I had always thought about visiting Sri Lanka, the reason I was always put off actually booking the trip was due to not knowing where to go, what area to visit and what there was to see?! If you take a look at these package holidays on offer, yes they give you an amazing deal no disputing that, but generally you are stuck in a beach resort miles away from all the major sights. This is fine if you just want to relax and chill out, in my opinion in a country like Sri Lanka that would be a travesty. Many years ago I used to be one of those sun worshippers on holiday, only moving to turn my sunbed around in the direction of the sun. Then I realised I could be anywhere in world and I wasn’t seeing a lot of the country I was visiting. Now I’m the polar opposite, pre planning my trips around what I want to visit or see, incorporating some down time in-between. Now after a trip I always feel more fulfilled and have amazing pictures and stories to tell people. One of the main reasons for starting this blog, I want to inspire you, the readers, to travel!
I took the plunge and decided to book Sri Lanka, after taking some advice from people who had been before and embarked on a ‘Tailor made’ adventure. I am very well travelled, but this trip ignited a fire inside me to explore more. I took an Emirates flight to Dubai, with a short stop, then onto Colombo. The moment I stepped off the plane in Colombo, I felt like I had entered the unknown filled with apprehension and excitement for the journey ahead.
As I came through Bandaranaike International Airport, I was greeted by our driver Ashoka. He would be with me for 8 days of the journey. I thought it would be informative for me to note down my full itinerary for you, maybe for you to use as a guide for your future trip, noting down areas of interest, food and drink tips and hotels I stayed in.
Arrival in Colombo. Driven to Kandalama which took around 5 hours by minibus due to the single track roads in Sri Lanka, although work was currently underway building a new highway which will half the journey time. As you look at the map and as the crow flies it doesn’t look far from place to place. Arrived at beautiful Heritance Kandalama late afternoon, home for the next three nights. Checked in and I had the rest day and night at leisure.
I woke early and wandered out of the hotel down to Kandalama lake, where you can find elephants wander up and down. We had breakfast and we set off to Sigiriya to explore and climb the famous rock.This took around 40 minutes, stopping off at a roadside fruit stall for a King Coconut it tastes amazing and is a natural antiseptic for the body. I spent around 2 hours at Sigiriya, walking to the top and enjoying the views. After this we headed for lunch and to do a elephant ride nearby. Late afternoon I returned to the hotel and had a leisurely swim in the infinity pool pictured above. Night was spent in one of the hotels restaurants.
Today was spent visiting the Golden Temple in Dambulla, followed by lunch and a safari at Minneriya National Park witnessing families of elephants and varieties of birds galore. Late afternoon after a thoroughly enjoyable day, I retreated back to the hotel and had a pre dinner massage in their beautiful spa. The evening was spent eating a mouth watering Sri Lankan curry, the food has such flavour and it is nice to experiment with it all.
After packing up my things, we headed to Kandy. The journey took around four hours, so en route there was a stop at a Spice Garden in Matale, learning about all the holistic properties of the various indigenous plants. Kandy was busy, full of hustle and bustle of a city, making our way to the hotel. Arriving at The Earls Regency which stands high up from the city, where I would stay for two nights. Greeted with welcome juices and an easy check in, I found my room and headed to relax for a couple of hours around the pool. Early evening I was taken into Kandy to the Cultural Show in a community centre. Sri Lankan music, fire walkers and dance entertained us for over an hour. This was followed by a late evening trip to the nearby Temple of the Tooth, in time to see the elected opening of the Sacred Tooth Relic.The temple was packed with locals and tourists alike. The rest of the night was my own, whereby I enjoyed an amazing Sri Lankan curry.
A leisurely breakfast was taken on the hotel rooftop, overlooking Kandy’ bridge. Today was spent exploring Kandy and the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is a must do. On the way back to the hotel we visited a Diamond Museum and Factory, Sri Lanka being famous for its blue sapphire. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and taking a high tea, which was lovely and much cheaper than in the UK.
It was time to head north to Nuwara Eliya, known as Tea Country and ‘Little England’. This took around six hours, stopping on the way at some of the many waterfalls to take video or photos and lunching beneath one. Once we arrived in tea country, a visit to a working tea factory was in order. I picked the tea leaves in the fields and took a guided tour around a factory, ending with a lovely cup of tea, armed with plenty gifts for home. I now realise what a process it is to get from the field to the cup! Tonight the hotel of choice was the Heritance Tea Factory, once a working tea factory, restored into a hotel. Late afternoon check in was followed by another splendid high tea. I spent the early evening taking a walk around the grounds of the hotel, feeling like I was back in England due to chilly falling temperatures. Needless to say, I wasn’t too hungry at dinner due to the days food consumption. After a nightcap I retreated to bed.
An early breakfast followed with a very long journey to Kalutara, a beach resort in the south west of Sri Lanka. The hardest part was getting back down to flat ground from the mountains of Nuwara Eliya. Seven hours later and a lunch stop slotted in, we arrived at the Avani Kalutara hotel and it was time to say a fond farewell to Ashoka my driver, he had filled me with much information on the history and workings of Sri Lanka as a country and answered all my questions on each place I saw along the way. It was a sad goodbye, after a thrillingly adventurous week. Another easy check in and I relaxed with a drink watching the day’ sunset.
Day Eight-Day Sixteen
I spent eight nights in the Avani Kalutara, which is situated by the beach. One side of the hotel is beach front, the other is the mouth of the Kalu Ganga River. Looking back I think five nights would have sufficed here, not that I didn’t enjoy it, I feel after being on the go for a week I found it rather hard to relax. I spent my time exploring the nearby Bentota, through the help of one of the beach boys I took a couple of trips there, to do a river safari and to see the turtle sanctuary, which I loved. Relaxing by the pool, taking advantage of the hotel’ spa and loving my daily beach walks. Where I came across Fresh Lobster, a family run seafood restaurant, where I dined several times for lunch and dinner, very reasonable for lobster and it tasted amazing.
I left Sri Lanka after sixteen days and I was grateful to have visited, the places I saw were amazing and the people I met were warm and friendly. In my upcoming blogs on Sri Lanka, I will go into much more detail about each place, this was merely a guide to give people an idea of what can be seen where and the length of time needed to explore.