Some of the benefits of working in the travel industry, are the familiarisation / media trips and the discounted or free travel opportunities for your own holidays. It gave me, apart from turning my passion into my work, the opportunity to travel a lot and visit the most amazing destinations in the world.
One of those trips was a 7 day tour to Sri Lanka, the pearl of the Indian Ocean. In collaboration with Olanka Travel, I will show you around the highlights of Sri Lanka. This is the route I took, completely from my point of view as a travel professional and at the same time as a tourist 🙂
We arrived early in the morning at Colombo International Airport. Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka and very busy and chaotic. The largest city is of Sri Lanka is alive 24/7 with traffic, people, tuk-tuks and a bustling night life.
If you expect a modern hub with many international shops and lots of western influences, you are wrong. Colombo has a long history with Dutch, Portuguese and British influences. There are many temples, museums, bazaars and market stalls. Colombo is moving fast, and more and more buildings are arising from the ground.
After a tour around Colombo, it is time for a short drive to Negombo, a beach hub with a 8km long beach surrounded by a large Laguna. There are many colourful fishing boats offshore and the fisherman put the fish to dry on the beach. You can only imagine the smell that comes from a million of fishes drying in the burning sun.
Negombo also features beautiful architectural buildings like the Dutch fort which dates back to the Colonial time and is built by the Portuguese and the Dutch.
Insider Tip: The beautiful luxurious Beach hotel in Negombo
The beach hotel is a luxurious, modern designed hotel with amazingly well decorated rooms. This would be the perfect honeymoon accommodation, especially as the suites are really spacious with a romantic vibe and a jacuzzi!
The garden of the hotel is also stunning, located directly on the beach, where you have the most amazing views when sipping your drink.
Elephant orphanage in pinnawala
Early in the morning, we drove from Negombo to Pinnawala, home to the Pinnawala elephant orphanage. At the time we visited the orphanage, there were more than 60 elephants in their care. Retired and abused elephants and elephants who lost their mum or rest of their group are cared for and raised here. There was one elephant with only 3 legs, because the poor bugger had stepped on a field mine. And another one was blind.
It’s a daily ritual for the elephants to walk through the little village and refresh themselves in the river. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the real bathing experience as the river was to high due to the previous bad weather. And even though elephants are really strong animals, the current was to strong for them. Luckily, we had the change to be very close to them and touch them in the orphanage. A good thing about the Pinnawala elephant orphanage is that they don’t do elephant riding or any other things that might harm the elephants for some idiot tourist show. This is a real experience by people who really care for these amazing animals.
Pinnawala – Dambulla – Sigiriya
After Pinnawala it was time to see more of Sri Lanka’s inland, so we headed to Sigiriya. On our way to Sigiriya we visited the Ranweli spice gardens in Matale. It was nice to have a look around, but not something you would spend a complete morning or afternoon on. So its perfect for a little break during your trip from Pinnawala to Sigirya.
A thing definitely not to miss on your way to Sigiriya, is the Dambulla Rock Temple, where you will find more than 1500 buddha’s! This temple is carved out of a cave and the view from the top is amazing! Dambulla in general has many caves, which are used by the monks as monasteries for meditations.
It’s only a short drive from Dambulla to the Sigiriya Rock, and you will be amazed by the beauty of this area. This was one of the best experience of my Sri Lanka trip. The area is stunning, there are elephants walking around and when you arrive at the Sigiriya Rock, you see this massive rock standing there surrounded by beautiful gardens and monuments. No wonder Sirigiya Rock is considered as a 8th world wonder!
From the top it’s actually higher and mightier than you would have thought from seeing it from below. This 150 meter high rock was originally a royal palace. Can you believe it?! This is archeological wonderland as the ruins on top of the rock are impressive and the views are just as breathtaking. You will definitely get rewarded after you climbed up the 1200 steps.
Insider tip | Keep your bags closed, as there are really cheeky monkeys at the top of the Sigiriya rock.
Insider tip 2 | Try to avoid the public toilets here as they are disgusting! They are like french toilets and never seen any cloth or bleach or whatsoever.
Insider tip 3 | Try to go as early in the morning as possible to avoid the heat and crowds.
Kandy, as sweet as it sounds
At the end of the afternoon it was time to drive further down South to Kandy.
Kandy is a really cosy place with a massive lake centrally located in the city centre. Kandy has a very peaceful and serene vibe, which probably has to do with the fact Kandy is blessed with the temple of the tooth, which is the most profound spiritual venue in Sri Lanka. There are many little market stalls with clothes, shoes, fruit and souvenirs. We had a look around and took it all in, but after such a long day the everyone was pretty happy to see our hotel for the night as the next day would be a full on day as well.
Where to say in Kandy?
We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel in Kandy. This was a simple, but very cosy, small scaled hotel sitting on a steep hill with pretty views. Dinner was simple but good and sometimes you can enjoy life music, if you like this 😉
The rooms were budget, and could have been a bit cleaner, but nothing to worry about. This is the perfect hotel for travellers on a budget, who don’t expect luxury, but mingle with locals and the Sri Lanka culture.
The next day, we had a look at the stunning Mahaweli Reach hotel in Kandy. If you are looking for luxury, this is the pace to be! Massive and cosy rooms, very clean and a massive choice of delicious food at their buffets.
Looking for serenity and rest? Go to Kalutara
if you don’t want the buzz of the bigger places in Sri Lanka. Kalutara is a small place with not much going on and ideal for people looking for quiet and peaceful days.
