I visited Sri Lanka in the month of February and March. I was surprised to see that an island so close to India is so different from it in terms of culture and facilities. Their #culture is mainly #Buddhism (70%) and rest is Hindu, Muslim and Christian almost in equal percentage. Quite a lot of people know English so not so difficult to communicate or commute. Sri Lankans are genuine, friendly, polite and helpful just like Indians.
One thing which startled me was traffic rules. Unlike India, Sri Lanka has very strict traffic rules. They have control on speed limit, pedestrian first rule and quick response highway patrol! I have to say I was very surprised to see this. While chatting with our driver I also got to know that they have free hospital service and education. So many amazing facilities but very less companies and industries which force people to migrate for job.
How to apply for visa?
One of the main reason for me to choose Sri Lanka as my holiday destination was that the visa process is very simple. It is best to apply for online tourist visa via Sri Lanka’s official website to avoid any surprises. After filling all details, I got my visa confirmation email next day only. It is valid for 30 days and you can extend it till 6 months at Immigration office.
Show a printout of your visa along with filled details in the form on arrival at airport and voilà you are through! You can get visa on arrival also but the queue at Colombo airport was big so I wouldn't recommend that.
When to travel?
The weather in Sri Lanka is dictated by two monsoon seasons which bring rain to the west and south-west coasts from May to September; and the east coast and northern region between October and February. During monsoon beaches are totally deserted. As with much of Sri Lanka, September & October can also see heavier rain, although by November blue skies are expected once again, with good weather expected through till May.
December to April is the best time to visit Sri Lanka´s West Coast, South Coast and the cultural triangle in central Sri Lanka.
August is good everywhere except the hilly central region of Sri Lanka.
May to July is good in eastern and northern part of Sri Lanka. It is called surfers' paradise. Rest of the area has monsoon.
Avoid visiting from September to November.
Top things to see?
After you land in #Colombo: (Duration 2 days)
#Gangaramaya temple – well it felt more like a museum to me. Only nice part was the big tree and school inside. Plus u get ticket for Seema Malaka from here which includes the auto drop from Gangaramaya and back. Not that they are too far away though. I prefer walking anyway.
4. Galle face area in Colombo hosts unique fine dining restaurants and sea view. You can try One of Sri Lanka’s best restaurants - the #Gallery_Café in Colombo.
#Kandy or #habarana or #sigiriya or #dambulla or #polonnaruwala decide amongst these places as to where you want to stay to enjoy all the historical sites or national parks. (Duration 4-5 days)
Decide where you want to stay as per your priority. If you want to do full times sight seeing then ofcourse a budget hotel is nice otherwise try to book a place in habarana or near Sigiriya area. One suggestion is Galkadawala if you wish to make your stay an experience. Read more about it in my blog - "Galkadawala - An ecolodge in the lap of nature"
#Sigiriya Rock Fortress which offers breathtaking views is a highly overpriced (nearly Rs 7000 per ticket) yet mesmerising historical UNESCO site. It is a must visit.
#Ella – A beautiful hill station (Duration 2-3 days)
Take train from Kandy to Ella. Read here to get full details.
When you reach Ella then stay at a nice hotel to enjoy the scenic views at hill station.
There are Multiple hiking sites and waterfalls. Do visit #adams_peak, which in Buddhist tradition is held to be the footprint of the Buddha, in Hindu tradition that of Shiva and in Islamic and Christian tradition that of Adam, or that of St. Thomas.
Enjoy evenings in nice restaurants and pubs.
#Yala_National_Park – One of the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka, bordering the Indian Ocean. (Duration 3-5 days)
Book a #camping place via Booking.com to enjoy it to the fullest.
Wildlife #safari is a must. It’s home to wildlife such as leopards, elephants and crocodiles, as well as hundreds of bird species. Inland, Sithulpawwa is an ancient Buddhist monastery. Nearby caves contain centuries-old rock paintings. Southwest, Magul Maha Viharaya also has ancient Buddhist ruins. Both are pilgrimage sites.
Next stop can be #Unawatuna beach. Stay at a nice place and then see nearby places.(Duration 3-5 days)
Stay at a beachfront hotel and enjoy the golden sand beaches.
Visit #Galle_Fort one day to enjoy the architecture reflecting Portuguese, Dutch and British rule. Pictures come out beautifully in the small and adventurous lanes of Galle.
Visit a turtle hatchery site. Well some people don't appreciate the fact that few turtles are kept in these sites for educational purpose only and are not free to swim in the sea. Also moving these eggs from their natural place can lead to improper development if shifting is not done properly. Everyone have their beliefs, and i agree to some but seeing the injured turtles surviving and releasing baby turtles in sea was something I really liked. Just wish that the hatching site was bigger and beautiful so that the injured turtles are not confined to such small place.
Go dolphin and #whale watching in #Mirissa one day. Whale watching Club and Raja & the whales are best agents. Do online booking beforehand and a tip is to check with them which day to book. Since whales have their pattern of travel so sometimes they are deep in see and chances of seeing them are less and journey time increases in search of them.
Some tips for you to travel in this country:
Get Sri Lankan Rupees at the airport currency exchange. Some of them say no to Indian rupee though.
Autos in Colombo run by meter.
Sri Lanka has no tipping culture. However if you feel overwhelmed by someone's service then feel free to pay 10% of the bill as a tip.
If you are thinking all places near beach will have clear water in Sri Lanka then you have wrong expectation. Sri Lanka is a surfing land hence wavy sea and muddy water. However some places have calm sea where you can swim and relax such as Unawatuna.
Ankle fishing or stilt fishing is a dying technique and currently used by instagram influencers & tourists for picture purpose only. One has to pay 500 Sri Lankan rupee i guess for a picture.
Don't forget to book your train rides at Colombo railway station or any other stations. Rail journey is a must try in Sri Lanka.
You can enjoy your stay at 5 star hotels like Shangri la Hambantota or Anantara Peace Haven resort or villa Mayurana or water garden Sigiriya are to name a few.
Batique work is very famous in Sri Lanka. Do buy their paintings and Sri Lankan masks.
PS: This blog post not written by any surfer so if you are one or want to be one then some things will not fit with your schedule or interest. Apologies for the inconvenience!