Why You Should Visit Sri Lanka
“Why Sri Lanka?” That’s what most people asked us when we said we were going there on our next travels. We were a little surprised by that question. My own answers were along the lines of “Why not?” or “It’s somewhere I’ve never been” (gotta tick those countries off the list!). Well now that we’re back home we can finally answer that question much better. Here’s why Sri Lanka should be on everyone’s travel list.
Sri Lanka’s Heritage
Sri Lanka has a fascinating history. It contains eight UNESCO World Heritage sites within its borders. During our two weeks we were lucky to visit five of them: the ancient cities of Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa; the Golden temple of Dambulla; the old town of Galle; and the sacred city of Kandy.
Sigiriya is the single most visited attraction in Sri Lanka. In 477 AD King Kassapa built a fortress right on top of this huge boulder (also called Lion’s rock). To reach the fortress you must climb twelve hundred steps. That can be tough, especially in the heat, but once there you are treated to spectacular views of the surrounding areas. It is well worth the effort! Half way through the climb you come across some amazing frescoes on the walls of some caves that are in surprisingly good condition considering their age.
The sacred city of Kandy is mainly popular for its famous Temple of the Tooth, a unique temple that houses the relic of the tooth of buddha. The only time the room containing the relic is open to the public is for Puja (in August). And no you don’t get to see the actual tooth but the gold casket that holds it. That’s if you get anywhere near it!
We happened to visit in August and it was crazily busy; so much so that we were pushed around in all directions by hordes of tourists and devotees. When I finally got near enough to catch a glimpse of the casket and tried to snap off a quick photo, I was told off for taking too long and asked to move along! Oh well. The joy of being somewhere at the right time … or the wrong time depending on how you see it.
Sri Lanka’s beaches are stunning. Beautiful waters, coconut trees all around; it’s paradise really. You’ll need to take care on some of them as the ocean waves can be quite strong. The last thing we want to do on holiday is fight with the waves and lose to them. That almost happened to me once in Australia and if it wasn’t for my lovely hubby I might not be here today; since then I tend to avoid rough beaches.
There are also many great swimming beaches in Sri Lanka though so make sure you ask the friendly locals for best places to swim. We stayed on the coast in Tangalla for three days and loved that little town very much. It was hit really badly by the 2004 tsunami and tourism hasn’t quite picked up there yet so it is still relatively quiet.
Well yes food. We love food. Especially spicy food and Sri Lanka does spicy really well. Their speciality is curry with rice. This usually consists of a selection containing one meat or fish curry and a few different vegetable curries accompanied by papadums and sambal. The coconut samba is a must try! There are always lots of dishes on the table, like a mini buffet just for you.
There are many other delicious dishes in Sri Lanka. We tried to sample them all but I am sure we missed some. Either way we loved everything we tried. Now we are on a mission to find a good Sri Lankan restaurant in Melbourne to relive the experience back home.
Sri Lankan people always have a friendly smile on their face. They are eager to make your stay a wonderful one and they want you to love their country the way they do. A lot of them speak English which makes it really easy to communicate and get help. The children love to wave at you and say hello. Some even begged us to take their photos (and to pose in them with our sunglasses!).
Elephants and other wildlife
Sri Lanka is a haven for wildlife; especially elephants. If you love elephants Sri Lanka will not disappoint you. There are several National parks where you are guaranteed to see many of them.
We took a three hour safari in Udawalawe National Park during which we saw close to a hundred elephants along with buffaloes , deer, peacocks and all sorts of bird life. It was simply amazing. Some of the elephants came up close to the jeep; it was a great experience. It was our first safari and hopefully not the last. We were lucky enough to see many baby elephants as well.
Udawalawe is definitely a must do in Sri Lanka. Be sure to combine it with the Elephant Transit Home a few minutes away. There they care for injured and orphaned elephants before releasing them back into the park. Go at feeding time and you can see the young elephants excitedly (and rather impatiently) waiting for their ration of milk to be poured down their throats through a big funnel. Very funny indeed!
Yala National Park which we sadly did not get a chance to visit is the place to see Leopards. It’s been added to the list for next time!
And of course there are the monkeys, so many monkeys in Sri Lanka; and very cheeky ones at that! We had some great experiences with them. One day we had two inquisitive macaques on our deck trying to break in. Suddenly too all our surprise they succeeded and the door swung open! Thankfully that scared them and they ran off, because they were really getting quite worked up and a little bit aggressive. It was a lot of fun watching them though up to that point!
Depending on the time of the year you go, you may also be able to go Blue Whale watching off Mirissa. Sadly we missed out on that too.
One of the highlights of our trip was taking the train from Kandy to Haputale (you can also get off in Nuwara Eliya or Ella). The train and railway line are really old, but you travel past amazing scenes of tea plantations, waterfalls and small villages dotted along the path.
You share the train with locals so its a great opportunity to strike up a conversation and learn more about the country. The children in the towns you pass through love to wave at you as the train goes by. You’ll also spot people working in the acres and acres of tea plantations that cover every possible piece of hillside.
The train journey is a long ride (it took us close to six hours) but it is a not to be missed attraction in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s Climate
It’s hot all year round! What a perfect holiday destination! Especially for people like me who hate the cold. The monsoon seasons vary across different parts of the island. But even when it’s raining the country remains beautiful.
Ease of getting around
In Sri Lanka, there are many reputable drivers that you can hire to take you around and you can negotiate a price with them directly. Alternatively there are many companies that can organise this for you such as the one we used – Reddot tours. We used Reddot because we like things to be easy and we are a tad lazy! Obviously since they organise everything for you it costs more than if you organise your own driver. Many hotels have quarters where your driver can stay overnight for a small fee. We were lucky enough to have a fabulous driver called Dulshan. He took care of us every day and recommended things along the way to make our holiday in Sri Lanka as special as could be; and always with a big smile!
Last but not least coconuts! I love coconuts and Sri Lanka has millions of them. Even a new kind I had not heard of called the King coconut. Sold widely on the side of the road it is red in color and has a sweeter tasting milk and flesh than the coconuts you may be used to. It’s very refreshing after a long day in the sun and good for your health as well. Lots of Sri Lankan dishes use coconut as well. It is truly heaven for coconut lovers.
See it yourself!
So that’s why we loved Sri Lanka. Of course there are many other great reasons why Sri Lanka is an awesome country to visit. It’s now up to you to go and find out for yourself.