I wanted a sense of familiarity with this trip. It also had to be in a shoestring budget. A tiny part of me wanted to explore Indian culture. I have a heart for hills, but for this trip, I wanted to see clear blue skies and wildlife. Also, I wanted to travel with my friends for a vacay. As we were discussing, each one of us had choices of our own. One of us wanted to hike, the other wanted to do photography and another just wanted to have an awesome time away from work. As we penned down our priorities, our choice to go to Srilanka felt apt.
Geography and its beauty
Sri Lanka is located in Southeast Asia, amidst the Indian ocean. In Srilanka, the climate is tropical as it’s located above the equator and the weather is hot and humid throughout the year. Colombo is the capital city of Srilanka and that’s where we were going to land by flight.
Language: Sinhala, Tamil, and English
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (Rs)
Budget: Min $50 per day
Best time: December to April; September to November
Sri Lanka was founded in the 5th century BC by Indo-Aryans. According to legend, they were led by an exiled Indian prince who arrived here on the same day that the Buddha gained enlightenment.
Srilanka is a homeland of spices. Almost, 90% of produced Cinnamon is exported from Srilanka to the various parts of the world. The central part of Srilanka is known for running one of the most beautiful railway lines over the hills stretching from Kandy to Ella. The outskirts of the country are known for their exotic beaches, while the Northern part is known to have Wildlife Sanctuaries which are a home for Elephants, Leopard, Peacock, Hornbill, Sambar Deer, and Water Buffalo, etc. Sri Lanka is like India in a nutshell.
We booked a spectacular Homestay in every city we were planning to stay, from Airbnb.
Colombo – Incredible Island
Our first stop was Downtown Colombo. Walkthrough the Pettah Market district, which is right next to the port. You will also spot some really cool mosques. Do check out the Red mosque in the city. The mosque is made of minarets and the top of the minarets are based on a pomegranate.
There are Stupas everywhere and it’s beautiful to see the aesthetic. It’s minimal and It’s austere.
As you walk around you’ll come across Portuguese – English dominated cafes. We chilled at our homestay, strolled through the markets and beaches most of the day.
It was time to move to Nuwara Eliya after spending three days in Colombo.
Nuwara Eliya – City in the hill country
As we were a group of four, we decided on renting a car with a driver as taking a bus would cost us pretty much the same for a round trip back to Colombo.
It took about 5 hours for us to reach Nuwara Eliya. We reached by 10 am and we had a productive day. We had a few places to check out before getting to our RV’s. First on the list was going to Gregory lake. Iit has a few houses left from the Colonial times. This place feels like a town in England. Lake was serene and after childishly playing Rat-a-tat in the lake for a while. It was about time to eat something and I had heard about Pedro cafe. It is located up on the hill, a spectacular place to be. If you are fond of tea, then this is the place for you to go for tea tasting. Along with your lunch, a hot cup of fresh-brewed tea will be served with locally baked biscuits. This cup of tea and its experience has been a long-lasting memory to me.
We left straight to Bambulu Ella waterfalls, we were in need of a shower after all the traveling. Bathing in the waterfalls was just the thing to do and we spent an hour enjoying the nature around us and we spotted Bulbul bird singing its hymns. I can’t imagine having a better shower than this. 😀
The RV we booked was like a mini dream come true.
We had traditional Koththu (It is made with pieces of roti) for supper.
We were exhausted by evening and we slept early as we had to be fresh to reach the End of the World the next day
There are two ways to reach this exotic destination. One was through Hortan plains and the other was from a village called Kandapola.
Our driver suggested that we go through the village as one has to cross part of the forest. The air in the forests smells good. It smelled like wet tree trunks, flowers, and damp moss. You would see tree trunks creating a new life in shades of green over the spread hills. On our two and half hour trail, we heard a wild concert of chirping, thumping, wheezing, humming, and buzzing sounds of animals in the distance. Going through the forest was a treat to all my senses. Also, we had our courage and sticks ready to scare away the wild boars if we came across any. The view from End of the world truly felt like the end of the world. You would see, vast blue skies and wide dense forests over the hills and there’s a 360-degree view of that.
The ride back to the RV was tiring. So we thought of having dinner from my homeland. We went to Little India and the food served there felt like Ghar ka khana to me.
We came back to our stay and we chilled outside by the bonfire, listening to songs until we finally called it a night.
Ella – Instagram spot of Srilanka
The world-famous Kandy to Ella rail track runs through this Instagram spot. The bridge is 30 meters high and it’s built on 9 arches. Hence the name, 9 arch bridge. After a little bit of rumble walking through the woods for 15 mins, we reached just in time to catch a glimpse of the train passing by from one canal to another. We walked along the train tracks on the bridge for a while and we marched right up till Ravana waterfalls which are again 15 mins from Ella town. The cave right behind the waterfalls is where King Ravana used to meditate. So, we visited the caves. The trail was not that easy to take. The caves are kingly, dark, and mystical while the waterfall is tall and strong, not the place where you could go swimming. The town has a laidback backpacker vibe to it, the street food, cafes, and the travelers throws a feel of hippie town at it’s best.
We spent two more days exploring nearby waterfalls in the morning and lounging at cafes for long suppers. Our next destination on the list was Kandy. Personally, I was looking forward to going to this place. Kandy is a cool place. The mean temp is about 18°C. It has beautiful hills and our stay was going to be in a capsule.
Kandy – Cultural heart of Sri Lanka
Kandy is the last independent kingdom in Srilanka. The building has lots of intricate details to it and it’s extremely beautiful and has really cool artifacts. The kingdom and the temple are surrounded by the rolling hills of the jungle. Kandy city is built around a central artificial lake built-in 8807. This was one of the iconic pics used in the postcards. Take a boat ride and have a look around the city. It’s scenic, you can see a lot of birdlife. This quiet peaceful place is the gateway to the hill country. You can also plan to walk around the lake.
Temple of the sacred tooth: A world heritage site
This is a religious pilgrimage site in the country. Temple was reconstructed in the 18th century. This is the place to practice the original form of Buddhism. The temple is home to the tooth belonging to the Buddha himself. When Buddha passed, his remains were divided into eight parts. sent to kingdoms across Asia, including Srilanka.
Dating back to the period when Srilanka had kings and Colonists. The belief was whoever had the tooth in their possession had the right to rule through divine powers. This relic is believed to be spiritual and holy. The simplicity of this place really speaks the message of the Buddha.
During one of the festivals, the tooth is kept out for the public for 10 days. Today, thousands of people travel to Kandy to catch a glimpse of this artifact. When you walk into the temple and follow the lines of people, they will lead you right to the shrine.
Sigiriya – King Ravana’s residence
Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of the most iconic places in Srilanka and the most likely to pop up in your Instagram feed.
The Lion Rock is 660 ft tall rock cropping that dominates the entire landscape. You can see frescos of the beautiful woman on the rock, there only about 20 remaining now out of thousands. Various structures were built on top of the rock in ancient times, one such myth says that it was home to king Ravana. The structure is about 6000 years old. No one really knows when the origin is. It comes from that time of history where people have a mythical explanation but there’s also a historical explanation. This rock is such an impressive structure.
There are other awesome rocks such as Pidurangala Rock. Inside the rock, you will find a statue of a sleeping Buddha. The climb to the rock is a fun one to try. It takes about 45mins to finish the climb.