Kandy is within about 2 hours drive of Habarana but it is honestly far less hassle to have different accommodation bases than to spend so many hours travelling back and forth on the fairly slow roads of Sri Lanka, and staying in different places is part of the fun as there are some truly unique settings. The cultural triangle is rich in wildlife and has a particularly good choice of places to stay, but is obviously as far north as you are planning to tour.
I see from another post that you are travelling to Tangalle later in your stay. I really would plan several stops .. Sigiriya being the first, Kandy the second, then another overnight stay in the hillcountry before heading to the south coast. As it is, you are looking at spending a good few hours of travelling, even with this plan.
Thank you so much for your fast reply - to this and the other post on Sigirya.
I would love to have your advice on the trip I am considering (following your suggestions) for me and my family (this is a reunion trip, between France and Australia) - we only have 2 weeks only and one of our priorities will be to just spend relaxing time together, even if this means seeing less.
2 nights in Negombo (Villa Aralya)
2 nights in Kandy (accomm?)
2 nights in Ella (accomm?)
What do you think, taking into consideration the fact that we'll have 2 children (5 and 11) with us?
Sorry for the complex question - not to worry if that's too much for a post.
I think that there are good clean accommodation in all those places, though I would go for Manahara Beach Cabanas in Tangalle.
And it would be quite feasible to get a good driver and vehicle for all of you, rather than getting separate ones to get to different places.
Hi again Isabelle
I think your itinerary sounds great!
Negombo is an ideal place to start or finish your holiday because it is close to the airport and is well served with accommodation and restaurants etc.. The beach isn't great, but as you are having several nights on the south coast where the best beaches in Sri Lanka are to be found, then that isn't a priority for you here.
Sigiriya Village Hotel is lovely. The grounds are simply stunning with so many themed and landscaped areas and the place is alive with wildlife, from monkeys, brightly coloured lizards and the large land monitors, to watersnakes, freshwater turtles and loads of birds. There's even a play area for the children. Go for it. Elephant rides are available just up the road and Sigiriya Rock is within walking distance. Habarana has lots of great hotels too, set by a large tank (lake) where you can have elephant rides. I've stayed at both Cinnamon Lodge and the slightly cheaper Chaaya Village, its sister hotel and in the same grounds. Both are fabulous hotels and the food is amazing at both. Your choice .. Sigiriya Village possibly has my vote because of those incredible grounds.
In Kandy, I've stayed at the Citadel Hotel which is a fairly luxurious choice, has a lovely swimming pool and a great location above the river, where you can watch hundreds of flying foxes fly up and down river at dawn and dusk. It's a short drive from the town centre itself. The Hilltop Hotel has also been highly recommended to me as having good facilities and at a reasonable price although I have not stayed at this one. I also know of good, but truly budget accommodation, but I don't think this is what you are looking for on this trip.
My favourite accommodation in Ella is Tea Garden Guesthouse. It has comfortable en suite rooms, fantastic views from the first floor wrap around balcony where there's communal seating and it's a great place to stare out, chat and enjoy a drink, especially if there are several of you. The chef is a real character and his meals are delicious. The best rooms with the super view are around Rs3000 for 2 B & B.
Palm Paradise Cabanas at Tangalle is another great choice. The cabanas are fairly basic .. rustic maybe, but they are beautifully located and the little beach here is gorgeous. The restaurant is also really good.
I've also recently stayed at Coconut Beach Cabanas, closer to Tangalle town, within easy walking distance of both the shops and a safe, sheltered little beach for swimming The cabanas are far more modern and much bigger and can sleep 4, making them very good value indeed at around Rs3500 (accommodation only basis). However, the beach right by the cabanas is more open and the sea is definitely not suitable for swimming most of the year .. and that includes when you are going there. There's a restaurant, but meals are not actually prepared in the building and have to be brought here and it isn't as well geared up for this as at Palm Paradise Cabanas.
I'm going on and on, so had better just say that if you want to know anything else, let me know!
All the best
Thank you to you all, I now have my itinerary and accomodation (and driver) sorted out! And I can't wait to be there.
I have found this post particulary interesting. We are travelling to SL in January and have an outline for an itinerary. I would welcome any comments/suggestions.
Fly into SL on the 8 January 2009
10th Drive to Sigirya via Pinnavela
12th Drive to Kandy
14th Drive to Nuwara Eliya
15th Drive to Tangalla
16th Drive to Hikkaduwa
* Thinking of incorporating a jeep safari in Hombantota on the way to Tangalla - any comments on that. Is it worth doing. (Have done safaris before)and how long for.
