Until recent years Sri Lanka has regularly been overlooked but is becoming increasingly popular as more people discover its hidden charm. Sri Lanka is a diverse island nation just south off the coast of India. From its endless white beaches and great surf, to famous tea and ancient ruins; this is definitely an easily accessible country perfectly catered for all traveller types.
The coastal path well-trodden:
Colombo – the majority of international airlines will arrive into Colombo on the Western coast of the island. The airport itself is actually situated closer to a small town called Negombo. I chose to take a taxi from the airport and stay here rather than in Colombo so that I would be immediately immersed in the relaxed coastal vibes of the country rather than the hustle and bustle of another big city. A one night stay to become accustomed to the time change and poke about the local shops is enough.
Kandy & Ella – Sadly, due to torrential downpours I was forced to cancel my trip to the central region. There are so many sites to visit in this area ranging from sacred Buddhist sites, rainforests and picturesque lakes to mountain hikes in stunning scenery. The train ride itself from Kandy to Ella is an experience which I am frustrated to have missed and would definitely recommend! (4 night stay).
Hikkaduwa – So I headed south from Negombo to Hikkaduwa chasing the sun instead. Within 5 minutes of dropping my bag off at the hotel I was knee deep in the clear ocean with two giant sea turtles nipping at my toes. Amazing! The local surf is supposedly excellent and the beach is dotted with relaxed bars serving cold beers. Great for surfer watching! Within easy reach of the sleepy, hippy town by tuktuk there are several interesting Buddhist temples. A quick tuktuk ride into busy Galle for an evening meal is a must do. (2 night stay).
Unawatuna – Is deceivingly large. As you enter and pass several small shops and restaurants tucked away, they continue and continue. Unawatuna boasts a gorgeous long beach which become vibrant in the evening as tourists and locals enjoy an evening meal with their feet resting on the sand. The food is delicious! Take a tuktuk to the Japanese Peace Pagoda and enjoy panoramic views of the shore line and palm tree tops. There are other beaches which are a bit quieter tucked away in the greenery but can be easily reached by a short tuktuk ride. You can also hitch a ride to tea and spice plantations just out of town. (4 night stay).
The main beach at Unawatuna
Tissamaharama (Tissa) – After a long drive I arrived in Tissa ready for nature to take a hold of me. There are two National Parks boasting the chance to view a variety of animals from crocodiles to elephants and the ever elusive leopards within a short drive of Tissa. One park being Udawalawe and the other Yala. There are plenty of tours running from Tissa to see both but I would recommend Yala with its more experienced guides. (3 night stay). See here for my views on the National Park options in the area.
Mirissa – A small town with a vibrant centre. Of all the stops I made in Sri Lanka this place definitely had the most nightlife; with bars and restaurants lined along the golden sands eager to please. Away from the main beach in Mirissa there are great surf spots and some quirky things to see. A trip to the local snake farm is an experience well worth the money! Being a fishing village you will see the locals fishing traditionally which makes for a super snap to show back home and there are several tour companies offering whale watching tours. Top tip – don’t go for a cheap tour, safety first! (3 night stay)
Bentota – Hmm. It has been taken over by large hotels offering all-inclusive packages and resort entertainment. Not for me, but maybe for you. There are plenty of water sports and river tours available from the north of the beach and the coast is very beautiful, but it can be eerily quiet and with the choppy waters to the south of the beach, not very inviting. I would likely give this place a miss next time I visited Sri Lanka. (2 night stay).
If you have time and the weather permits, going further north of Sri Lanka to visit Sigiriya and Anuradhapura are must sees!
The Japanese Pagoda, Unawatuna