One can not always have good luck. Sometimes your travels get screwed by bad weather. So happened to me during my travels through Sri Lanka. But still, it was a fun an interesting trip! And the research I did, will be helpful for you to plan your own sunny holiday to Sri Lanka 🙂 so read on….
Sri Lanka, what to expect?
I combined Sri Lanka with the Maldives, which was an Excellent idea. You can have the best of Sri Lanka’s nature and culture with a perfect beach holiday. That said, Sri Lanka has pretty beaches as well! This country has almost everything: there are the wildlife parks (elephants!), temples, chaotic cities, jungle, tea fields and hiking routes. All the ingredients for a happy time with good weather. There where two downsides for me though: the dirt in cities and public transportation. I didn’t feel safe in the local buses so this limited my freedom to travel around unfortunately.
There’s so much to see! Most travelers go for the loop: Colombo – Negombo – Kandy -famous train route – Ella (tea fields) – Wildlife Safari Udawalawa or Yala – beach chillings – Colombo. You can do this itinerary within one or two weeks. You can also add the North part of the island with the highlights Dambulla – Lion Rock – Anuradhapura (temples) – Polonnaruwa (temples) – Wildlife safari Wasgamuwa making this loop from Kandy.
Here’s your Sri Lanka map to help plan your trip:
This beach town is close to the Colombo airport, so a main hub for most travellers to start their Sri Lanka trip. This you notice in the city: the main road is surrounded by touristy shops, hotels, money exchange and so on. I spent here one night which was good for me. The atmosphere is bustling and hustling, with local vendors trying to sell you anything. The scenery is pretty, with the wide gold sand beach, lush gardens and colorful houses. Negombo is about one hour taxi drive from the airport, costs $12. There’s a big bus terminal with buses to all of Sri Lanka. From the center, you have to go here by tuk-tuk (20 mins, 500R)
Listed as a highlight of Sri Lanka, I went to have a look myself. Kandy is a typical busy Asian town, with an enormous amount of traffic, street sells, lots of people and just much activity everywhere. You can truly soak up the Sri Lankan culture! Also with the various museums and temples. You will see poverty and richness., thousands of tuk-tuks and a handful of Western shops and restaurants. The lake is pretty and you can hike up to the big Budha for stunning views of the area. From Kandy you can visit the Elephant Orphanages in Rambukkana. Also, Kandy is the starting point of the famous train route to Ella. The bus from Negombo to Kandy takes 5 hours (320R pp).
Train Kandy – Ella
Without this train journey, your Sri Lanka trip isn’t complete. The ride takes 6-7 hours and goes through many tea fields, it’s beautiful. It’s also a comfortable ride, once you are seated. To get tickets, can be a bit of a challenge. There will always be 3rd class tickets available (cattle class) at the station, but this you really don’t want! We asked one day before our train ride in our hostel for help. There are ‘guys’ in town who have a bunch of presold tickets. Our hostel had to call for a while to find one that still had tickets available for the morning train (7:30 or so). Than, a fancy car showed up and we got our seats for 1250R pp (2nd class). The 2nd class is in the front of the train. It’s really chaotic on the platform and inside the train with folks looking for their seat! food sellers come on board now and than, but don’t sell cheap.
One of the highlights of my trip! A small village focused on tourism which you will feel most in the main street. The vibe is laidback, the area super green and there are many many hostels and restaurants to suit your needs. The best is the environment though, in the middle of tea fields and green hills. You can do several hikes like Adam’s peak (1 hour) or Ella’s Rock (2 hours). From Ella you can take a taxi or the local bus unward. We took the 10:30 bus to Tangelle (4 hours with stop, 200R pp) and changed there bus to Mirissa (big bus station, many busses)
Udawalawa or Yala
after a lot of research I decided it would be too much of a hassle to stop between Ella and the coast in one of the National parks for Safari. However, if the weather wasn’t as bad ánd if I had more time, I certainly would have visit Udawalawe. You can get here by public transport within 6 hours from Ella or so. The best seems to book a tour with pick up from Ella if you are short in time. Read here which park to choose.
One of the prettiest beaches of Sri Lanka. Also a nice vibe here. Along the beach there some beach bars and there are many many hostels. Downside is the busy main road runnig thorugh the centre. Also the restaurants are dissapointing in compare to the ones more inland: focused on tourists and expensive! Took the bus from Mirissa to Hikaduwa (1,5 hr, 80R).
A nice beach town relatively close to Colombo, and a main advantage: there’s a train station! The beach is not as pretty as Mirissa, it’s small and there aren’t many spots with shadow. The shops and restaurants are nice though. It’s all a bit spread out. There’s a big market you can visit. When we were in Hikaduwa, the sun finally showed up! Took the train to Colombo Fort at 11:30. Unfortunately only a seat available at the last part of the trip (3 hours).
More beaches Read here for a good overview of Sri Lanka’s beaches!
Only went here to change trains. Had some time to kill, so walked through the area next to the Fort Railway Station. A very busy urb with many street sells, shops and some eateries. You can check out the Dutch Museum!
How to get around
To get around Sri Lanka, I would say: take the train as much as possible. You find schedules on this handy website. Although you will not always find a seat, is the most comfortable and relatively cheap way to get around. Unfortunately the train will not go everywhere, so I took many local busses. Those are a nightmere! Drivers go like crazy. The busses are privately owned and they want to take as many people on the bus and drive the fastest possible to get the most money. There’s no limit in the amount of passengers and other vehicles are litteraly bumped of the road. Later I found out at least one fatal accident happens every day with those busses, so from then, we took tuk-tuks to get around! More expensive but with a nice breeze and great views 🙂 of course you can also go with taxi’s.
Next time Sri Lanka?
I know it can be a veeery fun country to go to but it wasn’t my cup of tea, mostly of the weather but also because of the dirt and unsafe roads. Also, there isn’t one thing Sri Lanka stands out for. Except for the train ride between Kandy and Ella, all the highlights of the country like temples, tea fields, wildlife parks, beaches you can find elsewhere better. That said, everything is relatively close to each other and the culture gives you a hint of the life in India. So just go for it and find out yourself what Sri Lanka can bring you! Now, read on for more sunny stories of the Maldives 😀