If you want to know the basics for travelling/ getting around Sri Lanka then check out my ‘Essential Guide to Travelling Sri Lanka’. However, if you want to know the good stuff… then these are my top travel tips. Enjoy!
Don’t miss out Sigiriya, Lion Rock is definitely worth the trip.
When staying in Sigiriya, try Wijesiri for dinner. It is a family run restaurant and the food is delicious, a great introduction if this is one of your first stops. When we were here we weren’t allowed to drink as it was a public holiday so instead had a rather unusual cup of tea!
Grab a bike and cycle around Polonnaruwa as it’s the best way to see it and we ended up covering over 10km. (Yes, I logged it into Strava!)
If you’re visiting Polonnaruwa wear covered clothes for ease, even with a maxi and shawl we were taking them on and off every 5 minutes to go into the relics.
In Kandy, for a ridiculously cheap but incredible meal try the Garden Cafe by the lake, it’s on the opposite side to the Temple of the Tooth.
If you’re visiting the Temple of the Tooth, avoid going at 9am as this is when everybody goes. Either go earlier, or later, but 9am not only clashes with all the tourists but also all the locals giving their offerings at the start of the day.
A day is enough to see Kandy. If you’re staying longer then don’t miss the botanical gardens and get lost in wonderland when you try tea at Helga’s Folly, a quirky boutique hotel.
Visit Millennium Elephant Foundation, it’s amazing and about an hour from Kandy. Try walking with elephants instead of riding them. It involves a thirty minute walk around the forestry with the ellies and an opportunity to bathe and feed them. This foundation houses ex-working elephants and encourages tourists to engage in this instead of the bareback rides they also offer, in the hope to stop the exploitation of these beautiful animals.
If you do visit the Millennium Elephant Foundation go early, we arrived around 10am and it was getting busier as we left around lunchtime
Don’t forget to check out the Elephant Dung Factory next door, a great project! (We were told these Elephants can produce around 60kg of dung a day – which is impressive in itself! 10kg of dung can produce 10000 sheets of paper which if my maths is correct means 1 elephant can produce 60000 eco-friendly sheets of paper per day!!! WOW)
DO NOT MISS ADAM’S PEAK – if you like hiking that is. This was our trips highlight and I cannot recommend it enough.
Adam’s Peak is an incredible experience. Set off at 2am and you’ll have bags of time for sunrise. The best thing about sunrise was seeing the view for the first time on decent, absolutely breathtaking.
At the top of Adam’s Peak don’t forget to ring the bell. One ring = one ascent. I could go on, so if you’re going to do it have a look at my post on ‘Climbing Adam’s Peak’.
Visit Nuwara Elyia for the tea factories, plantations and Horton Plains. You only need a short stay here but have a look at my guide for an idea of an itinerary.
Arrive early, 6am to Horton Plains to avoid queues and to avoid the ‘white wall’
Catch the train from Kandy or Nanu Oya to Ella.
As mentioned in my ‘Essential Guide to Travelling Sri Lanka’, book a seat if you want to sit down.
In Ella make sure you do my top 5!
Don’t miss out on a safari.
We chose Yala as it is one of the best and there is a higher chance of seeing leopards (we were lucky enough to see one, although too far away for a photo).
People say it isn’t as good if you’ve been on safari in Africa but I would disagree, as it is a totally different experience. It’s true, it can’t compare to the open plains of the Maasai Mara but it is still incredible. The wildlife is native to Asia and I even saw a hornbill which I spent my entire trip around Borneo looking for, but was unable to find, so I was buzzing!
Tangalle, on the coast, is beautiful. It’s slightly less touristic than others and an absolute paradise.
If you are visiting then try and get to a secluded place called Think Club in Goyambokka for sunset. We caught it just as dusk was passing and it would have been sensational. I’m not even sure how we came to find it we just jumped in a tuk-tuk who took us there and it was completely deserted. Be warned it is pricey but would be worth it for a romantic meal; or if like us you’re travelling on a bit more of a budget, you can have a few beers and head back towards Medaketiya beach for dinner.
Go blue whale and dolphin spotting in Mirissa.
Visit ‘secret beach’. To find it, walk through Mirissa harbour (you need to pay a small fee for this) and up the hill. You should pass a resort and keep going until you see signs for a ‘secret beach’ (obviously not so secret!) but definitely worth visiting. It’s a small beach nestled in behind the rocks and far nicer than Mirissa beach itself.
On our way we even stopped for a spot of cricket. England vs. Sri Lanka.
Visit Unawatuna for the beautiful beaches and take a cooking course at Happy Spice.
Take a day trip to Galle from Unawatuna by bus, tuk-tuk or moped. It gets very hot so avoid the midday sun.
Visit Dalawella beach and see what paradise looks like.
If you want Sapphires (this was believe it or not the only part of my entire trip that I looked at in advance – this will not surprise my friends in the slightest) then go to a reputable seller. Ensure you get a certificate and have it validated, there are lots of blogs on this so have a look. After reading a few I went to Salie’s in Colombo which was amazing and I would definitely recommend them. Sri Lankan sapphires are world famous and they were stunning! My new favourite is the peach sapphire, WOW!
Most importantly, eat as much food and drink as much tea as possible!
These tips are a combination of recommendations, what we loved and what we learnt the hard way. Sri Lanka is the most incredible country so enjoy it!