Travel report Sri Lanka

A lush countryside, elephants herds, numerous temples, lonely and lovely beaches – with these words friends of mine summed up their travel experiences in Sri Lanka. Words that stuck in my head and nourished my urge to visit that apparently paradise-like place! So I decided the next country to discover should definitely be Sri Lanka!

Within a fortnight we wanted to explore everything the country has to offer – but first of all, I had to apply for a visa online. Visa application was easy and fast and I finally received it after a couple of days. Then I was ready to go! After about 9 hours of flight, we approached Sri Lanka. I was totally excited and looked forward to the next two weeks. Due to the arrival in the middle of the night, we've stayed the first hours at the airport until a taxi drove us to the nearest train station. English is sufficient to communicate with the locals but you need to get used to their accent. Since we wanted to see the highlands first and relax on the beaches afterwards, our trip started from the train station in Veyangoda, which is closer to the airport than Colombo Fort and on the way to Kandy as well.

Train rides in Sri Lanka: an absolute must!

You should not miss going by train in Sri Lanka! There are several reasons why: the tickets are cheap (less than 1 €), the view during the ride is beautiful and you will meet many other travelers. However, the TukTuk, a local auto rickshaw, is a good way for shorter distances. Some trains offer 1st class, but the number of tickets is limited and can only be booked online 14 days in advance. Tickets for the 2nd class are limited, nevertheless the wagons are still crowded. There is no limit on tickets for the 3rd class. So you can imagine how packed it can get during daytime. Air circulation is only provided by fans, which are attached on the ceiling of the trains, and by opening the doors – they remain open all the time and you can enjoy the view. It is also very comforting that are served cold drinks as well as snacks inside the train.

Highlights in Sri Lanka:

  • English is sufficient for getting around
  • Take the train for long distances and the TukTuk for short distances
  • 3rd class train tickets are always available and the cheapest
  • Bargain wherever it is appropriate

The volunteer town Kandy

Kandy is the former royal city. You shouldn't miss to visit the tooth temple (there is a tooth of Buddha) and the historic centre of Kandy. Furthermore, you can take a trip to Sigiriya (Lion Rock), a large monolith surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Close by you can find the cave temple of Dambulla. The path leads you up to the temple passing a large sitting Buddha and countless monkeys. At the entrance – just like in any other temple and house in Sri Lanka - you are asked to take off your shoes. Watch out: You may be asked to pay a fee at the temple entrance. But don't get fooled, it's free! Overall, bargaining is a very useful skill in Sri Lanka, as you can usually go down to the half of the original price.

Must See in Sri Lanka:

  • tooth temple
  • Sigiriya (Lion-Rock)
  • Cave temple of Dambulla

From Nuwara Eliya to Ella

The train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is definitively a must do while being in Sri Lanka. Through the highlands the train winds through a beautiful scenery filled with tea plantations. By the way: The tea is super delicious – give it a try! Ella itself is a small place with many restaurants. The locals mainly live from tourism. Start your climb to Mini Adam's Peak or Ella Rock from here. The way up to Ella Rock leads you along train tracks, several tea plantations, a waterfall and finally a steep ascent – however, the view is definitely worth it.

National parks in Sri Lanka

Moving on from Ella, you should definitely pay a visit to one of the national parks and go on a safari. You can either visit the Yala or Udawalawe National Park with hundreds of elephants, water buffalos and birds. In the middle of the park is a lake where you may see crocodiles. And if you are lucky enough you might even spots a leopard.

To Do's:

  • Trying black tea at the tea fields in Ella
  • Safari at Yala National Park
  • Turtles at the beach in Tangalle during twilight
  • Water sports in Unawatuna
  • Stilt fishermen between Mirissa and Unawatuna

Tangalle, Mirissa and Unawatuna

After all the stunning landscape and countless temples on the way, we decided to visit some beaches. We visited Tangalle, Mirissa and Unawatuna. Tangalle is a quiet place with a vast beach and a strong current (however, there is a place to swim safely). It is not unusual to be alone at the beach. As soon as it's getting dark, you might even see turtles at the beach. Mirissa and Unawatuna are more touristy. In Mirissa there is a small hill in the sea, which is connected by sand with the beach. Unawatuna offers a wide range of water sports, from jet skiing to diving. An eyecatcher you surely shouldn’t miss is the liana at a palm tree in Unawatuna! It’s the perfect place for a great picture with a stunning background. As it is not located at the main beach, you might walk a bit further down the beach. Anyway, do not forget your camera ;) Between Mirissa and Unawatuna are a lot of stilt fishermen, a traditional fishing method in Sri Lanka. If you want to take a photo, you have to pay two up to eight euros.

The last days in Sri Lanka: Galle and Colombo

After a few relaxing days at the beach we moved on to Galle. The fort in Galle was built by the Dutch, but it was heavily hit by the tsunami in 2004. The mixture of Western and Sri Lankan atmosphere and architecture makes it an unique place to visit in Sri Lanka.

The capital of Sri Lanka: Colombo

Before heading back to Germany, we stopped at our last destination: Colombo. Do not forget the anti-mosquito cream. There is the Independence Square (until 1948 Sri Lanka was British), the Town Hall and the Seema Malaka Temple are located at a lake in the middle of the city.

The food in Sri Lanka

The food in Sri Lanka is super delicious and spicy. For breakfast you will get toast with jam, crepes (filled with a mixture of sugar, coconuts and onions), hopper, roti or also Sri Lankan omelet – and of course lots of fruit. Milk rice is another typical breakfast, especially at New Year's morning. However, it is not sweet as we use to eat it, instead "normal" rice is served with different kinds of curry. At lunch or dinner, there is a plenty of rice dishes in all variations to choose from and of course several curry dishes. A meal costs between 3 and 4 Euro, for Western food you'll have to pay more.

Traffic in Sri Lanka

Apart from the bigger cities, there is not that much traffic. However, it doesn't stop the Sri Lankan from overtaking the cars in front of them at any (possible) chance – just because they can. On the side of the road you will see a lot stray dogs and cows.

So how did I like my small trip to Sri Lanka?

I will definitely go back to Sri Lanka to explore the North and the West Coast. The country has incredibly much to offer and is very contrasting. On the one hand, it is the unique flora and fauna with tea plantations, fantastic beaches and elephants, turtles and monkeys. On the other hand, there are vibrant and colorful cities with many, many people in traditional clothes (saris) and a lot of traffic – which leads to a very load atmosphere. The round, Indian lettering on posters and street signs gives the last indication that you are really far from home.