14 days in Sri Lanka
We went to Sri Lanka for 14 days and actually started the trip not knowing much about the route we would take. Here’s what we ended up doing:
Negombo (1st and last night)
Quiet beach town just 15 minutes away from the airport.
- Visit the fish market in the morning
- Enjoy some beach time and the small bars at night
Negombo is the only place we visited where you could still see the Portuguese influence, mainly in people’s names and in their religion. You can find a lot of catholic churches and you realise that here tuk-tuks are decorated with Jesus stickers instead of Buddha’s.
On our last night it was actually the Children and Elderly’s day, so the whole town was gathered and singing at an open air catholic mass.
If you want to know more about Negombo, read here what Mithral told us. He was the one who helped us plan our route in Sri Lanka.
Anuradhapura (1 day)
It’s a very different vibe from Negombo, mainly because it’s not a beach city but a more of a hectic and big one.
- Visit the sacred city and its temples, where buddhists from all Sri Lanka go to pray
- Go on a safari in the Wilpattu National park (be aware if it’s the right season to go to the park because during the dry season it’s very hard to see leopards and elephants)
In Anuradhapura everything closes very early, we tried to grab something to eat at around 7pm and almost everything was already closed. We ended up having a chicken fried rice at a “fancy” restaurant that was part of a huge supermarket chain. Our first and only meal inside a supermarket was actually quite good.
If you want to know more about the Buddhist temples, read here what Priyeangika told us
Sigiriya (2 days)
This time, we arrived to a very calm and remote little place, which although very small, was clearly growing around tourism, with new guesthouses popping up on every corner.
- Hike up the Lyon rock
- Watch the sunrise at the top of Little rock over a 360º view of the endless jungle landscape.
- Go on the safari to Minneriya and see hundreds of wild elephants only a few meters away
The safari to Minneriya was a last minute decision; we were planning on going to Pinnawala to see the little elephants’ orphanage. However, it was only when we arrived in Sigiriya that we found out that the elephants at the orphanage were actually very badly treated, always chained up and were there only for the purpose of entertainment. On the contrary, in Minneriya we found only wild elephants, completely free, happily eating their grass and bathing in the lake.
If you want to know more about the people of Sigiriya, read here what Nalin told us.
Ella (2 days)
From the jungle in Sigiriya we moved to the mountains in Ella, where the temperature drops, which was not too bad after the heat of the dry jungle.
- Quickly tour around Kandy before catching the train to Ella
- Take the 7-hour train ride to Ella. The trail passes the highlands, through the tea plantations where you can see the local women dressed in their colourful sarongs picking the tea leaves and waving at you from a few meters away. This is really one of the coolest things to do in Sri Lanka, you cannot miss it
- Walk up Little Adam’s Peak for sunset
- Follow the trail up to Ella’s Rock
- Look for one of the many spas Ella has to offer and do an ayurvedic full body massage for less than 10€ (don’t forget to bargain)
- Check out one of the Tea Factories and learn a bit more about the tea you drink at home
If you decide to hike up Ella’s Rock without a guide, which you can, just be sure to study the way beforehand. Some obstacles include local people misguiding you so that then you need their help (and they won’t help you for free). Also, some of the paths you need to follow are hidden and quite hard to find. We decided to go by ourselves, but not only missed one of the turns but also got followed by an old man with a machete in his hand. Now that we know he meant no harm we can laugh about it, but at the time we were quite scared.
If you want to know more about the tea production in Sri Lanka, read here what Dhamayanthe told us.
Arugam Bay (4 days)
After the mountains we finally made it to the beach. Arugam Bay is known for being a very good surf destination so it was crowded with foreigners and local surfers.
- Rent a scooter and explore the surfing points and deserted beaches around Arugam Bay
- Watch the sunset at Main Point while many surfers catch their last waves of the day
- Have some delicious grilled fresh fish at one of the restaurants in the main street
The best decision we made in Arugam Bay was to rent a scooter, it gave us the freedom to move around easily without depending on a tuk-tuk. Plus we got to see an elephant randomly walking in the middle of the road, stopping traffic, and minding its own business.
If you want to know more about Arugam Bay and how the locals were affected by the Tsunami in 2004, read here what Rass told us.
Tangalle (1 day)
Tangalle is another beach town in the south of Sri Lanka. September is low season so there weren’t many people there. From what we’ve heard, the environment is different in high season with many beach parties and a lot more people.
- Climb up the rock temple
- Canoe down the lagoon at sunset
- Visit the fish market in the early morning. You’ll see thousands of colourful boats and fishing men with their fish lying on the dock.
- Relax on the beach
We were very fortunate to meet Sumeera, a local businessman that showed us around. When you’re travelling, it can get hard to distinguish who is genuinely trying to help and who is just trying to rip you off. You find it hard to believe that some people just want to show you their town and talk about their culture with nothing in exchange. Meeting Sumeera was especially eye opening as he took us around Tangalle, on his own tuk-tuk and showed us everything without ever asking for anything in return. He also mentioned how we should trust the local people more, as they normally just want to help.
If you want to know more about Tangalle BEach, read here what Sumee told us.
Unawatuna/Galle (3 days)
Unawatuna and Galle are next to each other, the first is at the beach and the second is a small town surrounded by a fort. This was our last stop in Sri Lanka and definitely a good way to end the trip. Galle has a very strong Dutch influence in its architecture, it’s very different from the rest of Sri Lanka, very European.
- Rent a scooter to drive around Unawatuna, Galle and the Jungle beach. It’s the easiest way to get around
- Watch the sunset at the fort in Galle and then try one of the many bars in town
- If you want some shopping, Galle is also a good place (and probably the only one) to do so, it has some nice shops.
Again we were in Unawatuna during low season when prices are considerably lower. We ended up staying at a super nice hotel with swimming pool, room service and breakfast included for less than 10€ a night.
For diner, we went to the fort where we ate a chicken soup in a tiny little restaurant with a garden. The cooks understood that we weren’t feeling great so in the end, they took care of us by giving us some local, natural medicine. It tasted terribly but we were as good as new the next day!