Traveling Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has an amazing contrast of warm water beaches and mountain landscapes with tea fields as far as you can see.


MUST SEE PLACES

#1 Arugam Bay

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Arugam Bay is nothing less than surfer’s paradise and my favorite place in Sri Lanka. There are so many surf spots, definitely more than enough for everyone to go around. Beach-bum life style during the day mixed with beach parties at night, made this paradise for me. I ended up skipping Mirissa’s beaches because I just could not leave.

Tips:

  • You can hire a driver for a safari or rent a scooter and go on your own. If you go on your own, definitely go with someone who knows their way around. I know people who've gotten lost for hours trying to go on a "self-guided safari".
  • There's a look-out point at sunset to watch wild elephants and water buffalo. It's located on the edge of Arugam Bay toward Pottuvil just over the bridge, ask the locals about it.
  • I stayed in Arugam Hostel, Formerly YMCA, and did not enjoy my time, but Little Lagoon Hostel was wonderful and surrounded by the best cheap eateries in town
  • The power tends to go out at night for maybe an hour or so, but just head to the beach and enjoy some beach life. Better yet, have a movie downloaded and ready on your phone
  • Hideaway has such a beautiful environment to sit and have a cold drink on a hot night. I highly recommend visiting this gem. They also offer yoga classes

 

 

#2 Ella

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Ella has the most amazing mountain views I’ve seen while traveling (tied with Nepal but far more green). You will fall so in love with the mountain views it will be hard to get enough before you have to leave.

Tips:

  • Tour a tea plantations here to learn about Sri Lanka's vast international influence on tea and enjoy some tea with a beautiful view
  • Little Adam's Peak is the most popular and easiest hike. Only takes only 30 min from the entry point, but probably longer since once you're up there it's difficult to leave the views.
  • Adam's Peak is a very spiritual place for the locals and will most likely be crowded with them on the weekend. There are water and snack stands near the top, but be sure to bring warm clothes if you don't want to freeze your *you know what* off. It's about 3 hours one way and can be done alone or with a guide for a "short cut". There are LOTS of steps so be ready as this is a hard one to finish but well worth it.
  • Ella's Rock is a more difficult and more beautiful (includes waterfall) hike that pretty much requires a guide since there are practically no road markers. SCAM: the locals have been known to confuse people on the hike and get them lost, then later ask for money to guide you out. Pretty much everyone who goes alone on this hike gets lost. Should only take 1.5 hours one way if you don't managed to get lost.

 

 

#3 Kandy

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Kandy is a beautiful city placed between mountains on a flowing river with lots of life and 100x better than Colombo. Visit during a festival and catch the parade if you want the full experience.

I didn’t spend too much time in Kandy so I don’t really have tips, but the parade was amazing. There were fire- breathers, dancers, drummers, plate spinners, and elephants in magnificent lighted head-dressings in the parade, but they were also in chains so that was a little hard to swallow.


 

WHILE THERE YOU HAVE TO..

#1 Take The Train Ride From Kandy To Ella

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This train has been consistently named the world’s most beautiful train ride and it holds to it’s reputation. You can also take it from Colombo to Ella, but it really doesn’t start to get beautiful until you get to Kandy. It is literally hours of breath-taking tea fields, green mountains, and rivers. Well worth every minute.

Tips:

  • Make sure to book your ticket in advance if you want a first or second class ticket. Third class tickets don't always guarantee you a seat, leaving you standing for hours
  • They don't really offer food or drinks on the ride so bring plenty of snacks and water
  • From Kandy, there were only two trains that left very early in the morning so plan a head on this one. I didn't and barely made my train.
  • It's around 8 hours long from Kandy to Ella
  • Be ready when your stop comes. Of course there is a main train station for Ella, but if you need to get off a stop or two before then you need to be quick about it or you'll have to wait til the next stop
  • It's safe, but you can actually fall out of the train or get your hand smacked off by a sign, bridge, tree, or anything else. It makes for a great picture when you dangle out of the train.. just make sure you dip back in before it goes through a tunnel

#2 Surf In Arugam Bay

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There are soooo many surf spots in Arugam Bay so don’t worry about it being too crowded, you can always so somewhere else if it’s packed. My favorite was Elephant Rock but Peanut Farm is also a good place for beginners. It will be very easy to find a surf instructor to show you where and how to surf. I highly recommend taking a couple days to cruise some waves.

Tips:

  • The little "taxis" or tuk tuks are all over the place and available for hire to take you to any surf spot. If you're heading out on your own it's best to talk to a driver the day before and arrange a pick up time and price. The prices vary during season so talk to other people and ask what they pay or what you should pay

#3 Hike Lion Rock

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Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Lion Rock was such an incredible hike with so much history and beauty. The ticket for entry into the park is around $30 USD but that includes entry onto the very peak of the rock and entry into the museum to explain the magnificent history of the rock which was originally one of the oldest holy centers and was later claimed and reclaimed by multiple kings.

Tips:

  • Go in the morning before the crowd, the stair way is narrow and you may get stuck behind slow people in afternoon heat and that won't make you a very happy camper
  • You absolutely don't need a guide, but if you're willing to pay a little extra they are wonderful multi-lingual people with passion and vast knowledge of the area. They also make great photographers
  • It gets very hot in the middle of the day so going as early is really a must (cant stress this enough)
  • Bring plenty of water because you will wish you did when you get to the top
  • The rock is located in a town called Sigiria that has nothing really to offer besides the rock. I recommend arriving in the afternoon, stay the night, wake up early for the hike, then on to the next adventure

#4 Hike Adam’s Peak

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Ella, Sri Lanka

I actually didn’t do this while I was in Sri Lanka and I utterly regret it. Adam’s peak is know as a sacred pilgrimage to the Sri Lankan people and offers nothing less of spectacular views.

Tips:

  • Lots of steps and definitely cold at the top. Bring long pants and a jacket
  • About a 3 hour hike one way
  • For the sake of not being repetitive, scroll up to "Ella" under "Must See Places" for more tips

#5 Go To A Parade In Kandy

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I got incredibly lucky and just happened to pop into Kandy on the day of the parade for the Scared Tooth festival in honor of buddhism. The festival was full of jugglers, dancers, drummers, fire breathers, elephants, plate twirlers, and so much more. It was so vibrant and beautiful. The date of the festival changes every year. If you happen to be be in the country around that time I totally recommend going.

#6 Tour A Tea Plantation

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Ella, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea producers scattered with tea plantations and fields.

Tips:

  • Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory was my favorite tea plantation tour (costs around $2)
  • The road up to Little Adam's Peak is filled with tea fields. You can even take a picture with one of the Sri Lankan tea pictures but they may charge you a couple bucks for the picture

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