Sri Lanka itinerary – Explore Sri Lanka in a Month (or so)

Sri Lanka itinerary – Explore Sri Lanka in a Month (or so)

I’m sure by now you know already that San and I spent about a month in Sri Lanka back in the beginning of this year. We fell in love with Sri Lanka and had some unique travel experiences that we will remember for life.

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Wild elephants in Kaudulla National Park – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We started from west and gradually made our way to the east of the country. Our Sri Lanka itinerary had a little bit of everything – mountains, forests, beaches, history, culture and most importantly, adventure.

 

Sri Lanka Itinerary

This itinerary about Sri Lanka has a little bit of everything: history, temples, beaches forests and most importantly Sri Lanka’s hill country. No doubt Sri Lanka has an amazing coastline, thus spectacular beaches; but it is the middle part of this country that took our breath away.

The middle part is hilly and colder than rest of Sri Lanka. The hills here are covered with tea plantation and a train ride through this part is breathtaking. Yes, this is a month long itinerary but it’s a flexible. It can be easily turned into 2 weeks or 2 months.

Arrive at Colombo Airport

Negombo – Chill here for 2 days

Colombo’s airport is actually closer to the main Negombo city than Colombo city. It’s funny but I thought Negeombo is a part of Colombo because it is so close to the airport.

Sunset on Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Sunset on Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Negombo is the perfect place where you can start your Sri Lanka trip because of a very long uninterrupted beach strip. The main town is very pretty and literally wherever you stay, you will be close to the main beach.

I don’t recommend you stay in Negombo for more than two days because that’s enough to explore this city at a leisurely pace before you hit your next destination. There is not much to do here than chill on the beach, get a massage or see Negombo’s pretty (but stinky) canals.

How to reach Negombo from Colombo Airport

It’s very easy to reach Negombo from Colombo Airport. You will easily find taxis or a tuk tuks. If you reach early enough, you can also take a train. You can also take a bus – but you will have to get out of the airport and walk to the bus station, which is right outside the airport.

The taxi and tuk tuk prices at the airport are definitely not cheap. When we arrived, we kind of got scammed because we were misinformed that there is no bus to Negombo.

Obviously we got a bit suspicious and did not take a pre paid tuk tuk from the airport. Instead, we went outside and hailed another tuk tuk that matched the price that we had seen online and was much cheaper – LKR 700. Sadly, ended up getting scammed and you can read about it in my post about travel tips for Sri Lanka.

Where to stay in Negombo

We stayed in hostel called Colombo Airport Monkey Hostel @ Negombo beach that was booked by San. This hostel has got to be one of the cleanest ones that I have seen. It is on Negombo’s main beach road and everything that you will need is easily accessible.

Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary

The beach is just a minute away; the bars and restaurants are all over and in plenty and so are the supermarkets. The dorm bed price also included breakfast, which was eggs, coffee, toast, banana and mangos – delicious.

Our beds were in a six-bedroom dorm that had its own private toilet. There were plug sockets near every bed and mosquito nets. The WiFi was free to use and was fast.

Overall, we had a good time here and made many friends. It seems that this is the most popular hostel in this area. We recommended this to our friends but they didn’t get a bed because it was full. If you’re visiting Negombo, you should probably book a bed here in advance. You can click here to find deals.

If you don’t have any budget constrains, then I highly recommend you check out Heritance Negombo which is a newly renovated hotel and they have an amazing pool bar and beach. I also recommend you check out Jetwing Blue, which is simply GORGEOUS. If these two are sold out, you can try Pledge Boutique Hotel. For mid range rooms, check out Golden Star Beach HotelTranquil Negombo BoutiqueTerrace Green HotelDickman Resort, or Jetwing Lagoon.

If you’re specifically looking for a hostel, you can also try Flip flop HostelNew Negombo Beach Hostel and Negombo Travelers Inn. For budget rooms, you should check out Mama Beach VillaLily ResortMonkey Beach HostelWinston Dutch Canal Villa, or Bee Nest Bed and Breakfast for budget rooms in Negombo.

Sigiriya – Spend 5 – 7 Days here

I will be honest, I expected Sigiriya to be completely overrun by tourists because of the famous Sigiriya rock, but it wasn’t. What I enjoyed the most about this place was how most of it was covered in a forest. We even got to see a few elephants on the road!

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

Sunrise View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock – Sri Lanka Itinerary

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka for a short trip, I highly suggest you visit Sigiriya because there are a lot of bucket list worthy travel experiences that you can check off just in one place.

The most obvious thing to do here is to climb the famous Sigiriya rock and visit the nearby Dambula cave temples. However, we really enjoyed climbing on top of Pidurangala rock to see the sunrise because we could also see the top of Sigiriya rock. These two are next to each other.

Apart from this, you can also visit the nearby Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya National Park where you can see a lot of animals. Quick tip – ask your hotel about which one to visit because sometimes the elephants leave one area and go to another.

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Please keep in mind that the National Parks in Sri Lanka are not cheap and if you add the cost of jeep safari, then the total can be around $60 – $100 per person. The entry cost of most of the national parks in Sri Lanka is same and is fixed.

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I riding a bicycle in Sigiriya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I really enjoyed my time in Sigiriya because we got to explore a lot on our bicycles. Moreover, we even got to spend a few nights in a tree house in the middle of the forest!

How to reach Sigiriya from Negombo

It is very easy to reach Sigiriya from Negombo by a local bus. The bus journey is shorter than train but is obviously not as comfortable and fun. You can reach Negombo bus station and ask for a bus for Sigiriya or Dambulla. If you reach early in the morning, you will most likely get a direct bus to Dambulla and after that you can take another bus to Sigiriya. Dambulla is just 30 minutes away from Sigiriya. This journey can take 4 hours if you get a direct bus but can take 5 – 6 hours if you have to change the bus. Sri Lankan buses have smaller seats, so prepare to be uncomfortable during the course of your journey.

To reach Sigiriya by train, you first have to reach Negombo Train Station. From there, take the Colombo Commuter train to Colombo Fort that leaves hourly. From Colombo Fort train station, you can take either the Night Mail Train or Express train that goes to Batticaloa. You need to get off at Habarana train station. From Habarana, Sigiriya is just 17 KMs and you can take a tuk tuk (or a taxi) to reach your hotel. The train leaves at 6 am from Colombo and arrives in Habarana at around 5 pm.

Where to stay in Sigiriya

Believe it or not – we actually stayed in 5 different hotels in Sigiriya. Yes, we came here without a booking and had to check out literally every morning because of low availability.

If you ask me to pick the best out of these 5, it was Back of Beyond – Dehigaha Ela, where we stayed in a tree house. Actually, this isn’t inside Sigiriya but is in middle of the forest in Dehigaha Ela. This place is 20 minutes away from the main Sigiriya town but is a paradise in itself.

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Our tree house in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We had a tree house to ourselves while we were staying at Back of Beyond. We slept with the sounds of the jungle and woke up to the songs of birds. There is a lot that I that I want to tell you about this place and I even wrote a blog post about it. You can read more about this place on TripAdvisor or just click here to check the best deals and book a tree house for yourself.

Our tree house was 20 minutes away from Sigirya but if you want to be closer to the city, you can check out Back of Beyond – Pidurangala, which is as beautiful but is not in the middle of deep forest. It’s by the same hotel chain so you can expect the same quality of stay that San and I experienced.

Another place that I want to recommend is Nethmini Homestay (check deals on Booking.com for Nethmini Homestay), which is located in the main Sigiriya town. This place is just close to Sigiriya’s main attractions such as Sigiriya Fortess and Pidurangala Rock. While here, we rented bicycles and explored the most of Sigiriya on our own.

