Since there's a long weekend coming up (well, if you take Monday off), what with Poya and Independence Day - some of you might be considering trips out of town. Here are our favourite places to head off to for some down time for 2-4 days.
Lewis Place is ripe with eateries and hotels, for sight-seeing you have the gorgeous painted ceilings of St Mary's Church , the mossy library of the Angurukaramulla Temple and the Negombo fish market, and if you just want to unwind Negombo has got clear large shores and boat rides on the beach, or at the Negombo lagoon. We recommend you stop by the very quirky IceBear Century Cafe for their chocolate cake and wacky interior decor. If you want to really live it up this weekend, you can stay at The Beach All Suite Hotel (Rs. 17,000 per suite, which is actually not bad at all by suite standards), they've got The Vu for a great rooftop bar, and if you're on a budget there's the very charming and colourful Jetwing's Hotel J (Rs. 6000 per double-room).
Getting there: Take the Expressway bus to Negombo from the Gunasinghapura bus station in Pettah - you'll be at the central Negombo bus station about 45 minutes later, Rs. 120 for a ticket.
The main attraction at Galle is the Galle Fort. Shopping is generally expensive here, but the little kades down Pedlar's Street are ripe for bargaining if you want to buy some chilled out beach wear or printed pants, and if you've got the cash then The Three by TPV is the ideal gift shop. The Galle Dutch Hospital is quite pricey, but if you haven't seen it yet, it's worth browsing through for its posh architecture, antique shops and its hammock-themed cafe. For food, we recommend Rocket Burger's juicy giant Bulgogi burgers (but eat them hot-hot, they get soggy when you takeaway), Sugar Bistro, and for desserts, Pedlar's Inn Gelato, the Dairy King and the eclairs at Cafe Hula Hula.
For sight-seeing there's the Dutch architecture of Fort Meeran Mosque , the garden tombs of the Dutch Reformed Church, and the iconic All Saints' Church. There are plenty of great places in Galle to stay at - among them Jetwing Lighthouse (Rs. 18K per room) and Galle Heritage Villa (double room for Rs. 12K), and Mango House sounds like a lot of fun, though we're yet to visit it ourselves.
Watch the sunset by the clocktower at the Moon Bastion, or alternatively take a tuk tuk to Unawatuna (for about Rs. 500) to Sunset Point at the temple by the beach. There's also restaurants all along same shore, and the private shores of Jungle Beach in Unawatuna.
Getting there: Take the Expressway bus to Galle from the Maharagama bus station, 1 hour journey, Rs. 420 for a ticket.
Mirissa is known for its sprawling, beautiful beaches, and good beginner-level surfing. It's easy to find surfing instructors at the beach-side restaurants if you're in the mood. Also, whale watching. Technically it's still whale watching season now, so if you're interested in the ride you should call the hotel you're staying at and ask if they can arrange it. Palm Villa Hotel is a wonderful place to stay (double room for Rs. 7500), where they've got a nice swimmable beach and a giant climbable rock. If you're craving a solid rice and curry during your stay, Samagi Cream House is the place. Zepyhr is also a really cool spot to chill.
Getting there: Everything in Mirissa is basically on one walking strip, so you can take the Expressway bus to Galle at the Maharagama bus station (1 hour, Rs. 420), catch a regular bus down the coast and spend the rest of the time with your toes in the sand.
Hikkaduwa is another beach favourite for holiday-goers. Again like Negombo and Mirissa, there are plenty of beach-side restaurants to choose from, but Top Secret Restaurant is one of the awesome ones - the food is good and not as costly as other joints here, and they get full points for their funky decor and seating. If you're going with friends, the very private Taru Villa 906 is idyllic (though they only accept bookings for 2-days minimum), and the quaint, kind-of-expensive boutique hotel Aditya is worth considering. Spaghetti & Co, Hikka's classic Italian restaurant is a must-visit (only open in the evenings), and Drunken Monkey is good for drinks and surfing plans. They've also got a pretty neat Turtle Hatchery in Hikka that takes donations, and where you get to pet the turtles.
Getting there: Take the train to Hikkaduwa from the Pettah railway station (a 3-hour journey), or take the Expressway bus to Galle (1 hour, Rs. 420) and then a normal bus to Hikkaduwa from there.
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