If you have ever wondered about travel in Sri Lanka then let that seed of intrigue grow and make time in your life to go! We spent a month there over December 2019 and January 2020 and found it to be a very unique country in so many ways. From culture, to cuisine, endless activities, wildlife and pristine ocean waters, this little country has it all! Here are 5 things we recommend that you cannot miss while you are there!
- Check out one of the many National Parks:
With 22 to boast about, Sri Lanka has done a great job of preserving its lands and wildlife for such a small country. Most national park journeys will not disappoint as there are such a vast array of animals to be able to see. We recommend visiting Wilpattu in the northwestern area. There you have the opportunity to see elephant, sloth bears and leopards. The most well-known park is Yala in the south, where you can see similar wildlife, but beware of crowds.
- Learn to surf at Weligama Bay:
Sri Lanka is slowly becoming more and more known as a surfer’s destination. With breaks all over the south and east part of the island it is no wonder why. As it appeals to surfers of all levels, we were fortunate to find ourselves working with a great surf camp in Weligama Bay, which is right next to the more well-known beach town of Mirissa. There are many surf camps to choose from and they cater to all levels, but we recommend the folks at Freedom Surf School. Not only are they offering high quality lessons along with accommodations that make you feel at home, but they also organize a weekly beach cleanup that makes a huge difference to keep the shores looking great!
- Chase waterfalls around Kandy and Ella
This is an absolute must do in our opinion! There are so many waterfalls all over this stunning countryside. You can arrange a tour on a comfy bus to see a handful, or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, we recommend renting a motorbike or scooter and paving your own path! It does turn into a lot of time on the saddle, but the countryside and amount of beauty you will see will certainly be a distraction from that! Wind through endless tea plantations and lush green mountainsides as you map out your journey. See the photo adjacent for a map of our 1 day itinerary starting in Kandy. There are so many waterfalls to see that you can easily stretch this out into more than this and stay overnight at one of the fancy tea plantation homestays. Here are a handful of falls we think are a must see:
- Devon Falls
- St Claire Falls (with some great lunch spots overlooking)
- Ramboda Falls
- Diyaluma Falls (over 200m drop with pools at the top for cooling off)
- Sunset at Sigiriya Rock
This famous rock fortress is about 2 hours north of Kandy, but worth checking out! A 200m monolith that jets out of the surrounding forest be prepared to learn all about its history and spend some time in the quaint little local villages around it. It costs USD$30 to climb the rock (which we think is pretty high) and is something that most people of varying abilities can handle. Sunset is a good time to see it for the typical amazing lighting you can get. You’ll see monkeys, birds, vast views of the norther central landscape and likely a lot of people too. Pro tip: Climb the neighboring Pidurangala Rock that is just a few Km away for only $5 and views that are just as impressive.
- Use the local trains for long distance transport
As someone who is probably overly excited about train travel, I always want to recommend this mode of transport, but in Sri Lanka, it is a must do for the cultural experience! The most famous of train rides in the country is the 6-8 hour Kandy to Ella (or opposite) ride. This is not only known for its beautiful scenery as the train rolls along steep mountain sides, but also has become “Instafamous” for some of the photos that people have captured. There are many other train rides through Sri Lanka as well and they should be considered too! Be prepared for crowded carriages and the occasional fight for a seat. You may have to stand for a good portion of the trip if you don’t get one during the rush. Soak in the culture of people cramming to get on and off at the busier stops, young local kids staring at you in wonder and many vendors selling all sorts of delicious snacks and drinks. Tickets can be purchased early for a higher price or day of. Just be sure to arrive to the departing station early to ensure tickets are available.