Kandy – Don’t Stay BUT Head to Nuwara Eliya from here

Yes, many travel guides will tell you to make a stop here but I think Kandy can be missed. No doubt Kandy has a few temples to see and an interesting culture, but it is a busy city. In my opinion, you can easily skip it and head to your next destination – Nuwara Eliya.

Kandy - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Kandy – Sri Lanka Itinerary – photo by Dezalab [CC0 Public Domain] via Pixabay

The thing is, Kandy’s location and connectivity makes it a good stop if you want to enter Sri Lanka’s hill country. You can arrive here at night and catch the train for Nuwara Eliya the next morning. Or, if you’re an early riser then you can arrive her in the morning and catch a train on the same day from here. There are three trains that run from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya everyday – at 8:45 am, 11 am and at 5 pm.

The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is considered to be Sri Lanka’s most scenic train route. The train ride from Kandy to Ella is spectacular and Nuwara Eliya is going to be your first destination on this route.

Please keep in mind that due to the popularity of this route, the first and second-class tickets are generally sold out a week in advance. However, you can still buy third class tickets.

If you have read my post about travel tips for Sri Lanka, you must know that we had a lot of fun traveling in the third class coach. It was clean, comfortable and very interesting. The best seat was the door seat because we had the entire view to ourselves.

We didn’t carry any snacks but it wasn’t a problem because a lot of food vendors frequently did rounds. Our train journey was one of the most fun things that we did in Sri Lanka.

How to reach Kandy from Sigiriya

There is just one direct bus from Sigiriya to Kandy and it leaves at 6:30 am. The bus journey takes only 2.5 hours. If you miss this bus, you can head to the nearby city Dambulla by tuk tuk and take a bus from there to Kandy. Please bear in mind that buses in Sri Lanka can sometimes get massively delayed. If your plans are not flexible, then please wake up early for the direct bus.

Where to stay in Kandy

We decided not to stay in Kandy but we had shortlisted Clove Villa (Clove Villa on Agoda), Amaara Sky Hotel, and St Bridget’s Guest House. These are based on the recommendations that were given to us by fellow travelers in Sri Lanka.

Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Me enjoying a scenic train journey – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Nuwara Eliya – Spend 4 Days here

Nuwara Eliya is one of the coldest places in Sri Lanka and is in the hill country of the Central Province. It is called “Little England” and it is usually raining here, so carry your raincoat.

This little toy town is surrounded by green hills that are covered with tea plantation and many little waterfalls. At the center of the town, there is Lake Gregory where you can hire a boat for a day.

The hills around Nuwara Eliya are covered with Tea Plantation - Sri Lanka Itinerary

The hills around Nuwara Eliya are covered with Tea Plantation – Sri Lanka Itinerary

When we arrived here, we were lucky that it was raining so much because the waterfalls were full. We visited at least three of them and the water was flowing at a very fierce speed.

There is a little post office in the middle of the city that looks like a toy building. We found a very interesting roadside food stall here where we could choose from a selection of Sri Lankan breakfast delicacies.

One of the most popular things to do in Nuwara Eliya is to visit the nearby Hortons Plains National park and walk till the World’s End to see an amazing view. You can also see the famous Baker Falls here but please keep in mind that it is expensive to reach here because you can only reach by taxi or tuk tuk.

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view after our tea factory tour in Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Nuwara Eliya is very famous for it’s tea and you should try to visit a one of the many nearby Tea Estates. We visited Blue Field tea factory where they were running free tours at the time we visited. We did a 10-minute tea tour with a fresh cup of steaming hot tea at the end.

Read: 13 Amazing Things to do in Sri Lanka [in 2017]

How to reach Nuwara Eliya from Kandy

The travel time from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy is 4 hours by train. There are three trains that depart at 8:45 am, 11 am and 5 pm. Try taking one of the first two trains so that you can enjoy the views.

Please keep in mind that Nuwara Eliya train station is called Nanuoya. As mentioned before, there is no need to book your tickets in advance unless you’re traveling by first or second class with fixed seats. Third class seats are also comfortable and don’t require any advance reservation.

I met a few people who didn’t know this and were turned back at the station because the train staff did not tell them about the third class ticket.

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

If you’re looking for a quaint and charming place to stay, check out Glendower Hotel where rooms are usually for $30 per night. This place has a colonial type of architecture with wooden floors, fireplaces and even bathtubs.

You can also check out Midky Hotel which has an amazing mountain view from the restaurant. The rooms here are for around $37 per night. If you want to stay in an old school English style cottage, you can check out Sherwood Cottage where a room is usually between $20 to $30 depending on the season.

Haputale – Spend 3 Days Here

Haputale is definitely the cutest town that we visited in Sri Lanka and ended up being our favorite destination. The funny thing is, we had no idea about Haputale’s existence but we spotted a valley with little houses and a small station, so we decided to jump off spontaneously.

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San and I jumped off the train at Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

It was raining when we had boarded the train in Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya train station), but by the time we arrived in Haputale, the sun was shining and we instantly fell in love. With no plan in mind, we picked up our luggage and arrived in Haputale.

As we stood at the train station wondering if we made the right decision, a local approached us and asked if we have a place to stay. Luckily, we found a nearby hotel driver who was there to pick up their guest but had an available room due to last minute cancellation – just our luck.

Being spontaneous paid us well because the hotel was on the higher side of the mountain at the edge of the hill with a table outside in the garden. The room was cozy and the tariff was only 1000 LKR a day. Yes, we know we hit a jackpot.

We fell in love with Hapulate as fast as we got there. As soon as we checked in, we left out luggage and got out to explore. Within minutes of walking, we had explored the entire Haputale and eventually found our way into the tea plantation.

San enjoying the view in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

San enjoying the view in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

We found some of the most amazing viewpoints where we sat at the edge of rocks and admired a panoramic view around us. This is that one thing I that I really wanted to do in Nuwara Eliya but couldn’t because it’s a big town.

Tea Estates and Hills in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Tea Estates and Hills in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Another reason why we really enjoyed Haputale was that the food here was not overpriced and the prices were same for foreigners. A normal meal in other places in Sri Lanka was at least LKR 200 – 250 per person but was for LKR 50 in Haputale.

If you like viewpoints, you will also enjoy visiting the nearby Lipton’s seat, which is perhaps one of the main reasons why people visit Haputale in the first place. You can also visit Adisham Monastery, which looks more like a house and less like a Monastery. Another popular thing to do here is to visit Dambatenne Tea Factory. We had already visited a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya, so we skipped it.

Where to stay in Haputale

I’m sure by now you know how much we loved our hotel in Haputale. The name of that hotel is Bellview Guest House and it has amazing views because it is on the edge of a hill. To make the most of your stay here, ask for a corner room so that you can admire the view all day while sipping Sri Lankan tea. You can read the reviews about Bellview on tripadvisor.

The view from our hotel - Bellview in Haputale - Sri Lanka Itinerary

The view from our hotel – Bellview in Haputale – Sri Lanka Itinerary

If by any chance this amazing hotel is not available, you can check out Lily guest inn, White monkey, or Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn.

How to reach Haputale from Nuwara Eliya

The easiest and most fun way to reach Haputale from Nuwara Eliya is by train. This journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanuoya train station) to Haputale is just less than 3 hours. The train departs Nanuoya station four times – at 9:30 am, 12:45 pm, 3 pm and 3:55 pm.

