“Why do you want to visit Sri Lanka, isn’t it exactly like south India?” My closed ones bombarded me with this question in an attempt to figure out why I chose this island nation as my next destination. I had been wanting to travel to Sri Lanka for quite some time. Like with any other place I visit, I restricted my research to the weather and public transport in the country, so that I have room left for surprises without any pre-formed opinion. Just with a return ticket and no hotel bookings we boarded from chennai.
Having scrutinized very little about the country, our expectations were restricted to seeing elephants and chilling on a beach – how wrong we were! We quickly discovered how much this little, diverse island has to offer.
Located close to the well-trodden paths of Southeast Asia,Sri Lanka’s unique fusion of culture, landscapes and history is luring adventure seekers to stop and explore. As an substitute to the colossal size of India, there’s good reason why this petite,tropical country is appearing on more and more travel itineraries. Few places can brag such a range of stunning beaches, world class surf, picturesque train rides,appetizing cuisine and highland hiking through tea plantations.
Getting the Visa :
Unlike many other Asian countries, Sri Lanka doesn’t offer a visa on arrival.
However, you can apply for an electronic visa or eVisa. An eVisa is a double entry visa for 30 days, which is usually enough for most of the travelers. The fee for an eVisa is $35 for all the countries but is only $20 for SAARC countries.
You can click here to apply for your eVisa to enter Sri Lanka.
Where to Go :
Sri Lanka is famous for its diverse landscapes ranging from rainforest and arid plains to highlands and sandy beaches. Through six blissful days,we managed to taste almost some bit of all of them.
Kandy is located on a 3 hr drive from the Capital. It’s the second largest city in Sri Lanka. Surrounded by beautiful tea plantations and mountains.
- North of the Kandy Lake is the popular temple that is the house for Sri Lanka`s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha himself! The legend says that the sacred tooth of the Buddha was snatched from the Buddha`s funeral pyre in India in 483 BC. In the 4th century AD, it was hidden in the hair of a princess and smuggled into Sri Lanka.
- Lonely Planet quoted Kandy as “A city that looks good even when it`s raining” .
Sigiriya is a definite must.It is named as the “Eigth Wonder of the world” located in the country’s Central Province,heart of the island between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane on a massive rocky plateau,370 meters above the sea level is simply not worth visiting unless you get all the way to the top.
- Hiking might not be the first thing that leaps your mind when planning a journey to Sri Lanka but climbing some of the island’s mountainous terrain can be the best way to see the country’s wonder.
- When in Habarana don’t miss to visit Minneriya National Park.Apart from wild Elephants , On a good day you can even spot peacock flickering at it’s best.
While Sigiriya Rock is rich in history and has some pretty dramatic features such as the lion’s paw and the mirror wall, Pidurangala Rock has a much more natural feel .
- Pidurangala Rock is adjacent to Sigiriya Rock and is the best viewing spot of Sigiriya Rock as it is only slightly lower.
- Pidurangala is a popular spot for sunrise as you can enjoy 360-degree views of not only the valleys but also Sigiriya Rock.
There is no need to choose between the two. Many globetrotters wake up for the dawn at Pidurangala and then head to dusk on top of Sigiriya Rock.
I love exploring offbeat places rather than old traditional over hyped ones’s and this was one such decision which proved to be the best for us. Trincomalee, or Trinco as it’s more commonly known, in northeastern Srilanka is a perfect spot region is more authentic, with its almost deserted beaches, lively and vibrant Hindu temples and Pigeon Island, not to be missed to snorkel and see sharks (not dangerous course)! I recommend to spend at least two days, ideally.
1. Piegon Island : The magic of Pigeon Island is a 30 minute boat ride away is this small island with super clear water and a small white sand beach. This journey is a coastal ride for your mind and thoughts,vanishing the stress you go through the daily life’s hustle and bustle. The shoal here is home to over 150 coral species and about 400 species of fish . 2 hour’s of snorkeling is the treat to your eyes. Just close to the diving area you’ll see colorful corals, eels, small groups of different fish or radiant drawn boxfish. Let yourself flow while parrotfish and damselfish pass slowly. Filigree Lined fish standing gracefully in the flow , butterfly fish twirling before the dark blue curtain of the sea.That’s when i learnt that, You don’t prerequisite to be a Scuba Diver to get to learn the fascinating world underwater.
2.Nilaveli Beach : If you are a beach soul then this one should be on peak of your bucket list. Nilaveli beach indeed has that affection of paradise-island remoteness, with plenty of crooked palms swaying over the golden sand and breath-taking bays. This fascinating view describes every bit of it!
Majority of the people are Buddhist (70%), while 8% are Muslim, 7% Christian and 6% are Hindu. Sri Lankan people share an ethereal bond with Indian peoples. They avidly request the Indian tourists about the place they came from. When I mentioned Maharashtra as my state they immediately responded “Sachin Tendulkar!”. You would definitely feel welcomed by Sri Lankan People and it’s easy to make friends. Its effortless to communicate with the locals and most of them can manage to continue the conversation in English. Chatting to the neighbors on long train rides or spring in on a game of casual cricket with the youths will make you soon feel homely amongst the heartwarming friendly Sri Lankan culture.
The Food :
You may never heard much about Sri Lankan cuisine but let me be the first to notify you: Sri Lankan food is some of the best. As a blend of Indian and Asian culinary techniques, the cuisine revolves around intricately spiced curries,
rice, rotis and samosas that are served in terracotta clay ‘chatties’.Ensure you also taste Sri Lanka’s best favoured dessert, chocolate roti (a cross between pancake and flatbread filled with hot and melted chocolate) and best to ave it with a mug of world famous Ceylon tea.Being a tropical country you will see sri lanka as a heaven for wide range of fruits.
When we first arrived in Sri Lanka, we were surprised to see everything on the expensive side. Maybe this was because we were estimating it as compared to India but even basic things at supermarkets were on the up side. Beach Towns like Trincomalee were definitely more expensive than the hill towns. If you’re traveling on a budget,
then you should consider spending more time away from the beach towns or travelling mostly by public transport. On a good side LKR is more than the double as compared to INR (Approx 1 inr = 2.4 lkr). Will advice to not exchange money on the airports instead just use your ATM card to withdraw a good amount at once in Sri lanka,as it provides higher conversion rate as compared to other modes.
- Nothing can match the affair of mind and heart while sitting in a slow moving train through Sri Lanka’s scenic hill countryside. This may not be the quickest, but it is the most scenic mode of wandering through out the country.
- Alternatively, you can travel by buses too, but that will not be as comfortable as compared to the train because buses in Sri Lanka are very small.
- You can also catch a ‘Tuk-Tuk’ all around the country but that cost much on your pocket.
Forgot to mention but just for a train journey from Kandy to Ella countless foreigner’s keep this country on peak of there bucket list.
And, before long, you’ll find it as hard to leave as I did. It’s truly a special country. The views from the top are incredible, looking across the local terrain with its hills, statues and lush plantation are half the magic with endless beaches having shallow waves and crystal clear water completing it.
If someone asks me to delineate this tiny yet giant paradise in just one word,
I’d say “Green”. It doesn’t matter where you proceed but you will surely see a hell lot of green. Sri lanka is really blessed with the nature’s grace which helps you conclude that entire country feels like one massive national park for which you will buy a ticket again and again!