Three weeks time – where to spend them? Making up our mind… a place with sun during the European winter, beaches that are not crowded with people, culture to explore, different landscapes, rather small so you don’t spend day and night in coaches and lovely people. If you are looking for that Sri Lanka is just the perfect match.
We started our journey with a night in Colombo staying at the „white room“ (although the pictures look a bit more polished than it is, still a good place). While Colombo does not have a ton of attractions is still worth a short visit and also handy to buy the train ticket for the onward journey.
With one day in advance on a friday it was kind of difficult to get a train ticket but we finally managed and a great 4.5 hour train ride (starting quite hot but the sunset and landscape made up for it) brought us to Anuradhapura where we can definitely recommend Hotel Heladiv (in this case the pictures are much worse than the place actually is). The owners are very helpful and we actually got a free pickup and drop at the train/bus station. Although a hot adventure we can defintly recommend renting a bike near by the buddhist monuments.
A quick ride with one of the few A/C buses brought us to Sigiriya where we stayed a bit outside in the relaxing Kumbukgas Mankada Lodge – the outdoor shower is terrific! For the Sigiriya rock you definitely want to start early in the morning – and although overpriced for foreigners the view is marvellous. The nearby temple in Dambulla is in a cave, but requires a steep 200m walk.
Getting closer to the mountains a three hour bus ride brought us to Kandy where we stay at the Pearl House with a balcony perfect for having an afternoon tea while overlooking the city. We also visited the tooth temple and after 1.5 hour we actually were to able to get a quick view of this famous Buddhist relic.
With just two days in advance it was impossible to get a train ticket to Nuwara Eliya but what worked was to buy the train ticket from Nuwara Eliya to Ella already. A bus ride with fascinating landscape but rather rough for your stomach brought us to Nuwara Eliya where we stayed in the simple but nice Redwood Inn. The tea plantations are worth a visit – but even more special if you are up for it is a dinner in the famous Hill Club, where the tea is server by the fire place.
Another fascination train ride (4 hours / 60km) brings you to Ella. It’s a traveler place as written in the books but the nature around it is worth a hike (Ella Rock) and the passion fruit mojito in the Cafe Chill is the best we had. The Ella Okreech Cottages (if you can take a room upstairs) are just far enough away from the street so that you don’t wake up in the morning but still close by.
It turned out that Ella is not a good place to continue traveling with public transportation and since we were heading right to the coast we rented a shared cab for that part of the way. (We did go to Galle first and then Tangalle – but you probably want to do it the other way around.)
We stayed just ten minutes away from Galle in Unawatuna and while this has become a very touristic place its a great bay and having dinner while the waves are touching your feet comes close to being in paradise. We stayed at the Thambapanni Retreat in an amazing room. Galle is also worth a visit for an afternoon – the old city is disturbingly quiet due to the fact that honking is not allowed!
For the last week we booked a little paradise in Tangalle – the Mangrove Beach Cabanas. A lovely beach with just a few people around – exactly the opposite of Unawatuna. As a day trip we visited Yala National Park. An evening trip to see the turtles coming to the beach is also really facsinating. Waking up with the waves and having a gin and tonic while watching the sun going down over the beach – it does not get much better.
For the last night we traveled all the way up to Negombo where we stayed at Palms Villa which is just a TukTuk ride away from the airport.
Knowing about each and every bus, detailed descriptions about the sights, always up-to-date and with just so much useful information the „Stefan Loose“ guide for Sri Lanka is our recommendation. (Overview of our route.)
To sum it up: Sri Lanka is definitely a place you want to visit.