Ella – Spend 3 Days Here

Elle is to Sri Lanka was Thailand is to SE Asia – it’s a backpackers hub and has a lot of European style cafes. This little town is towards the end of this train route, right before Badulla.

Train ride in Ella - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Train ride in Ella – Sri Lanka Itinerary

Just like Haputale, even Ella is a small town in Sri Lanka’s Hil Country but unlike Haputale, you will see more travelers here than locals. There is not much to do the main town Ella but you can get out to hike but please be careful of leeches.

While here, you can hike up to Ella’s Rock, little Adam’s peak or just get lost in the tea plantation around. You can also visit the Ravana Ella waterfalls and swim if the weather permits.

How to reach Ella from Haputale

If you haven’t figured out by now, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Haputale and Ella – all of them are on Sri Lanka’s hill country train route. This train originates from Colombo and ends at Badulla and then runs back to Colombo again. It is very easy to travel to and from these four places by train. So if you want to travel from Haputale to Ella, the train departs Haputale station at 12:00 pm, 2:15 pm, 4:30 pm and 5:25 pm. This schedule can be changed anytime, so please check with the locals before you leave.

Where to stay in Ella

One of the most popular places to stay in Ella is Ella Rock House where you can find rooms for as low as $25 – $30 per night. If you like being closer to the view, try Ella Nature View, which is slightly more high end when compared to Ella Rock House. If you’re looking for a value for money deal, check out Aurora Bunglows. For high end places, you can consider Hotel Onrock or Ravana Heights.

Arugam Bay – Spend 4 Days Here

Arugam Bay is a beach town in Sri Lanka’s East Coast and is popular for surfing. The main surfing season begins here in March and ends in May. Although, most of the people visit Arugam Bay to surf but even non-surfers will enjoy their time here.

Enjoying the beach at Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Enjoying the beach at Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

To arrive in Arugam Bay, we first had to reach the nearby town Pottuvil on bus and from there we hired a tuk tuk. We saw a herd of wild elephants right before reaching Pottuvil. From Pottuvil, the drive to Aurgam Bay takes just about 15 minutes and costs around LKR 150.

Pottuvil near Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Pottuvil near Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

The main town of Arugam Bay lies just beyond a bridge that connects it with Pottuvil. It is just one straight road with the main beach on one side with beach huts and cabanas along the beach. As you head further inside Arugam Bay, the room and food prices start increasing.

If you go around 10 KMs further on Arugam Bay’s main road, there is a massive peanut farm along a private crescent shaped beach. I’m not sure if that is just the name or if it actually has a peanut plantation inside. I definitely did not see it there when I visited in January 2017 for a psychedelic music festival.

Here's us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Here’s us enjoying Atman Festival at Peanut Farm, Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

At the end of the beach on peanut farm, there are a few rocks that you can climb and there is a lagoon next to it. Although this lagoon is beautiful in its own way, it’s definitely not stunning. It is not advisable to swim in it because there are crocodiles in this area. I did see a crocodile in on my way to Pottuvil so I decided to take this warning seriously (unlike my trip to Hampi in India).

Oh and by the way – this peanut farm is just next to the military area so entry may be restricted at times so do ask the local residents before you decide to go.

Another fun thing to do in Arugam Bay is to explore the area around the bridge. There are multiple backwater streams here and the grassy patches around are beautiful to sit on. There is also a Buddist temple on the other side of the main stream that comes from the ocean.

Be careful when you’re here because the entire Sri Lanka is like one big national park and you never know what you find here. We saw a dead snake here but many told us that none of the snakes in this area are poisonous.

This place is good to meet locals. During rain, these streams get fuller and attract local fishermen. In fact, we spent a day with them and joined them in fishing. We even went to their beautiful houses and got to eat with them.

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay - Sri Lanka Itinerary

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay – Sri Lanka Itinerary

In case you missed Kaudulla or Minneriya National Parks near Sigiriya, you can go to the massive Yala National Park near Arugam Bay. If you have more time on your hands, you can also try the smaller and more beautiful Udawalawe National Park. If your next destination after Arugam Bay is Mirissa, then going to Udawalawe makes total sense because it is on the way.

Where to stay in Arugam Bay

Just like Sigiriya, we stayed in more than one place while we were in Arugam Bay. You can check out Fly Moon Hotel or Way of the Bay. In our experience, most of the rooms in Arugam Bay were similarly priced between $25 and $35 per day.

One of the most beautiful places to stay here is Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing and a room here is for around $120 – 150 per day.

How to reach Arugam Bay from Ella

The easiest way to reach Arugam Bay from Ella is by car and the cheapest is by bus. From Ella, you first have to catch the bus to Wellawaya and from there to Pottuvil. If you arrive early, you can find a direct bus from Wellawaya to Arugambay. From Pottuvil, Arugambay is just 10 minutes away on tuk tuk.

Be careful of tuk tuk mafia because they will misguide you and tell you that there is no direct bus to Arugambay. This is what the hotel guy told us but we still got scammed. The bus conductor told us that the bus doesn’t go to Arugam Bay and we had to hire a tuk tuk. However, after reaching our destination, we saw the same bus in Arugam Bay. The bus ride in total will cost you between 300 – 350 LKR and some of them even charge extra for luggage.

 

Mirissa – Spend 3 Days here

Mirissa is a small beach town in South of Sri Lanka. The beaches of South are busier but Mirissa has its low-key vibe. Just like Arugam Bay, even Mirissa is popular with surfers but the surfing season is different here.

Mirissa beach - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Mirissa beach – Sri Lanka Itinerary – by Claire Rowland [CC by 2.0] via Flickr

The reason why Mirissa is in this itinerary is because you can spot our planet’s biggest animal in the nearby waters. Yes, there are many whale spotting tours that you can find in Mirissa. Oh but just because you’re going for a whale spotting tour, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will see them.

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

Just like Arugam Bay, the nightlife in Mirissa is much better than the rest of Sri Lanka. If you occasionally like to have a drink after a long day and chill in a bar with music, you’re going to enjoy your time in Mirissa.

Where to stay in Mirissa

If you’re looking for a hostel or a similarly priced place, you can check out JJs Hostel Mirissa or Banana Garden Hotel. The most beautiful hotel in this town is Cape Weligama, which is slightly out of Mirissa but is located on top of a cliff with breathtaking views. If you stay here, you may not get out of your hotel at all because it is that gorgeous.

How to reach Mirissa from Arugam Bay

If you go to Mirissa from Arugam Bay by car, it will not take you more than 3.5 to 4 hours. A bus ride however can take up to 7 hours if you don’t find a direct bus, so please plan your day properly and start well in advance.

To reach Mirissa from Arugam bay, you first have to reach Pottuvil and catch a bus to Matara from there. If you arrive early (7 am), you can find a direct bus to Matara and from there you can reach Mirissa on a tuk tuk (or a connecting bus). The only direct bus leaves at 7 in the morning and the bus number is 35-1.

A smart thing to do here would be to split this bus trip into two and head to Udawalawe National Park in the middle because it is on the way.

 

Colombo – Spend 2 Days here

Colombo is last on this itinerary because this is where you will be before you get out of Sri Lanka. If you’re looking to relax on your last day, you can easily skip Colombo and head to Negombo instead because it is closer to the airport.

Busy Colombo - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Busy Colombo – Sri Lanka Itinerary by Bestbauch [CC0 Public] via Pixabay

Colombo is a busy town but if you’re up to it, you can get to see a few historical landmarks or cultural shows. There are three main museums in Colombo that you can visit – the National Museum of Colombo, the Natural History Museum and the Dutch Period Museum.

