The hardest thing about writing this blog was making this ‘5 things’ rather than 50 things, but who has time to read 50 things!?
It wasn’t easy, but we’ve condensed everything we love about Sri Lanka into this short blog, ideal in length for a train journey home from work or a morning coffee break.
1. A perfect blend of ancient and recent history
Sri Lanka has an incredible history. It’s hard to believe it all happened to one relatively small island.
On a visit to ancient Anuradhapura you’ll see one of the world’s oldest trees, carefully tended for over 2000 years, surrounded by sprawling archaelogical gems. In Polonnaruawa it’s all about the enormous and intricate sculptures. Exploring Sigiriya gives you time to ponder the theories about the mysterious rock and to soak up ancient stories, and a day in Kandy takes you from sacred holy spots like the Temple of the Tooth to the charming ‘old town’ which is not that old at all by comparison.
The more recent colonial legacy really left its mark architecturally, and British, Dutch and Portuguese influences can be seen all over the island. There are opportunities to learn at every turn, and something for everyone. It’s the most fascinating history lesson, and completely immersive.
2. The scenic railway
You might wonder is a train is enough of a reason to visit Sri Lanka, but trust us when we say that you’ll be mesmerised. The sea of green stretches as far as the horizon, and is dotted with the bright silk saris of the tea pickers. This experience is beloved by everyone, from toddlers to teenagers to honeymooning couples.
And the train is taking you into the heart of the island, the hill country. There are charming towns to base yourself in, or more remote spots deeper in the hills surrounded by the jungle and the monkeys. Either way, even a short hike will reward you with a striking viewing platform and probably a waterfall.
3. Elephants, leopards and whales – oh my!
There are elephants by the hundreds in Uda Walawe and at many other spots across Sri Lanka, and you’re also likely to see leopards in Yala and whales at Mirissa.
Even taking these incredible creatures out of the equation, the multiple national parks that take up a huge part of this small island are some of the most breathtaking spots in the world and a day or 2 on safari is a must.
The Sri Lankans really know how to do luxury safaris. They somehow produce the most delicious food from tiny outdoor kitchens which you can enjoy before you retire to a luxury tent, larger than many London flats.
4. All the tea
The tea from Sri Lanka has been world famous for hundreds of years, and spending a few days in the tea country is not just beautiful, it’s fascinating. Experiencing the colonial life of the former tea barons up in the hills on the plantations is a truly unique and memorable opportunity not to be missed. We love how cool and fresh the air is up here, there’s something deeply calming about it.
Picking tea leaves and learning about the process that turns it into the tea we enjoy it home is especially interesting when you get to live on a working plantation and you can even see the whole process from start to finish if you are in the same area for 3 days – what you pick on day 1, you can drink on day 3.
5. Have an adventure
For many, exploring the key highlights and travelling the island is plenty of activity, but Sri Lanka has lots to offer thrillseekers too.
Surf in the south, kitesurf in the West, climb the 5500 steps to the top of the beautiful and sacred Adam’s Peak, hike in Horton Plains or Knuckles, cycle through the hills or across the paddy fields, go canyoning in Kitulgala or kayak the rivers. The possibilities for adventure are endless, and in between you can rest on perfect sandy beaches…
And actually lets sneak one last reason in here at the end, as it’s one of the main reasons we return to Sri Lanka again and again – the people. They are kind and generous, and endlessly hospitable. They greet you with warm smiles and proudly welcome you to their island.
We hope Sri Lanka is on your hit list to visit in the near future, it’s our favourite place in the world. Get in touch in the comments or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to hear more details or plan a trip.
Carly & Steffi
Fleewinter Sri Lanka Specialists