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There’s been quite a buzz about Sri Lanka over the last ten years, now that the images of the tsunami devastation are behind, and with the Tamil Tigers signing a truce in 2009. However, I had always been a bit put off by the commonly-heard statement that “doing Sri Lanka is like doing India soft“. Actually, there are two underlying thoughts that bother me here 1/ I very much dislike the idea of “doing” a country! As travellers, we are guests of its people, observers of its traditions, passers by with an inquisitive eye. 2/ Having been to India a few times – read here and here – I think it is sad to wish that there should be a softer version of it somewhere in the world. India is incredible to visit as it is, and Sri Lanka is a whole other beauty of its own.
Truth is, we can thank Marcelo for settling on Sri Lanka as our big annual family trip destination this year (it was a close win over the Galapagos..the airfare supported the winner). Indeed, it was Marcelo’s 10th birthday gift to choose where we would go next, and to plan it all (with me!). He had been excited by his friend Easton’s tales about this beautiful island. Tales of surfing, but also tales of elephants crossing, spices for breakfast and jungle everywhere.
If I must sum up the country in one go, I’d say it’s a perfect combo of wildlife + culture + nature. It is also good value for money compared to many other Asian countries. During the European summer hours, it’s only 4h30 time difference with London, and there are direct flights every day. Oh, and a little bonus: it’s been declared completely malaria-free since 2016… Now how about all of this for an easy family destination?
The planning of our trip:
We had two weeks available to travel, late March-early April. This partly determined our itinerary as certain regions such as the East Coast are prone to lots of rain at that time of the year, so we had to be wise with the itinerary. Marcelo was keen to balance culture and nature, take a train at some point, observe wildlife, and finish at the beach for some surfing. With this in mind, we first headed North to discover the cultural triangle, then we came back down through the mountains for the tea plantations. And we finished on the South Coast for the beach and the surf, with a stop on the way in a natural park. We made the decision to bypass entirely Colombo as it is a very congested city. We also avoided Kandy in the center of the country, although it is on many people’s itinerary (botanical garden, temple of the lost tooth..) but I was concerned about spending too much time in traffic there too.
My biggest challenge was to understand the time that it would take to travel from A to B, not something that Google Map is very good at when taking into account the buffalos, the tuk-tuk, the buses, the trucks, the cyclists, the motocyclists, the school children and the cars that are on the road. Oh, and the elephants and the stray dogs.
Had we decided to use the services of a travel agent, those two would have done an excellent job I am told. They’re both based in Sri Lanka and very knowledgeable + professional: Sri Lanka in Style and Red Dot Tours
Our 14-days itinerary went like this:
1 night north of Colombo after our overnight flight from London
3 nights in the cultural triangle area, based near Sigiriya
3 nights in the tea plantations area, based near Haputhale
1 night in a safari camp, in Yala National Park
4 nights on the beach, in Dickwella, South Coast
1 night in the Unesco-protected town Galle and straight back to the airport
Kamal was our driver the whole time that we were in Sri Lanka; he came highly recommended by our friends who lived there. His English was not that great but his kindness was, and his driving skills too. You would not be advised to drive yourself throughout the country, and it worked out financially better for us to have him the whole time even though we did not need him on some days. Kamal can be booked here.
We’re just back and I am not sure that I would have changed much in our itinerary if we were to do it all over again. We loved it, and i’ll tell you why in a few successive posts…
stuti for reading me, and for following us on instagram whenever we had an internet connection.
xx වැනෙසා (yep, that’s me, vanessa, in sinhalese alphabet. you can check yours here)