“When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable”
In August 2016 we were fortunate enough to visit the most magical and beautiful location on the entire planet. An island of amazing warmth, friendliness, culture, beauty and teeming with wildlife… Sri Lanka.
If you have visited this island already, then you will already be looking back fondly with a smile on your face as you picture your own amazing memories. However, if you haven’t yet been, then read on and discover our 7 top reasons for visiting this island paradise.
- The Wildlife
Despite its size, Sri Lanka is a hotspot for wildlife. Sea Turtles lumber ashore onto the sandy beaches to lay their eggs, while blue whales thunder past Dondra Head. Leopards stalk through the jungles like phantoms at night, while the watering holes come alive at sunset as a herd of elephants cool off from the heat of the day. The skies overhead are filled with colour as birds of every shape and size swoop past. In the noon heat, a lonely crocodile basks on the river bank, while monkeys jump and play in the canopy overhead.
You don’t have to go far to find amazing wildlife in Sri Lanka. The south coast is best for whales and turtles, while Elephants roam freely across the eastern plains and congregate at Minneriya and Uda Walawe. Just step out of your hostel and be amazed by the wildlife that surrounds you!
2. The Beaches
Sri Lanka is surrounded by a lush ribbon of white sand which separates the palm thronged jungle edge from the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Despite growing tourist numbers, it is never difficult to find your own deserted slice of tropical beach paradise.
We would frequently be totally alone on beaches so perfect that words could never do them justice. The virgin soft white sand lay totally undisturbed beneath us as we lay and watched the palms sway softly in the tropical winds and listened to the surf crashing down on the sand…
Our favourite beaches were at Marakolliya (Near Tangalle), Mirissa and several beaches around Arugam Bay.
Tip: The further east you go, the quieter the beaches get!
3. The Food
Sri Lankan cuisine is simple in theory… The national dish is rice and curry… But what this actually consists of is a beautifully fragrant curry sauce with either vegetables or meat and then several smaller side plates with rice, coconut sambol, ladies fingers, poppadom and a mix of other spicy vegetable dishes.
The flavours are intense… As can be the heat if you ask for it ‘local style’! The best part is that this is not just for dinner, but lunch and breakfast too! Although at breakfast the curry is usually served with string hoppers.
Other parts of the cuisine not to be ignored are the spicy Sri Lankan Roti and of course the short eats – A myriad of small delights available from street vendors up and down the country.
Tip: Be brave! Everything here is delicious, so make sure you try it all… Even if you think you won’t like it!
4. The People
Neither myself nor Christina have ever met a warmer, friendlier and happier bunch of people as the Sri Lankans. Despite all the troubles that the country has had over the years, the people retain their beautiful smiles and are often quick to help you out if you need it.
From the children waving at you excitedly as they make their way to school, to the ladies picking tea leaves in the hill country, to the tuk tuk drivers on the street corners… Everyone is so friendly.
As a stranger in a foreign land, we can often be wary and ready to be conned or to have to haggle hard… However, we can both say honestly that we never had to haggle in Sri Lanka and found the people here to be the friendliest we’ve ever met anywhere.
Tip: Learn a little of the language if you can (both Tamil and Sinhala). A lot of Sri Lankans speak English fluently, but better connections can be made if you make the effort to at least try and speak in their language.
5. The Culture
Sri Lanka is rich in culture. Whether it’s the Buddhist temples and shrines that dot the landscape, the colourful hindu temples or the architecturally stunning mosques… Sri Lanka has a diverse range of religious followers, all of whom manage to co-exist in relative peace.
The island’s other religion though is cricket. Nowhere on earth is this more fervently followed. As the sun starts to set, streets are transformed into temporary cricket pitches as impromptu games erupt across the country. No matter where you go, the subject of cricket will always follow you and we enjoyed passionate discussions with a range of locals which always ended in warm smiles and handshakes.
Tip: When Sri Lanka are playing, try to find a group of locals to watch it with. We managed this in Galle and had one of the highlights of our trip despite frequently having to explain that we were not Australian!
6. The Mountains
In the centre of this island paradise sits the Hill Country. Mighty mountain peaks tower up from the jungle and plains of the lowland until they finally reach their summit high above the clouds. Waterfalls cascade down rocky faces as terraces of tea plantations cling impossibly to the mountainside. Monkeys fly from tree to tree above you as the clouds clear to reveal stunning views across an emerald landscape towards the glittering sea far away in the distance.
- Taking the train from Ella to Kandy – one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
- The otherworldly atmosphere and stunning views from Worlds End in The Horton Plains National Park.
- Home cooked food and great hospitality at Safari Lodge, Ohiya.
- Ella Rock and the walks around it. There is a wonderful tea cafe as well with a terrace stretching out from the mountainside – We’ll leave it up to you to find it though!
Tip: Get to Worlds End early unless you only want to see cloud. The best views are available just after sun rise.
7. The Diversity of Landscapes
Ocean as the blue as the first day of summer surrounds the island until it gives way to soft white sands which in turn merge into a ring of palm trees swaying slowly in the wind. Beyond this the adventure starts… Pristine rainforest dominates the forest of the Lion King at Sinharaja. Thick jungles cling to lowland hills, while vast plains rich with wildlife spread eastwards to the point where the sun meets the sky every day. Rivers snake their way through the landscape as tropical vegetation thrives wherever man cannot.
Tower blocks and neon lights mark the landscape in Colombo, but beyond here lie cities of un-imaginable beauty. The white walls of the Galle Fort stand around against the mighty rolling waves of the Indian Ocean. The temples at Kandy stand solemnly against the lake, while wonderfully coloured bungalows and houses creep out from the jungle as you pass along the roads.
Watching over what is happening all around, mighty mountains stand in the islands centre. Draped in lush carpets of green and shrouded in clouds, the Hill Country of Sri Lanka has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
There is nowhere else on this planet where so much diversity is packed into such a small space.
- The Rainforest at Sinharaja
- The Hill Country
- The East Coast Hinterland
- The Bentota Ganga
So thats our 7 top reasons… The truth is though that 7 reasons just isn’t enough… The trains, the people, the landscapes, the wildlife… Sri Lanka has it all. Don’t delay and book that trip… We promise you that you won’t regret it!
Now, when can we go back?!?!