbing dozens of slippery and hot steps, because of the sun that burns during the day. The view from the top is amazing: nature all around, an endless expanse of vegetation and, on the right, a white Buddha that, sitting on a throne, admonishes the faithfuls with his hand raised. Currently Mihintale is a sanctuary, a destination of pilgrimages and it is frequented by many people that, even they are very old, don’t give up to to climb the rock only to pray.
TravelliAMO’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
My tip to visit Sri Lanka is always to dress properly : comfortable shoes to climb the hundreds of steps, typical of Buddhist shrines and appropriate clothing, covering shoulders and knees , respectful of religion and the local culture.
Contented Traveller – Sigiriya also known as Lion Rock
Sigiriya or Lion Rock is the 8th Wonder of the Ancient World. It is a massive rock where a palace complex was situated in about 473AD as a fortress against an attack by half-brother Mogallana, of the king who had usurped the throne in the first place. It is situated in the Matale District of the Central Province of Sri Lanka, about 4 hours from the capital city of Colombo and about 2.30hrs from Kandy. The guidebooks say you need a good head for heights to climb this monolith, and I don’t. Midway up this stairway to heaven, I had my first full on panic attack accompanied by a total tantrum. I refused to climb a ladder to see the Sigiriya Damsels – the 22 surviving sensuous paintings of skimpily clad court beauties, which was a shame I’m sure, but I literally couldn’t do. However, I think everyone should see Sigiriya because it is so unique and different, and a unique example of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture.
Want to head to the top of Sigiriya? Check out Climbing Sri Lanka’s Lion Rock.
Contented Traveller’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
It costs $30US, non-negotiable as a one off payment to climb Sigirya. Then I suggest that you get a local guide, because they do know the rock and the history. There will be many of them as you arrive wanting to help you. Pick one and negotiate the duration of the tour and the price. You should only pay $20-30US max. for 3 hours. This will, at the very least, keep all of the others wanting to sell you things away from you. If you want to do it on your own, you will need to be very courteous and say no thank you, many many times.
Are You Happy – Mirissa
Pristine beach with palm trees and the finest sand so unreal that we feel like part of a postcard, the most charming hosts taking care of us and waving from the doorstep whenever we go out, that simple restaurant on the Ocean shore with wooden tables and plastic chairs stuck in the sand where we enjoy blissful gossip with our road friends with a cold beer with our feet sinking in the sand gently touched by the Ocean waves, breakfast time in that friendly restaurant at the end of the beach watching surfers having a great time in the morning light, sunset sealing your heart away with the sound of laughter and joy around you. This was Mirissa for us, definitely the best place in Sri Lanka and one where we would love to return. Sri Lanka conquered us with the variety of places to visit from the crowded and less appealing Colombo to the stupas and historical sites in Anuradhapura, the view of Adam’s peak and the cold mountain breeze and tea plantations in Ella, the hill area of Kandy with temples, Buddha up the hill and the best coffee, the rock of Sigiriya and the caves of Dambula, the Ocean side in Mirissa, Unawatuna and Negombo with unforgettable beaches.
Are You Happy’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
If we were to give just one tip on traveling Sri Lanka we would advise everyone to use local transport; we did everything from trains in Second and Third Class to local buses and private car and the train ride and bus ride experiences were the best with good conditions for very low fares.
Where’s Sharon – Nuwara Eliya
Our favourite place in Sri Lanka was Nuwara Eliya, primarily because it is so different from the rest of the country. Nuwara Eliya is high in the hill country in Sri Lanka. At an altitude at 1889 metres, this town is cooler and looks a lot different to its coastal cousins. In fact, it is surrounded by beautiful mountains and tea plantations. There are plenty of attractions in Nuwara Eliya and its surrounds. There are some great hiking opportunities, tea plantations to visit, a pretty botanical gardens and we enjoyed some time at Gregory Lake. It’s also in close proximity to popular attractions like Horton Plains National Park. It’s a lovely place to spend a few days, cooling down from the coast, sipping tea and exploring fantastic scenery.
Where’s Sharon’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
My biggest tip for Sri Lanka is to not be tight about spending money on food. There is local food for very cheap and we ate it a lot – unfortunately, we found that it all started tasting the same and we actually ended up not enjoying Sri Lanka by the end of our three week visit because we got so sick of the food that we stopped wanting to eat at all. Unfortunately, there are not always other options but seek them out! And be prepared to spend a bit more as it is not worth having it ruin your time in such an amazing country.
Want to read more? Check out Where’s Sharon’s experiences in Nuwara Eliya.
Yoga Wine Travel – Galle Forte
Sri Lanka boasts a vibrant and unique cultural heritage with no less than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered around the country: Galle Fort is one of them. Sri Lanka has a diverse and rich history and was a Dutch, Portugese and British colony from the early 1800s to 1900s; Galle Fort is a perfect exhibit of splashes of European influence in the town’s architectural style. Sip on a cup of tea at the Amangalla, do some shopping at Barefoot Gallery, spend some time strolling through the town and walk along the fort wall for panoramic coastal views.
Yoga Wine Travel’s travel tip/trick for Sri Lanka:
There is a lot of ground to cover in Sri Lanka, from the cultural triangle and beaches in the southern coast to lush tea country and biodiverse national parks. Do lots of research on which areas you want to visit and how you plan on getting around: train travel is cheap and relatively reliable in Sri Lanka, but not every train has first or even second class carriages. Seats can be reserved in person at a train station up to 45 days before the trip and scenic routes fill up FAST. You may want to enlist the help of a local travel agent to secure your seat(s) on popular routes. You can also hire private cars and drivers but do not expect the prices to be dirt cheap, a 3-4 hour car ride can cost anywhere from US$100 to $140, but may be worthwhile if you have a large group of people.
So there are our thoughts?
What are yours?
- Check out Soul Drifters 10+ Sri Lanka travel tips to make your stay even more amazing.
- Interested in climbing Little Adam’s Peak? Not to be confused with Adam’s Peak. Check out Travel For Your Life’s – Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka.
- Also, if you are interested in a Sri Lanka itinerary? Check out this West to East Coast Itinerary!
Is there anything striking that we have still missed?
We would love to hear your feedback so feel free to comment.