What should be included in a perfect trip of Sri Lanka?
- West coast beaches
- Mountains and Horton plain’s national park
- Galle and Southern Sri Lanka
From the palm-fringed sandy beaches around the island to meandering waterways in the middle of the country, Sri Lanka is a tropical country defined by the diversity of the land and the friendliness of the island’s people. As a Sri Lankan, I believe that below-mentioned areas should be included if it is to be a perfect trip of Sri Lanka.
West coast beaches an essential part of the perfect trip of Sri Lanka
Once upon a time, a valiant giant monkey lived in India. With the abduction of Seetha, the beautiful queen of God Rama, by the King of Lanka (King Ravana), God Rama sought the assistance of hanuman to rescue his queen. The giant monkey kindly obliged, starting to build a bridge between Southern India and northern Sri Lankan beach, in order to invade Lanka and fight against the injustice act committed by King Ravana. The story unfolds in 5th century BCE and it was composed in Sanskrit by Indian writer Valmiki. The bridge named as “Ram Sethu”, the bridge of Rama, is believed to be what we call “Palk Strait” today.
Today, the very beach that hanuman conquered is a well-known tourist attraction in the world and a must included attraction of any trip of Sri Lanka. The beaches of Sri Lanka have been visited by invaders, traders, religious leaders, scholars, statesmen and tourists for many millennia. And it is the most important geological tourist attraction of the island and visited by almost every tourist who visits the island. The sunny beaches, particularly west coast beaches attract the biggest portion of beach holiday lovers in Sri Lanka.
The western coast of Sri Lanka encompasses hundreds of kilometres of pristine beaches, fissure-riddles granite stone outcrop. It could be family fun or a honeymoon trip of Sri Lanka, there are many places suitable for travellers of any age such as mangrove forests, historical monuments, diving sites, temples, museums, galleries, parties, clubs, bars, restaurants and many other interesting places to explore.
During the monsoon the tide is high and strong gusty winds pervade the island in a wide angle from southern beaches of Sri Lanka to north-west beaches, water spurts up, geyser-like (call for condition: 0094-77-444-0977), making it bit unsuitable for outdoor activities and jump into the ocean infested with underwater current, therefore finding the refuge on west coast beaches is a little tricky and choosing right moment to hit the west coast beaches is very important to have the best beach holiday experience.
Most travellers arrive in Sri Lankan beaches as a part of an organized Sri Lanka tour that includes activities such as visiting cultural triangle, jeep tours in wildlife reserves, exploring the rainforest, visiting temples and city tours. Therefore accommodation during the beach stay is a part of the tour package. However, if you travel your own or just opt for a beach holiday there are plenty of opportunities to find accommodation facilities suitable for you. A large number of accommodation providers scattered in the beach areas and they offer very affordable accommodation (rent rooms) to luxurious accommodations such as Bungalows and boutique hotels.
Colombo: a part of the perfect trip of Sri Lanka
Colombo is a city that is being transformed into a fully fledged modern city in Asia, the millennium-old commercial city with temples, churches, forts and labyrinthine streets, now undergoing a werewolf –like change into a 21st-century modern metropolis.
Pettah is the old quarter of Colombo and streets of Pettah are throng with thousands of shoppers and sellers at any given time of the day. Pettah also acts as the business hub of Sri Lankan retail market, manufacturer and importers of hairpins to clothing, vegetable, gems and jewellery and all other household items have set up their branches here. Hundreds of shops line up on either side of the main road and alleys while a similar number of payment sellers has set up their mobile shops on the pavement; the entire locality is fair game in chaos.
The city of Colombo is the home for a large number of historical attractions such as Independent Square, wolvendaal church, and many other temples, all these places now neighbour luxury hotels, shopping malls, karaoke joints, and casino clubs. Colombo is metropolises that muddle up its past and present – where old Dutch hospital, built in the 1600s, with shops selling state of the art 21st-century electronic pieces of equipment.
Where to eat
When it comes to eateries the choices are endless, in downtown Colombo, you find a large number of Restaurants as well as street food outlets. Most eateries are selling typical Sri Lanka food items such as Rice and curry, hoppers, Kottu, Roti, string hoppers etc.
