2 weeks in Sri Lanka

First of all, what were we thinking! Only 2 weeks here. We absolutely love Sri Lanka and wish we had more time here, however still very grateful for the time we do have here.

The country is very beautiful, the people are so friendly and helpful and the beaches are just paradise. We found that people didn’t try yo scam us at every opportunity and this was a big plus for us. The biggest scam Sri Lanka got going is the Burger King at the airport in Colombo. 15 USD for a big Mac combo! Thats just outrageous.

This is the route we took as we didn’t have very long.

Colombo

Train

Scenic trains – Colombo to Kandy & Kandy to Ella

The prices are the same even though the ride from Kandy to Ella is 6 hours and Colombo to Kandy is only 3 hours.

Wow, this really is scenic. Three hours of stunning views overlooking mountains, rice fields and local villages. This train ride is worth going on if there is time.

There are different options for this journey, all at different prices of course. Please note the observation deck is not available on all of the trains.

  1. 1st class (with air con), reserved seating – 1,200 LRK
  2. Observation deck, reserved seating – 1,000 LRK
  3. 2nd class, reserved seating 600 – LRK
  4. 3rd class, reserved seating 400 – LRK
  5. 2nd class, no seat reservation – 190 LRK
  6. 3rd class, no seat reservation – 105 LRK

We opted for the 2nd class, reserved seating and were glad we reserved seats. The 2nd and 3rd class with no seat reservation was completely packed. We would have been standing on top of boxes and small children for the entire 3 hour journey which of course isn’t the most fun when you just want to sit and enjoy the view.

It’s recommended to book the tickets a day or two in advance depending which time of year you are there.

The time-table can be found here, however all booking has to be done at one of the stations or with a travel agent. If not opting for reserved seating there is no need to book in advance.

Going down the west coast from Colombo to Matata is cheaper to go with train over bus but there is only the 2nd and 3rd class with no seat reservation. We didn’t have a problem getting a seat but of course we were also there in the low season.

Hikkaduwa

This is a small little village, only around 3 hours south of Colombo. The beach here is pretty nice, not as good as Mirissa (see Weligama) however still very nice place to go for a swim and enjoy reading a good book on the beach.

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The area around the train station is very much traditional and this is where the locals hang and where you can eat for cheap. If you go further south along the beach this is where the fancier hotels and restaurants turn up.

We stayed relatively close to the train station at Kind and Love guest house. Greeted with a freshly made smoothie we were bound to like this place. The owners are very nice and they let us use their kitchen even though they sell breakfast.

Turtle farm

If you like tiny little turtles Sri Lanka is a great place. There are many turtle farms around the place. We went to a small place just 2km north of Hikkaduwa. Being a little sceptical at first if this is just a tourist trap, however seeing the place we would recommend going there.

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The locals eat turtle eggs and the government is trying to help stop this. Therefore they are helping fund these turtle farms to increase the turtles in the world. The locals can call up anonymously and report the eggs and the workers from the turtle farm will come and collect them. They will pay a small finders fee for these eggs and then bury them in the sand at the farm. Once the little turtle are out they will be released within 24 hours depending on the weather.

They also rescue big turtles that have been in accidents either with a fishing boat, a shark, a fishing net or something else and might have lots an arm. They usually find them just floating on the surface effectively waiting to die. So the take them back and feed them and house them in different pools. Once they have learnt to swim again they will be released into the wild.

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When we were there the seas were too rough so no releasing of the baby turtle however we did get a chance to hold them.

Weligama

Cinnamon farm tour – please see here
Mirissa Beach

Think of paradise and then you got it. Beautiful beach with coconut trees, restaurants, bars and turtles. Not sure what else is needed. We din’t stay here as the bus from Weligama was only 20 LKR (tuk tuk 300 LKR) however there are lots of places around there to stay.

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Ella

Small spread out city in the Badulla district, surrounded by cloud forest and tea plantations.

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We liked this place but it’s very touristy. The prices for food were the most expensive we found in Sri Lanka. There are of course cheaper options at the local restaurants rather than at the fancy tourist places in the centre.

