Sri Lanka, an island with a lot of influences from the neighboring country India. Compact and yet so diverse. Hit by the tsunami in 2004, the damage is still visible to this day. With no fewer than 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there is plenty to see and experience.
Sri Lanka has beaches, elephant sanctuaries, local food, and lots of temples. If you have a chance to stay with a local family, don’t be afraid to do so. You learn so much more about this country.
Things to keep in mind
In Sri Lanka, there are a lot of places that only accept cash. So make sure to stop at an ATM as soon as you have a chance. Not all ATMs accept debit cards, so you might have to try a few.
The Sri Lankan rupee has both coins and notes. The coin series consists of 10, 25, and 50 cents and 1, 2, 5, and 10 rupees. The banknote range consists of 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000, and 5000 rupees. The different colors make it quite clear to see what you have in your wallet.
Public transport is available wherever you go. Local buses sometimes play Bollywood movies and can be quite full. You’re able to book train tickets in advance which is definitely something you need to do if you’re taking the train to Ella.
You’ll find tuk-tuk drivers on every corner, which makes it really easy to get around. But make sure you negotiate a fair price. If you’re up for it you could even rent a tuk-tuk yourself and travel around as the locals do.
Our route through Sri Lanka - 1 month
From Kuala Lumpur, we fly to Colombo, but we spend the night in Negombo. Highly recommended, because Colombo is not very special and quite chaotic. From Negombo, we take the bus to Colombo to get on the train to Kandy. An excellent starting point to travel to Sigiriya to climb Pindurangala Rock and visit Mihintale.
Once back in Kandy we continue with a driver to Haputale. The train is unfortunately fully booked, but if you have the chance, this is highly recommended! We will cover the last part by train to Ella. This is a really nice backpackers town. By bus, we continue to Udawalawe for the elephant safari. We take the bus to Galle but decide to continue to Hikkaduwa. A nice town on the beach with a nice vibe. From here we take the train back to Colombo.
Colombo -> Negombo -> bus -> Colombo -> train -> Kandy -> bus -> Sigiriya -> Dambulla -> bus -> Mihintale -> bus -> Dambulla -> bus -> Kandy -> Haputale -> train -> Ella -> bus -> Udawalawe -> bus -> Hikkaduwa -> train -> Colombo
Our 3 favorites things to do
Most people visit Sigiriya to climb Lion’s Rock. But because it’s quite expensive for foreigners we looked for an alternative. We found out that Pidurangala Rock is close by, much cheaper, and offers a nice few on the surroundings. Just remember that Lion’s Rock is more accessible, it has stairs. Pidurangala Rock makes you climb some actual boulders.
Little Adam's Peak
Everybody wants to take the train to Ella because the scenery is stunning. But Ella itself is also a nice town to visit. We rented a scooter to explore the area around Ella as well. If you have the chance, hike up Little Adam’s Peak. The view is pretty spectacular and the climb upwards is not too bad. Just start early because of the heat. And enjoy a nice coconut passionfruit.
Make sure you go on a safari in one of the national parks. We decided to go with Udawalawe because it’s less crowded and chances were bigger we would spot elephants. It’s an early start but definitely worth it. Our guide made sure we saw the elephant up close without disturbing them. The babies were well protected by their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers.
Where to stay
If you travel to Sri Lanka you have a lot of options of where to stay. From luxury resorts to simple hotel rooms and hostels, there’s something for every budget. It all depends on where you’re going.
Some of our favorites:
A little bit out of the city center but it has a restaurant and the view is nice. About a 15 minutes walk to the temples.
Green Side View is close to Nine Arches Bridge and Kinellan Tea Factory and is within close proximity of Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock.
Situated in Sigiriya, 3 km from Sigiriya Rock and 6 km from Pidurangala Rock. Guests at the homestay can enjoy a continental breakfast.