Where to stay
Hotels and guesthouses are scattered in many parts of Colombo, however, Colombo 2 (based on postal code Colombo is divided into 15 zones), the neighbourhood of Pettah is the home for most star class, luxury hotels such as Shangri-La, Hilton, Galadari.
Horton plains national park: Best for walking
Horton plains national park sits above all misty hills in the Sri Lankan central mountain range – a dense, B-movie mist merge with smoke rising from a bonfire on the surrounding valley floor, then the mist hugs the surface of the national park, sporadically reducing the visibility of trees, plants, birds and animals. However, this scene change towards the mid-day and clouds opens up to reveal the beautiful grasslands, deer grazing on grass, distant mountain peaks, flowers, trees and birds. Visibility remains intact for few minutes before obscuring precious nature from the eyesight again, like stage scene changes into the wings.
Eventually, the mist lift and grassland are at your fingertips, spreading far and wide on the valley while the chunk of mountain emerges from the distance. The settings of Horton plains national park is unique and extraordinarily beautiful – the Asian cloud forest half-remembered from childhood pictures books. Here and there, giant deer’s with big horns stumble about grasslands, chomping on tender grass and occasionally looking up to offer gormless attention to the visitors.
The weather at Horton plains national park seems to operate on random shift – switching between thick fog, brilliant sunshine, occasional drizzling, and heavy sudden rain, before the completion of the full cycle to thick fog, often all within a space of a half a day. The cloud forest was first discovered by English colonists, Horton Plains is one of the most precious natural assets of the island, the bio-diversity of Horton plains national park is considerably high and harbours a large number of endemic fauna and flora species. Horton plains national park serves as a trailhead for trekkers happy to run the ecological lottery of walk on a flat wildlife reserve.
‘We have four seasons within the day here,’ said Raja, our guide, shimmying along the footpath that leads to the place known as worlds-end between the forests. ‘It is not possible to predict the weather here-just be lucky!’
Worlds end is the most visited place within the park, which is a sheer cliff, dropping about 4000 feet and a key tourist attraction in the mountains. World end is a viewpoint that gives a breathtaking bird’s eye view over the mountains, valleys, rivers, and tea plantation on the surrounding lowland. The Indian Ocean, 81 km south from Horton plains is visible on clear days.
During the one hour trek, the visitors come across grasslands, patched of forests, streams, wetlands, a cascading waterfall known as Baker’s fall. ‘World end (the viewpoint) is also on the way about halfway down the track, special attention should be necessary while positioning for the great view over cliff from the platform hang about the cliff,’ said Raja, ‘ There had been many instances in which people fell down from the high ground and killed’. In a tragic incident a Netherland tourist fell off the cliff in 2018 however, he was rescued by the Sri Lankan army after days of a rescue mission, according to Raja.
It is merely 4 PM, dusk begins to settle in the national park – bonfires are extinguished and we started with the homeward journey. The living being around Horton plains national park plump for an early sleep.
Nuwara Eliya is the nearby major city of Horton plains national park and it is 28 km from Horton plains national park, the drive take around one hour. Nuwara Eliya is one of the most popular hill stations, where a large number of travellers takes refuge during the trips. The best bet for a comfortable accommodation with star class facilities is here. Hundreds of hotels and guest houses can be booked at vastly different rates.
Galle: Best for beach and food
If you dream of a vacation with a strip of snow-white sand, a snorkel, a dive, basking on the sun, a slice of pineapple in your cocktail, then Galle is where you want your ship to sail. This southern coast city enjoys year-round tropical sunshine, with the exception of a cloudy sky with rain in the month of June/ July and again September/October. Peak holiday season of Sri Lanka begins in the winter and remain a hot holiday spot from November to April and again during the months of July and August. The best bargain season is from April to October, especially when the monsoon rain hit the island from the south-west region.
Galle Fort is an iconic tourist attraction in southern Sri Lanka; it is like a big mushroom spring from the ground beside the laid-back city. The Galle has been a trading port and a popular trading city for many millennia. Today still a large number of cruise line plying the waters of Galle at some point during the year. The natural harbour of Galle attracts mid-size to small cruise liners and a large number of sailing ships.