Where to stay in Kalutara
We had a look at the Royal Palms Beach Resort, which is pretty designed with Arabian touches. This hotel has a massive garden which gives you that peaceful feeling. The rooms are great and staff ( as most Sri Lankans ) very friendly.
Brothers from the same mother | Beruwela & Bentota
These 2 resort towns are connected and similar to each other. Both ideal for people who want to escape the rat race and totally relax.
Where to stay in Beruwela
We stayed at the Tropical Villa’s Hotel in Beruwela. This accommodation is surrounded by tropical gardens, are only 2 floors high and divided by several small buildings. The rooms are very spacious, cosy and in bungalow style. This accommodation offers great value for money for budget travellers or rest seekers.
Insider tip: Bring your mozzie spray!
Another great accommodation we had a look at was the luxurious Eden Resort and Spa in Beruwela. This is an amazing accommodation with spacious rooms and bathrooms, well designs and the food is amazing. We had dinner here and it was really delicious!
Where to stay in Bentota
We had a look at the luxurious 5 star hotel Vivanta by Taj Bentota, which was not to bad, but we all expected a bit more luxury for 5 stars, compared with the other accommodations we had inspected. The rooms weren’t that special but we got told that they planned a complete renovation to get everything back to 5 star value, which they finished in the meantime, and it looks gorgeous! They have done a massive make over and even changed their name. When we were in Sri Lanka it was still Taj Exotica and now it is Vivanta by Taj.
Looking for the largest beach in Sri Lanka? Visit Koggala
Stay away from the crowds, but still close enough to visit some famous hotspots and temples. Wide stretched beaches and one of the best surf spots in Sri Lanka. This is Koggala. You will also come across some abandoned resorts, as Koggala was badly hit by the Tsunami in 2004.
Koggala is only 140 km from Colombo, but we spend around 4 hours to drive this distance, as traffic in Colombo can be really busy, especially during peak hours, so be aware of this when you drive back from the Southern places in Sri Lanka to Colombo, to catch your flight on the same day.
Galle, where Holland meets Sri Lanka
This was our last destination and as soon as we arrived in Galle, I felt like driving into a Dutch town. Okay, apart from the weather, the people, and the slow and relaxed lifestyle, but there where many Dutch influences still very much visible in Galle’s street view.
There is a Dutch church, A Dutch fort, and a Dutch museum, where you will find a massive amount of stuff ranging from the typical ‘Delfs Blauw’ ( Pottery Art ) statues, land maps, stamps and money from a long time ago!
In the Dutch fort we discovered many shops and restaurant and a workshop where they make jewellery from stones. You can stroll over the dyke at the lighthouse, shopping in the big bazar, or chilling out on the beach. I found Galle the most livable and enjoyable place in Sri Lanka.
Discover Sri Lanka by train
One thing we didn’t do, but is also great to experience in Sri Lanka, is a train journey. There are several trips ( daily or multiple day trips ) in a range of travel compartments, and you are assured of a great view along the way.
Sri Lanka overview
Even though my trip to Sri Lanka was quite short, we managed to get the most out of it, and get a really good impression of what this beautiful island in the Indian Ocean has to offer. A rich culture, long stretched beaches, amazing buddhist temples, greener then green tea plantations and lovely people. In my opinion, Sri Lanka is the perfect roundtrip destination with at the end a few lovely days at the beautiful beaches of Sri Lanka’s South West Coast, or to top it off even better; fly from Colombo to the Maldives!
Lets talk about the weather in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has a tropical temperature all year around, but has two monsoons, so it might be hard to figure out, when is the best time to visit Sri Lanka. The South Western monsoon is between April and July and the North Eastern monsoon is between October and February. Most of the rain falls during the night or during the day for only a short period, but you can be unlucky, like we where in Borneo 😉
When I visited Sri Lanka ( October ) it was quite hot and humid with in the afternoons and evenings heavy rain. No wonder Sri Lanka is so green! We got told that the best time to visit the South Western part of Sri Lanka, is from November, as the ocean would be calm, the winds slowed down and the hotels would put more sun beds outside.
Olanka Travels | Your Sri Lanka specialist
For this article, we teamed up with Olanka Travels, one of the top destination management companies in Sri Lanka.
Olanka Travels provide custom-made and specialised tours, a wide range of travel packages, and 24/7 support. They have an extensive network of accommodations in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, a professional multilingual team with a very good knowledge of Sri Lanka and can arrange your complete trip by providing all services like; excursions, flight tickets, visa, events, transport and conferences.
What I think is great about Olanka Travels, is that apart from the services they offer, they also carry out great care towards the communities and places they operate in Sri Lanka. They respect and support the local communities and are involved in many projects to meet the needs of people who are under privileged.
They also take part in the ‘Sponsor a child ‘ program, where they hope to help children from remote and poverty areas with their development and education. If you would be interested in contributing to the ‘Sponsor a child’ program in Sri Lanka, you will get to know a local family during your trip to Sri Lanka, so you can see for yourself, in what circumstances those children live. You can help by donating a small amount of money ( sponsoring the child ) that will give the child the change of buying the necessary goods for education and development.
Wouldn’t this be a great thing to do when travelling to Sri Lanka? Contact Olanka Travels for more information:
Have you been to Sri Lanka? Any hidden secrets or great places to visit, that I haven’t visit? Talk to us in the comments below
Content © by www.woodyworldpacker.com | This article is brought to you in collaboration with www.olankatravels.com, but as always ,all my opinions are based on my own experience and knowledge | Unfortunately I lost all my beautiful pictures of Sri Lanka ( apart from the fish in Negombo and the spicegarden in Matale ) but I was allowed to use the photo’s from www.olankatravels.com for use on our website.