Sri Lanka ranked as the top country for travel in 2019 by Lonely Planet, the paradise isle has got the best of both worlds; from pristine sandy beaches to mountain tops covered in woods, from sunny locations to chilly outdoors. Putting together a list of hot spots isn’t an easy chore but we’ve round up a couple of places one should visit around the country to enjoy, experience, and feel what it’s like to truly visit Sri Lanka!
The seas in this part of the country are home to a rare bunch of whales and dolphins. Maybe a drive along the way you’d find a bird safari on the land side, a marine sanctuary, folk museum, chances of still fishing, and a turtle hatchery too. The drive Down South is simply breathtaking in its own right. Taking up two-six hours of travelling and there are enough and more places to stop by and enjoy the view, location, and ambience. From Beruwala to Tangalle, a stop anywhere would be worth your while. You can visit the oldest mosque in the island in Beruwala and a famous blowhole (Hummanaya)a few kilometres from Tangalle. The pristine beach could become your backyard and the lovely villas, boutique hotels, and inns around the area of your home. If you enjoy a bit of trekking and hiking, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve should be given a try. Home to indigenous flora and fauna, this is a classic example of how tropical Sri Lanka can get.
The city of Galle has been cited as a World Heritage Site and is indeed worth a stopover if you’re driving past. The fort and lighthouse are a must-see. The city is rapidly changing and becoming a hot spot and is also the home of Sri Lanka’s only annual literary festival held during the latter part of January. Here you could also visit some of the old churches if you love a bit of history and have an insight into other Dutch Era architectural sites around the city. Plenty of hotels and boutique hotels like The Lighthouse Hotel are of no problem to find and Galle is only three hours away from Colombo; even a day trip would do.
Drive pass the World Heritage Site and arrive in Mirissa if you please. You might have seen whales and dolphins perform tricks and play games at Water Parks abroad but they’re nothing like you’ve ever seen when they’re out in the wild, in their natural habitat. Ferry and boat rides are freely available down the coast in Mirissa and for a couple of bucks, you’d get a good service that will provide you with basic safety training and proper life jackets as well as a tour guide during the boat ride to the sea. If you’re looking for a place close to the sea but with also a breathtaking inland view we’d recommend staying at Mirissa Hills on Mount Cinnamon which is only ten minutes away from the sandy shore.
One of the world’s best surfing spots is also a part of this paradise island. Surfers from around the globe come to Arugam Bay to have the experience of their life. The Basses Reef is a must-see dive sit in Sri Lanka and be awed by the number of birds that flock to this region between the months of November and December.
The Lahugala National Park is immensely popular and the Kumana National Reserve another favourite amongst wildlife enthusiasts to catch sight of elephants, wild boar, deer, and crocodiles. For a trip to the ancient days visit the ruins of a Buddhist temple known as the Muhudu Madu Viharaya. Eight hours away from the city of Colombo, with a night’s stay at the Hideaway Villas, this trip to the Eastern province of the island will remain unforgettable.
Trincomalee is seven hours away from the city of Colombo and less than an hour away from Nilaveli and Pigeon Island. If you ever thought a trip to Male was worth the while for the pristine beaches, come to this part of the island prepared to be bowled over by its natural beauty. The word and colour ‘blue’ doesn’t seem fit for the part of the ocean you see here. Untouched and uncontaminated, the beaches here are the island’s finest. This mystical port city hosts the fifth-largest natural harbour in the world and diving, snorkelling and even boat ride excursions, visits to historical and cultural sites like the Koneswaram Temple can be arranged privately or through the upcoming hotel chains. The number one place to stay in Trincomalee as of now would be none other than Chaaya Blu.
One might have never had the opportunity to do so in the past years but travelling to the Jaffna Peninsula, which is 6-8 hours away from Colombo, is no big deal right now. Once you’re beyond Elephant Pass it’s a completely different atmosphere. Alright so it isn’t all that romantic but if you’re the type to be interested in history and architecture Jaffna would surely spark an interest. Driving towards Point Pedro and catching sight of stones that were once the route to India would bring about excitement and a boat ride to Delft Island to see the wild ponies is something out of the ordinary. Accommodation might not be first-class as the peninsula is still recovering from the aftermath of the war but a few inns and motels can be located to rough out for a night or two’s stay. The food will certainly make up for it – Jaffna food is known to be a different example of spicy combinations.
Another dolphin and whale watching hotspot is Kalpitiya. If you cannot make it to Mirissa, be sure to come here at least and enjoy a ferry or boat ride during the wee hours of the morning. There are more than three diving sites and coral reefs you can swim across if you know the art, an hour’s drive away is the Munneswaram Temple, kite surfing and thrilling water sports and catamarans rides, or take a jeep safari at the Wilpattu National Park. Instead of lugging about at the crack of dawn from Colombo, spend a few days at Dolphin Beach, which at the moment is offering some super discounts for even locals.
Enough about the coastal areas; on towards the inner parts of the island any tour guide would advise you to pay heed and make stops at each of the locations marked within the Cultural Triangle. The first stop should be in Anuradhapura. As the first kingdom of the country, ruins of places of worship, palaces, and gardens won’t fail to amaze you. It’s the same with the city of Polonnaruwa, the second kingdom. Both cities are six hours away from Colombo. The Deer Park Hotel is ideally located amidst the greenery and local history. Visit the famous rock caves and temples on your way to Dambulla. All three cities are very much in the past even today but their natural beauty will leave a lasting impression.
For a complete tropical experience in the nearly central part of the emerald isle, anyplace from Habarana to Kandalama and Sigiriya would do. It’s only a five-hour drive and surrounded by three natural reserves, Habarana’s resplendent beauty is spread over 27 acres of land in both the Cinnamon Lodge and Chaaya Village. Heritance Kandalama emerges from the lush flora of the rocky mountainside. Many activities like bird watching, butterfly and dragonfly watching, boat rides, lake safaris, bicycle rides, elephant back trekking can be arranged to keep yourself occupied. The famous eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya is only a short drive away. The Sigiriya Village Hotel is also well situated so that you can enjoy a drive to and fro from one city to the other.
The endless fields of tea and rubber make you feel like you’re in a completely different country altogether but no, you’re still very much a part of Sri Lanka as you make way towards the central hilly part of the island that is Nuwara Eliya. Lakes, waterfalls, valleys, and plantations are common and extraordinary sights. The cool breezy air, chilly smog, and smell of herbal fresh tea will become a habit. At the elevation of 4000 feet above sea level and just six hours from Colombo in the central region you’d find the perfect accommodation; Ceylon Tea Trails. A wide variety of activities including climbing the famous Adam’s Peak, visiting the reservoirs, and Peradeniya Botanical Gardens in Kandy can be easily arranged.
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