Colombo Promenade - Sri Lanka Itinerary

Colombo Promenade – Sri Lanka Itinerary by Maxos_dim [CC0 Public] via Pixabay

You can also visit Colombo’s most famous Buddhist temple – Seema Malakaya or watch a cultural show at Cirque Lanka. For sunset, you can head to Galle Face Green Promenade.

 

Where to stay in Colombo

Surprisingly the hotel prices are not so high in Colombo and it is possible to get better rooms as compared to many other destinations.

If you’re looking for a hotel, then you can check out Star Anise Boutique Capsule Hostel where you can sleep in your own capsule for $15 – $30 per night. Another cool hostel is CityRest Fort where the prices are similar.

For medium range, check out Ocean Edge Suites or Mandarina Colombo where a room for two can be between $80 – $100 depending on the season.

How to reach Colombo from Mirissa

The easiest way to reach Colombo from Mirissa is by train. You first have to reach Matara train station and take a train to Colombo Fort. The train ride will take around 3.5 to 4 hours. The trains leave at 6 am, 9:40 am, 1:35 pm and 2:10 pm. But please note that these timings can change anytime so ask the locals before you go. Alternatively, you can also do this journey by bus from Matara road.

Like our Sri Lanka itinerary? But wait, check your visa requirements before you go:

Visa for Sri Lanka

You can apply for an electronic visa for Sri Lanka by visiting this website.

Also, before you book your tickets, do read my post about 13 essential travel tips for visiting Sri Lanka – this post contains information about literally everything starting from eating to internal transport.

Final Thoughts

Our Sri Lanka itinerary post will help you plan your trip to Sri Lanka, but I highly recommend you keep your plans flexible to leave some room for spontaneity. Our flexibility helped us find some of the most amazing places. If you do, make sure you comment here or message us to tell us about those places.

13 Amazing Things to do in Sri Lanka [in 2017]

13 Amazing Things to do in Sri Lanka [in 2017]

Sri Lanka, a country that is so green that it feels like one big tropical rainforest national park. No matter where we went, we usually woke up to the music of birds. During our month long trip in Sri Lanka, there were at least five instances where we saw wild elephants near the main road.

Although there are hundreds of things to do in Sri Lanka, but here are some of our favorites and we highly recommend you consider doing some of them on your visit to Sri Lanka. Don’t stress yourself to do all of them but include only some that fit your itinerary so that you can travel at a leisurely pace and enjoy. Oh and by the way, you can check the visa requirements for Sri Lanka for your nationality here.

 

Things to do in Sri Lanka

01 | Enjoy a Scenic Train Ride in Sri Lanka

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Me enjoying a scenic train journey – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Train rides in Sri Lanka are so much fun that they are “bucket-list worthy”. These trains are surprisingly clean, affordable and comfortable. It felt like a mini country tour because the views outside were breathtaking. Although it is easy to get a seat but we realized that the most popular seat was the door seat. Many locals just sat by the door, eating and enjoying the view. So did we!

We saw hills that were completely covered with tea plantation, forest, waterfalls, streams, small villages, monkeys and more. It rained a little during the train ride and the forest around us looked even greener than before. After every few minutes, we would spot a food vendor selling delicious and cheap snacks inside our coach. Honestly, it was the most entertaining train ride of our lives.

We traveled by third class and bought our tickets at the station just before the ride. We didn’t even need a prior booking on a part of Sri Lanka’s most famous train route – Kandy to Ella. I met a few people who couldn’t find train tickets for the same route because they were looking for only first or second-class seats.

Suggested Reading: Essential Tips for Traveling in Sri Lanka

02 | Visit a National Park and See Elephants

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park - things to do in Sri Lanka

Elephant at Kaudulla National Park – things to do in Sri Lanka

Do you know that Sri Lanka has around 25 national parks? This is a big number considering the size of this island country. There is at least one national park after every few hundreds of kilometers and we highly recommend you visit one.

Yes, we did say that Sri Lanka feels like one big national park and it is possible to see the elephants on the streets, but visiting one is an experience to remember. It is different catching a quick glimpse of wild elephants from the bus as compared to an open-air jeep safari where you can get closer to them and watch them eat.

Not just elephants, but you can also see exotic birds, big lizards, crocodiles, deer, and panthers. The fee for entering most of the national parks is the same and is between $10 and $15 for a day. You will also need to pay for the jeep safari, and it’s economical if you go in a group of 6 people. We visited Kaudulla National Park, which is an hour away from Sigiriya. Depending on your itinerary, you can also visit Yala National Park, which is near Arugam Bay; Uda Walawe National Park, which is in South Central area of the island; or Minneriya National Park, which is near Sigiriya.

 

03 | Go Fishing with the Locals

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay

A local fisherman in Arugam Bay

On one rainy day in Arugam bay, San and I sat next to a backwater lagoon and decided to have a lazy day. In a distance, we could see local fishermen who were trying to catch tuna with their simple net. Half an hour later, somehow we were all friends and were standing next to them as they explained their process.

After a few hours, they invited us to their house where we drank tea with their families. They invited us to join them at 5 am next day for fishing. San loves fishing and as per him, this was the best thing that he had ever done in Sri Lanka.

Munash and his friend after fishing in Arugam Bay

Munash and Nisad after fishing in Arugam Bay

Fishing is an important part of Sri Lanka’s culture because of a massive coastline and many inland lakes and rivers. Fishing provides daily income and food for many families where men wake up early to fish and women sell their catch.

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, we highly recommend you try fishing with the locals. If you are short of time to make friends with local fishermen, try going for one of the tours. If you’re lucky, you may find the traditional stilt fishing, where locals sit on their stilts and wait for the fishes

 

04 | Explore the Hill Country

Explore the Hill Country - things to do in Sri Lanka

Explore the Hill Country – things to do in Sri Lanka

During out month long trip to Sri Lanka, our favorite area of Sri Lanka was definitely the middle part, which is called the “Hill Country”. It’s sad how many travelers miss this area and just head for the beaches because they’re in Sri Lanka for a short visit.

This part of Sri Lanka is covered with tea plantations and you can spot many waterfalls. Yes, Sri Lanka is very green but the hill country has got to be the greenest part because it rains a lot here. In fact, the coldest city here – Nuwara Eliya is also called “Little England” because of the rains and tea culture. It was very cold when we visited Nuwara Eliya but we ended up enjoying it because the weather made our experience super romantic.

San enjoying the view in Haputale - things to do in Sri Lanka

San enjoying the view in Haputale – things to do in Sri Lanka

Another place that you can visit in this area is Ella, which is a backpacker’s hub. Our best experience was in a small town called Haputale in Sri Lanka’s Uva province where San and I explored the tea estates on our own and found many viewpoints. No matter where we looked, we could only see small hills that were fully covered with tea plantation.

05 | Climb Pidurangala Rock and See Sigiriya Rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

Sigiriya is one of the most famous destinations in Sri Lanka because we expected it to be very busy but it surprised us. Don’t get me wrong, several tourists do visit this city but several areas of the city were surprisingly empty. The only crowded part was the Sigiriya rock because 99% of the people come here to check this off their list.

As we explored the area around the Sigiriya rock on a bicycle, we saw the steps on the rock had a little “human traffic jam”, which turned us off. The next day, we woke up at 4:30 am and went to Pidurangala instead, which is right next to Sigiriya and is as high. We climbed Pidurangala rock in dark to see the sunrise on top of it.

