“Sri Lanka is an island that everyone loves at some level inside themselves. A very special island that travellers, from Sinbad to Marco Polo, dreamed about.” Romesh Gunesekera
Sri Lanka, known as the Wonder of Asia, is a charming tropical paradise located just south of India, only a mere four hours from the UAE. Steeped in history, it’s a land once ravaged by civil war but nowadays a magnet for international tourists who flock to the island to enjoy its diverse qualities. The quieter North allows visitors to immerse themselves in the rolling hills of the tea plantations, leopards and herds of elephants can be spotted in one of the many centralised nature reserves and those fortunate to venture down South can enjoy the coconut palm fringed beaches, crashing surf, coral reefs and incredible sunsets. If you are lucky like we were, you can spot the world’s biggest mammal, the blue whale in the waters off of the coast of Mirissa, a mind-blowing experience that was totally worth the early start.
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is a multicultural country that is home to many different religious and ethnic groups, the islanders are friendly and you are guaranteed the warmest welcome with the widest smile. While they are one of the world’s biggest exporters of tea it’s clear that tourism is now a dependable source of income. Sri Lanka caters for every traveler’s budget from backpackers and surfers budget accommodations to luxury boutique hotels and private villas with a whole team of staff (can I just say at this point that having your own chef is awesome). Sri Lankan food is fresh and spicy with the daily catch appearing on most menus, coconuts feature heavily with every part of the fruit (drupe) used in some way or another.
While the beaches may be tranquil the roads certainly are not! Much like Kerala the air is filled with constant beeping horns acting as warnings to other drivers, frequent overcrowded buses hurtle along at breakneck speed with angry faced drivers using both sides of the road if necessary. Train travel is popular in Sri Lanka, while we enjoyed a privileged trip in a private VIP carriage most people were crammed into packed carriages. Passengers hang out the windows and even stand on the steps, others perch on the roofs. Riding in the brightly coloured tuk tuks is cheap and fun until you find yourself in the path of an oncoming bus or caught in a tropical downpour.
Rescheduled plans meant this visit was purely focused around the Southern coastal towns of Hikkaduwa, Mirissa, Weligama, Talpe and Galle. The pinnacle of the trip was the beautiful beach wedding of two friends in Weligama, an event that was truly memorable in every way (separate post to follow). I loved Sri Lanka and will definitely be returning to visit Ella, take a scenic train trip through the hills, see the iconic Nine Arches Bridge for myself and stay in the tea plantations, spend time in a national park to see some wild elephants, stop off in Kandy for some culture and temples, visit the Dambulla caves and climb to the top of Sigiriya Rock (pretty much everything we had to cancel). For now here’s a first look at this trip in pictures….
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Additional photos used with courtesy of Shehan Tennekoon, Melinda Robinson Tennekoon and Mira Dryden.