After 6 months of travelling, Sri Lanka was our last country to check off the list! After a bit of a faff getting through the airport, (you can now get a visa on arrival but make sure you go to the visa counter first before queuing through passport control) we found a local bus heading to the centre. The outside of the airport is full of people trying to take you in private cars etc but we found a coach (which did look a bit battered) that drove us for about £1 each! Our first stop in Sri Lanka was the capital, Colombo. This place is pretty huge but you can easily get around by tuk tuk (they even do Uber for tuk tuks) if you are staying away from the centre. We stayed at a hostel called Clock Inn which did the job for a few nights.
We weren’t too impressed by Colombo but had a walk to the fort and lighthouse, where they are planning on building Asia’s newest city which will be interesting! We did a spot of shopping and I had my first famous Sri Lankan tea! We then decided to visit the national museum to get an idea of the country’s history. However it was more of a museum of ancient history so wasn’t the best!
One thing about Sri Lanka is that there food is SPICY; all meals I had here set my mouth on fire so if you can’t deal like me make sure you ask for mild! We found a cute little place to eat in Colombo behind a shop; keep your eye out for hidden cafes!
Our third day started with a Sri Lankan train experience! We booked 2nd class which is probably your best option. It’s not too more expensive than third class; just make sure you ask for 2nd class reserved so you can get a seat! Our train was taking us to Kandy, which wasn’t what I expected. It was very similar to Colombo, very built up and busy! We took a walk around the famous lake in the town centre which was home to some strange animals that could’ve come from the prehistoric era! From huge fruit bats to water monitors. As we were in Sri Lanka during December it was nice seeing some festive decorations up to get us in the Christmas spirit!
The next day we were hoping for some nice weather to go and see the botanical gardens, but it wasn’t meant to be. It rained all day and we were stuck in a windowless room. We decided to brave the rain and walk up to the Buddha statue which gave some really great views of Kandy! We found a really great restaurant for dinner, Balaji Dosai, where we tried Dosa for the first time; they were so tasty (if a little spicy!)
The next day we were super excited for another train journey, this time to Ella, which is said to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world! (Heads up, if you’re planning on taking some train journeys, go to the station as soon as you arrive in Sri Lanka, that way you know you’ll get a ticket!) We were travelling third class this time so a bit less luxurious than before but it wasn’t bad, until our train stopped half way through. We were enjoying our journey so much that we knew it was too good to be true! When the train stopped there was zero communication so we had to get in a taxi with some other people and drive for about 3 hours to get to Ella. Not ideal.
When we finally arrived it was well into the evening and tipping it down with rain and our taxi driver couldn’t get down our road. Picture the scene from the holiday where Cameron Diaz gets dropped off; that’s what we looked like! We thought after such an eventful day that we would treat ourselves to a western dinner at Cafe Chill.
When we woke up, we couldn’t hear the rain so thought we would do as much as we could that morning! It actually turned out to be scorching which was a nice change! We decided to walk to the nine arch bridge via the railway lines which was a cool experience, even if it did take a while. When we arrived there it was quite busy mainly because there were no trains running so you could walk over the tracks all day. We then decided to walk to Little Adams Peak and make our way up to the view point. Bonus, there were puppies at the top! This sweet little boy told me they were his and that he walks up there every day to look after them.
After a really busy day we headed back for an early night before moving down to the coast! We woke up to rain again which was a shame but we knew we had a super long bus journey so it didn’t matter that much. We got on a local bus from Ella to Tangalle. It took about 4 hours and was one hell of an experience to say the least. The buses are jam packed and play loud music all the way so be prepared. It’s also quite common to stand for the majority of the journey! It can be a bit confusing knowing what bus to get on so just double check with shop owners or your accommodation for help.
If you’re heading to the coast I wouldn’t really recommend Tangalle as there really is not much going on there. If I were to go again I would go straight to Mirissa, we only stayed one night in Tangalle to break up our journey a bit. The next day we got on another bus towards Mirissa, where they broke my backpack because they just shove you on and off the bus! I made it six months without damaging it! Luckily where we stayed next, they offered to fix it for me which was super kind.
