I’ll be honest with you, glamistas, as I sit down to write this post, I realise that it will require a bit of a memory effort and not only that, but it will mean that I finally started tackling the mountain of ideas and photos that are currently piled up somewhere in my brain and my hard disc…
However, I always knew it was something I wanted to share with you guys. One of the reasons is that travel posts were our Bible while travelling the world during 4 months and I feel like it’s time to give back to this lovely community of wandering souls.
Second reason being that I hope this travel series will become our very own digital diary for the years to come: a real collection of the places we’ve seen, the peoples we’ve met and the ways we’ve felt while on the go.
As I have mentioned before, one of the most difficult things to decide while planning a world trip is the itinerary. You cannot possibly fit it all in one trip, unless you have infinite time and resources, so the only sure thing is that you have to start somewhere and let go of other “wheres”.
We narrowed our trip down to 9 countries in exactly 4 months, making our way east on the globe before jumping back to Europe, to what we still call home.
Once we had decided on the itinerary, we figured the most logical thing to do would be to start our journey by the closest country to our departure point, England. And that country happened to be Sri Lanka, exotic-sounding land full of monkeys, tea and ancient traditions.
Ok, so we have a destination. Now what is there to see in Sri Lanka, say you? What are the top attractions? Will I be able to eat anything NOT as spicy as hell? Would those monkeys sneakily steal my sunglasses? I am guessing you would ask yourself the same kind of questions if you were visiting this beautiful land, so in order to easy your anxiety a bit, I have prepared a list of my favourite things to do in Sri Lanka. Here we go!
10 BEST THINGS TO DO IN SRI LANKA
1. Ride a funky Sri Lankan Bus
Sri Lankan buses are one of the most cost and time effective means of transport in the island. They connect both the main cities and the smaller villages in rural areas, and while some of the most popular routes result in very crowded buses where there is almost no room to breathe, I would recommend you experience a local bus ride at least once during your trip! You will be welcomed by the cheerful décor and music aboard, the kind travellers giving up their seats for you and the yummiest –although not always healthiest– vadai or lentil fritters, courtesy of the street sellers that board the bus briefly on every stop.
Tip: make sure to remind your driver & ticket officer where you want to get off a couple of times after starting your bus journey and try to catch a window as they these rainbow-coloured unicorns don’t offer aircon…
2. Indulge in a delicious curry
Even though Sri Lankan cuisine felt quite limited in terms of dishes & ingredients, and even though we had a rather hard time finding places that offered quality food at a reasonable price (remember we were travelling on a budget), we still managed to eat a couple of really fantastic curries, served with homemade crispy papadoms and a delicious pol sambol –a very spicy mix of fresh coconut and hot chilli. Yum!
Our favourite was the restaurant La Ella Breeze, in the city of the same name 😉
3. Visit a tea factory –and stock up on Ceylon tea!
During the British colonial time, Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. That name is still used to speak of the finest black tea that is produced in this island and that constitutes the base for most of the branded tea we consume worldwide –Sri Lanka being the fourth biggest tea producer nowadays!
Depending on the area the trees grow in, the quality of the tea (which here is synonym of characteristics & flavour) will be different. Take a morning tour at the Halpewatte Tea Factory in Ella and discover all the secrets of how they plant, collect and produce their renowned black tea. Oh, and if you are a tea enthusiast such as myself, bring some extra cash to spend at their gift shop! Pure luxe at a very affordable price.
4. Catch the sunset at Kandy’s market square
You might think a market square is not your typical sunset gazing spot… and you might be totally right! However, if you happen to be in Kandy at twilight (always wanted to use that word in a non-fictional non-vampire-related way), you will have the chance to witness something quite unique.
As it turns out, there is a humongous flock of crows living on the square trees and every evening when the lights get dim, they go into a crazy spell that makes them fly, caw & crow incessantly for a good 20 minutes. Watching this atypical scene before a fire-like sky (see below) gave me major goose bumps and made me think of the poor Tippi Hedren in The Birds. Needless to say, we found the whole thing pretty cool!