Ella Rock

A 4-5 hour round trip up here is very worth it. The view from the top is beautiful. We met many lovely people going here including parents carrying small children and pensioners. Everyone day do it!

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Looking across the valley to Ella Rock
The route from Ella

You can hire a guide to take you there or walk by yourself. If you take the walk with no guide its worth having a rough idea of where to go as if you ask a local you run the risk of them following you the whole way and then having to pay them a tip at the top.

From Ella, follow the railway track south until you get to a black bridge. Right after here turn left down a small path. Cross another small bridge over the water, turn right. Straight away there are two options, turn left and go up a slightly steep hill and follow the tracks. From here the best way is to follow the route on MAPS.ME (life saver app, find it on the app store) to the top. Again there are a couple of routes. One takes you past a very small waterfall (or some would call it that) it’s an easier and longer option. The other one is rather steep but much faster.

Little Adams Peak & 9 arch bridge

From Ella it’s a 45 min. walk to the top of Little Adams peak. The view from here is very nice, not as good as from Ellas rock, however if you have the time then this is a great way of killing a couple of hours.

To get to 9 arch bridge from Little adams people follow MAPS.ME to 9 arch bridge to allow a couple of hours to do the walk.  Getting back from the bridge to Ella we would say do not follow MAPS.ME, just follow the railway track, heading south. Careful when going through the tunnel as the trains also goes through there. You can walk this track the whole way back to Ella station.

Kandy

Busy town set on the side of the mountain with lots of places to enjoy some good food and they even have a shopping centre. One of those fancy ones with air con.

One of the cafes we really enjoyed was Ceylon tea cabin. The food was good, a/c was much needed but most importantly the chocolate milkshake is just amazing. Second time we went there they even served us a free cup of ceylon tea.

The main two attractions to see in Kandy are:

  • The temple of the tooth
  • Botanical gardens

The temple of the tooth houses one of buddhas teeth. You cannot actually see it though as it is held within boxes in a shrine.

We skipped the the botanical gardens so no advice there.

The Theva Residency

Here we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Theva Residency. They refer to themselves as a home away from home  and we concur with that statement. From the moment we stepped off the tuk tuk that took us 3km away from the hustle of the city centre to the beautiful hotel along the Hantana range we felt very much at home and the staff were on hand to help us with our luggage and provide us with a much needed cold delicious welcome drink.

The staff here go our of their way to make sure you have an amazing stay. The Hotel has everything you need. Infinity pool with the most amazing view, sauna, steam room, a delicious restaurant with both veg & non veg, entertainment room with pool table, darts, books, board games and lots of DVDs. Great place to hang out even if the weather isn’t the best.

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The sunset from our room

Once we arrived we pretty much didn’t leave the hotel until it was time to check out and leave Kandy. Spending the afternoon by the pool with lovely drinks, a great way to relax after spending some time in Kandy downtown.

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The restaurant is just stunning. Not just the views but also the food. Even if you aren’t staying here it’s worth getting a tuk tuk to this restaurant for the delicious food and the most amazing views, very romantic setting. Very reasonable priced dishes and we can highly recommend the rhubarb and pear crumble with homemade blueberry ice cream. They have lots of other flavours of homemade ice cream as well… taste a little bit like heaven.

Check them out on  www.theva.lk

Getting to and from the airport

From the airport you can grab a taxi or a bus. The taxi cost around 1,500 LKR. There are 2 busses. Both number 187, one smaller minibus with a/c which leaves from just outside the entrance to the airport and cost 400 LKR pp. The cheapest option is walking out of the airport for around 1km down the road. On the corner there you can wait for the other bus 187 which is a old large white bus. This only cost 100 LRK.

Getting back to the airport the busses leaves from the road outside Colombo Fort train station. Here you can negotiate with a tuk tuk and they should take you for around 1,000 LRK. The tuk tuk should take around 45 min, the smaller minibus with a/c should take 1 hour 10 min. and the large bus takes around 1 hour 30 min. This all depends on traffic of course and how many times they stop. Hint, it’s a lot! This larger bus stops around 1 km from the airport, from there you can either walk or take a tuk tuk for 100 LRK.

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