Between train ride, cultural discovery, tea field and peacefulness, Sri Lanka is a destination for everyone’s taste. For six weeks, I traveled around this little island located south of India in the Indian Ocean. This country is a beautiful mix where Muslim, Buddhist, Hindus, and Christian are around each other. In a civil war until 2009, it slowly opens to the rest of the world and, now, you can find a lot of hidden gems.
As a woman traveling by myself, I felt the kindness and respect of the local population, whether in the local transportations, restaurants, or remote villages. By train or by bus, which is really well developed and managed, it is now possible to travel safely all around the country. The internet service is available everywhere and it is quite easy to reach regions that are remote.
Colombo, the capital
Colombo, the capital, and the biggest city with 5.6 million people, is not a required stop. However, for such a dense city, visiting the area is quite pleasant. There are many parks, like Beira Lake or Viharamahadevi Park, which offer a break from the turmoil of the city. For only a night out in town, the best place to grab a drink is along the waterfront at Galle Face green park.
South of the county is known for their resorts, white sand beaches and its surf spots. However, it is the most touristy part of the country especially between Galle and Matara. If you keep traveling east, you will pass these massive hotels and find some peace. Yala National Park is one of the best spots to observe elephants and many other animals in their natural habitats.
Finally, it is in that region, close to Welligama, that you could meet the famous fisherman on a stick. They will peg their poles in the sand in the middle of the water and every time, will swim to it to fish.
It is time to leave the beaches and go to the center of the country where the tea culture is everywhere, since Sri Lanka is the fourth-largest producer in the world. The leaves which are still collected by hand, are mainly done by the women who only take the buds and two leaves. They can collect up to 20-30 kg per day. The first main stop is the unmissable town of Kandy where temples, restaurant and luxurious gardens rub shoulders. Many trains from Kandy offer touristic route to discover the region. Take the train between Colombo and Kandy. It crosses beautiful landscapes and hang out with locals. Thanks to the bus network, it is fairly easy to visit remote villages and to get out of the town.
From Kandy, many options are offered. The classical path is to take a train between Kandy and Ella which will bring you through the famous tea fields and breathtaking landscapes. Before, I advise you to go to the Knuckel Mountains where you will have the chance to sleep in a luxurious jungle surrounded by mountains. There are many opportunities of hiking. With more the 34 different ones, there are some for all the tastes. However, it is quite difficult to find information so, it si easier to hire a local who will make you discover the area and taught you about the culture of the people living in the mountain.
Finally, Sigiriya is a classical stop, but worth it. The main attraction is the old fortress carved in the rock. For a more affordable and less touristy option, they ascend of Pindurangala is the perfect choice with a view on the valley and a beautiful sunrise. Many safaris are offered to observe elephant. However, before booking any cheap safaris, inform yourself and try to find one that is working with local guides and in collaboration with conservations NGOs.
There is more to discover in that part of the country and you could spend your three weeks there. Especially if you wish to appropriate the tea culture and live out of the ordinary experiences.
The north part of Sri Lanka has been destroyed during the civil war and it started being accessible recently. The area is less touristy and kept its authenticity. If you have the chance to reach the northest point of the country, Jaffna, you will discover a different culture and the most exotic part of the country. Jaffna is not that interesting, but it os the place to rent a motorbike and get out of the town. Jaffna peninsula and its two islands, Deft Island and Maintivu Island, are amazing and will allow you to spend a relaxing time. From the center, on your way to Jaffna, you will cross Anuradhapura where is located the best archeological site of Sri Lanka. Capital of the country between the 4th century BC until the 11th century AC, it is an interesting day stop to go visit the stupas larger than life.
Then, a bit more south, Mannar, a remote stop, is the closest point to India. Many fishermen villages are located along the beach and you will have the chance to share their day-to-day life if you stay in one of the homestays. Rocked by the sound of the waves, at the end of the day, most of the local enjoy the sunset. Easily reachable by bus, it’s worth the detour.
The East Coast
This trip is not complete until you stop resting and surfing on the beaches of the East Coast. Les touristy than the south, these beaches offer a more authentic experience. With a real surf town vibe, Arugam Bay is the spot to end a trip. This part of the country is more interesting between May and September, during the surf season, where the villages revive. I have been during the low season and I still enjoyed the peacefulness and the long walk on the beach.
It is how my trip around Sri Lanka, an authentic country that has so much to offer. It is possible to take your time and to appreciate at its true value.
Published on https://vaolo.com/en/blog/2020/06/30/my-journey-across-sri-lanka/ (June 30, 2020)