Visiting Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

A Visual Diary and Highlights featuring Colombo, Galle, Tea Country and Mirissa.

Back in June of 2017, I was lucky enough to visit the island country of Sri Lanka. It had been on my to-visit list for a good while and I had heard many things about old Ceylon; its beaches, colonial past, and extraordinary wildlife, and of course it’s still so recent and brutal civil war. However visiting Sri Lanka it seemed that the land and people had somewhat prevailed their recent terrors, with life moving forward – a people happy to get on with the future, their businesses, development and showcasing the natural beauty of their exquisite island.

Our trip was roughly ten days. We started in the capital of Colombo, then by train (the iconic Sri Lankan method of transport) headed to the stunning seaside refuge of Mirissa, then to UNESCO World Heritage city Galle, then up to the tea country I’d read so much about in Michael Ondaadetje’s family memoir of sorts, Running with the Family. I highly recommend reading this before or during your holiday to Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is stunningly beautiful, and for budget travellers, is a fantastic alternative to Thailand or Bali/Indonesia. There’s plenty of wildlife to see, beautiful beaches, surfing, mountain retreats, tea to appreciate and a rich colonial history to learn about. Whether you’re after a relaxing beach escape, or an adventure experience – there’s something for everyone on this beautiful island. Below I’ve included a handful of highlights and recommendations from our trip – things to do and see, places to eat, stay, and more, as well as some images from our holiday.

Jen xx

 

Sri Lanka Mirissa Beach

 

Visiting Sri Lanka Palm Villa

 

Sri Lanka Mirissa breakfast chairs copy

 

Sri Lanka Mirissa breakfast copy

 

Sri Lanka Mirissa porch 3

 

MIRISSA

I must first mention that apart from the walls of the paradise accommodation that is Palm Villa, I did not see much more of Mirissa than its beautiful beach. Many restaurants and hotels claim to be ‘on the beach’ but I have never stayed anywhere where that definition sounds true, except for Palm Villa – a rock bed is the only divide between the property and the beach/water.

After enduring a rough five hour train ride, I stepped into Palm Villa and simply did not want to leave. Throughout our stay I learnt we were not the only ones enamoured by the place, several guests had returned again and again because of the location, the delicious food (probably the best we’d experienced on the trip),  and ultimately value for money – rooms are simple but spacious. If I ever return to Sri Lanka I would be happy to almost spend the entire trip here!

Stay

Palm Villa, Bandaramulla, Mirissa Sri Lanka

 

IMG_6574

 

DSCF6163

 

Fortaleza Hotel

Sri Lanka Galle Fort Lighthouse

Sri Lanka Galle Fort ramparts

Sri Lanka Galle Fort The News

Visiting Sri Lanka Galle Coconuts

 

GALLE

On the south-west coast, the port city of Galle seems to have stood still in time, well at least on the outside. Within the old fort first created by the Portuguese, is a world heritage site that can be effortlessly navigated on by foot. The dustiness and sleepiness of the old town bares the mark of old colonialism, both charming and intriguing. The outer fortress walls provide fabulous sea views, while the old Pedlar Street is the place to go for travellers seeking modern food offerings, or seeking out fashion and souvenirs. Unfortunately we only spent two brief days in the Old Fort so we spent most of our time walking and relaxing, limiting our sight seeing to the old charming streets.

Eat/Drink

Elita Restraurant, 34 Middle St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka

We enjoyed THE most delicious curry crab dinner (apparently a must when in Sri Lanka). This was such an indulgent and memorable meal and great way to cap off a day of walking around the Old Fort and visiting the Galle Maritime Archaeology Museum.

https://www.facebook.com/elita.restaurant/

Tel: +94 77 242 3442

 

Things to do/see

Galle Maritime Archaeology Museum, Queens St, Galle 80000, Sri Lanka

http://ccf.gov.lk/

Tel: +94 912 245 254

 

Stay

Fortaleza, 9 Church Cross Street, Fort, Galle, Sri Lanka

 

DSCF6213

 

DSCF6220

 

DSCF6229

 

DSCF6221

 

Three ladies Ella cropped

 

TEA COUNTRY

Things to do/see

Whilst staying in tea country (Ella, Nuwara Eliya, etc), a tea factory tour should be the top of your list. It is an interesting experience and definitely makes you appreciate all the work that goes into creating just one tea bag or pack of loose leaf. We loved our Tea Trails experience with Resplendent Ceylon (details further down) or read about our experience here.

 

Sri Lanka Dunkeld Tea Estate Jen Tea Bags

 

If you have the time, climbing Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada) one of Sri Lanka’s highest peaks is supposedly worth the pilgrimage but requires planning, ideal conditions (check the time of the year you are going is the best for this) and time.