* from the 16th until we fly out on the 23rd January will probably spend some time on the beach (any suggestions there)
On 14th I would consider continuing to Haputale or Ella unless you intend to play golf at N'Eliya. Climate in N'Eliya is not nice - usually windy and rainy and in January night temperatures can go down to close to zero.
Haputale and Ella have a much friendlier climate and more scenic vistas.
I'd be happy to advise you on your itinerary which sounds fine. You mention the drives to each place but not what you are intending to visit on each day.
On the 12th, the drive to Kandy won't take long, so you have free time on that day. If you leave the cultural triangle after breakfast, you will be in Kandy by mid to late morning. Once you've checked into your hotel, you have plenty of time to shop in the city or visit the botanical gardens at nearby Peradeniya. Most people like to see a cultural dance performance which lasts around an hour from early evening and follow this with a visit to the Temple of the Tooth which is easy walking distance from the dance show. They are both beside the lake at Kandy.
Unless you are planning another round of golf at Nuwara Eliya where I know there are golf courses, consider going a bit further and stay at Ella or Haputale instead. The climate is nicer, they are prettier and more interesting places .. although you will not find any big hotels at either. There are lots of nice guesthouses though, with fantastic mountain views, and both places are set amidst picturesque tea plantations.
When you say a jeep safari at Hambantota, I take it you mean Yala National Park. Yes, it's well worth doing. Safaris are best done early in the morning or late in the afternoon when you've the best chance to see a wide variety of wildlife. Each jeep safari lasts around 2.5 hours. But give yourself another night in the area to do this before heading to Tangalle. Kataragama or Tissa are good bases from which to do the safari and are more interesting in my view than Hambantota itself as places to stay, with lots to see and do.
Tangalle and Hikkaduwa are both lovely beach resorts. Consider splitting your time between the two rather than rushing straight off to Hikkaduwa. The beaches on the south coast around Tangalle are some of the best in Sri Lanka and in January the weather and sea conditions should be perfect on the south and west coasts. From Tangalle there are other great places to visit aswell, incase you get bored on the beach. Maybe visit Rekawa Beach at night to see turtles coming ashore for egg laying (about 20 mins. drive from Tangalle) or visit Mulkirigala Rock Temple (a similar distance inland from Tangalle).
Hope this helps a bit and all the best
Thank you so much Hans and Sue for the fantanstic advice etc.
I have made slight adjustments to the itinerary, perhaps you can take a look to see how it is shaping up.
8th and 9th January - Negombo
10th - Drive to Sigiriya via Pinnawela elephant orphanage. Overnight in Sigiriya
11th - Sigiriya/Dambulla, overnight in Sigiriya
12th - Drive to Knady in the morning, overnight in Kandy
13th - Play golf in morning at Victoria golf resort, overnight Kandy
14th - Drive to Ella via Nuwara eliya, visit places of interest on way, overnight Ella.
15th - Drive to Yala for jeep safari at dusk. Overnight at Kataragana
16th - Drive to Tangalla, and overnight there.
17th - Day and night in Tangalla
18th - Drive to Hikkaduwa, spend 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st there. We will visit other places during that time
22nd - Drive to Negombo and overnight there for flight out on the 23rd.
I think it is finally falling into place, thank you for your previous suggestion etc. Would welcome any suggestions on hotels and drivers etc. What are the approx journey times between the various places
Many thanks once again....
Hello again Harnel
Your holiday plans sound ideal, with a nice amount of touring, a little time to get a feel for each place and a few days on the beach at the end.
I will send you a PM with details of my favourite driver too.
I am not sure what standard of hotel you are looking for in each place, but here are a few places I have used and recommend, assuming you are looking for reasonable standards of comfort. I also know of some good but REAL budget places .. but be warned, there won't be a hot shower in these ...!
Negombo: have stayed in mainly more modest hotels and guesthouses. For location and really good value for what it offers, the Oasis Beach Resort at 31 Porutota Road is unbeatable, costing just Rs2000 for 2, B & B. The rooms are well equipped, there's a swimming pool, it's right on the beach and there are lots of restaurants within easy walking distance.
For more luxury and a prettier beach, I'd stay a few miles north of Negombo, at Ranweli, Waikkal. It's just as close to the airport but has more of a tropical, secluded feel than anything in Negombo.
