Being named Lonely Planet’s top destination to visit in 2019, my fiancé and I were excited to spend our 2018 Christmas break exploring and travelling through Sri Lanka.
Our adventure began in the capital, Colombo. Like many developing cities in the world, the streets were bustling with people, tuk tuks and buses beeping their horns and street vendors selling aromatic local delicacies. We wasted no time in Colombo by visiting attractions such as the Prime Minister’s office, Galle Face promenade, Pettah markets, Fort railway station and the clock tower! Being foodies, we could not resist trying the local vadai (savoury donuts), kottu (sliced roti bread fried to oily perfection), hoppers (crispy coconut pancakes) with coconut sambol and string hoppers.
Our food adventure continued up north as we caught the tired but characteristic overnight train to Jaffna. We devoured the best sweet mangoes at Jaffna Fort, poori (deep fried flat bread) with potato curry at Mangos restaurant and local sweets (jelebi, paal cova and halwa) at Malayan cafe. We also witnessed one of the best sunsets in Sri Lanka at Jaffna Fort, visited the public library which had paper copies of every newspaper from the last 5 years and Hindu temples with admirable architecture. Neighbouring island, Delft did not disappoint with its untouched golden beach as it proved to be a perfect day trip from Jaffna.
The ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Sigiriya were our next stops. We were lucky to visit the sacred Buddhist sites in the Anuradhapura world heritage site and the famous Sigiriya rock. Our trip wouldn’t be complete without some culinary lessons. So, we learnt how to make coconut bread and coconut sambol from local villagers in Sigiriya.
On our way to the central province, we visited Dambulla Cave temple which was built some 1200 years ago and has had no repaintings done till this day. We enjoyed a sunset walk around the lake in Kandy, experienced a typical Kandyan traditional cultural dance and were fortunate to visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic which is Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic on Poya day (full moon day which is auspicious for those of Buddhist faith).
Christmas Day was spent visiting tea factories and tea plantations in the lush countryside of Nuwara Eliya and Ella as Sri Lanka is world renowned for its quality tea. We also experienced the atmospheric train ride through the tea-carpeted hills from Nuwara Eliya to Ella.
No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without a safari ride at its many national parks. During our half day safari ride at Yala National park, we were thrilled to catch a glimpse of a leopard (very rare), spotted deers, elephants, monkeys, water buffaloes, pelicans, mangoose and peacocks.
After 10 days of visiting timeless temples, heritage sites and tourist attractions, it was time for us to unwind and get our surf on at the beach in the Southern Province. The surf in Weligama did not disappoint and it was nice to relax and sip on cocktails by the beach.
Before heading back to Colombo to catch our flight home, we spent a day exploring the cultural melting pot of architecture and religion in Galle. It was rich with history, had picturesque views and fresh seafood. Our last day in Sri Lanka was spent visiting the famous floating markets and Gangaramaya Temple in Colombo. We also squeezed in a swim at our hotel infinity pool taking in the skyscrapers and city views of Colombo.
After two full weeks of nothing short of adventure and fun throughout Sri Lanka, it was time to say goodbye. Although it was sad to leave behind the breathtaking views, intriguing culture, flavourful food and the welcoming locals of Sri Lanka, it was nice to bid 2018 farewell by ticking off one of our bucket list items. We left Sri Lanka knowing that we will be back again one day to explore the rest of this beautiful country.