Taking a private excursion is the best way to skip the pricey cruise ship excursions, on one side it saves money, on the other hand, it is more enjoyable as the tour takes place at your own pace, it is always better to have an individual tour than being a part of a big group. Whether it is a private excursion or an excursion organized by the cruise ship you see the same thing depending on the destination that you heading to.
Food tourism is not new to Sri Lanka, especially the cities like Galle, where a vibrant food culture developed over the last thousand years with the help of foreign touch. Greek, Arab, Chinese, Indian merchants sailed here during the 17th and 18th centuries trading in ceramic, silk and buying precious spices such as Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and pepper as well as gemstones, and ivory.
The Fort, which is a UNESCO world heritage site, standing towards the western border of Galle, is the best example of European influence in Galle. The merchants and invaders who were in the city have long since they left, but their presence lingers on within the city’s gastronomy, architecture, language, dance forms, music, and clothing.
Where to eat
Hundreds of cosy, small restaurant are sit in the colonial buildings in the old quarter of Galle city (Galle Fort). The restaurants, bars, cafeteria and small hotels serve numerous local as well as foreign specialities. Most of these place have a waterfront view.
Where to stay
There is plenty of availability of Accommodation in Galle because Galle is being a holiday destination for many decades. A large number of accommodation facilities available in the Fort but most of them are colonial houses that are turned to small boutique hotels. If you look for a big hotel with ample space to walk, drink, eat and play you need to think of moving outside of Galle Fort. There are many large scale hotels with hundreds of rooms just outside of Galle city and it is just a few minutes from the Galle Fort.
Madu River estuary: Best for river life
Heavy rain is a frequent sight in the western province of Sri Lanka, especially during the south-west monsoon, temporarily flooding the lowland areas, swilling the gutters, eroding the river banks and turning the blue, torque coloured water to rich coffee colour. On one side it is a small obstacle to the village life because flooding hinders their day to day life but water is an essential part of their life too.
‘Madu Ganga estuary consists of 64 islands and most of them are inhabited by fishermen and farmer’, told Chadare, who controls our small motorboat. According to our guide, some of the families engage in other traditional industries such as handicrafts, coir industry and cinnamon processing. ‘The biggest island is inhabited by around 200 families and population in all other island are far less than that, for instance only one family live in the cinnamon island and they process cinnamon’, told Chandare. ‘Boating is the only way of reaching the islands from the mainland, except the largest island, which is connected to the mainland with a narrow bridge’, said Chandare.
Madu Ganga estuary lies 80 km south of Colombo on the Galle-Colombo main road; the wetland spreads over 900 hectares making it one of the biggest wetlands on the island and which is one of the six Ramsar wetlands on the island. Labyrinthine rivers, canals, tributaries, the waters of Madu river estuary criss-cross the lowland beside Balapitiya town, before emptying out to the Indian Ocean.
For the last several hundred years, the at Madu estuary has ebbed and flowed in tandem with the current of the Madu River – an all-in-one highway, bathtub, dishwasher, larder, highway, social club and workplace for the communities living in the islands. The life at Madu estuary is more or less the same for the last many decades, human life still instinctively congregates in the water body as well as on the water’s edge.
The tourism industry has turned out to be the lifeblood for a large number of families here, which is a new trend. It helps a large number of families to earn a considerable large amount of money compared to other traditional jobs. A large number of Boat houses, line up along the Balapitiya River and provide boat trips in the estuary. There is a large concentration of small hotels and restaurants on the mainland, where the River meets the Ocean, while many floating restaurants are ready to serve coconut water, soft drinks, and snacks to the visitors who take boat tours.
Where to stay and eat
Madu river estuary is located near the popular beaches such as Hikkaduwa, Galle, Bentota and Kalutara; a large number of beach hotels that offers accommodation and meals in varying prizes can be booked here without any extra effort. Daily excursion to Madu river estuary is available from those beach hotels, (0094-77-444-0977; stay from US$ 50per person, including dinner, excursion US$35 per person).