The climb is not as easy as Sigiriya because there are parts where we had to climb some really big rocks towards the end, but the view is definitely worth it. On one side, we saw the famous Sigiriya rock and on the other side Kandy’s mountains. We also saw a massive statue of Buddha that was peeping through the rainforest from far away and gave this area a surreal feel. I am not sure how long we stayed up there but it was definitely more than an hour.

If you’re planning on climbing Pidurangala rock too, then please do this in a group because it can be unsafe if you do it alone and get stuck. It gets very hot in Sigiriya during the day, so please try to do at sunrise or sunset. There is no toilet up there, so please use one before you start to climb.

 

5.1 .. or Climb Adam’s Peak / World’s End / other famous viewpoints

Apart from Pidurangala rock, Sri Lanka has many other viewpoints that you can climb, so I’m adding all these options here as a sub-point to my last point. In Ratnapura, you can climb the famous Adam’s peak, which is a 2243 meters high mountain. You can start the trail from a small village called Dalhousie, which is 3 hours away from Hatton.

You can reach Hatton by train or bus. If Adam’s peak is too much for you, try Little Adam’s Peak, which is in Elle and is very easy. You can reach Elle by the same train that goes to runs from Colombo to Badulla and crosses Hatton, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

Another alternative is Horton Plains National Park where you can see the famous World’s End and Mini World’s end without much physical effort. This can be done with Nuwara Eliya as your base but please keep in mind that the entry and transportation costs are high. Moreover, because this part of Sri Lanka is usually clouded, there is no guarantee that you will be able to see the view once you’re here. Although not as famous as everything else on the list, but Lipton’s Seat in Haputale is also an interesting option. It is a 9km uphill climb through the tea plantation, with a panoramic viewpoint on the top.

06 | Sleep in Tree House in the Middle of the Forest

Our tree house in Sri Lanka that was booked through Glamping Hub

Our tree house in Sri Lanka that was booked through Glamping Hub

Sri Lanka is home to several wild animals because most of the land is covered with the rain forest. To protect themselves from the animals, several villagers built tree houses and slept in them. With the increase of tourism, many of these tree houses have been converted into hotels and resorts while still maintaining their rustic charm.

If you love forests, you’re going to love your tree house experience in Sri Lanka. We stayed in Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela where we spent 2 days and birds frequently visited our towering tree house in the morning. It was in the middle of Dehigaha Ela’s deep forest and we slept with the sounds of the jungle and felt one with nature.

There were a few streams and waterfalls around our tree house and several hiking trails that we tremendously enjoyed. The stream had “spa fishes” and it was amazing getting a free natural foot spa everyday. This place is very 20 minutes away from Sigiriya by car, but we didn’t want to get out because we had never stayed in a place as amazing as this.

If you want to know more about this place, you can check out their reviews on TripAdvisor. Oh and I even wrote a blog post about this place. Wanna book the same treehouse? Click here to find deals and book.

07 | Visit a Tea Factory

Inside Blue Field tea factory, Nuwara Eliya - things to do in Sri Lanka

Inside Blue Field tea factory, Nuwara Eliya – things to do in Sri Lanka

Drinking tea is a very important part of Sri Lankan culture and the country is one of the most important tea producers in the world. If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, we suggest you try to take a quick tour of the tea factory, which can surprisingly be an interesting experience. It is an educational tour because you get to learn about the entire tea making process and different types of tea produce. Moreover, most of the tea factories are surrounded by tea plantation, which forms a great backdrop for pictures.

We visited Blue Field tea factory in Nuwara Eliya where we got a free tour of the factory area, retail shop, and café. It was a short tour that lasted only 10 minutes. At the end of our tour, we even got a cup of black tea in their café that was complimentary. Even though it is free, we recommend you leave a tip for your guide.

 

08 | Go for a Nature Trail or a Waterfall Hike

Waterfall in Sri Lanka - things to do in Sri Lanka

Waterfall in Sri Lanka – things to do in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is full of waterfalls and you don’t have to see all of them. Just pick one around you and go. Ask locals and try to find one that is not famous so that you can enjoy it without crowds. It’s even better when you get to hike for a few kilometers and visit one. I don’t remember the name of the one we visited, but it was in the central province. We visited it after it had rained for two days and the hike was a little slippery.

The view was highly rewarding towards the end because the waterfall was fuller due to the rains. One of the locals informed us that people normally swam in that waterfall but due to the rains it is not advisable. We also did a nature trail in Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela where we walked upstream and found a waterfall. If you love waterfalls, you’re going to love Sri Lanka because there are many of them around.

 

09 | Hit the beaches and try surfing

Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

C’mon, you can’t visit Sri Lanka and not visit the beaches. After all, it is an island country and has a massive coastline. Sri Lanka has so many amazing beach towns that you can visit, that you will be spoilt for choice.

When you land in Sri Lanka, you can enjoy Colombo or Negombo. You can then head to the South and visit Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa, or Mirissa. We went to Arugam Bay, which is the Eastern province of Sri Lanka and is one of the top ten surfing spots in the world. Keep in mind that surfing can’t be done all year round. Unlike what the guidebooks mentioned, in Arugam Bay, the waves were not strong enough in the month of January but the locals informed us that the real surfing season is in Arugam bay is in the months of March and April.

 

10 | Dolphin or Whale Watching in Mirissa

We all know that blue whales are the biggest known mammals on Earth, but do you know that you can see them in South of Sri Lanka? The most popular whale watching spot in Sri Lanka is Dondra Point, which can be easily reached from Mirissa, Galle or Hikkaduwa. Several tour operators organize dolphin and whale watching tours that start very early in the morning and cost between $35 and $50 per person with a boat that takes 40 people.

You can also do a luxury whale-watching cruise, which can cost anything between $120 and $200. We already saw dolphins in Arugam Bay and didn’t do whale watching, but here’s a picture from our friend, Charlotte. If you like this picture, then do head over to her awesome account and check out the pictures.

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

Whale Watching in Mirissa by Charlotte

11 | Try Scuba Diving

Being an island country, it’s no surprise that Sri Lanka is a hot scuba diving destination. If you like wreck diving, there are a few dive sites where you can see World War I and World War II shipwrecks, which are mostly near Colombo and Negombo. The beach towns of Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna, Mirissa, and Galle have some famous reefs.

For South Coast, the months from November to April are good months to dive, whereas for East Cost, it’s April to September. The visibility has been reported to be around 10 – 25 meters and the water temperature is usually warm throughout the year. If lucky, one can spot whale sharks, blue and sperm whales.

12 | Explore Small Towns on a Bicycle

San and I riding a bicycle in Sri Lanka

San and I riding a bicycle in Sri Lanka

Surprisingly, the scooter rental costs in Sri Lanka are very high as compared to most of Asia. To make things affordable and more fun for us, we decided to rent bicycles instead, which turned out to be a very good decision.

Not only we were able to explore the entire town on our own, we even managed to get lost and find places that we wouldn’t have found if we didn’t have our bicycles. We ended up having a very good day exploring a small town on our bicycles.

13 | Get Close to the Monkeys

Get close to the monkeys - things to do in Sri Lanka

Get close to the monkeys – things to do in Sri Lanka

If you’re an animal lover like me, you’re gonna love Sri Lanka. Monkeys are definitely my favorites because they are mischievous and always up to something. I find them very funny to watch and I wish I had a pet monkey of our own. As we got away from the beach towns in Sri Lanka, we saw a lot of monkeys. We even saw a few while we were enjoying our train ride through the hill country.

