Having emerged from a 30 year long civil war and recovered from the 2004 Tsunami, there is no time like the present to visit Sri Lanka. With direct flights between London and Colombo on Sri Lankan Airways, you can now spend even more time exploring this tropical island.
1. Hike the tea plantations at Madulkelle
Ceylon tea may ring a bell with you; tea plants were introduced to Sri Lanka, formerly called Ceylon, from China by the British. Hike the tea plantations from the Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge, which is in the Knuckles Mountain Range above Kandy. You’ll arrive back from a guided tour of the tea plantations and surrounding forests to a luxury tented lodge, complete with homegrown vegetables and spa. Tea plantations are found throughout Sri Lanka so tack one on to suit your itinerary.
2. Snorkel and scuba dive in Trincomalee
Snorkeling and scuba diving sites on the coast near Trincomalee and Nilaveli offer a varied repertoire of dives including include shipwrecks and reefs. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructirs) courses and introduction dives are possible for those starting out with dive schools such as Taprobane Divers.
3. Surf in Arugam Bay
The South West of Sri Lanka offers a great selection of surf destinations. Come April, though, the season shifts around to the South East so Arugam Bay is the place to be. The town revolves around beachfront hotels, restaurants and surf schools so relax, yoga, and surf to your heart’s content.
4. Hike Pidurangala Rock near Sigiriya
Whilst Sigiriya is a striking rock formation, the Lion’s Rock is a costly US$30-40, with locals even agreeing it is a steep price. The cheaper (200 Rupees) and less busy alternative is to walk another 15 minutes and climb to the giant Buddha atop Pidurangala Rock. The rock is not as high as the Lion’s Rock, but you still get the special view and look onto Sigiriya. Or you could always climb both…
5. Hike the Ratnapura route at Adam’s Peak
Climbing Sri Pada is a pilgrimage undertaken between December’s Unduwap Poya festival and the Buddhist Vesak Poya celebrations in May. Hike during the night to arrive at the summit in time for sunrise over the valley, and enjoy the views on your way down. There are three main routes to the peak, and several others through the jungle. During the official months, you don’t need a guide to hike the main routes as the paths are lit and there are sporadic food and drink stalls. Of the main routes, Hatton is the most popular (and crowded) as it’s a shorter climb. Alternatively, try the Ratnapura route. Although it is longer, it is also less populated and you’ll feel closer to nature. Take warm clothes for the top as the wait for the sun can get nippy.
6. Take the train
The Sri Lankan train system is easily navigable via Sri Lanka Railways. Be warned: the trains don’t run like clockwork, but they do make for an exciting experience – not least thanks to the open carriages.
7. Walk with elephants near Kegalle
A walk with elephants is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with Asian elephants in their natural habitat. Various organisations are working to improve the welfare of elephants in Sri Lanka, removing the shackles of restrictive saddles and allowing the best life possible for elephants in captivity. A half day package with Millenium Elephant Foundation includes a museum and elephant dung paper factory tour, a guided elephant walk, and a 3-course lunch.
8. Water safari in Gal Oya
Gal Oya is the location of the Senanayake Samudraya Lake, Sri Lanka’s largest inland body of water. As the most untouched of Sri Lanka’s national parks, Gal Oya is the place to go for wildlife and, in particular, water safaris. Gal Oya Lodge hosts excursions to meet the Vedda ( an indigenous people of Sri Lanka) as well as guided walking, water and jeep safaris.
9. Cycle the temples at Polonnaruwa
Near Sigiriya are the vast Polonnaruwa ruins – a city that was the capital of Sri Lanka post the destruction of Anuradhapura in 993 AD. Rent bicycles and cycle round the city to explore the vast expanse of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
10. Refuel on Sri Lankan delicacies
No adventure would be complete without a culinary pit-stop. The fruit, noodles, spices, hoppers, rice, seafood – everything – are both reasonably priced and delicious. Enjoy!