10th. As you are now giving yourself longer in Kandy, you might like to visit the elephant orphanage from here, as it isn't that far.. only around an hour by car. Although you can go to Sigiriya via Pinnawela, your driver would normally take another road which is more direct. Have a think about whether you'd prefer extra time to see something else whilst you are in the Sigiriya area or alternatively the Kandy area, and fit Pinnawela in accordingly. If you go direct to your Sigiriya hotel from Negombo or Waikkal, it will take around 3.5/4 hours with a driver. If you decide to do Pinnawela whilst in Kandy, you could, for instance, do Dambulla on your first day; then, on the following day when you do Sigiriya, you'd have the afternoon free to do Polonnaruwa or something else.
12th. It'll take you around 2/2.5 hours to get to Kandy from Sigiriya if you don't stop anywhere. Resist any offer to call in at one of the Spice Gardens in the Matale area en route .. unless you want to be totally ripped off!
Hotels in Kandy: can only comment on ones I've stayed in. The Citadel (just outside of the city centre but only a very short drive in ..) is a more luxurious choice. Lovely situation above the river and super swimming pool. Bit of a package hotel feel in the restaurant which is always busy but it's a nice place. Loved watching thousands of fruit bats flying up and down river at dawn and dusk.
For more modestly priced accommodation, but still with comfortable rooms, nice en-suite, a tiny splash pool and a lovely rooftop restaurant with great views across Kandy, try Kandy View Hotel, 40/22 Hilpankandura, Ampitiya Road. It will cost you less than £15 a night for 2 here, B & B.
For the best city centre location that you could possibly imagine, right next to the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy lake .. and if you want something really cheap ... try the Olde Empire Hotel. But this is very basic and unless you can get one of the two en-suite rooms (even these are cold water only) don't bother. The shared bathroom is not for the faint-hearted, but the price is. An en-suite room will cost under Rs1500 for 2, on a room only basis and you are within walking distance of Kandy's city centre restaurants.
14th. The drive to Ella from Kandy will take most of the day because you will want to stop so often! You'll possibly make your first stop within around 1.5 hours near Ramboda. There are several things here worth seeing. On the left, above a reservoir, there's a lovely little Hindu temple, dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey god (easily missed if you are just driving through). Stop here for a short break, if only to marvel at the view. And close by is the Ramboda Falls Hotel, named after the beautiful waterfall you can see here. It's a nice place for a cup of tea before you carry on to Nuwara Eliya which is around another hour's drive, but before you get here, you might like to stop at the Labookelie Tea Factory, also en route. You can have a free factory tour here and it's another great place for a cuppa or to buy your tea to take home. Don't linger too long in depressing Nuwara Eliya. It's approximately a 2 hour drive to Ella. You'll want to stop at the viewpoint near the Devon and St. Clair waterfalls and there's yet another tea room here if you didn't stop at Labookelie, and the tea we buy here is always particularly delicious, but there's no factory tour at this one.
Accommodation at Ella. Again, have stayed at several places, but my favourite is Tea Garden Resort, just above the Grand Ella Motel (not as grand as its name ...) The best rooms here, with a wraparound balcony overlooking the view of Ella Gap, cost Rs3000 for 2, B & B. The food here is delicious too.
15th. With a driver, the drive from Ella to Kataragama will take you around 2.5 hours. Yala is a further 30/40 min. drive from here (from memory .. it certainly didn't take us long). We've stayed twice at the Mandara Rosen which is the most upmarket hotel in the area and has a particularly lovely swimming pool. Another place which looks nice and I'm thinking of trying it next time, is the Sunflower Hotel which is situated closer to the Sacred Precinct and looks good value too. Take a look:
16th. The drive from Kataragama to Tangalle takes us around 2.5 hours on the bus, and might be slightly faster with a driver (although not much .. he's not likely to drive any faster than some of the buses do in Sri Lanka!!!) I've already mentioned the places in Tangalle that I've liked, both to visit and to stay at.
18th. The drive to Hikkaduwa from Tangalle will take around 2.5 hours. I've only stayed at Hotel Moonbeam which is a modest but comfortable small hotel and centrally located for both surfing and swimming beach areas, plus a choice of excellent places to eat.
I think I've gone on long enough, so will stop at that! Just let me know if you want any further info. on any part of your planned trip.
All the best