One week in Sri Lanka

August 24th 2017

My sister and I spent a month together in India in 2013 and have been trying to recreate that trip ever since (minus a few of her belly issues). Sri Lanka looked very similar. On the map it looked like India’s adorable little sister. They had curry. There were cool temples and hikes and ELEPHANTS. Flights were cheap.

So 24 hours of flying (+layover in Doha) via Qatar airways and we were there. Was it as cool as India? No. But it had its pros: It was cleaner. More calm.

DAY 1: Colombo to Galle. Land at Bandaranaike International Airport at 3am, drive directly to Galle. There was no traffic and it still took us 2 hours longer than everyone said it would. This is the theme of Sri Lanka. Nothing. Is. Close. Everything is way, way farther than you’re told it is. Check in to Niyagama House (rated #1 hotel in Galle on TripAdvisor). We loved it though its distance from town was both nice (it was removed in this lush green forest, super peaceful), but also unfortunate (because I feel that we missed out on really getting to know the town). We had breakfast at Galle Fort Hotel, checked out the actual Galle Fort (meh), explored the town. Highlights included massages at Galle Fort Spa (AMAZING) and lunch at AmanGalla (try to sneak in and see the pool).Explore outer Galle area (fruit and veggie markets, fisherman villages)

DAY 2: Galle. Wake up early (jetlaggg), meditate on Niyagama House roof as the sun rises then take the 3 mile walk around the Niyagama House property and then do aerial yoga with the proprietress (part of the reason we booked the hotel was that the food was supposed to be great – and it was – and the owner is a yoga instructor who specializes in aerial).

Visit Unawatuna Beach (everyone said it was a GORGEOUS beach – we walked back and forth trying to find the gorgeous beach, thought we were at the wrong place, but we weren’t and it was just OK). We got massages at The Sanctuary Spa (not the best of our 5 ayurveda massages but great vibe – services are done in cool little tree houses with the beach breeze blowing in) then checked out the pagoda + Buddha, drank coconuts, etc. The whole area has a backpacker-y vibe without the energy or the actual backpackers. Another theme of Sri Lanka is that it all feels very deserted.

For dinner, take a cooking class at Lucky Fort or Niyagama (we did it at Niyagama, it was yum.)

DAY 3: Galle to Tangelle. We stayed at Buckingham Place (it had amazing reviews…it was bad. Cold, dark and the food was gross and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere with no one else around). We then took a 3 hour ride to Tangelle Beach (which was supposed to be much shorter). Honestly you could kind of skip it but it was VERY deserted when we were there (sidenote: I literally have no idea where all the other people are in Sri Lanka?!) and a cloudy day. The reason to go? The AmanWella is there. We had lunch and hung on their pretty stretch of beach. By ourselves. You could also go at night to see the turtles hatch in Rekawa but we passed when we read it was “like watching paint dry”.

DAY 4: Tangelle to Udawalawe National Park to Ella. This was a long day and it wasn’t even our longest drive. We woke up at 4:30am to take the two hour drive to Udawalawe National Park. Literally just typing Udawalawe gives me butterflies! The elephant safari here was the HIGHLIGHT of our trip/my life. 600+ elephants roam free (the only place there’s more is in Africa) and you are guaranteed to see them. We watched them bathe, saw soo many babies and had them not even two feet from our 4-wheeler. If you can find our guide Nandu he is an angel. He is doing his part to conserve the park – he picked up litter everywhere and was so respectful of the elephants. He knew each and every one of them. (“She is like you, madam,” he said when we came across a 32 year old female).

The safari was supposed to be 3 hours but we were so obsessed we did two back to back so basically spent the whole day in the park until my sister had had enough and made us leave. I would have slept there. I would actually still be living with the elephants probably. The first safari was awesome because it was dawn so lots of animals but also more crowded with vehicles. The second safari was really quiet; we watched the elephants bathe and saw jackals devouring a baby buffalo. We also got to go further into the park to areas that most people usually don’t see.

Afterwards we drove straight to Ella. About 4 hours. We thought it would be shorter. We stayed at the Mountain Heavens hotel. We really wanted to stay at 98 Acres but we booked nothing ahead of time and it was sold out. So I guess that’s where everyone is in Sri Lanka?

DAY 5: Ella. In the morning we realize that we really like Mountain Heavens (don’t get it confused with mount heaven aka mount hell). The hotel was nice – small and cute and the view is insane. Nicest view we saw in Ella. We loved Ella! Have cake at Little Folly and hang out with the owner. Take one of his walks. Go see the train – it’s so cute like a little toy. Get
massages at Suwamadura but only if you’re ok with being molested. It is a full (full!) body massage so nothing is off limits. Or maybe me and my sister just got molested? Honestly we aren’t clear but it was the best massage we’ve both ever had. We got a free extra hour that we didn’t pay for. Take the steam bath too – that is molestation free.

Dinner was a buffet at Zion view. You have to preorder it (and leave a deposit) earlier in the day. It was fine – very clean, lively and great view.

DAY 6: Ella to Central Province. Spend the morning at 98 Acres – have lunch, use the facilities, etc. I had researched and researched and found this hotel called Taylor’s Hill that I decided we HAD to go to.

It was going to be perfect to break up the 6 hour drive to Kandy except it was literally terrible. It took us 6 hours to get to central province (instead of 3) because we cheaped out and hired a non-English speaking driver who got very lost and was so weird – made us friend him on Facebook and told us our laughs or lives were beautiful and then didn’t understand another word we said including “please stop for a picture” and “how far away are we?” and “STOP THE VEHICLE”.

Do stop in Nuwara Eliya on the way (we didn’t because of above driver mishap). It’s an interesting town that they call “little England” but not really worth a night because why be in England when you’re in Sri Lanka? FYI it’s also freezing in this one little specific area, like 20 degrees colder than the rest of the country.

Taylor Hills was pretty. Doing it over again, we’d probably have stayed in Ella another night though there’s not so much to do there it’s very relaxing and beautiful. We would have definitely gotten another massage.

DAY 7: Central Province to Kandy.
Hotel: theva house

We woke up had a leisurely morning at Taylor’s hill (it’s an old English tea plantation farmers home). It’s sort of a standard bed and breakfast like you’d find anywhere in England or New England.
We didn’t feel like we should have wasted a night there.

We visited the James Taylor tea plantation. Meh.

Then drove to Kandy. Got in late and had dinner at Theva House. Pre Order the 17 spice curry dinner

Sunset in Kandy at theva house is absurdly beautiful.

Hotel: theva house
Visit the temple of the tooth (we went on Naional holiday Sri Lankan Independence Day so it was insane crowded but apparently it’s always crowded which is part of the experience) visit a tea factory (eh), visit the large walking Buddha tktkt (liked) and the royal botanic gardens which is the Central Park of Kandy. Very pretty – bring a book!

Dinner again at theva house Bc the rice and curry was so good.

Kandy >> Colombo


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