I have just returned from 12 days in Sri Lanka. What an incredible place! I went with my boyfriend Tom, and we shared the most unreal experiences while we were there, and today I am going to be sharing them all with you. So sit back.. relax, grab a cuppa and a snack, because this is going to be one loooong post! I have basically written a small novel (Don’t say I didn’t warn you) I can’t help it, I just had so much to share!
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupees
Average Temperature: 31c
Time difference: 4.5 hours ahead of UK
We originally had a direct flight booked from London Heathrow to Colombo. But close to the time, it was changed due to works at Colombo. We had to stop off at the Maldives but stayed on the plane as it was only a 1 hour stop, total flying time was around 13 hours. We landed around 5pm Sri Lankan time. Our driver was waiting for us at the airport and from there, he took us to our first hotel in Negombo.
This night was mainly just for relaxing after the flight, so we pretty much just went down for dinner and chilled. The hotel was really cute little boutique sort of place, only a few rooms. It was really quirky though and the food was delicious!
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
We went down for breakfast, and our driver Ignatius was waiting there to pick us up for 8:30am. On the way, he told us about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and asked if we wanted to visit, and of course we said yes- I am completely besotted with elephants. However, I am so wary with places where tourists can go and see beautiful creatures like this, as quite often the they can be mistreated and are chained up in small spaces, so I double checked with him to see what the conditions were like there. When we arrived we were informed of the history of the orphanage, which put my mind at ease massively. The reason the orphanage was created, was to provide a lifeline to the baby elephants which had been left as orphans in the wild, as well as adult elephants lost in the wild. The elephants are supported by a large team of employees (Mahouts), who care for them daily. They had a huge space to roam free, with a mixture of land and water. It really was a beautiful sight.
Before we left, one of the mahouts approached us and asked if we wanted to feed one of the little ones. Of course we said yes! He handed us a bag filled with bananas for a small fee of about 500 SL Rupees which is about £2.50 and took us to one of the babies. Look at how adorable he is! It was just me, Tom, the mahout and this gorgeous little one.
Minneriya National Park
After the orphanage, we then went to the Minneriya National Park. We parked up the car on a roadside, and our private jeep was waiting for us there before taking us to the safari. This was one of my favourite experiences. We were able to stand up as were driving along seeing the stunning views. So many elephants roaming free, and we even saw a little family of elephants which melted my heart. The sun began to set which made it all the more beautiful.
Aliya Resort & Spa
After such an amazing day, it seemed so fitting to arrive at the Aliya hotel in Sigiriya (Aliya means elephant in Sri lanka). This was our favourite hotel of the trip by far. It was just so beautiful and luxurious. It turned out that the whole of the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh cricket teams were staying here too!
Can we talk about this swimming pool? 😮
The Lion Rock Fortress
We set off at 6:30am, and arrived at the rock for 7. It was extremely peaceful and along with me, Tom and Ignatius- there were only a handful of people there. This was something I knew I wanted to do before we came and it really is such a remarkable sight. The climb up the rock takes about 45 minutes, with some very unnerving staircases along the way. When we reached the top, and it was the most spectacular view. This is one of the experiences that sticks in my mind, as I couldn’t believe the beauty and history behind it. This was built by King Kashyapa (477-495 AD), and he lived at the top in the palace where he supposedly kept 500 wives, there was a moat surrounded by beautiful gardens. Inside the rock there were original paintings, which we couldn’t believe were still so vivid. For obvious reasons there was no photography allowed inside! We were so grateful for Ignatius suggesting we left as early as 6:30, as when we had come down the rock there were floods of people turning up in big groups- If it was up to me and Tom, we probably wouldn’t have got there till around 10/11, and I know that the experience would have been no where near as special and it would have been harder to appreciate the beauty, if we were battling for a space. Also around 9am when we got to the bottom- the sun was beating down on us which would have been so much harder to climb up!
We got back to the hotel just in time for the most delicious breakfast. (We had definitely earned this!)
After breakfast we had a few hours at leisure, to chill by the pool. blissssss.
By this time, my legs had completely ceased up from climbing the rock. It was a struggle to walk, no word of a lie.
Around 1.30pm we left for Polonnaruwa, where we were able to explore the hundreds of ancient structures, tombs, temples, statues and stupas. This was really interesting, as they were all in within the same location. Ignatius explained to us the meanings and histories of these.
After breakfast we checked out of Aliya and made our way to Kandy, which was about a 2 hour drive.
