Travel Guide: Sri Lanka
A couple of years ago I wrote a visitor’s guide to Sri Lanka for Travelated. Since I wrote that I have been to Sri Lanka twice more, so here is an updated guide of what to see and do in Sri Lanka.
It’s a tropical island, beaches are likely to be on your hit list. Here are a couple of beaches worth checking out:
· Hikkaduwa. This is probably my favourite beach in Sri Lanka. It has all of the stereotypical island beach features; crystal clear water, huge palm trees and a long strip of sand. We went glass boating here, which was lovely as we got so close to some brightly coloured schools of fishes (and a few divers!), although pretty much everyone on the boat got off feeling queasy, so pop a pill to help with nausea beforehand.
· Unawatuna. This is another popular beach on the south coast. My most recent memories have been at night, as we typically have dinner at one of the many restaurants that line the beach.
There are many temples scattered across Sri Lanka, not surprising considering 69% of the country are Buddhist. But below are two of the big ones:
· The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. This large, beautiful temple has a very strict dress code. In addition to a security check, the guards also check if your outfit is appropriate for entry. If it isn't, you won’t be allowed to enter so make sure your outfit goes past your knees, that your shoulders are covered (i.e nothing sleeveless), and you have no cleavage visible. Locals also typically wear white to temple, although this is not mandatory.
· Kataragama. Pilgrimages are made here not only by Buddhists, but also Muslims and Hindus as the site has places of worship for all three religions. The road up the site is lined with stalls selling a variety of offerings to the gods, including garlands and fruits. The road is also lined with families of monkeys playing around.
Sri Lanka boasts a wide range of wildlife, and you are likely to catch a monkey jumping off the roofs in towns but here are some places to hit if you are an animal lover:
· Yala National Park. Going on safari in Yala has been on my bucket list for so long, and I finally got to tick it off last year. There are a variety of animals in the park, including many bird species, elephants, water buffalo, mongoose etc. But what most people want to spot is a leopard. Before we went, we were warned by many locals that spotting a leopard is pretty rare so not to get our hopes up. And when we were there, we drove around the park for hours trying to track one down, and luckily just as we were giving up we were advised by another guide of a spot where they had seen one. When we reached the spot, and looked really hard through the scrub we could see one! Well at least its huge tail swatting away bugs, the rest of its body was blocked by all the fauna. Despite only getting a peak of a leopard, the experience was great and we saw a number of other animals.
· Pinnawella Elephant Orphanage. I would also highly recommend checking this out. The baby elephants are feed three times a day, and tourists are able to watch. After feeding time we were led to where the rest of the herd were, and this scene one of the most awe inspiring scenes I’ve seen in my life as the huge herd grazed in front of a backdrop of forest. In the morning and in the afternoon, the herd is led to the river to bathe and I would recommend planning your trip around the time this happens as you get to stand by as the whole herd marches by you towards the river, an elephant parade.
Whenever I go to a new country I normally have a list of local dishes I want to try. Here are a few you can add to your list:
· Rice and curry. This an obvious as it’s probably the staple dish in Sri Lanka.
· Hoppers. A crispy bowl shaped crepe-like dish served with curries.
· String hoppers. Steamed rice flour that has been pressed into a nest of noodles.
· Kottu Roti. A dish made up of chopped roti cooked with vegetables
· Lamprais. This is a rice dish that is typically accompanied by a piece of chicken, some sambals, an egg and a few other curries all wrapped and baked in a banana leaf.
· Short eats. Referring to little snack like dishes such as cutlets and pastries. Hit up shops like Perera & Sons or Fab to stock up on these cheap treats (and while you are there, stock up on the variety of sweets they have to offer too).
I could do a whole blog post about dishes to try but I will stop here and let you discover the rest for yourself. But I do want to mention by favourite restaurant in Sri Lanka, which is actually a Chinese restaurant! Chinese Dragon, if you go you have to order the hot butter cuttlefish, my absolute favourite dish.
This is obviously a condensed guide as I could go on and on about places to visit. Have you been to Sri Lanka yourself? Anything you would add to the list?
If you want to read more about my travels through Sri Lanka, click here.