 

IMG_7234

 

If you don’t have the time then I suggest climbing Adam’s Peaks’ little brother, little Adam’s Peak. It can be done in a few hours, and is a decent hillside walk/climb (but not a walk in the park) that rewards with fabulous lush hillside views (as per photo above).

 

Ella Sri Lanka Homestay View

 

Stay

Ella Hide View, Athimale, Kithal Ella, Ella

Despite a little visitor in our room a few nights of our stay, the view at the appropriately named, Ella Hide View (see image above) made our stay worth it. The family that run the accommodation perched high on the hillside, were incredibly kind and accommodating. The food on offer for breakfast (also in image above) was absolutely delicious and was the meal I looked forward to the most each day.

 

Sri Lanka Dunkeld Tea Estate Jen Lunch

 

DSCF6317

 

DSCF6320

 

Resplendent Ceylon, Norwood, Hatton, Sri Lanka

If you’re looking for a luxurious or special stay in Sri Lanka then look no further than Resplendent Ceylon’s offerings, including their newly opened wild coast tented lodge at Yala. Read about our tea trails experience with them here.

 

Sri Lanka Ceylon Postcard straight

 

COLOMBO

Eat/Drink

Paradise Road The Gallery Cafe, 2 Alfred House Road, Colombo 3

paradiseroad.lk

Tel: +94 11 2582162/2556563

Paradise Road’s Gallery Cafe is housed in the former offices of Geoffrey Bawa, the world famous Sri Lankan architect. The setting is stunning, elegant but also incredibly relaxed. The food is delicious, despite leaning a little too much on the fine dining/large white plate side of things, but nonetheless it proved to be a real treat during our travels. I highly recommend booking a dinner here for tired travellers looking for a bit of an indulgence.

Note: If Geoffrey Bawa’s work is of interest then I would recommend booking in to see the Geoffrey Bawa House Museum where Bawa lived from 1960 to 1970. Sadly we did not have enough time to get here but will definitely be making it a priority on our next visit.

 

Stay

City Beds – The Regent, 20 Regent Building, Sir Chittampalam A gardiner mw. (opposite Lake House), Colombo 02, Sri Lanka

www.citybedssrilanka.com

Tel: +94112393240

Well located right near the train station, rooms are simple but modern and tastefully fitted out.

 

27 Spathodea Oasis, Havelock Town, Colombo 5

We absolutely loved our room in this accommodation run by an Australian couple. Their home was incredibly tasteful and full of beautiful design details (for design lovers), my husband said their staff brewed him the best tea he has ever tasted, and they had printed a fabulous guide to Colombo with all their favourite things to see and do in town – this made us want to stay even longer! The hospitality and communication was fantastic and we had a wonderful stay. Would highly recommend.

 

Sri Lanka Ceylon Postcard Map angle

 

SOUVENIRS

Barefoot – various locations including Colombo and Galle Fort

Handwoven cloth, bedding, clothes, gorgeous vintage postcards, books and more. This place is an institution and treasure trove of goodies. You may go with the intention of buying for others but will most likely leave with things for yourself. I bought some postcards that I loved so much I kept them for myself, and we also invested in a bedcover and some napkins. Their Colombo store is particularly charming as it has a large’ish book offering (compared to its counterpart in Galle), and also has a fabulous cafe if you’ve done a little too much shopping and need to rest your feet.

 

WELLNESS

Spa Ceylon, various locations including Shop 11, Dutch Hospital, Colombo Fort

If you’re recovering from a long flight or rough train trip then I would recommend a small spa indulgence at Spa Ceylon, a chain found around the country. I enjoyed what’s called the ‘Ultimate Foot Ritual’ at their Colombo site at the Dutch Hospital. Incredibly relaxing, and also a great spot to buy a few souvenirs.

 

SRI LANKAN BOOKS/READING

Many Roads to Paradise

Running in the Family

Tamil Tigers and civil war

 

RESOURCES

Infrastructure is still developing in Sri Lanka. Roads are long and not well connected. At the time of travel there were only two freeways! Although quaint and exciting, train/bus travel can be time consuming especially if you are short on time. I would highly recommend a driver to ‘zip’ you around and help you see a bit more than you would if relying on public transport. We loved Namal of Namal Tours and Jimmy’s Taxi Service. Details below:

Namal Tours

Email: namaljayasekara@gmail.com

Tel: +94 (0) 777194774/(0) 75 4604875

 

Taxi Service

Sommart Rachai (Jimmy)

Mobile: +94 (0) 87 3844170

 

 

Thank you – Amelia, Devinka for your generous recommendations to help me with my travel plans.