One of our fantastic travel consultants, Amy Welfare, has lived and worked in Sri Lanka. Here she talks about why she adores the country, tips for travel and an itinerary you will love!
Sri Lanka is one of my favourite places.. not only because it is a wonderful destination for adults and children – easy to travel around with welcoming locals, beautiful boutique hotels, delicious food, amazing beaches and a huge range of history and experiences to enjoy – but also because I lived there for nearly a year.
It is a tropical paradise, but there is more to it than beaches and palm trees… this is a country of contrasts with high hill country, ancient cities, spectacular wildlife and of course delicious food. It is colourful, vibrant, spiritual and welcoming and so much less busy and hectic than its neighbour to the north, India.
Sri Lanka is a gentle place where you will find a friendly smile, beautiful buildings, a unique style and fascinating history and it is incredible to think it is less than a decade since their brutal civil war concluded. This is a country that has been through a lot but also gives so much to any visitor, that it is no surprise that people return year after year to experience some more of the warmth Sri Lanka has to offer.
Did you know:
– 10hr direct flight from the UK
– You can enjoy Sri Lanka year round. In the UK’s summer months visit the hill country and the east coast. From December through to April visit the hill country, south and west coast
– There are plenty of beautiful private villas available on the south coast as an alternative to a hotel
– Sri Lanka is malaria free
– Really easy to combine with the Maldives, just 1hr flight
Below is a suggested itinerary but there are so many options to suit all tastes.
On arrival, I really recommend you spend your first night at The Wallawwa, just 15 minutes from the airport – a tranquil oasis in a historical country house turned boutique hotel with friendly staff and delicious food.
The next day your private car and guide will drive you to the Cultural Triangle to stay at Ulagalla, one of the country’s most beautiful properties set in stunning countryside. Having a guide in Sri Lanka really enhances your stay, as they are knowledgable, passionate about their country and totally flexible to what you would like to do.
The Cultural Triangle area is a great base whilst visiting the nearby highlights such as Sigiriya, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. A climb up to the Sigiriya rock fortress is rewarding and on many people’s must do list, but I suggest getting up very early to do it before 8am.. it gets so hot and busy and the steps are not for the faint hearted!
For some amazing wildlife, you can take a jeep safari into the nearby Minneriya National park where you will hopefully see elephants, monkeys, abundant bird life, crocodiles and maybe even an elusive leopard.
Next stop is Taylors Hill in the tea hills near Kandy – where you will find simply stunning scenery in a colonial setting. Here you have an opportunity to learn about the tea process as well as explore on foot or bike amongst the local villages and hills and into the former royal city of Kandy.
A real highlight for me and all visitors is taking one of the world’s most scenic train journeys through the green rolling tea hills. You pass through tiny yet immaculately kept stations, get a view into local village life and the pace is slow enough to really enjoy the spectacular view.
Stay at the exclusive Tea Trails, the iconic luxury tea planters residence in the hills around Nuwara Eliya. With amazing mountain panoramas, private house ambience, delicious dining and wonderful activities, an all inclusive stay here really adds an extra luxurious element to your Sri Lanka holiday.
To cut out several hours driving on windy roads, I suggest you fly by seaplane from the reservoir at Tea Trails down to Koggala Lake and relax on the chilled out south coast. Try one of the most family friendly hotels, Why House – more like a private home with only a handful of rooms surrounding a huge pool set amongst the palm trees. Nearby is one of the best beaches in Sri Lanka for a dip in the Indian Ocean.
Alternatively, for a more grown up adventure stay at Kahanda Kanda for stunning interior design, tropical views, a cool pool and access to the amazing KK beach club. Delicious Rice & Curry can be sampled throughout Sri Lanka but it is even more refined in these wonderful properties. Head to the market with the chef and learn how to make the Sri Lankan staple for yourself.
One of my favourite things to do when I lived there was to explore the inland villages and tropical scenery on 2 wheels and you can do this too with the excellent Idle Bikes tours. The gentle and enjoyable cycle rides can be tailored to suit you or as part of a group and are a highly recommended way of seeing the real Sri Lanka.
If you’re lucky, your visit may coincide with their monthly Poya or Full Moon celebration where work stops and temples come to life in vivid colour. Expect music, lights and dancing – it really can be a wonderful sight.
A visit to UNESCO world heritage Galle Fort is an absolute must and this is where I lived when I was there. There is so much to do and see from exploring the historical streets to sampling the delicious food and picking up some souvenirs at the wonderful array of boutiques.
The Fort Bazaar is one of most popular places to stay with its stunning style, delicious food and fantastic location, it really is an oasis in the heart of the fort and sister to the Wallawwa hotel. Or try the Amangalla for something really special with a gorgeous pool for a dip after a day of exploring the fort.
No wonder Sri Lanka is now one of the most popular destinations for travellers wanting a bit of adventure as well as beautiful hotels, great food and a fantastic dose of winter sun – all really easy to achieve within a 1-2 week holiday. The only problem is that now it is so popular, the peak months of December through to April book up really quickly so I recommend the earlier the booking the better!