Sri Lanka – The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

The ancient Kingdom of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka, is still not on the map for many travelers, being almost like a second choice or a travelling extension when visiting India or the Maldives. I used to think of Sri Lanka in that way too. After some “homework”, i realized what an amazing and contrasting country Sri Lanka is. You can dive on beautiful beaches, visit amazing temples, embrace the cultural history, be thrilled by its wonderful wildlife, warm your heart with the friendly and welcoming people, enjoy wonderful food (specially for spicy food lovers) and also its security. The biggest problem I would point is the lack of highways, responsible for making you travel 180 km in 4 hours by car (since the speed limit is 70km/h). This turned out to be a good experience due to the long talks we had with the drivers who gave us very nice advice. A special thanks to Lalith Wijesinghe (from Gorgeous Sri Lanka) and Chaminda Gamage, my partners during many hours on the road.

My Ten days itinerary:

Sigiriya – 90 kms (02h40) – Kandy – 136 kms (7 hours by train or 03h30) – Ella – 180 kms (04h10) Mirissa – Colombo – 130 kms (03h15) Dambulla – 70 kms 01h30 Polonnaruwa – 56 kms (01h10) 40 kms (00h53) Galle Fort – 154 kms (02h20) Colombo

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

– In Dambulla visit the Golden Temple and Rock Cave.

– In Polonnaruwa go through the ruins that give the city its name.

– In Sigiriya, visit and climb Lion’s Rock at dawn, preferably. On your return, if you have free time, visit a typical village and learn how to cook one of the typical Sri Lanka dishes.

1200 steps to the top. Go early to avoid the crowd and keep hydrated
Typical breakfast, where the curry is the “king”. The “champions” meal.

– Take a safari in one of the many nature reserves. In my case, I went to the Kaudulla National Park.

– Explore Kandy, an interesting city to walk around. At the end, take the train to Ella and be amazed by the scenario you will find during this 7-hour ride.

– Ella is a small village surrounded by mountains and valleys, but with lots to do. I recommend a minimum of 2 days to visit it all. Drink the famous Ceylon tea; Climb the Mini Adam’s Peak and dazzle yourself with the view over the Ella Rock (I admit I did not have the courage to climb this one, I was so tired that I could not take more hours walking); go to the famous Demodara Nine Arch, a bridge which, as its name suggests, has 9 arches. Be there at the right time and watch the train posing for the pictures. Don’t forget to cool off at Ravana Waterfall before leaving.

– Choosing which beach to stay is not an easy task, it all depends on whether you want lots of fun, to surf or just relax. I chose Mirissa and it was a very wise decision. No big fuss, good beach for swimming, relaxed atmosphere and fresh fish at dinner, with your feet in the sand. There is no better than this! Being close to the “whale-watching” area is surely a huge bonus.

Mirissa beach is divided in two bays by Parrot’s Rock
We were lucky to spot some whales next to us

– Finished the trip at the Galle Fort, which was built by Portuguese in the 16th century. Lose yourself in the inner streets and be enchanted by the perfect blend of modern and old.

The truth…This was a trip planned with low expectations, which were clearly surpassed. So much is still yet to see or do, which is enough of a reason to come back soon… *