Updated: Aug 12, 2018
Come fall in love”
Weather and Seasons
Sri Lanka is a hot country. April to October the weather is hot and humid. They have two monsoon seasons- in the west and south-west coasts from May to September; and in the east coast and northern region between October and February. The rest of the year is sunny and dry. Temperatures are fairly constant year round, with coastal regions enjoying average temperatures of 25-30°C and the highlands 15-18°C on average. The plains inside can go up to 35°C in summer.
Places to see
Colombo- Gangaramaya temple, Dutch hospital area, floating market, Laksala handicrafts
Pinnawala- Elephant orphanage
Sigiriya- Lion Rock, Pidurangala rock
Dambula- Cave temple
Kandy- Tooth temple
Horton National Park
Yala National Park
Hikkaduwa- water sports
Unawatuna- beach shacks
Galle- Galle gort
Mirissa- whale watching
The travel story
An island country at the south of India, Sri Lanka has always been a mythological place for us Indians. We have always associated it with tales of a God and the rule of a demon. Growing up I wasn’t particularly fascinated with tourism in Sri Lanka as I believed it probably did not have much to offer other than myths of the past.
Boy was I wrong!
In the recent decade Sri Lanka has become one of the most visited countries around India. For years I have observed friends and family plan a visit and learn about beautiful beaches and lush hills that adorn the country. I decided, it was time I educate myself about this mysterious land that seems to be captivating everyone who visit.
The opportunity for a tour arose in April 2018 when a bunch of my friends decided for a quick getaway. As we researched we realised it was not going to be a quick getaway. There was so much to see and so much to do. You can plan a low, mid, high or even a luxurious trip to the country depending on your fancy. We decided to stick to a mid level budget #cheapthrills.
The international airport in Colombo, is not exactly in Colombo city. The airport is a modest building with everything available, from washing machines to sim cards. The Sri Lankan rupee is a closed currency. So make sure you carry dollars into the country and exchange it at the airport to Sri Lankan rupees. Some say exchange rates at jewellery stores in Colombo city are way better than the one at airport, but we didn’t take a chance due to out tight schedule and got a rate of 157 to a dollar at the airport. Each of us converted about 500 USD although we still carried a little more in USD for any emergencies.
Sri Lanka reportedly has an increasing risk of credit card fraud and hence it is advisable to have cash transactions at most places. We have however swiped a card at one restaurant and have not faced any issues.
We landed at Colombo and took a walk around the city at night. It is the capital city, not particularly different from any Indian city. We visited a buddhist temple- Gangaramaya temple. There are two parts of the temple few metres apart. We visited both sites and decided to head to Dutch hospital area to explore some restaurants and pubs. This is the “In” part of the city with tourists and locals hanging out at pubs and restaurants on a beautiful evening. I was surprised to find a pub with english live music and realised globalisation has truly affected every corner of the planet. We also visited Bellagio casino in the city, however did not realise it was a place for serious players and did not have the show and extravaganza of a vegas casino. We left quicker than we arrived.
The journey started the following day.
We had hired a cab for the entire journey as local transport is not very comfortable. At 5am, we started our road trip towards the highlands of Sri Lanka- Nuwara Eliya.
We had planned one detour along the way to visit an elephant orphanage at Pinnawala.
There is a certain level of cuteness in all babies and elephant babies are just adorable. They are much bigger than you so you don’t really know if you should cuddle them or be afraid that they can quiet easily squash you. However, Pinnawala elephant orphanage rescue these babies when left alone in some ditch in a jungle and take care of them. It is quiet a sight to see them being fed and bathed.
Tip: Reach the orphanage by 8:30 am and carry an umbrella.
We reached Nuwara Eliya by evening and immediately went to a tea factory tour. The tour educates you about how tea is made from picking leaves to drying leaves, to segregating type of tea to packaging and shipment. However the best part of the tour is in the end when you sip a cup of fine tea and walk around the tea gardens. Nuwara Eliya being up in the highlands, the temperature was chillier at about 20 degrees and a perfect end to a long day of driving though Sri Lanka. A warm jacket is advisable to carry around at night.
Tip: It is advisable to take the train from Kandy to Newark Eliya, or to Ella. It is a beautiful journey.
We are young, we run free, stay up late, we don’t sleep. If only that were true. We crashed by 10pm and woke up at 6am in the morning to attempt a 9km hike in the middle of nowhere to prove to ourselves we are still young at 29.