Having lived in India, I often see monkeys but unlike India, the ones in Sri Lanka didn’t appear to be aggressive. My sister was once bitten by a monkey when we were kids so I never pet them, but I love getting close to them and watching their antics. If you decide to do the same, please hold on to your valuables because monkeys love snatching.

Wait, is that all?

No, there’s more! I have a few bonus points for you which are the “obvious” things that you will anyway do in Sri Lanka wether you read about them or not.

BONUS 1: Enjoy Sri Lankan Food

Egg Rice & Curry in Sri Lanka - things to do in Sri Lanka

Egg Rice & Curry in Sri Lanka – things to do in Sri Lanka

This is not actually added in the original list of unique experiences because if you visit Sri Lanka, of course you’re going to try the local food. Wether you’re a vegetarian or a seafood lover, you’re going to love Sri Lankan food but be careful, it is saucy and spicy!

I couldn’t get enough of egg samosas, Kothu, and rice & curry meals and I would love to go back for more. Oh and you should totally check out this amazing guide which will tell you where to find Sri Lankan food in Colombo.

BONUS 2: Find Peace in Temples

Visit Temples - things to do in Sri Lanka

Visit Temples – things to do in Sri Lanka

The majority of population in Sri Lanka is Buddhist and you will definitely get to see a few temples regardless of where you go. Yes, Anuradhapura is famous for temple ruins but you will be surprised to see old temples in many other places too. In many parts of Sri Lanka, the Buddha statues are massive in size and at times you can see them from a distance. Not just Buddhist, but Sri Lanka has many beautiful Hindu temples, Muslim Mosques and Catholic Churches that are worth a visit.

BONUS 3: Enjoy Tuk Tuk Rides

Ride a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka - things to do

Ride a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka – things to do

If you saw my tips for traveling in Sri Lanka, you must have read about how we got scammed by our tuk tuk driver on the first day. Despite the first bad experience, we tremendously enjoyed our rides on these slow moving scooters. If you end up visiting Sri Lanka, I’m sure you’re going to ride one at some point. Here’s a picture for you to enjoy.

Visit a National Park and See Elephants - Things to do in Sri Lanka
Explore the hill country - Things to do in Sri Lanka
Climb Pidurangala Rock and See Sigiriya Rock - Things to do in Sri Lanka

Even though it’s a small country, there are many things to do in Sri Lanka that can keep you busy while you’re there. Despite spending a month here, we still didn’t get a chance to explore the Northern part of the island that has only recently opened to tourism. We are slow travelers by choice so that we can drink in the beauty and completely absorb the culture. If you’re a fast paced traveler and plan well, you can perhaps check off everything on this list in just two weeks.

If you have visited Sri Lanka already and have a few points to add, let me know in the comments.

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Sri Lanka Travel Tips – 13 Things You Need To Know

Sri Lanka Travel Tips – 13 Things You Need To Know

Sri Lanka Travel Tips article is a must read for your Sri Lankan adventure.

If someone asks me to describe Sri Lanka in just one word, I’d say “green”. It doesn’t matter where you go but you will surely see a lot of green. The entire country feels like one massive national park and you’re guaranteed to see a wild elephant or two if you spend more than a few weeks here.

You must have noticed a lot of “green” pictures from Sri Lanka on our Instagram account, now it’s time we share more details with you. We spent close to a month here and we have some useful tips to share with you. If you’re wondering where to go for your next vacation, you must consider visiting this beautiful island country. If you end up booking your tickets, here are 13 important travel tips that you should keep in mind before visiting Sri Lanka.

Travel Tips for Sri Lanka –

01 | Visa for Sri Lanka

Unlike many other Asian countries, Sri Lanka doesn’t offer a visa on arrival. However, you can apply for an electronic visa or eVisa. An eVisa is a double entry visa for 30 days, which is usually enough for most of the travelers. The fee for an eVisa is $35 for all the countries but is only $20 for SAARC countries. Yes, India is a part of SAARC so I had to pay only $20 while San paid $35. I’d recommend you apply at least a week in advance. You can click here to apply for your eVisa to enter Sri Lanka.

Please be very careful in filling up the eVisa application because even a single wrong digit will impact your entry and you will be forced to apply again at the airport. I highly recommend you apply for your visa through iVisa to make things simple. If you’re a citizen of Maldives, Singapore or Seychelles, you don’t need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. For a longer stay visa, you can apply directly at the embassy.

 

02 | Do you have a Buddha Tattoo? Hide it!

Sri Lanka has a zero tolerance for tourists with Buddha tattoos. In fact, there have been cases in the past wherein tourists with Buddha tattoos have been arrested and deported. A few weeks back, a friend of mine was stopped by the police at Kandy railway station for carrying a bag with Buddha face but luckily she escaped trouble. Oh, and also, one of the pop musicians Akon was also barred an entry to Sri Lanka because one of his music videos featured a Buddha statue next to skimpily clad women. Back in 2012, three French tourists were sentenced to 6 months in jail for clicking pictures of them kissing a Buddha statue.

I’m not religious but it makes sense to me because some countries regard the usage of religious objects and symbols in ornaments or fashion as disrespectful. Don’t be an asshole while traveling and respect Sri Lanka’s culture. In fact, don’t disrespect any country’s culture and religion. If you have a Buddha tattoo, please hide it while you’re in Sri Lanka.

Read: 13 Unique Experiences in Sri Lanka

03 | Negambo vs Colombo

Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Negombo Beach – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Wondering why this point is even on the list? Well, because when you book your flight to Sri Lanka, your ticket will say that you’re flying to Colombo. In reality, it’s not Colombo but the suburb area of Negombo, which is a different place entirely and is an hour away from Colombo. Maybe it’s good this way because I didn’t particularly like Colombo but I definitely enjoyed Negombo. It is less stressful and has a massive strip of uninterrupted beach. Moreover, for your journey to other parts of Sri Lanka, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re in Negombo or Colombo because they are both well connected by a network of trains and buses.

On a side note, it was pretty funny because San booked our hotel in Negombo and for the first few hours that I was in Negombo, I thought I was in Colombo. It happened because I suffer from a selective hearing disorder and assumed that Colombo is massive and Negombo is a part of it.

 

04 | Tuk Tuk Scams

Living in India, I have faced more scams than most of the people and because of this, I am not easily “scammable”. Despite a lot of pre warnings, we were scammed on our very first day. Every tuk tuk driver quoted 5x the rate as we landed in Sri Lanka. How do we know it was 5x? Well, because we asked a few locals what should be the normal price for reaching our hotel. At last we finally found a tuk tuk driver who agreed to a lower cost, which was still double of what the locals told us. However, within a few minutes he stopped the tuk tuk mid way even though, he had agreed that he would drop us at our hotel. He started yelling and after a while, we gave up and ended up paying extra because we were very tired and just wanted to reach our room.

Don’t get me wrong, Sri Lankans are very nice, humble and honest but many tuk tuk drivers are not. Another scam that I encountered was how the drivers tried to convince us at many bus stops that there was no bus that was going to our destination in an attempt to get us to spend on a tuk tuk instead. By then, I had done enough research to know that they were fooling us. These scams are highly prevalent if you travel to touristy places.

05 | The Best way to travel internally is by Train

Picture this – you’re sitting in a cute train coach and everywhere you look, you see tea estates, forests, waterfalls, hills, monkeys.. and maybe even an elephant if you’re lucky. From time to time, you can walk around and even sit by the door and get lost in the beauty (but please hold the door handle firmly if you do).