Dambulla Rock Cave Temples
One of the most iconic sights in Sri Lanka, and it is the largest temple complex in the country. We stopped off in Dambulla on the way to Kandy, and the sights were impressive! There are 5 temples which were actually built within real caves, and they have been left pretty much untouched. All the Buddha style paintings and statues inside were still there, dating back to the first century!!! In total, there are 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddesses.
The next stop was a tiny little shack on the roadside, and it was basically two local women teaching us every use that a coconut has! As the coconut industry is so important for Sri Lanka, this was really interesting. It was just me, Tom and our driver with these two women. They cracked open a coconut for us to drink, then sliced some up for us to dip into honey made from coconut. It tasted so delicious! Next thing we knew they were showing us all the things you can make out of cocounts like rope! It was crazzzyyy what you can do with just a little coconut!
We then went to a spice garden, where we were taken round by a guide that worked there. He showed us all of the different things they grow, such as cinnamon, aloe, coco beans, pepper and pineapples, So many things! He also explained how they are used in Sri Lanka. This was also really insightful, and it was from here that I purchased my herbal balm. I had to use the balm on the back of my shins (still moaning about my legs hurting from climbing the rock)
This was a really strange one, and me and Tom still giggle about it now. Ignatius asked us if we wanted to go shopping, and we said yes. So we arrive at a jewellery store by the side of the road. We edged into the shop, and were greeted by a lady who asked us to come upstairs with her. It was really strange as when we got upstairs it was like a museum, they had all of these precious stones in glass cabinets. Next thing we know, me and Tom are in a room full of empty chairs all facing a projector screen like a cinema. We watched this short documentary about how they discover gems and mining, and then the lady came and took us round and explained every type of precious stone. We then went downstairs where we were told we have a discount off all this fine expensive jewellery. Obviously we didn’t buy anything but it was all very bizarre and awkward.
We then left the store and went to an actually shopping mall, which was interesting – it also had a rollercoaster outside of it.. how odd.
Hotel- Cinnamon Cintadel
A lovely spacious hotel with stunning views!
Temple Of The Tooth
Since ancient times, it is believed that whoever holds the tooth relic, holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital where they had a Sri Lankan King, so it is a World Heritage Site due to having the temple there.
The temple and history behind the tooth is so fascinating. We arrived and it was really busy with school children and families, who had all come to worship the sacred tooth of a Buddha. You can’t actually see the tooth, as it is kept it a gold casket – which is then filled with 6 other caskets that cascade in size. The temple was so beautiful inside, and included many statues that were gifts from other countries such as Japan and Thailand.
Kandy as a whole, was really busy and much more built up and commercialised than Negombo and Sigiriya. What I found interesting was the contrast of being in a manic city centre filled with cars and big buildings, surrounded by the most beautiful natural and green views.
Tea Plantation and Factory
After the Temple of the Tooth we stopped off here. I loved this! We took a stroll around some of the tea that was growing, and then we actually went into the factories where we learned about the processes that go into making tea, to the point of exportation. It was so cool to learn about this, as its something we drink everyday but never think about how it gets to us! After we came out of the factory, we went through to this cute little tea house which backed onto the most gorgeous gardens. They gave us a complimentary fresh cup of tea so we sat and drank it while admiring the view.
Slightly Chilled Guesthouse
This is another thing that me and Tom still laugh about. There is only one reason why we were staying in this location, and that is because we were planning on climbing Adam’s Peak, which is a mountain. So there are only a few tiny little hotel guest houses around this area, as it’s basically in the middle of nowhere in the hills. It was perfect for what it was, and tbh we didn’t even technically stay over night but I’ll get onto that later. But it was just a basic little place (where we had to take it in turns to slightly pull the plug out INSIDE THE SHOWER while the other person washes, in order to get hot water) Yes, there was a plug socket in the shower.. but in hindsight we can laugh about it now.
We arrived here late in the afternoon, so we pretty much just had dinner and went to bed. When I say we went to bed… we had to go sleep around 7pm, as we had to be up at 1:30 am. I went straight to sleep, however Tom didn’t manage to get any sleep at all bless him.
Adam’s Peak is a sacred mountain, which happens to be the fifth highest mountain in Sri Lanka, standing at 2,243 m tall- and we decided it would be a good idea to climb it. In order to get to the temple at the top, you must climb the 5500 steps.