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5. Wildlife at Sri Lanka National Parks – elephants as well!
Have I mentioned we love animals? No? Ok, we are crazy about animals, so seeing elephants in the wild was one of the highlights of our trip and one of the reasons we wanted to visit Sri Lanka.
We took a safari in the southern National Park of Uda Walawe (also spelled Uda Walawa), but there are many more to choose from in the island. Just try to avoid the elephant sanctuaries and orphanages, will you?
On the safari, you get to see the animals in the wild. For the most part, the tour guides and jeep drivers know they have to follow the designated paths and they turn off the engines when they come across wildlife. Even though sometimes a few jeeps will cram into an elephant hot spot, the drivers normally follow different routes not to clog up the same paths.
We were able to spot Sri Lankan elephants shortly after entering the park, as well as water buffaloes, peacocks and many beautiful birds. We didn’t see any leopards, although their sighting in this park is quite rare, but that’s what happens when they are not caged up, more often than not, they don’t want to be found so consider yourself lucky if they grace you with their presence 😉
6. Take in all the landscape while travelling by train
I bet you have heard of the uber-famous train ride from Kandy to Ella, but let me tell you that less touristy trains also come with a lot of charm and usually much more seating room.
Granted, these old quirky machines that connect the whole country cannot offer the comfort nor the speed of their European counterparts, but I have always found travelling like the locals is one of the best ways to discover a country. Don’t you agree?
Again, be sure to have some spare change to get your hands on the delicious treats they sell at every stop and enjoy the (long) ride!
7. Enjoy a delicious Sri Lankan breakfast
Ok, I know I *just* said Sri Lankan food was nothing otherworldly, however Sri Lankan breakfast might be an exception to that. Aside of the typical curry and rice you can have for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner of course), there are a few specialties that we were excited to have a few mornings:
- Hoppers, bowl-shaped pancakes made with rice flour and coconut milk that you can eat with many other things, mainly eggs, cheese or veggies
- Roti bread, a sort of thick savoury pancake
- Pani pol, turmeric-yellow crepes filled with palm treacle and spices (cardamom, clove, cinnamon and coconut).
Breakfast is served!
8. Discover the ruins of Anuradhapura by bike
We had our first Sri Lankan breakfast in Anuradhapura after which we rented a couple of bikes from our hostel and set out to explore one of the most ancient capitals of the country and of the whole of Asia. The ruins are very well preserved and there are several temples the locals use to this day.
If you are lucky, you can visit a temple during prayer hour, when all Sri Lankan worshippers don their whitest clothes to present their respect to their deities. Such a beautiful and humbling ritual…
9. Climb up to Little Adam’s Peak
The most common hikes around this mountain town are Ella’s Rock and Little Adam’s Peak.
The weather forecast was not great the day we were planning on doing the full hike up to Ella’s Rock, which can be difficult to get to on your own and gets very slippery on the rain. So in the end, we went for the sensible option and made our way up to Little Adam’s Peak, a fairly easy walk combining footpath and stairs, and a mere 30-minute walk from the town centre.
We were not expecting much, to be honest, but when we reached the top, this is what we found!
From this priviledge spot you get to admire the gorgeous valley and also Ella’s Rock right opposite! Not bad for such an easy hike, eh?
10. Wander around the colonial town of Galle
On the very south of the old Ceylon, Galle’s fortified old town speaks of its various conquerors mixing Portuguese, Dutch and British styles in its architecture.
The narrow streets of Galle Fort are full of cute tea rooms, ice-cream parlours and some of the best restaurants in town. You can also walk over the old walls and enjoy a beautiful sunset by the sea while smelling the frangipani flowers.
Or you can treat yourself to some specialty hoppers at the Hoppa Galle Fort before going for an ice-cream. Whatever you fancy, don’t miss this unique spot in Sri Lanka!
So here’s the list of my top 10 things to do in Sri Lanka, glamistas!
Have you ever visited this country? What was your favourite thing to do there?
Would love to read your suggestions in the comments!
Peace & Love
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