We stayed in a lovely place in Mirissa called Panorama Guesthouse where the hosts made us a huge breakfast every morning! The owner had so much information and offered so many trips to us. As the sun had come out we headed to the beach (1 of 3) where I would finish another one of my books (check out my blog about my summer reading reccomendations!) We stayed to watch the sunset and along the beach there are also lots of restaurants; just make sure you put insect repellent on if you don’t want to get attacked.
After eating the biggest breakfast I’ve ever seen (still not sure how I feel about curry in the morning), we headed to the beach again. Towards the end of the day we went to Coconut Hill to watch the sunset. Although there wasn’t much of one it was still a nice place to sit and watch the waves go by! Mirissa also has no shortage of restaurants so you won’t go hungry.
Our next stop along the coast was Weligama; it’s so close that you can grab a local bus or a tuk tuk there! We stayed at Silva’s Surf house which was a nice family run homestay not too far from the beach and centre. When we arrived we explored the town a little before, you guessed it, the rain came! We managed to escape for some dinner but then hunkered down in our room for the night!
In the morning we decided to get back on the boards and surf! After being battered by waves in Australia my confidence was shot so I was not too keen to start again, however I gave it a go. I could tell I didn’t have faith in myself and kept wiping out so took myself out of the water and told myself to try again tomorrow! Sometimes you have to take a break and luckily that break worked. The next day I went into the water with confidence and no fear and stood right back up on the board! It really does take courage to step out of your comfort zone but it’s totally worth it. We rented boards from the beach; there are so many surf schools so if you need a lesson you can get that too. Just remember to cover yourself in suntan lotion!
After a successful day we treated ourselves to home cooked Kottu at Weligama Rotti shop, a little shack on the side of the road but my goodness is her food incredible!
Another day, another bus journey awaited, this time to Galle. We had heard that you only needed to go to Galle on a day trip however we decided to stay overnight so that we could spend the majority of the time in the famous Galle Fort. Built in 1588 it is now the remains of a Portuguese fort and offers a stark contrast from inside the fort to the busy streets outside. If you’re looking for somewhere to spend the afternoon picking up souvenirs and having a little peaceful stroll this is the place to go! With lots of cute cafes, you could spend the day hopping between a caffeine fix and a shopping one.
As we were staying overnight we decided to stay and watch the sunset from the fort walls. It was a beautiful end to the day, whilst also watching local boys jump from the surrounding cliffs into the water; rather them than me!
The next morning we jumped on another train, this time to Bentota, one of our last stops in Sri Lanka and probably one of our worst journeys. We were crammed onto the trains, despite having tickets, and ended up standing the whole way, me limping on one leg due to an infected mosquito bite! It wasn’t ideal but it was an experience none the less. We stayed at the nicest homestay where it felt very homely, if a little mosquito ridden. Our place had a pool so we spent the majority of the time sunbathing there or at the beach. There are so many places you can pick to stay along the coast; as we were making our way back to Colombo we picked places that would break up our journeys back to the capital.
After a short stint in Bentota it was time for our last train ride; we were heading to Negombo as it was close to the airport but meant we didn’t have to stay in Colombo again. Negombo itself is very nice, with a lively strip of restaurants and shops. However we were staying in one of our least liked accommodations so it did dampen our stay a little.
It’s hard to write a lot for the coast as a lot of time was catching up with the last rays of sunshine before our trip back to the cold damp UK! If you’re in Negombo make sure to check out Enviro Cafe for one of our best brunches we had! The people in Sri Lanka have been really nice and accommodating; I’d definitely come back, perhaps not in the rainy season though!
And as if by magic, our 6 month adventure had come to an end. Before we landed on home soil we had to make it through two long flights first! I can’t describe the experience it’s been but it is truly life changing. If you ever get a chance to see different parts of the world, don’t be scared, just embrace what life throws at you and you’ll be rewarded!