Top 5 Things Not to Miss in Sri Lanka
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | April 19th, 2017
Located in the Indian Ocean, just below the southeastern tip of India, lies the picturesque island of Sri Lanka. This stunning country has been overlooked for years, but thanks to a tourism boom in 2016, it is now becoming a popular holiday destination.
If you're looking for an exotic escape filled with adventure, relaxation, and some of the most beautiful sights in the world, look no further than this island paradise. Here is a list of five things not to miss when visiting gorgeous Sri Lanka.
Stay in a Luxurious Treehouse Resort
The Huma Terra Green Lodge was built on lush rice fields in a setting that resembles something out of a fairytale. The property is so quiet and peaceful, you'll feel miles away from civilization. Although it my be difficult to leave this serene property, be sure to check out the nearby Galle Fort and Hikkaduwa Beach.
Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, is the ever-impressive Sigiriya rock fortress. Used to house King Kashyapa's palace in 477 CE, this towering historical site was more recently used as a Buddhist monastery. Today, it is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some visitors opt to climb the nearly 1,200 steps to the top of the rock for spectacular panoramic views, while others remain on the ground where they can stroll amongst some of the prettiest gardens in all of Sri Lanka.
World Renowned Beaches
The two most famous beaches, Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna, stretch along the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. Surf the waves, scuba dive in the countless sunken shipwrecks, or bask in the tranquility of these two pristine places.
Take the Train From Ella to Kandy
"It's about the journey, not the destination." This popular saying sure holds true while thinking about the picturesque seven hour train ride from Ella to Kandy. Slowly rolling past the jaw dropping tea plantations and misty hills, it's no wonder this route was named one of the most scenic in the world. When in Kandy, be sure to sample (and buy) some of the world-famous, and locally grown, Ceylon tea.
Explore the Capital
Located on the west coast, Colombo is a relaxed city with rich history and culture, and an abundance of rooftop restaurants. Stroll the vibrant streets, explore the National Museum of Colombo, and end your day at the OZO Hotel's rooftop restaurant for dinner and an exquisite sunset view.
The weather varies in Sri Lanka depending on which coast you are visiting. All of the sights above are located on the west coast, and are best visited during December through April. The weather is warm and dry, and the daytime high's are around 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. On the west coast, monsoon season runs from May through November, and this is not an ideal time to visit. If you are planning on visiting the east coast, then it is reversed. The months of May through November are the ideal months to visit, while December through April bring heavy rains and monsoons.
Trains are often delayed in Sri Lanka, so never schedule a flight or something important based on your train's arrival time. We sat on a train in the middle of nowhere for over an hour one time. Albeit the views were spectacular, we arrived to our destination almost two hours later than expected. We also took trains that arrived exactly on time. It's hard to predict, so be flexible if you're taking the train.
If you want to experience the epic Ella to Kandy train ride, be sure to book your tickets in advanced on the official website. Tickets must be purchased at least 37 days ahead of time. It is also possible to book a 2nd or 3rd class ticket at a train station the day of travel. You might, however, end up with a "standing" aka "no seat" ticket, and standing for the whole six to seven hour train ride might be tough.
Always carry some cash. A lot of restaurants, shops, tuk tuk drivers, and tour operators run on cash.
The locals are VERY friendly and polite. Enjoy learning about their beautiful culture.