Sri Lanka Travel Review

Sri Lanka Travel Review

Relatively small island of Sri Lanka in southern tip of India is really diverse for its size. I think one could describe it as mini India without all the filth and hussle. It’s easy to switch between pretty southern beaches and lush beautiful hillsides just in few hours with a bus that costs less than two euros. Mountainside offers stunning view especially during dry season and mid northern part has unique Buddhist culture only second to Asia’s grandest cultural capitals. Varied National Parks offer a good selection of classical safari animals such as Elephants, buffalos and sambal deer.

“The real question is, is it really worth visiting?”

Sri Lanka is good, but after visiting pretty much all the countries in South-East Asia I wonder if there is anything really special in Sri Lanka that other countries cannot offer. If you are into beaches, you could go to Philippines or even less touristy areas of Thailand. For surfing Indonesia is the mecca. For mountains go to Nepal, for wannabe-jungle-Tarzans there is Malaysian Borneo, for ancient ruin geeks there is Cambodia and Myanmar. So I guess the niche of Sri Lanka is that all the attractions are packed in relatively small area that is easy to cope, which makes it ideal location for shorter relaxed holidays.

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, northern Sri Lanka

Elephants in Minneriya National Park, northern Sri Lanka

Prices and money

Will your miserable minimum wage cover the trip? Possibly, probably not. After civil war ended in 2009 there has been an economical boom pretty much everywhere in Sri Lanka. Everything is getting more and more expensive especially for tourists. Sri Lankan government has also set a policy to promote 4 and 5 star tourism trying to ditch all the dirty hippies off the ride. Because of the policy cheap and good guesthouses are hard to find. Accommodation is definitely the biggest part of expenses and a night in decent guesthouse (for two persons) will wary somewhere between 10-25 euros depending on location. Even with 30 euros per night you would only probably get a decent clean room with hot water by the beach.

Public transportation is super cheap though and 2 hour bus ride will cost under one euro in most cases. And 2 hours will get you far on an island where everything is pretty much packed together.

Food can be arranged for cheap if you are into it (0,5-2 euros per snacky local meal) but for western dishes in a proper restaurant he prices will wary between  5-12 €. Local rice and curry is south Indian styled and not very good in my honest opinion. Maybe the food poisoning I got from it on day 4 has something to do with it. Rottys and Kottus are delicious though.

Photo of pricetags along dried fish stall in Sri Lanka

Price signs in traditional market in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Some tourist attractions are ridiculously over priced (25 USD to enter one mediocre temple) but that’s the price of economical growth so the foreseaable future will show whether it will become increasingly difficult to travel this country with a smaller budget. We had 4 years old Lonely Planet with us. Prices had almost quadrupled.

“Anyways you can cope with 1000 euros for three weeks easy without having to sacrifice anything.”

Places worth visiting

Ella

Beautiful hillside village with all the luxuries of a proper backpacker hub. Nice sites to visit and gorgeous views (Little Adam’s Peak) for little effort.

Photo of a sunset and feet in first person view sitting on a rock near cliff

Early sunset in Little Adam’s peak.

Delhouse

Adam’s peak is very probably the ultimate mountain view in Sri Lanka. We saw 5 meters of mist and vertical rain.

Photo of dagoba/stupa in Sri Lankan mountainside

Misty mountain temple in Delhouse, Sri Lanka

Sigiriya

Unique ancient fortress on a 200 meter high rock. Definitely the best cultural site we saw in Lanka.

View from the ruins of Sigiriya to valley below

View from the top of Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka

Unawatuna

A bit touristy but really nice beach and good food. Easy place to just space out and lie down for a while. Tangalla and Talalla would probably be better in terms of less people is more. Mirissa is pretty much a tourist trap with too many families and far too much Canary Island atmosphere.

Mirissa Beach after sunset reminds me of Thailand and Canary Islands at the same time. Some may like but for some it's too much.

Mirissa Beach after sunset reminds me of Thailand and Canary Islands at the same time. Some may like but for some it’s too much.

Surfing

Surfing is a big thing in Sri Lanka and I wish I could have done it more but the season wasn’t really good for that. Weligama was OK but the wind was wrong. Arugam bay was supposed to be good but we skipped it because of it’s isolated location. All the south coast was pretty much a mess in intermediate surfer. What I heard from pretty reliable sources is that the best places to surf in Sri Lanka are Ahangama/Midigima area or Arugam bay. Check out the situation before going though.

Photo from Hangtime restaurant to the beach

View from Hangtime restaurant in Weligama to the beach. Definitely one of the nicest spots we encountered in whole Sri Lanka. Good food and nice atmosphere.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka is definitely a good island to visit especially during high season when the sea is calm and sky crystal clear. During rainy season the sea can be super rough at times and visibility close to zero in mountains. I would definitely take a relaxing 3 week vacation in early december just to lay on beach drinking margaritas and enjoying seafood pizza.

“There is something for everyone I guess.”

Highlights

  • hiking/light trekking in the highlands
  • for animal enthusiasts -> wildlife safaris
  • Excellent southern beaches. Be there on season (nov-feb) for nice and calm sea.
  • possible to do it all in a one trip if you don’t mind a bit of a hassle

Photo of Little Adam's peak to sunrise direction.

Little Adam’s peak to sunrise direction.

Photo of calm sunset in Induruwa

Calm sunset in Induruwa

Photo of night streets of Galle

Night streets of Galle

Photo of Sri Lankan monk using Nokia cellphone

Sri Lankan monk using Nokia cellphone. Probably 6610 or 3310 which seemed to be the models to own.

Photo of Anuradhapura fullmoon ceremonies

Anuradhapura fullmoon ceremonies

Photo of panorama view over Mihintale Temple area

Panorama view of Mihintale

Photo of a monk bowing to buddha holding an iPhone

Blessing with iPhone.

Photo of 200 meters high Sigiriya rock that has a big palace/fortress built on it

200 meters high Sigiriya rock has a big palace/fortress built on it

Photo of sign saying "Keep still and silent in a wasp attack" in several languages

Sign in Sigiriya advising you to chill in case of bee mayhem

Photo of car packed street in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Evening traffic in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Photo of hillside home in Sri Lanka near Delhouse

Hillside home in Sri Lanka near Delhouse

Photo of a girl walking along railtracks

Sometimes the best way to reach places is to stroll along railtracks. The trains move slow and there’s plenty of time to move aside.

Photo of kids playing and jumping on waves at beach in Weligama, Sri Lanka

Kids playing in waves in Weligama, southern Sri Lanka

Photo of dried fish in Sri Lanka, Negombo.

Dried random fish on Negombo beach in Sri Lanka.

Photo of woman drying fish in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Photo of monkey taking drugs

Monkey stole some lady’s drugs and is waiting for the kicks.

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