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I’ll always remember when I was planning my trip with Marina to Sri Lanka two years ago and people were saying: “Sri Lan… what? Why would you go there?” and ” Where is that?” Nowadays, we get more and more questions from those who want to know why we have an infinite love for this country, which is why we thought we’d write an article about it!
I wanted to talk about Sri Lanka with Jade because we discovered this country together and we still get bombarded with questions about this hidden gem. It’s 100% thanks to Jade that I fell in love with this beautiful country. At first, I had no idea what Sri Lanka was, then she showed me a map and I understood that it’s a country on an island just south of the tip of India.
First of all, what is there to do in Sri Lanka? My answer: EVERYTHING! Whether your main travel motivation is cultural diversity, history, the outdoors, water sports (just to name a few), you’ll certainly find something for you. Temples, ruins, UNESCO monuments… whatever you want, they’ve got it! For you outdoor lovers, there’s definitely something you’ll love – whether that’s mountain hiking, safaris, or white-water rafting. If you’re like me and you love being in the water, you’ll be just as spoiled: snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, kitesurfing, spearfishing – you name it, Sri Lanka’s got it.
Surfing: there are waves for super good surfers that are fast and powerful. There are also beach breaks, with sandy bottoms and small waves that are perfect for beginners. During the fall and winter, the south of the island is the place to be (Midigama, Weligama, Mirissa, Ahangama). In the spring, the winds change everything happens on the east coast in Arugam Bay.
One of the things that struck me most when I first arrived was the generosity of the Sri Lankans – that is, how helpful they are towards tourists. So if you’re wondering whether it’s safe to travel there as a woman, 100%.
Always use good judgment. If you’re a girl, you’ll feel comfortable in this country that’s used to tourism thanks to its beautiful beaches and waves. No need to worry when wearing shorts and swimsuits. However, when you leave the coast and visit villages in the land, it’s better to cover up a little. Avoid having bare shoulders and wearing shorts that are too short, simply out of respect for locals who are less accustomed to seeing tourists and exposed skin. It’ll also help you avoid heavy stares. If you’re in a spaghetti strap dress, don’t worry, no one is going to skin you alive. I’m just sharing advice from personal experience. (P.S. In temples, you’re required to have your shoulders covered and wear things that are at least knee length, otherwise you won’t be allowed to enter).
I used to take night buses and I never felt unsafe. Men actually often get up to offer us their seats. They also understand a little bit of English, so you won’t have to worry about pulling out Duolingo to translate everything in Sinhalese. The only problem is that when you ask them a question, whether the answer is yes or no, they’ll respond by hanging their head like a bobble head. It’ll be up to you to decide whether you want the answer to be yes or no!
The most popular question I get is: what do you eat in Sri Lanka? My answer: what do you feel like eating? For seafood fans, you’ll be spoiled with fresh seafood every day all along the coast. For my vegetarian friends, you’ll enjoy vegetable, lentil, and jack fruit curries. There truly is something for everyone. Do you have a sweet tooth? Just wait until you try the coconut pancakes. My oh my, one a day keeps the doctor away… I think that’s the saying? My last favourite in terms of food: rotis! A pancake that you fill with whatever you want, and it’s as much a main dish as a dessert. My favourite mix: avocado, shrimp, tomatoes and cheese… trust me, you’ll thank me later! In terms of dessert, as soon as chocolate is involved, it’s a winner. My tip is to buy your favorite chocolate bar from the local convenience store and ask for it to be put in your roti with bananas.
Jade, you’re forgetting PAPADAM !!!! A type of chip made from several kinds of flour, including chickpea flour. It’s ADDICTIVE, no joke! I’m salivating at the thought of eating it.
Let’s move on to more serious things. What type of accommodation should you book in Sri Lanka? My go-to will always be hostels, because I love meeting new people but once again, it all depends on what kind of traveler you are. On one hand, if you prefer to stay in luxury hotels and have your private driver bring you from point A to point B, it’s definitely possible. On the other hand, if you like to have your autonomy, I recommend booking a guest house and renting a scooter. If you don’t feel adventurous enough, you can always ride on buses and tuk-tuks. And oh! Make sure to travel between Ella and Kandy by train – the view is breathtaking, and I swear that afterwards, your favourite colour will be green!
In terms of buses, trains, and tuk-tuks: they’re everywhere, all the time, and riding on them costs almost nothing. Be careful, because as soon as you step inside, they leave. Hang on tight, otherwise you’ll fall on the road! Otherwise, scooters are ideal in Asia, but be careful because accidents happen really frequently (they drive on the other side of the road)!
In my opinion, Sri Lanka is the future Bali, so I advise you to visit ASAP before it becomes too much of a tourist trap. If everything I’ve shared with you hasn’t yet convinced you to go, send me a message. I could talk about Sri Lanka for hours!
Sri Lanka changes from year to year. The beaches become more crowded, the waves busier, the construction projects more numerous, the delinquency of the locals more intense. As Jade said, now’s the time to go!
Our To-Do List, by City:
- Colombo (the capital of Sri Lanka): from the airport, it takes 2 hours by car to arrive in the south.
- Midigama/Welligama/Ahangama: villages to surf and hang out at beach.
- To sleep: the Hangtime Hostel, owned by a cute Australian boy, is beautiful and they’re super well organized. Otherwise, I always live in the same guesthouse called Surf Paradise but they’re kind of in the middle of nowhere and are much less organized than the Hangtime. What’s great is that it’s owned by locals, so I leave without locking my door and I have the utmost faith in Kamal and Nandale (the two locals who work there). I’ve also lived at Cheeky Monkey, but it’s become a party place, and the landlord has begun to use violence. I strongly advise against it.
- Beaches to visit in this area: Kabalana, Blue Beach, Mirrissa Diving Center, Welligama, Jungle Beach, Midigama, Sion, etc. Walk around, there are hundreds of small beaches and it’s definitely worth it to hop from one to the other!
- Mirissa: you NEED to eat a roti at the Dewmini Roti Shop and treat yourself to a massage at the Badora Spa. If you like to party, Mirissa is also the place to be.
- Galle: visit Fort Galle and discover a little history.
IN THE LANDS
- Kandy: go to Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), a mountain that you can climb to see stunning sunrises or sunsets. It’s an incredible view but be prepared to climb a ton of steps.
- Ella and Nuwara Eliya: visit the tea plantations and the surrounding waterfalls. It’s MAGNIFICENT!
- Udawalawe: do a safari to see the wilderness.
- Sigiriya: climb the huge rock.
- Pinnawala: visit a sanctuary of orphaned elephants who are free and more importantly, NOT chained. Since they’ve been around people since a very young age, you can feed them fruits. Watching them bathe freely in the river is one of my all-time favourite memories. (NOTE: do not go on an elephant ride anywhere. These elephants are tortured. Simply watching them is enough, and is just as breathtaking).
* To see pictures of Sri Lanka, here are two videos of our first trips to Sri together (obviously!)
xox Marina & Jade