My fascination with Sri Lanka stems from the very fact that it is lying in plain sight. This country is like a priceless jewel, quite mysterious with its intriguing culture and is one of Asia’s beautiful tropical destinations. Sri Lanka for us is less than an hour by flight and it has to be one of the shortest International touchdowns we’ve been on. So I was very excited that I didn’t have to spend hours before I got my holiday started. While planning this trip, we realized for a little over 2 week visit we may have to narrow down on the places of our interest to be added into our travel itinerary.
After multiple iteration and discussions; my husband and I had our trip planned to include the South West Coast of Sri Lanka for majority of our trip, we were then moving to the South Western edge of the hill country for a trek and then finishing our trip off with another few days in a major city of Sri Lanka situated on the West Coast and at the mouth of a Lagoon. Our bags were packed, our travel plans readied, we boarded our flight and in little time Sri Lanka welcomed us into her abode. As we walked out of the airport to hail our taxi, we didn’t know that we were walking right into a fantastic adventure.
Getting from the airport to Unawatuna, Sri Lanka
Reached Sri Lanka in an hour but the hotel in three. We were booked with a resort located in Unawatuna; 150 km from the Bandaranayake International Airport. We chose Unawatuna as our primary base for the stay because firstly it happens to be a popular tourist coastal town in the Galle district, secondly it housed the dive school of our choice and also was close to all the points of interest that we wanted to visit through this trip. The roadways from the airport to Unawatuna certainly deserves a mention. Sri Lanka’s highway planning is commendable; it is fringed by palms and pretty houses on both sides, very clean and has a mesmerizing quality to it.
Beach in Sri Lanka named the World’s Best in 2004
Once we got there, our room wasn’t ready so we sat at their beach restaurant looking out at the sea. I’ll be honest here, at first glance we were a little disappointed (actually quite a bit) and let me tell you why. We love the beach and had prepared ourselves to see long idyllic sandy stretches but here there was barely any beach to walk on. The water was less than 10 meters from where the restaurant ends. It is said that the reason for this destruction is the breakwater that was built by the former Government. It had apparently disturbed the natural balance of the eco-system, and is washing away the sand from one half of the beach, and depositing it on the other half.
Salvaging Sri Lanka’s popular beach destination
Unawatuna beach once boasted of flawless crescent of sand with turquoise waters; swept along a palm adorned shore which was now receding and was blanketed with jagged rocks. But to our luck, that very day we landed they had begun the beach replenishment project and let me tell you in five days that beach was like a different place. The Belgium Company employed to do the job pumped sand diligently for days to finally restore Unawatuna to its initial exquisite beauty. It was truly an experience for us to see this iconic beach being restored and even though we could only lounge on this beach for a few days after the restoration, we didn’t mind it. Witnessing the transition was a once in a lifetime experience.
Sun, sand and water in the beaches of South West coast of Sri Lanka
The south west coast of Sri Lanka truly has some of the loveliest beaches we’d been to. Crowded yes, because its popularity evidently attract many tourists from around the world. But you will see that it is very pristine, clean, inviting and has an untouched tropical vibe to it. We spent most of time beach hopping between Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa. We also visited Bentota and Mirissa and thought they were really something. Beach bums like us found our piece of palm lined perfection in so many of the beautiful beaches Sri Lanka offers. You won’t feel time fly as you sit on the beach, swim in the azure water, sip on fresh coconut, watch the surfers and pretty much do nothing.
Scuba diving in Sri Lanka
Diving is Sri Lanka is a memory that we treasure. The warm Indian Ocean plays the perfect host to diving and offers some true dive experiences. We did multiple dives with a PADI school in Unawatuna and these were some of the better dive logs we boast of- Jungle beach, Thalpe beach, Alluthgala and a cave dive near Unawatuna were some of our more favorite ones with gorgeous coral and marine life. It is important though to note that the diving season in Sri Lanka is divided into two seasons for about five months each, one on the West and South Coast and one on the East and North Coast. We dived in the South West Coast and here the best time for diving is between November and April.
