Independent travelling around Sri Lanka can be challenging but the adventure is worth the effort. Arriving into Colombo we took a prearranged taxi to our hotel in the South coast beach resort of Mirissa where we planned to while away the first four days relaxing. There are an abundance of outdoor activities to keep you entertained but we settled for whale watching, a day trip to Galle and simply lazing away the days on the beach with an ice cold beer. There were also several small spa’s offering cheap but good massage which we visited most days. We were lucky enough to see several blue whales on our trip and would highly recommend trying to get there from November to April during whale watching season. Catching a local bus into the fort city of Galle is a must do (or a taxi if you prefer) as you can easily fill a day exploring the ancient city by foot.
Hiking Adams Peak
On leaving Mirissa, we took an eight hour public bus journey to arrive at Adam’s Peak, or Sri Pada as it is locally known, to climb up the estimated 5,500 steps to the top of the 2,243m mountain to watch sunrise. This is an important pilgrimage route which can get very busy, but departing the hotel at two o’clock in the morning to walk up the lit path on what seemed an endless trail to the stars was simply magical. There are numerous tea house stops along the way which certainly help with the three to four hour hike but are even more welcome on the return journey by which time our legs were like jelly!
Train through the Hill Country
From here we journeyed back to Hatton to catch the famous train through the hill country. We chose not to book the first class observation deck but instead second class and travelled with the locals and it was an absolute must do experience. We took in spectacular views of the tea plantations through the hills as we chatted idly away with locals in broken English, learning so much about their history and culture.
Arriving at Ohiya, we had arranged to be collected by our host to spend two nights on a tea plantation. We had a room in his residence and shared dinners around his table. During the day we visited World’s End, a spectacular sheer cliff drop in Horton’s Plain National Park, and relaxed in the beautiful hillside country.
Visiting the capital
Leaving here we caught the train again, before a local bus, followed by an ‘express’ mini bus to Colombo. Arriving in Colombo for a few days, a must visit is the stunning colonial Galle Face Hotel. A charming mixture of old and new and beautifully positioned to capture the amazing sunsets while sipping on a cocktail made from the local Arrack. A bustling city with markets galore, a huge selection of restaurants and bars and an exceptional love of cricket. Try visiting the Cricket Club Cafe to explore their unique collection of cricketing memorabilia dating back to the 1940’s.
Elephant Orphanage to Kandy
Departing Colombo by bus we headed to Kandalama, stopping along the way at the world famous Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. While it is always a little sad to see animals in captivity, they all seemed very healthy and after having the usual pictures, they were let out to run down a local street to a magnificent open river area where they ran freely. A short stay in Kandalama gave us time to visit the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya, a UNESCO listed world heritage site and the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka, and it was well worth the trip.
Yet again we boarded a local bus and made our way to the beautiful city of Kandy for a few more days of relaxing and sightseeing. We visited the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa), walked aimlessly around the lake taking in the sights and smells and visited a local tea factory. Our hotel provided the Sri Lankan specialty for us one evening of ‘rice and curry’ which was a selection of 5 different curries, coconut sambal, rice and flat bread which was simply delicious. We had this specialty several times during our trip but this particular night really stood out as a taste sensation.
After much relaxation we made our way to Negombo, a beach resort about an hour north of Colombo. It was time to sit back, relax and enjoy some time on the beach before finally leaving this amazing country.
Amazing food and incredible people made this journey one we will never forget, making Sri Lanka still the top of our ‘must go back to’ list.
Check out some pictures of Sri Lanka in our World Images Gallery HERE.