Situated off the southern coast of India, with a documented history spanning well over 3000 years, Sri Lanka is known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.” It is a gem of a country that has everything a traveller could desire, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, diverse wildlife and a range of cultural attractions thanks to its rich ethnic mix. Sinhalese and Tamil are Sri Lanka’s two official languages but most people speak at least basic English so negotiating your way around the country is straightforward. Also, the fact that Sri Lankans are some of the friendliest people on earth helps to make your trip a hassle-free experience. The country is a rich melting point of cultures and cuisines and with accommodation options available to suit all budgets Sri Lanka is an affordable destination that should not to be missed.
Sri Lanka Highlights
International flights arrive in the capital Colombo and from there the beautiful colonial town of Galle is well worth a visit; its fort is a World Heritage Site and the attractive beach resort of Unawatuna is only a short tuktuk drive away. Further along the southern coast is the village of Mirssa, a mecca for wildlife enthusiasts thanks to its whale and dolphin watching trips and an excellent surf spot to boot. Yala National Park (accessed from the town of Tissamaharama) is known for its variety of wild animals and has the highest concentration of leopards in the world. Set high in the hill country Ella is surrounded by tea plantations and the views are breath taking; the train journey from Ella to Kandy is also not to be missed due to its jaw-dropping scenery and upon arrival a visit to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is a must. Further north is the ancient city of Sigiriya; a climb to the top of the rock in the early morning is another highlight, as is the beach resort of Negombo which at only 10 kilometres away from the airport is the perfect way to end your holiday with some well-deserved pre-flight rest and relaxation!
The Colombo Haven Bed and Breakfast http://www.colombohaven.com/ is an ideal introduction to Sri Lanka, the staff are exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable and will help guests organise their onward travel around the country. They can also arrange transfers to and from the airport which is useful as many international flights arrive and depart in the middle of the night. The Sri Lankan breakfasts are also superb and set you up for the week, never mind the day!
The My Village Guest House in Tissamahara is also highly recommended: it is a tranquil oasis with exceptionally helpful staff who can organise your Yala National Park safari as well as preparing some of the best Sri Lankan food we ate on our trip. The Jetwing Beach hotel in Negombo is also recommended if luxury is your thing; it has a great spa and some of the best restaurants in Negombo as well its own swimming pool and an enviable position on the beach. (Top tip: booking direct online was cheaper than anywhere else.)
Sri Lankan cuisine may not be as well-known as some of its Asian counterparts but the range of spices and freshness of ingredients used makes eating out in Sri Lanka a real treat. Sri Lankan cooking centres on rice and the dish of rice and curry is available everywhere. This is a plate of rice accompanied by as many as a dozen individual curries including meat, vegetable and spicy sambals. Western food is also widely available if rice and curry is not your thing.
In short, if you are looking for an affordable, friendly destination that will have something to please even the pickiest of travellers, Sri Lanka is the destination for you and given it’s slightly smaller than Ireland, getting around is quick and easy too!