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Published: September 16th 2011
(This post is an overview of my Sri Lanka trip. There will be location specific posts of our whole expedition - hopefully soon!.)
Last year was very hectic for both of us and excluding a couple of short trips we pretty much didn't travel at all! Fortunately this May, both of us could take some time off together. We initially considered a number of places but zeroed down to Sri Lanka due to plethora of activities - archaeological sights, beach, scuba, hiking, rafting, wild-life safaris, shopping - all in one single vacation! We are absolutely glad that we did so :-).
Initially, we considered using public transport to get around the island and make it a semi-backpacking trip. However, when we tried to fit everything we wanted to do in SL in 11 days, we realized that we required atleast double the time :-) and we might encounter rain in this season! Plan-B: less number of places, easy traveling. The easiest and most efficient mode of traveling in Sri Lanka is car rental with an english speaking driver. My driver suggested that it was not necessary to book all the hotels beforehand - I took his word and booked
Royal Palace of Polonnaruwa
Ruins of once a 7 floors tall palace
one for my first destination only. Both these decisions (car rental & not booking hotels) worked in our favor! We got so much of flexibility to change our travel route on the go!
Here is my itinerary:
Arrived at CMB airport (1.5 hours north of Colombo, near Negombo); Drove to Dambulla (3.5hrs)
Morning visit to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa (UNESCO world heritage site, 2 hours drive from Dambulla) - Absolutely recommended, requires a lot of walking;
Afternoon: Jeep Safari in Ritigala Eco Park - skip if visiting Uda Walawe National Park
Morning: Sigiriya rock fort (UNESCO world heritage site, 1 hour drive from Dambulla) - Absolutely recommended, requires some very steep walking/climbing (approx 1.5 hours up & down)
Afternoon: Drove to Trincomalee, relaxed by the beach
Morning: Scuba Diving + Snorkeling at Pegion Island National Park (amazing place to dive and snorkel! Beautiful coral reefs!
Afternoon: Visited Koneshwaram Temple nearby and relaxed by the beach
Late Evening: A very special and private dinner on my request organized by my hotel by the beach!
Morning: Drive to Kandy via Dambulla Cave Temple - Absolutely recommended! Requires to walk a little but totally
at the Uda Walawe National Park
Afternoon: Drove to Kandy via Spice Garden in Matale
Evening: Reached Kandy, watched a cultural show, and visited the Tooth Relic Temple of Kandy.
Morning: Visited Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage (although a bit touristy but a must to visit!)
Afternoon: Drove to Nuwara Eliya via various tea gardens and estates.
Morning: Drove to Horton Plains National Park for World's End hike. Don't get confused by the name of the trail - it is not the southern most point of Sri Lanka but a flat plateau comes to a sudden end here and gives some spectacular views on a clear day. If you are looking for an moderate 9kms long hike and explore local flora-fauna, this hike might be for you. If you have too many expectations due the to the name of the trail, you might be disappointed 😊. Baker's Fall on this trail is beautiful though! For a better weather, start this hike at or before 6am... it will be cloudy by 8am.
Afternoon: Visited Seetha Amma temple in Seethaeliya and Drove to Ella.
Morning: Did a short hike to Little Adam's Peak. If you are in Ella, this short hike is a must do!
Poya Day (Full-moon day) is considered very auspicious among the Buddhists. Especially the Poya day of the month of May (aka Vesak) is the day when Lord Buddha was born and also attained Nirvana. This pic was taken on Vesak which happened to be the 2600th year of Lord Buddha's Nirvana!
Noon: Drove to Tissamaharama (base for Yala National Park) via Rawana Ella Waterfall.
Afternoon: Did an afternoon safari to Yala (spotted two leopards :D.. or a same one twice? :-s )
Morning: relaxed at the hotel, had a nice breakfast and packed up for the last part of our journey: Yala to Colombo
Afternoon: We visited Uda Walawe NP on the way and did a jeep safari. Absolutely fabulous! Encountered uncountable wild elephants and a herd of elephants! Absolutely recommended! The surrounding is so beautiful!
Night: Reached Colombo around 11pm.
Morning through afternoon: Shopping in Colombo!
Evening: Did some street shopping in Pettah market.
Night: Tried South Indian food (Dosai) in Sri Lanka! (disappointing!)
This was the Budd Purnima (Vesakh) - the biggest festival of Sri Lanka! We were so lucky to be here on this day! The whole city was decorated!! (and each and every shop was closed!) Walked around the Galle Face road...
Evening: Took a Vesak special open-bus city tour. Fabulous! faced some rains during the journey but the decoration throughout the city was breathtaking!
• Day-12: Return flight to Ahmedabad!
Enjoy some pics! Some useful information:
• When to
Rise 'n Shine
Sunrise at Ella Gap
ANYTIME! At any given time, somewhere on the island, it's sunny and beautiful!
A basic rule: April to September: The cultural triangle (ancient cities) and the East coast. October to March: West coast, Southern beaches, and hills.
• Where to stay?
Lots of great options. Check reviews on tripadvisor before you reserve online. There are a lot of options, not listed online. It's perfectly fine to travel without reservations (provided you have a local driver).
• How to travel?
A good car and a driver definitely makes your trip easy and fun! PM me if you'd like the contact information of the rental company I used. We didn't travel through trains of bus; however, from what I have heard, public transportation is a bit slow, crowded, but safe!
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