Inability to decide between hills, ruins and beaches made me zero in on Sri Lanka as my next holiday destination. It was a gamble to visit Sri Lanka in June as it is a lean tourist season but it paid off.
Before visiting Sri Lanka one must check the places to visit during the months of interest. For instance, if visiting in June, the South-West Coast is under the influence of Monsoons and hence most beach activities (snorkeling, surfing and the like) remain dormant. It is advisable to visit Central, North and East Provinces during that month.
Here is a list of useful links for anyone planning a visit:
Visa: Indians have to fill an Online Visa Application after which an e-visa is mailed.
Tourist Information: The Sri Lanka Tourism website has useful information and suggestive itineraries.
Other useful links:
For those planning to do Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle by public transport, Follow Me East’s post on Cultural Triangle will be helpful.
For those interested in the Whale Watching tours organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, email them in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will get in touch and register you on one of their cruise (totally worth it!).
The rest is a pictorial journey of our 7 day tour of Sri Lanka.
Day 1: Nuwara Eliya
A 5 hour drive from Colombo brought us to the verdure territory of Nuwara Eliya. Tea plantations, strawberry plantations, colonial bungalows bordering Lake Gregory and the strong winds reminding one of Wuthering Heights (descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which the house’s station is exposed in stormy weather in the eponymous novel by Emily Bronte) made Nuwara Eliya the perfect summer getaway.
Day 2: Nuwara Elliya to Kandy via Ramboda Falls
The next day we started our drive from Nuwara Elliya to Kandy. The drive through tea plantations and numerous waterfalls dotting the hills is a visual treat. On our way we halted at the Blue Field Tea Factory and the Ramboda Falls.
15 minutes before Kandy is the beautiful campus of the Peradeniya University. Exquisitely landscaped gardens and beautiful buildings with the added attraction of the enigmatic Javan Fig tree made us halt and take a walk through Peradeniya University. Once in Kandy, a visit to the Temple of the Tooth is a must. Additionally one can visit the wood carving and gem workshops.
Day 3: Kandy – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage -Dambulla
A two and a half hour drive from Kandy (with a brief halt at a spice garden) brought us to Pinnawala, a village put on the tourist map for its Elephant Orphanage. From watching the elephants bathe in the river to seeing baby elephants being given milk to actually feeding them, the orphanage is a unique experience.
En route Sigiriya and two hours from Pinnawala, we halted at Dambulla, famous for its cave temple complex that is the largest and best preserved in Sri Lanka. The murals and the statues make the climb to the cave temple, though a bit arduous, totally worth it.
Day 4: Sigiriya
The fourth day was kept exclusively for Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress. The walk through what used to be landscaped gardens and the climb to the summit of the granite peak took us a good two hours (thanks to our food breaks and lets-enjoy-the-breeze breaks). The cobra hood, the colorful frescoes and the Lion’s Gate are the structures one encounters while climbing to the summit. Once at the summit, the ruins and the surrounding views make good companions.
Day 5: Anuradhapur
Given our time constraint we had to choose between the two ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. Though I wanted to visit the former, our logistics made us finalize on the latter. With its grand stupas and temples, Anuradhapur has an impressive history to boast of; though I still feel Polonnaruwa has better ruins and an equally formidable history (if not more)!
Day 6: Trincomalee
The last two destinations of this trip, Trincomalee and the 20 kms away Nilaveli, were chosen for the beach lover in us. In the words of Lonely Planet, “Sitting on one of the world’s finest natural harbours, Trincomalee is old almost beyond reckoning: it’s possibly the site of historic Gokana in the Mahavamsa (Great Chronicle), and its Shiva temple the site of Trikuta Hill in the Hindu text Vayu Purana.“
Located two hours from Anuradhapur, Trincomalee has some amazing experiences for the wanderer. The whale watching tour organized by the Sri Lanka Navy in its vessel Princess of Lanka, is an experience that must not be missed. While we were not lucky with the whales, the view from the front deck, of dolphins racing with the vessel and flying fishes taking flight before us, was mesmerizing. The other destinations we visited included the Koneswaram Temple and the British War Cemetery.
Day 7: Nilaveli and back to Colombo
The final day was reserved for the Nilaveli beach from where we took a boat to the Pigeon Island National Park, described by the Lonely Planet as:
“Floating in the great blue 1km offshore, Pigeon Island, with its powdery white sands and glittering coral gardens, tantalises with possibilities. A nesting area for rock pigeons, the island is beautiful enough, with rock pools and paths running through thickets, but it’s the underwater landscape that’s the real star. The reef here is shallow, making snorkelling almost as satisfying as diving, and it’s home to dozens of corals, hundreds of reef fish (including blacktip reef sharks) and turtles.”
The snorkeling experience was indeed amazing. If visiting Trinco, Nilaveli and snorkeling at Pigeon Island National Park should not be missed.
A 6 hour drive through Sri-Lanka’s lush and verdure countryside took us to back to Colombo Airport and thus ended our Sri Lanka journey!