just returned from 14 nights in Sri lanka, our first time in SL and we loved it. Such a beautiful country from the Rolling hills of the hill country, to beautiful tropical beaches and fantastic wildlife.
First off i just want to say that 99% of the sri lankans we met were very friendly and respectful, even those selling were not pushy, but many were just keen to say hello and share a smile.
First off we flew from gatwick via dubai with Emirates, the flights were excellent, with just 2 hour lay over in dubai and the planes were superb, with excellent food and entertainment and comfy seats, We were even lucky enough to be upgraded to 1st class for free on the gatwick to dubai leg and it was a great start to our trip.
We arrived at colombo airport around 9 am, we were met by our driver from Showlanka tours and they were excellent, good english, nice car, great guide and easy to arrange and we paid around £150 for 3 days driver/guide. After we had freshened up at the airport we headed to Pinnawala elephant sanctuary. This seemed like a nice run place but a few upsetting things especially an elephant who had lost its lower leg in a land mine and just leaned against a fence with its back looking painfully out of shape, i truly think it would be nicer to put it to sleep. apart form that its a great place to see the elephants bathing in the river but not really our type of thing. We then headed to Sigirya village, nice hotel, with grey and brown monkeys giving great entertainment on the roofs and the early morning alarm call of a group of monkeys running across the roof. stunning views of sigirya rock from here.
We went to polonnawura in the morning, hiring a excellent guide to take us across the main sights, it was very busy and hot as it was the school holidays but still a great place, recommend hiring a guide (lots available as you enter site) as they provide so much information compared to walking round aimlessly. the sites are spread out so our driver came in handy when moving around the sites.
After we went to Minneriya naitonal park for a safari, think we paid about £45 for both of us and had a private jeep, as it was dry season (august) it was the perfect time to see elephants at the park, we must have seen a herd of over 100 elephants who stood near the lake and bathed in the water, a truly magnificent sight. This park isnt great for wildlife other than elephants but ideal if you like your elephants. Id recommend this over pinnawala.
Being tired and having a hectic schedule we decided to give the dambulla caves a miss and catch up on some sleep and to enjoy the hotel (sigiriya village) and its pool, then later in the afternoon we had our driver drop us at the Samadhi centre kandy. Once there we walked the grounds, and relaxed by the river running by and enjoyed the evening meal
Day 4 we joined a walk organised by the samadhi centre to a local waterfall, the walk was a nice stroll through a small jungle where monkeys played in trees as we walked along the beautiful river. The waterfall was quite beautiful. We did see a snake on a rock very close to us near the waterfall but do not think it was a threat.
We spent the afternoon having a massage and reading on our jungle verandah listening to the jungle and spotting wildlife.
After breakfast we orrganised a tuk tuk to take us to Kandy cottage, when we arrived we were met by the wonderful host Thomas, who walked us into town to help us get tickets for the esala perwala festival as we were there on the last and biggest night, the town was heaving with locals and tourists looking to find a spot to watch the festival. We bought a seat on a balcony and had a lovely meal at the white house restaurant before heading back to Kandy cottage to shower and change. Thomas once again walked us back in town to help us find our seats (really recommend Kandy cottage and will write a review shortly).
The festival was superb, with thousands of dancers, drummers, acrobats, fire poi and of course beautifully decorated elephants.
We went to the botanical gardens after a nice breakfast and spent some time walking in the lovelly gardens, when we went back to Kandy we went to the markets which were great fun and nice to see all the local produce and meet the enthusiastic stall owners.
We had some lunch at the "bakery or Bakehouse?" which was very cheap but quick and good value. Later in the day we walked some of the lake before going to temple of the tooth, which as it was the day after the festival was very busy, it was a full moon and an important date to the Buddhists so very busy, but great to see the Buddhists carrying gifts, its a great temple and a magical feel to the place. we did queue to see the "tooth" but were hurried along after only a couple of seconds, but the temple itself is a very interesting place with lots of history.
We caught a tuk tuk to the train station and caught the Expo rail first class carriage train to Ella, which was superb as you pass countless tea plantations, rolling hills, high mountains as the train winds its way slowly through and around the hills and mountains, great experience.
When we arrived in Ella we stayed at "Ella waterfalls homestay", Great accomodation and hosts, we loved ella with its bohemian vibe, with a handful of nice bars and restaurants.
We had a filling breakfast and headed to walk up Little Adams peak, its quite an easy walk apart from the last 10 minutes where there are quite alot of steps but definately worth the effort, with stunning views at the top as you walk through tea plantations. I must mention there is a young guy selling hand made jewelry about half way up the journey which are made out of different tree seeds, which my fiance loved and he was such a nice guy, he had lots of post cards from people who had bought from him which is testament to how nice he was. On our way back down we called in the 98 acres resort, which looked stunning, for food and a well deserved drink.
In the afternoon we relaxed at the homestay reading in the hammocks and my fiance had a wonderful massage, before having another great meal in ella town at night.
We hired a tuk tuk driver for the 3 hour journey to arugam bay, leaving early to allow us time at arugam bay and avoiding the noticeable temperature rise. We stayed at Galaxy lounge which was a great located place, with fantastic sea cabanas. We spent the day sun bathing, enjoying the sea and the big waves battering us and drinking at the nice beach bars.
Spent the day on the beach, having a surf lesson, and reading in hammocks, a day of complete relaxation and something we needed after moving around and seeing so much previously.
We arranged for a driver to take us to tissa, it took around 3 hours and we stayed at My village tissa, which was superb, we had lunch and were met by our safari jeep and guide to take an afternoon safari in Yala, this was my favourite thing in Sri Lanka, it was superb, we seen hundreds of wild animals, including Crocidles, Beautiful birds, Monkeys, Spotted deer, mongoose, Buffalo, Wild hogs, snakes and although we didnt spot a leopard it was still brilliant.
After the safari we had a superb sri lankan curry at my village before crashing in bed before 10pm!
We left tissa by driver to Mirissa, staying at the lovely palm villa, Mirissa suited us perfectly, lovely beach and sea, lovely hotel and great choice of beach bars and restaurants.
Spent the day enjoying mirissa, in the early evening we hired a tuk tuk to see weligama, which i would not recommend, it was a busy town but seemed a little dirty and no where near as nice as mirissa beach.
After being impressed with showlanka tours we arranged for a driver for the whole day, we got picked up at 10 am, and spent the day heading up the coast towards the airport for our early morning flight. We called in at the stilt fishermen, Galle for a few hours, calling at the fishing port and markets before spending a nice time strolling around the fort walls and did a little bit of shopping.
We called in hikkaduwa having food at the laid back secret place and buying a batik for £25, its a stunning piece nearly 6 foot long and the owner took us through his shop/house to see the colours being made, designs, and the painting being applied.
The driver recommended doing a river cruise which was a bit of a tourist trap, an hours cruise cost about £20 for both of us, not alot to see but they take you through mangroves etc to see local fishermen, cinnamon being used and a fish farm, not the best but the cruise part was nice and relaxing.
after this we called in kosgoda turtle hatchery, and i have to say this was a highlight, we had fernado the owners son guide us round, where some turtles had just hatched in the sand, we were allowed to hold them and actually releases one each into the water for the first time, its a great place and i really recommend it, we both love turtles and you could literally feel the enthusiasm and passion from them. its a great project and really glad we ended our holiday on such a lovely note.
before heading to the airport we went to mount lavinia seafood cove restaurant which was superb and a real treat as our last meal.
We had a fantastic time in sri lanka and would recommend it to any one. it has so much to offer, and we met some great people while making some lovely memories in such a wonderful place