We made our way to Horton National Plains. It is advisable to start off early as it is a long hike and gets very hot later in the day. Grudgingly our half awakened bodies trod along the hike trail at Horton National Park. Within 10 metres of our walk we were panting, gasping for air and drinking water at a rate faster than we were breathing. Another 10 metres and things did not improve. We pushed through, some with music in their ears. I preferred to walk alone listening to my own thoughts and an occasional sound of a gushing waterfall. There comes a point in the hike where the road divides to a trail in front and a trail to the left. We chose to go straight ahead and later realised that everybody choses to go left. The difference being, it would be harder for us. Perfect!
About 3 kms into the hike and hours later we came across a beautiful waterfall- Bakers fall- picture perfect with a tiny rainbow at its base. It was the perfect opportunity to catch our breath and try out low light moving object photography. However there was still a long way to go ahead. Another couple kilometres later we reached the top of a hill- World’s end. It was covered in clouds all around with no visibility ahead and a eerie sense on the edge of the world. We sat inhaling clouds as we left our thoughts behind and munched on some much needed energy bars.
The rest of the hike was comparatively smoother and we made it back alive and jovial having completed the whole 9kms. It was time to make our way to the next destination: Kandy.
The only pitstop at Kandy was to visit the Tooth temple. Legend holds that a tooth of Lord Buddha was stolen and kept at this palace which was later converted to a buddhist temple.
We arrived at the town Sigiriya the previous night as we had planned for an early morning hike to the top of the famous Lion rock. Still charged from the achievement of completing the Horton hike, we made our way to Lion Rock.
Tip: If you are form a SAARC country, carry your passport for additional discount at the ticket counter.
There are 1200 steps which lead to the top of the Lion Rock. 10 steps on, I gave up. I was seeing spots. My friends told my fragile old self to go back to hotel as they carried forward. A few more bites of an energy bar and I decided its now or never and I am not getting younger standing there. So step by step I too made it forward and caught up with my friends. The first 600 steps were not that bad to be honest. You wouldn't realise you’ve made it half way. Another few hundred steps and you will reach a vast plateau space on the rock where the ruins of a castle remain. Two giant lion paws guard the steps to the final leg of the hike. This is the most difficult part. The journey here on is steep, dangerous and provides no shade from the sun. I lurked behind the shadow of a tall broad European man as I made my way up to the top. This is where I pulled out my umbrella from my bag and explored the beautiful view all around. I felt very smart at that moment with my umbrella as other people tried to find shade under trees.
After the hike we went straight to an Ayurvedic spa and rejuvenated ourselves after all the accomplishments of the last two days.
Not far from Lion rock is the Pidurangala rock. Many tourists choose to climb this as well, however the trail is a little more challenging.
After 3 days of activities the rating 4 days we decided to laze around at various beaches along the west coast of Sri Lanka.
Tip: Train ride from Colombo to Bentota and vice versa is very picturesque.
We visited Bentota, Unnawatuna, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa and Galle over the next few days and each of the beaches were very relaxed and beautiful. Hikkaduwa and Uawatuna have beach shacks were you can try various water sports or sit with a beer and listen to live music or just stare at the sea. There are a number of parties on Friday and Saturday nights. The people of Sri Lanka are very nice and laid back. The staff at all the places we visited were very polite and friendly to talk to. It was a little paradise and I had half a mind to not return to a corporate rat race or our usual day lives. Galle Fort is a must visit. It has so many unique shops and restaurants and a beautiful view of the sea from the fort. Mirissa offers a boat ride to watch whales. Although it is debatable about the ROI of 5 hours in the sea to see a glimpse of the fin of a whale, many tourists make the journey and are certainly pleased with their choice.
Tip: Sri Lankan Navy offer whale watching tours which must be pre booked through their website. This is a safer and more comfortable journey than the private tours.
Before I visited Sri Lanka, I did not have much expectations from the journey. I was quiet surprised how deeply I fell in love with the place and its people. It was during the drive back from Sigiriya to Colombo when it started raining and the surroundings brightened up in shades of green , a beauty that truly captured me. There was a moment as we sat by a cafe stuffing ourselves with a platter of sea food and drinking beer and looking at the sea when once again I found myself falling utterly in love with the country. Sri Lanka is a place I would definitely go back to visit.
Tip: Must try their dark beer- Lion Stout.
We booked our hotels through booking.com
Sim card is available at the airport- Airtel, Etisalat, Mobitel, Dialog are providers. We chose Mobitel and received coverage at all places.
Uber is a good way to travel in Colombo.
All tickets to attractions were purchased at location.
Since we visited in April, we head out early morning to explore the country and spent afternoons at shacks or in restaurants.
Based on monsoon seasons, water sports may shift from west coast to east coast.
Sri Lankan food is rice and curry. Its a must try out.
From India to Sri Lanka, we spent about 600 USD per person for 1 week trip plus flight fare.