Lush tropical jungle home to the most colourful assortment of fruits hanging from the trees above. Vibrant green hillsides covered with rows of perfectly manicured tea leaves. An endless palm tree studded coastline greeting the warm turquoise surf. Smiles. Sunlight. So much curry. When I think of Sri Lanka, these are the vivid flashbacks that instantly flood my mind. I've been to quite a few countries by now and I have to admit, Sri Lanka might just be my favourite. The pure and utter happiness radiating from this place is something I've never experienced before, especially considering the very recent violent past Sri Lanka had endured. Come to think of it, I don't think I crossed paths with one person not smiling. Not only were the locals here genuinely warm and welcoming, but the country itself is absolutely breathtaking. So if you're into off the beaten path discoveries, a radiant culture, untouched pristine beaches, and more jackfruit, mangos and lychees than your heart can desire, Sri Lanka is most definitely the place for you.
OUR 2 WEEK ITINERARY
Colombo - Sigiriya - Kandy - Ella - Tangalle - Mirissa - Unawatuna - Hikkaduwa - Colombo
We began our trip on the hectic streets of Colombo where we sampled the ridiculously cheap street food and made an attempt to explore the chaos of the city in 30 degree heat. I was itching to get to the coast. Or at least out of the city.
Our first stop was Sigiriya to spend sunrise at the Sigiriya Rock. Instead of forking over 30$ for entrance to Sigiriya, we decided to check out Pidurangala Rock, because...well... we're cheap. Not just saying this to back up what we did, but Pidurangala is seriously the way to go. It has an amazing view of Sigiriya with better photo opps, less crowds (for now) and less stairs. Wins all around! We spent the night in this groovy little town before heading to Kandy to catch the train to Ella!
Stay: The Hotel Chanara.
After much research, I found out tickets for the train could only be purchased in person at the ticket office. So we'd be golden right? Well we arrived at the office only to find out that those 'in person' tickets had been booked out for the next 3 weeks. So we tried our luck and hopped on the first train out where we successfully managed to score tickets...for standing room....for 7 hours...
The beginning of this trip was one of the most hectic things I'd ever experienced. There was a mass of travelers trying to push their way aboard like a herd of wild animals. I instantly wanted to bail because there's nothing worse than touching elbows with a bunch of sweaty strangers on public transport. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, vendors began trickling through the carriages selling an assortment of mangos, peanuts and other delights, pushing through spaces I didn't think were even humanly possible to fit through. Seriously, kudos to them. After about 2 hours of trying to catch a breeze between the cracks of the carriages (or at least a glimpse of the outside world), space finally began to free up and we scored 2 seats. That's when my entire universe changed and I went from wanting to disappear to having the best train ride of my life. When people say this is one of the most scenic train rides ever, you better believe it! We passed through the greenest hills of tea and curry leaves you could imagine! The colour of the country side was so blindingly beautiful, our eyes were glued outside for the next 5hrs.
Originally, we planned to stay one night in Ella thinking there wouldn't be much to do. WRONG. You could probably spend more than a week here doing something different every day. The village itself is a cute little hippie town, absolutely overrun by expats, but the true beauty lies in the surrounding areas. For a spot-on list of things to do in Ella, check out Salt In Your Hair.
After 5 days inland, we were ready for the main event.. THE COAST! Our first stop was Tangalle, which is an absolute dream of perfect palm trees, cozy beach shacks, and untouched coastline. Have lunch at Sandy's Cabanas for a fantastic curry feast for two. Afterwards, you can relax on the pillows, enjoy a tea and take a nap in the shade. Overall, Tangalle was probably our favourite beach on the trip because as you get closer to Colombo the beaches get less dream-like and more mainstream tourism.
Getting around the coast can definitely be done via taxis or tuk tucks, however, we enjoyed embracing the culture (aka saving money) and taking good ol' public transit. Get ready for the ride of your life since anything goes.
Our next stop was Mirissa, which was my favourite spot for surfing. The ease of it all was just beyond me. You can rent a board and paddle out to the break all in less than 10 minutes. There you'll be greeted with warm mellow waves, crystal clear water and sea turtles popping their little heads above the water after each wave. I was beaming with pure euphoria. For the more experienced surfers, I'd recommend renting a scooter or a tuk tuk and cruising the coast. We tried that out for a day and stumbled upon some great little beaches! After your morning or afternoon surf, grab some delicious food and the best smoothie bowls in town at Aloha Cafe. It's mint! Friendly note: it's closed on Tuesdays.
Stay: Pinki Resort
Passed Mirissa, we stopped in Unawatuna for a night where you'll find the infamous palm swing and the best cooking class in all of Sri Lanka. We were lucky to get in on Karuna's Cooking Class, where you'll dive into the culture of Sri Lanka with your taste buds. Two words: pumpkin curry. I'll let the photos tell the story.
We stopped in Hikkaduwa for a night but after all the goodness we saw and experienced, it was really subpar and I wouldn't suggest it to anyone.
Looking back at my photos, I still truly feel like this trip was a dream. From the places to the food to the people, I'd recommend Sri Lanka for just about any traveller and look forward to the day I return!