Sri Lanka is an amazing destination. It has something for everybody. The scenery is beautiful, the beaches are great, the temples are fascinating, the food delicious and the people are charming. The wildlife is stunning.
My family and I arrived into Colombo early morning at the end of July and were greeted by our driver with a garland of frangipani. A fragrant, friendly welcome. We had decided to leave the city till last so we immediately drove south. Our first stop was a turtle sanctuary where we got to pick up baby turtles that hatched before our eyes and put them into safe tanks where they spend their first few weeks until they are strong enough to be released. A very special experience.
By lunchtime we were in Galle a town enclosed within an old Dutch fort being lapped by the blue indian Ocean. There we had the first of many wonderful meals and a wander around the colourful streets. There are lots of interesting boutique hotels in this town so it’s a great place to relax and hang out for a few days.
We then spent a few nights in Unawatuna, a nice chilled out beach lined with simple restaurants serving local food and cocktails. Our hotel’s food was so good the chefs were laughing at how many courses I ate! Another attraction were the shy langurs swinging round the trees by our pool which delighted our son.
Our next stop was Yalla national park where we went on safari. We saw elephants, crocodiles, leopards, monkeys, mongoose, wild boar, water buffalo and lots and lots of bird life including massive toucans. From here you can also visit Kataragama a temple where pilgrims come to pray to Shiva and it gets pretty crazy!
After this you can head up into the hills to all the tea plantations where you get to see tea being picked ( just like the picturesque adverts on tv) and drink it fresh from the bush.
From here it’s downhill to Kandy, centre of the cultural triangle where you can sleep in a slice of colonial history overlooking the lake and the Temple of the Tooth. Whilst here you can visit the Botanic Gardens and many artisans, join the pilgrims and elephants at the temple and go to wonderful performances of dance, puppetry and fire eating.
Sri Lanka has a unique mix of Buddhism and Hindu religions and one of the major draw cards are the thousands of year’s old temple sites, the cave temples and the abandoned Buddhist monastery Sigiriya on top of a giant rock ( not for the vertiginous!) all these are wonderful.
Yet another great reason to visit Sri Lanka is the elephant gathering. At the end of the dry season when water is scarce elephants from all over the island use the special elephant roads and meet by the remaining water in Minneriya National Park. This is an unmissable sight with hundreds of elephants (including babies) eating, swimming and socialising.
We finished our trip in Colombo which has some good shopping and some great restaurants. We ate crab in a sand floored thatched hut on the beach that had been host to royalty, Richard Branson and Duran Duran.
We loved every minute of our trip and found Sri Lanka to be a very affordable, varied destination that was great for families. So go soon……..