My family said nothing but just laughed when I told them. It’s probably the last thing people want to do when they go on holiday. I had actually been dreading this day as it crept closer, and my legs had barely recovered from the Lion Rock! So we were up at 1:30am, in order to arrive at Adam’s Peak for about 2:15am. The reason for this was 1) it would be nearly impossible to climb a mountain in the daytime heat, and 2) We were aiming to reach the top for sunrise.
I lost count the amount of times I wondered ‘what on earth we were thinking’ ‘who does this on holiday?’ ‘are we going to actually make it up this mountain?’ as well as ‘I knew I should have gone to the gym before we came’. I was convinced we had lost our minds at the mere age of 24.
The first 2 thirds of the climb were not too bad, we were getting tired but it was do-able with regular water breaks! A lot of people already looked done for at this stage. The whole way up, there were lots of stop off points and places to get some food and drinks. What I couldn’t believe is the amount of people who were not only carrying themselves up, but also their children! In their arms! Locals were either barefoot or in flip flops, and there were people going up that must have been abut 80 years old! This did make me feel slightly guilty for feeling hard done by, so we kept on powering up.
The last third was just brutal. The end line just felt like it was getting further and further away. The higher we got, the steeper the stairs got, with less and less energy. However, we made it! It took 3 hours in total which I was quite impressed with. I have to say, that was physically the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
We reached the top for around 5:15am. It was so busy and cold but we waited for the sunrise. The view just made it all worth it. I’ve never seen anything like these spectacular colours in the sky, and we were actually above the clouds!
So after enjoying the scene, we had to make it back down. This was equally as hard. Our legs had turned to jelly, bodies exhausted and yet there was no choice but to go back down the 5500 steps that we endured on the way up!
What an experience though! Such a great sense of an achievement, I would 100% suggest that if you’re in Sri Lanka and it has crossed your mind to do, then you must give it a shot!
We then went back to Slightly Chilled (or as Tom likes to call it – Slightly pull the shower plug out) we had breakfast and then had a cold shower (not by choice) and then started our journey to Galle.
The journey was around a 3 and a half hours drive, but we slept quite a lot of the way. Then we arrived at beautiful Galle!
Fort Bazaar, Galle
This was my second favourite hotel. It was so gorgeous and picturesque and boutiquey (I know that probably isn’t a word)
The service here was the best we have had, they really could not do enough for us. The food was amazing here too. Just loved every single thing about this one.
We woke up and had the yummiest breakfast, and set off to explore the Dutch Fort. This is a must – see when in Sri Lanka, and this is also where the Tsunami hit. We saw the big lighthouse, and took a walk around the Old Dutch Fort- which was only a couple of minutes from where we stayed.
We also actually saw a guy snake charming two cobras, which I have to say it’s a first!
We then headed off to our final location, Bentota
This was really gorgeous resort which backs onto the beach, and is where we stayed for the remaining days of the holiday. They offered lots of water sports here too- but lets be honest, we had just climbed a mountain so didn’t really fancy any sporting activities! When we arrived at reception we then had to get a speedboat across the river, over to the other side for the actual hotel.. which was cool!
The idea of this stay was purely for relaxation, after all the exploring and travelling. We spent most of the time lounging by the pool. It also had a swim up bar which is perfff when you fancy a nice cocktail but you don’t wanna get out of the pool.
Bentota Turtle Hatchery
One last thing that we spontaneously came across, was the turtle hatchery. This was what just made our holiday even more special for me.
This is a sea turtle protection association, and is run completely off donations. They showed us round all of the different types of turtles they have, and explained all of the differences. We even got to hold them!
The man told me and Tom to meet him on the beach, so we stepped out by the sea. He then greeted us again but with a bucket full of baby turtles. These babies were only 1 day old, and he gave them to us to release into the sea. It was the most incredible experience! They were just too cute it was unbelievable. Even now I can’t stop thinking about how they got on after we released them.
So there you have it! That’s what we got up to. Congratulations if you made it this far! I completely fell in love Sri Lanka, and we experienced so many wonderful things there- which we will cherish forever.
Our tour was booked as a package, which included our private driver for the whole duration- except the 4 nights in Bentota. I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way as Ignatius was so patient, informative and helped to make our holiday so special.
With our driver, Ignatius 🙂
I have also included the details of the lady we book through from Travel Counsellors, Sandra. She is amazing and really knows her stuff- and completely takes away the stress of booking a holiday.
01727 236 190