Mike and I returned home from Sri Lanka just a week before the heinous Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. I’m still shocked and sad, and have had trouble figuring out what to do with this post. While vacationing in Sri Lanka may not be at the top of your list at the moment, I want to share with you the country we experienced—its stunning beauty, rich culture, friendly people, abundant wildlife and delicious food. Tourism is so vital to the Sri Lankan economy and livelihoods of many people. I hope for peace and stability so visitors will return to this gorgeous country. Over the next months I’ll be writing detailed reports about our trip; for now, here’s the highlights of the happy days we spent in Sri Lanka.
People-watching at Galle Face Green, Colombo
I’m really glad we started with a few days in Colombo, and Galle Face Green was one of my Sri Lankan favourites. There’s nothing green about this sun-scorched place, but the oceanside promenade is incredibly vibrant in late afternoon when locals gather to socialize and cool their feet in the Indian Ocean. And that long, lower rise building you see in the photo—the Galle Face Hotel—is a marvellous place for a cocktail.
Long beach walks at Tangalla
Which direction should we go today? Turn left from our beachside guesthouse, walk a few hundred meters where all footprints fade away and the wild, deserted beach stretches further than the eye can see. Turn right, walk a few hundred meters to a protected rock barrier, take a swim, stop for a refreshing king coconut before pushing on to colourful Tangalla harbour. Tough decision!
Strolling along the fort walls, Galle
A sunset stroll on top of the Galle Fort walls is a magical experience. The 17th century Dutch-built fort provides sweeping views of the ocean and the old town’s exotic mix of mosques, temples and churches. I loved the eclectic assortment of amblers— uniform-clad school groups, women in burqas and bright sarees, local love birds, selfie stick-addicted young Asians and sweaty-faced Europeans.
Hiking in Ella
While the town of Ella is a little scruffy, the surrounding countryside is green, gorgeous, and perfect for working-off our heaping platefuls of rice and curry. We conquered both Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock and are eternally grateful to the woman selling king coconuts at the top of the latter.
Walking the tea plantation paths in Haputale and Nuwara Eliya
If forced to select a single favourite activity on our trip it would be wandering the tea plantation paths at Lipton’s Seat near Haputale, and at Oliphant Estate above Nuwara Eliya. There’s something incredibly soothing about the undulating hills carpeted with densely packed, vividly green tea bushes.
Admiring the pageantry at a Hindu wedding in Matale
Enroute to Sigiriya, our taxi driver suggested we take a break and visit the Hindu temple in Matale. As luck would have it, there was a wedding about to take place. I’m a sucker for beautiful fabrics and couldn’t stop staring at the stunningly-clad guests. I got up the nerve to ask if I could take a photo and that turned into a fun photo and conversation session. They even invited us to the wedding!
Climbing the rocks in Sigiriya
Sigiriya is famous for its rock of the same name. It’s astonishing to think that the summit of this steep sided rock was the site of a royal palace dating back to the 5th century AD. Even with modern engineering, the route to the top is not for the faint of heart. We enjoyed our sunset on Sigiriya Rock but were even more impressed the next morning when we climbed neighbouring Pidurangula with its astonishing view of Sigiriya and snaking trail of visitors.
Exploring the cave temples of Dambulla
Of all the fascinating sites in Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, we were most impressed with Dambulla. Its series of five cave temples date back to the 1st century BC and house a beautiful collection of Buddhist statues and colourful murals. I was enamoured by the painted soles of a 15m-long reclining Buddha.
Seduced by the gray langurs at Polonnaruwa
Perhaps because I live in a country that doesn’t have monkeys, these creatures are endlessly fascinating to me. We saw them in several places but the best was at the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa where a group of moms were hanging out with their tiny babies. Don’t get me wrong, the ruins are interesting but the gray langurs captured my heart.
Experiencing puja at Jaffna’s Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil
Jaffna’s gold-hued Nallur Hindu temple is impressive from the outside but nothing quite prepared us for the puja (worship) inside. Amidst the thunderous sound of drums and bells, and air thick with incense, we followed the clockwise procession of worshippers as they stopped for blessing from the Hindu deities at shrines surrounding the inner sanctum. No photos or video allowed inside the temple, but the visceral feelings will live long in our memories.
Markets and eating!
I love a bustling market and I love a good curry. Sri Lanka has both in abundance. One of our favourite markets was the massive Pettah Market in Colombo, overflowing with fruit and veggies, and everything else you can imagine. All this fresh produce is whipped up into delicious, healthy curries that we enjoyed throughout the country.
Sri Lanka’s friendly people
No matter if it was in the north or south, tiny guesthouse or big hotel, city or village, we were overwhelmed by Sri Lanka’s friendly, warm and kind people. On our last day in Ella, I woke up to an over-the-top breakfast “party” with cake, balloons, festive treats and enough food to feed 20. Even though we had to catch a morning train, our hosts wanted to make sure we celebrated my birthday. It felt like being with family.
Meeting Peta and Ben
I’ve saved the best for last: meeting Peta and Ben, fellow bloggers living in Sri Lanka whom I’ve been following for a few years. We had the most amazing couple of days with this gracious and interesting couple. It all still feels a bit surreal when I think about using their divine outdoor bathroom, eating Nilu’s scrumptious curry (best in all of Sri Lanka), down-dogging at Sri Yoga Shala and sharing conversation about travel, family and what the future may hold. We felt so fortunate to have the benefit of their insider knowledge and experiences. If you don’t know Peta and Ben, visit them at their wonderful blog: http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/.
Special thanks also to Maggie and Richard (https://monkeystale.ca/) for all the advice and recommendations about traveling in Sri Lanka. Go check out their awesome blog about two years of travel, trekking, sightseeing and eating through South East Asia.
The map shows the places we stayed while in Sri Lanka. Future posts will provide more detail about destinations and how we got there.