Galle in Sri Lanka felt like a trip back in time
A major administrative capital of Southern Province, Galle is a quaint city where time seems to have just paused itself. A historical colonial city that is a perfect day visit to add to your itinerary. We took a tuk-tuk (auto) from Unawatuna and leisurely spent our time soaking in the quiet bliss and time warped energy one feels when at Galle. The Galle clock tower was our first stop and was a pretty sight with a great view. We drove through the colonial streets, stopping to check out the lighthouse, reformed church, the treasure trove museums, gems and handicraft stores and old buildings. The Dutch architecture in Galle has been preserved so well that you are immediately transported back to another era.
Sri Lanka’s Little England
After a great time spent in the South West Coast, we moved base to Nuwara Eliya, also known as Sri Lanka’s ‘Little England’ and the city of lights. This city is in the hill country of the Central province of Sri Lanka. As we made our long road drive from the hot beaches in the South West Coast of Sri Lanka to the hills of Nuwara Eliya, we suddenly felt the need to keep warm. The temperature suddenly begins to drop and the beautiful mist covered hills starts to come to sight. Nuwara Eliya was to be our start point to getting to the base of Adam’s Peak and while it’s not very close, getting here gave us an opportunity to experience the spectacular country side with carpets of tea plantations rolled out.
Climbing Sri Lanka’s famous Adam’s Peak
We started for the base from our hotel at 1 a.m. and by 2 30 a.m. began ascend. Adam’s Peak is also known as Sri Pada and is a 2,243m (7,359 feet) mountain. It is very popular with both the locals and the tourists. It is a significant pilgrimage site and has multi-religious relevance. The footprint seen at the peak is what draws people here, while some believe it’s a footprint of Buddha, others think it is of Shiva and still others see it as Adam’s first step after being exiled from the Garden of Eden. The difficulty level is moderate but yes, you climb about 6,000 crumbling stone steps; that with some incline trekking. In 4 – 4.5 hours we had returned to base after having reached the summit in time to see the sunrise.
Finishing off our trip at Sri Lanka’s modest beach town
Situated in the West Coast and close to the International airport, Negombo is a major trade city situated at the shore of the lagoon. This modest beach town is known for its fishing industry. It is comparatively more westernized than the other towns we visited in the country. But it does have a relaxed laid back energy and made perfect sense as our last stop before we took our flight back home. We spent a wonderfully relaxed couple of days in this Dutch influenced little town and got some great bargains on souvenirs and Ceylon tea. The Negombo beach wasn’t my favorite as there were too many fishing boats around but I must admit the beach is naturally breathtaking.
Sri Lanka and their delicious food
It would be right to say that the Sri Lankan cuisine centrally features seafood, meat or vegetarian curries, lentils, steam rice, fresh produce in the form of vegetables on the sides and a lot of spice. I personally loved everything I ate in Sri Lanka. I loved that the food was always accompanied with fruits and vegetables that were pickled, chutneys and spicy sambals totally made the staple diet of our trip. The beach shacks serve up delicious meals and short eats, I don’t think we were ever disappointed because it always tasted so good. If you love your tea you will have ample choices from milk, to green and even flavored ones that I’d never had heard of before.
There is much we did do this trip but still so much unexplored of this diverse country. Travelling through Sri Lanka is not difficult but it wouldn’t be incorrect to say it is a little bit of chaos, especially in the busier roads. We are most certainly returning again because we can still think for the many places we couldn’t fit into this trip and the many things we’d like to do in Sri Lanka the next time we visit. This country surprised us and is a beauty sitting in the Indian Ocean. The stunning landscape, scrumptious food spread, rich history, abundant wildlife, alluring beaches and friendly locals ensure you a trip you will remember for a long time. Sri Lanka you were delightful and we cannot wait to return!
Photographs shot by yours truly and the husband.