Me enjoying a scenic train journey - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Me enjoying a scenic train journey – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

San and I sat by the door all the time and didn’t want to leave. We even bought a few snacks on the train and ate them as we sat by the door. I was such a “tourists” here and couldn’t stop clicking and making videos for my Instagram. Trust me when I say this, but this was the BEST thing we did in this beautiful country. Oh, and I must tell you that it was dirt-cheap. We traveled on a third class coach, which was comfortable and clean.

Nothing can match the experience of riding a slow moving train through Sri Lanka’s scenic hill countryside. It may not be the fastest way, but it is the most beautiful way to travel internally. Alternatively, you can travel by buses too, but you will not be as comfortable as compared to the train because the bus seats in Sri Lanka are very small. Oh and you should know that the train ride from Kandy to Ella is supposed to be the most scenic one.

06 | Where to go in Sri Lanka

Most of the people think that Sri Lanka is mostly about the beaches, but no they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, my favorite places here were very far from the beaches. Broadly speaking, Sri Lanka can be divided into four zones – the beaches, the hill country, forests and historical places. The beaches are pretty but it is the middle area that made us fall in love with Sri Lanka. Our favorite was the hill country, (Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, Elle, etc.) where everything was greener than the color green. We also enjoyed the forest area around Sigiriya and Pottuvil, where we saw a lot of elephants and a few crocodiles at a safe distance. Lonely Planet markets Sri Lanka as a “beach lovers paradise” but I think it is more of a nature lovers’ / forest freak’s haven. Anyway, I will soon write a post about a suggested itinerary which can help you plan your trip.

07 | Tap Water in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the locals were mostly drinking tap water but we stuck to bottled water. Although it is safe for them, but it may not be for you because it may contain micro-organisms that your body is not used to. Don’t take a health risk while traveling and please stick to bottled water. In my experience, the cost of bottled water was a little higher if you compare it to most of the Asian countries.

08 | Costs can be extreme (Low and High both)

Travel costs in Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Travel costs in Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, we got a shock because everything was expensive in Negombo. Maybe it was because we were comparing it to India but even basic things at supermarkets were expensive. We did eventually find a few affordable eating options but there were not too many. Beach Towns like Arugam Bay, Negombo were definitely more expensive than the hill towns. On our train to Ella, we spotted a cute village called Haputale with breathtaking views, and decided to jump off here. It ended up being our favorite and the most affordable place in Sri Lanka for us. If you’re traveling on a budget, then you should consider spending more time away from the beach towns.

Read: 20 Travel Mistakes that can ruin your trip

09 | ATMs and Banks

After traveling to many countries, Sri Lanka was the first country where my ATM card refused to work in most of the ATMs. I tried many, but the only ATM where my card worked was at Bank of Ceylon ATM. I met a few people who faced the same issue, even after alerting their banks that they were going to Sri Lanka.

I suggest you carry a few US Dollars or Euros to be safe if such a situation arises.You can always head to a bank to exchange currency in case your card doesn’t work. Another important point to note is that most of the banks in Sri Lanka shut at 3 pm, which is quite early as compared to international standards.

 

10 | About Sri Lankan Food.. and restaurants are called Hotels

Sri Lankan Rice and Curry - Sri Lanka Travel Tips

Sri Lankan Rice and Curry – Sri Lanka Travel Tips

One word: delicious! Sri Lankan food is similar to South Indian food but with very a mild difference. I fell in love with Rice and Curry meal combos, which were usually served with more than one curry, daal, beetroot salad and “Sambal”. Sambal (or sambhal) is a dry preparation of shredded coconut with red chilies, curry leaves, and a few herbs that Sri Lankans eat with their food. Sri Lankan roti is like India’s Malabari Parotta, which is my favorite kind of Indian bread. This roti can be shredded and mixed with spices, egg, meat or fish to form a delicious meal called “Kothu”. In fact, Kothu (or Kottu) is what Pad Thai is for Thailand – an affordable meal that is popular with backpackers. I also enjoyed egg samosas in Sri Lanka, which are very spicy and way different than Indian’s samosas. In smaller towns, a meal can cost around 100 LKR (less than $1), but can go as high as 500 LKR in bigger towns. I experimented a lot with Sri Lankan food and will try to write a full blog post about it.

 

11 | Drinking Sri Lanka’s Local Brew – Arrack & Lion lager

San and I always make it a point to try a new country’s local brew, so Sri Lanka was no exception. If you compare the costs with the neighboring countries, drinking in Sri Lanka is expensive. Arrack is Sri Lanka’s local spirit, which is like rum and is made with coconut flowers. (I didn’t even know that coconut trees had flowers!). We saw a lot of price and quality variations when we bought Arrack. At one time we spent 1200 LKR (around $7) but 2000 LKR (around $13) on another occasion.

The most popular local beer in Sri Lanka is Lion Lager and it costs 250 LKR ($1.5) if you buy it from alcohol shops. Of course it costs double or even triple when you buy it in bars and restaurants.

 

12 | Plug Points and electrical sockets in Sri Lanka

In most of the hotels in Sri Lanka, I saw two kinds of plug sockets – one with round holes (type D / M) and the other with rectangular prongs, which can easily fit UK plugs (type G socket). We didn’t carry a universal adapter and didn’t even need one in Sri Lanka. We were able to use our Indian as well as European plugs (both plug type C) in Sri Lanka without a problem. Yes, our Indian and European plugs had two spikes but could fit the Sri Lankan plugs without a problem. It is obviously recommended that you carry a good quality universal adapter so that you don’t end up harming your gadgets.

 

13 | Is Sri Lanka safe for solo women travelers?

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers - Sri Lanka travel tips

Is Sri Lanka safe for solo female travelers – Sri Lanka travel tips

I don’t have a one-word-answer for this. Although I traveled with San but I often met women who were traveling solo and didn’t face any issues. Sri Lankan people are polite and extremely helpful but I did see several instances of local men persistently trying to befriend international women tourists. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being friends but please be careful when they invite you for parties because there are enough horror stories on the Internet. Just like India, you will need to appear confident and at times intimidating to ward off trouble. As a rule of thumb, dressing sensibly, befriending other travelers for company and trusting your sixth sense will go a long way in keeping you safe.

 

Is Sri Lanka safe for Solo Female Travelers - Sri Lanka travel tips by Drifter Planet
Train Ride in Sri Lanka - Sri Lanka Travel Tips
Negombo Beach - Sri Lanka Travel Tips by Drifter Planet
Do you have any points to add in this post about Sri Lanka travel tips? Let me know in the comments.
Sleeping in a tree house in Sri Lanka.. in the middle of the forest!

Sleeping in a tree house in Sri Lanka.. in the middle of the forest!

You must have noticed pictures of a cute tree house in Sri Lanka on my Instagram page and noticed how I couldn’t stop raving about it. Well, it’s time to share more details because seriously, that tree house was the BEST place that I ever got to sleep. If you have visited Sri Lanka or have seen pictures, I’m sure by know by now how amazing the forest area is! Well, we wanted to experience it firsthand and wanted to stay in the middle of the jungle. After days of searching for the perfect place, we eventually found it on a website called Glamping Hub. Wait, what is Glamping Hub?

About Glamping Hub

Glamping Hub is a website that has a collection of thousands of tree houses, tipis, caravans, luxury tents and unique outdoor accommodations all over the world! In fact, I was shocked to see that this website also has luxurious forest stays near my own Delhi!

Find a tree house on Glamping Hub

Find a tree house on Glamping Hub

If you’re looking for a tree house too, you can visit this website and click on “Collections” and put your country of preference in location section to see a collection. I found 65 in India; let me know how many you find in your country of preference.

About Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

The name of the place where we stayed is Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela and it’s near Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is perhaps one of the most famous destinations of Sri Lanka. An image of Sigiriya Rock is used as a cover page of most of the travel books and articles about Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is famous for its ruins that are on top of a massive “Lion Rock” with lion like paws at the base.

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

View of the famous Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, chances are you’re going to want to visit Sigiriya. If you do, I strongly suggest you stay at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela because there is a lot to do here and you will not want to get out. It’s a nature retreat that’s secluded with unspoilt wilderness around. Yes, it’s completely off the grid!

Read: 13 Essential Travel Tips for Sri Lanka

The Forest around Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Honestly, I have seen many places that claim to be in forest but are just jungle themed resorts. I was so happy to see that the area around Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela is a real forest. Its 30 minutes drive away from main Sigiriya and on our way here, we spotted a few wild elephants because it’s in the middle of dense rainforest. The drive from Sigiriya town to this place felt like a jungle safari.

Inside Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Streams, calcium deosits and waterfall - all inside Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela

Streams, calcium deosits and waterfall – all inside Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela

I have never seen a property that’s as big as this. They have 7 acres of land in the middle of the forest and they have barely utilized 1 acre. Its very beautiful because inside there are a few ponds with lotus flowers, two streams, little waterfalls and a few huge boulders that are so big that you can climb them like hills. If you hike around the streams, you can also see calcium deposits. Needless to say, we did spot a few exotic birds, colorful butterflies, and iguanas inside. Oh and don’t forget that we saw elephants just right outside while we were on our way here! We did however see fresh elephant footprints here but never saw them inside during the day.

Our Tree house

Our tree house in Sri Lanka that was booked through Glamping Hub

Our tree house in Sri Lanka that was booked through Glamping Hub

Nothing can compare to the experience of sleeping in a tree house in the middle of a jungle. We could hear the sounds of the forest at night and wished we could record those. In fact, what’s even better is waking up to the sounds of birds chirping and singing their sweet songs.

We stayed in the oldest tree house at this property – the Kon tree house. It was build by the locals many years back when they wanted to sleep safely and away from the path of wild elephants. This tree house is very cute, cozy and romantic. We had to climb three flights of wooden stairs to reach it. Inside this tree house, was a large bed with mosquito net, bedside drawer and electricity plug socket.

Inside our tree house in Sri Lanka at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Inside our tree house in Sri Lanka at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Yes, its open from all the sides which made the experience of sleeping here truly memorable. The only thing that was protecting us from the wilderness was the height of this tree house and the mosquito net around our bed.

Listening to the sounds of forest at night in our tree house in Sri Lanka

Listening to the sounds of forest at night in our tree house in Sri Lanka

Right under this tree house was our massive room with a sitting area and an open-air bathroom. While the tree house had a very simple and “real forest” feel; the room under it was elaborate and luxurious. We were only two, but an entire family of 5 – 6 people can stay here considering the size of our tree house and attached room.

The tree houses at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela are sturdy and were built way before “tree house themed resorts” became a fad. All the tree houses here appeared to be different and we even saw one that had their own living room.

Natural Fish Spa – free!

Natural Fish Spa in Back of Beyind, Dehigaha Ela

Natural Fish Spa in Back of Beyind, Dehigaha Ela

Ever tried a fish spa? If you have tried one in Thailand where you have to put your feet in the middle of a tub full of hungry fishes, then I bet you would have hated it. I did too! Trust me when I say this but the experience is very different and pleasant when the process is natural. In Back of Beyond, they have several streams and there are spots where you can sit and put your feet in water while these “spa fishes” gently nib your skin!

At first I couldn’t stop giggling because it was ticklish but soon I relaxed and let myself get lost in the beauty of nature. San and I ended up sitting here for hours watching the waterfall, trees and everything around. Never in my life I thought something like a foot spa could be a romantic experience, but it was. Needless to say, our feet were looking very pretty by the end of our stay, haha.

Nature Trail Hike

This cute little yellow bird sand beautiful songs every morning

This cute little yellow bird is called Black-Hooded Oriole. It sang beautiful songs for us every morning

I can’t stress enough how big this property is and there is a lot do here that will keep you busy and you will not want to get out. We did multiple hikes on our own along the stream but decided to do a nature trail hike on one of the mornings. The hike started at 7:30 am and was led by Kasun.

He told us a lot of history about the area and Back of beyond. We were amazed to know that Back of Beyond has taken an initiative for reforestation in Sri Lanka. Their conservation efforts are outstanding and in all of their properties, they take great care to learn the ways of the land before they start building cottages and tree houses to minimize disruption to any of the existing natural patterns of the land and its life. They also practice rainwater collection and have created mini lakes for storing excess rainwater that provides water to the wildlife during dry seasons. They also have solar powered electricity for each cottage at the property. Moreover, they really know the area well and have also published a book called “Sigiriya and Beyond” with pictures and information of places in and around Sigiriya that no guidebook will tell you about.

We were also amazed to know that in this same property, a few things of archeological importance were found that are currently in Sigiriya museum. In fact, at the end of the hike we climbed on a boulder and saw markings of treasure that was hidden here but was dug out many years back. From this boulder, we also saw an amazing bird’s eye view of the forest around us. San and I jokingly called it “Mini World’s End”.

San and I at the end of our nature trail hike

San and I at the end of our nature trail hike

Apart from learning about the history and the environment, we also got to see many interesting species of insects, birds and trees which made our hike both fun and educational at the same time.

Other Activities

Hiking along the stream at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Hiking along the stream at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

There is so much to do in and around this property, that you can easily spend a week here without getting bored. We hiked along the stream, swam in the water, saw calcium deposits, spotted a massive water monitor lizard and ended up reaching an open field with peacocks!

San swimming in a natural pool in the middle of the forest

San swimming in a natural pool in the middle of the forest

Sadly we were not at this place for as long as we wanted and couldn’t be a part of every single activities that they offer. You can also hike through a nearby village where you eat with the locals. Moreover, they can also arrange bird watching trips and cycling trips to the main Sigiriya city where you can visit the famous Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala rock.

Delicious Food

Back of Beyond may be in the middle of the forest, but is a luxurious retreat. They have a massive dining area that overlooks the ponds. We have memories of spending hours here and eating delicious meals. The quantity is surely more than we could handle but San took it as a challenge to finish everything on his plate, haha!

Our breakfast at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

Our breakfast at Back of Beyond, Dehigaha Ela

For our first breakfast, we had an elaborate fruit salad, eggs, toast and sausages. On our second day, we got to eat South Indian breakfast of Dosa and sambar. Of course the meals were served with coffee and tea. I really like the Sri Lankan coffee here, which reminded me of Turkish coffee. Our dinner was excellent too and the portions were massive. We ate curry, rice, dal, chicken, fried rice and a unique dessert that was a mix of yogurt and a maple syrup kind of a liquid.

The staff is very attentive and sweet. They really pampered us and made us feel like royalty.

If you’re visiting Sri Lanka, then please do yourself a place and spend a few days at Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela. To know more or to book your own tree house, you can click on the link. If you’re lucky, you may just spot a few elephants and won’t have to spend on expensive national park entry fee plus the jeep safari costs. You can get a lot of Sri Lankan bucket list activities checked off by just staying here!

 

Swimming in the stream around our tree house in Sri Lanka
Sleeping in a tree house in Sri Lanka
That one time we slept in a tree house in Sri Lanka

So, have you stayed in a tree house too? Let me know in comments!

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