A trip to Sri Lanka can be the experience of a lifetime. The magical island has a huge variety of landscapes, climates and things to see and do. It’s easy to travel in Sri Lanka and very safe. The Sri Lankan people are kind and welcoming to tourists. Where most of Southeast Asia has been taken over by a storm of tourism, Sri Lanka remains peaceful even in high season and the attitude towards foreigners is warm and helpful.
I traveled the South and central part of the island with two amazing local guys: My driver Gaja and photographer Dennis. Here are my travel tips and some of the memorable experiences I had on the island.
The start of the journey – Ayurveda in Wadduwa
About 1,5 hour south of Colombo airport, lies a peaceful resort called Siddhalepa Ayurveda. As you might know, Sri Lanka is famous for it’s Ayurveda retreats and centers, but this resort is extra special, due to their high quality herbs and treatments. Everything they use at the retreat is produced in their very own factory. The on-site shop sells many of their products and home-grown herbal teas. I was truly impressed with this wonderful location and the detox program that I followed there for 3 days. The treatments were incredible, the food super delicious and healthy, and the location incredibly peaceful, right on a pretty long stretched beach. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here and would recommend it for a nice retreat away from busy every day life.
Check out http://www.siddhaleparesort.com/ for more information on this wonderful place.
I’m not really big on visiting forts and tourist attractions, yet I really loved driving through Galle and having lunch at the stunning Fortress Resort on the way to the Southern beaches of Talalla. The Fortress is a hotel just outside of Galle, with pools overlooking a dramatic ocean landscape. I love their lounge area and restaurant, but staying here overnight is also a pleasure, with beach facing suites and great 5-star service.
One of my favorite places in South Sri Lanka is Talalla Retreat. Facing a white sandy beach, it’s the perfect getaway for Yoga, surf and enjoyment. Daily Yoga classes and workshops are offered at the retreat, and the dinner buffet is just out of this world. The chefs at this place cook up the best Sri Lankan food every day and the atmosphere is so friendly and relaxin, with a big open hall where people have meals, sit together and share time. I’ve been here several times now and truly think it’s one of the best places and beaches in Sri Lanka to stay.
One of the most gorgeous estates and luxury hotels I’ve ever seen, this Shangri-La Golf Resort is located on the ancient spice route and the area is know for it’s stunning nature and wildlife. Super gorgeous place and if it fits within your budget I would definitely stay here for a night or two. It’s actually very well priced for the beauty and comfort the hotel offers. Otherwise just have lunch there and enjoy the place for a few hours as it has a lovely atmosphere.
Mountain Bliss in Ella
From Talalla it’s not very complicated to drive to the cute little mountain town Ella, and it takes about 3 hours by car. Ella is green, surrounded by tea plantations and gets a little chilly at night. A favorite spot of travelers and backpackers. I personally loved “climbing” the little Adams Peak and spending time at the newly opened hotel called Chill Ville Hotel, with a pool looking out over the mountains. The food is amazing and the accommodation simply stunning. It was such a wonderful place to stay in Ella, and a little more upscale and special than most accommodations in town. As I’m a bit over the backpacker life, I enjoyed the class and comfort the hotel offers.
After our visit and chill activities in Ella, we drove on to Nuwara Eliya (takes about 2 hours, but can also be done by train in about double the time even though the distance is not very long. I suggest driving with a guide and car if you can).
Nuwara Eliya is less backpacker oriented and a slightly more classy then Ella. The town is full of luxury hotels and villas to stay in. It’s a place to go horse riding and visit some natural wonders like the Ambewela Farms. We stayed in The Grand Hotel and a gorgeous private villa called Hill Rise. I love the Grand Hotel for the location and breakfast, and it’s just an experience you have to have once as it’s a special place. However, the hotel is a bit old so don’t expect a high level of luxury here, probably more like 4 star service and facilities. Our other night’s stay at the villa was incredible with a beautiful view over the lake and personalized service. I’m definitely recommending to stay here.
Nuwara Eliya gets cold and has a completely different climate from the South coast so please make sure you bring a jacket, jeans and some thick sweaters, because it’ll be like European autumn weather most of the time.
Even though I’m much more of a beach bikini kinda person, when in Sri Lanka you should not miss the city of Kandy. Again a decent drive away, about 2,5 hours from Nuwara Eliya, this city has such a nice vibe and is definitely worth a visit.
I stayed about 30 minutes outside the city to still enjoy the amazing energy of the surrounding nature, do Yoga and run through the jungle in the morning. The Kandy Samadhi Centre is owned by a fascinating antique dealer and artist and I personally loved staying here and meeting him in person. Not a super luxury accommodation, but completely immersed in the jungle and the home cooked food is so yum. I think this place offers a very unique experience not to mention high quality Ayurvedic treatments. Stay here if you love nature and want to experience a bit more of authentic Sri Lanka rather than just a basic city guesthouse.
In Kandy itself I recommend going to the Kandy lake and having some coffee in one of the cute cafe’s in the city around the Temple Street area. Just go there and walk around and you’ll easily find a nice place to sit down. I like Heritage Cafe, Barista and The Empire Cafe.
I nearly cried when I went to the Millennium Elephant foundation, around 1,5 hour drive from Kandy. I had the chance to scrub Raja (his name is Raja) on the picture below in the river. This foundation takes care of elephants that are injured, neglected by their owners or in a bad condition. I was so humbled to visit this place and get a private tour from the manager, and mostly to bathe with these magnificent creatures. Please visit and donate, as the organization is completely self-funded and it costs a lot to take care of these elephants.
Ending the Trip – Chilaw Beach & Anantaya Resort
Unfortunately this amazing trip had to come to an end after ten days of traveling around the country, and what better way to end a trip then spending your last morning in between the palm trees. I stayed on Chilaw beach my last night and was pleasantly surprised by the vibe of the area and the lovely hotel I stayed in, called Anantaya Resort & Spa. The pool is absolutely stunning and I also loved the service and the rooms overlooking the ocean. A lovely place to end a trip and look back on all the amazing experiences of the past ten days. I hope you enjoyed my travel story and will have the chance to visit Sri Lanka soon!
If you fly from Dubai, Sri Lankan airlines is a great choice. Book your tickets on https://www.srilankan.com/