Okay…it’s really not an easy task to describe Sri Lanka in a nutshell!
From its stunning beaches to its rolling mountain countryside, from jungle safaris to its bustling cities and from impressive temples to symbolic natural land structures you can start to see my difficulty in summing up this mysterious and beautiful country.
The one common detail you will get from your trip to Sri Lanka is the absolute welcoming kindness of its people. They want you to see and experience all of the things that they love about their country and are eager to share their homeland with you on your journey…
A simple greeting of hands together, a slight nod and a chorus of “Ayubowan” is just a symbol of how they express their gentle culture.
What does this translate too you ask?…..nothing simpler than the elegant words of “May you live more”.
I visited this country a year ago with work on a somewhat whistle-stop tour. Six nights and six different destinations each one as engaging as the next.
My first impressions as we were greeted at the airport with fresh coconuts and a flower garland draped around our neck, the hot humid air hitting us smack in the face and the smells of a new country that I will never tire of – was as all my first impressions tend to be, full of excitement and wanderlust. I always note to myself how easy it is to get to a completely different part of the world and I wonder why I don’t do it more frequently and for longer! All thoughts of home and having to live that life that is expected from us are within those first few moments, completely eradicated from my mind!
We meet our guide for the week. He is a well rounded guy with a soft, gentle face and a smile to brighten up your day. His name is ‘Lucky’. He would later in the trip share with us stories from his life and how he had survived the 2004 Tsunami by what can now only be described as an act of fate. How he had witnessed the waves headed towards them and had watched people being killed within those waves. It’s a humbling experience to talk to someone who has seen these types of horrors, to be shown where it happened and to stand in the same spots as those who were once upon a time stood in the exact same place, completely unsuspecting that that day would be their last. As he spoke we could all see in his face and hear in his voice that the events of that day are as real and as clear to him as though they had happened only a moment ago.
The distances in Sri Lanka from A to B can take a long time! The miles are short but the roads are difficult. My advice after a long 11 hour flight from the UK is stay somewhere local for your first night. If you don’t want the hustle and bustle of Colombo then maybe venture a 20 or 30 minute drive to the coastline. You’ll find accommodation to meet all budgets and tastes. My absolute favourite place had to be the Ranweli Village in Waikkal. It’s like a small piece of tropical paradise! (yes I know that sounds cheesy – but it really is!)
To get there you have to cross a river by raft. One man and his bamboo stick steering you from one side to the other.
Each room a bungalow, spread out throughout the grounds and hidden within the trees. The milky pink Indian Ocean ebbing on the beach. A tiki bar playing Bob Marley, or similar. Nature walks and trails surrounding the grounds. It is the perfect place to start or end your Sri Lankan adventure.
With so much to see and do in Sri Lanka it’s hard to chose which direction to head in. I suppose it depends on how long you have and what things interest you. The north and the centre of the island are full of ancient cities, iconic landscapes and temples. A climb of 1202 steps will take you to the peak of Sigiriya Rock.
Heading further south, past Kandy you will end up needing a warmer change of clothes as you enter higher altitude and into the district of the tea plantations – Nuwara Eliya. Notably different in climate and landscape you would be forgiven in thinking that you had stumbled upon a pretty English village, colonial in style. Throughout our trip we would be welcomed into every hotel with a cold drink and a cold flannel to cool ourselves – here we are greeted with a warm drink and a hot flannel!
The south west and headed towards the south east of the island is full of stunning coastline, national parks and friendly villages. We took a jeep safari in Yala National Park and danced the night away at a beach resort in Bentota!
From time to time it really is worth spending just those few extra pennies and staying somewhere just that little more special. A night at the Cinnamon Wild Yala within the grounds of the national park really did it for us – a small haven. Monkeys wonder around the grounds and occasionally the odd elephant may feel the need to migrate past your jungle or beach chalet. At night enjoy a cocktail on the roof top bar and listen to the sounds of wild Sri Lanka on your door step.
A lot of our time was spent visiting hotels, but every now and then we were able to sneak in a few excursions and with Lucky as our guide, a man who, it seemed, must have known every single person in Sri Lanka worth knowing, we were able to be shown a few sides of the real Sri Lanka rather than sticking to just the touristy exteriors. It is within these experiences that we all talk of and remember the most.
As we bumped and bounced our way across the country over our six days we managed to climb Sigiriya Rock, have a Sri Lankan massage, visit tea plantations and take photos of waterfalls. We visited the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy and we took that jeep safari in Yala National Park. We sat and drank Arak with new friends and danced on the beach to the music of a live band playing. We visited what felt like a hundred hotels and sat in our mini bus for what felt like a hundred hours! – and I wouldn’t change a single thing about any of it!
So how would I describe Sri Lanka in a nutshell? Pretty freakin awesome! – but why not go there and see for yourselves 🙂