Travel stories and info packages about Sri Lanka.

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Mirissa, you might have heard of it when people talk about Sri Lanka. This little town is located in the Matara district of the Southern province. It’s about 55km from Hikkaduwa and it’s also a very famous beach for tourists. This place is fairly new to tourism though, about 10 years ago there was nothing but an empty beach with a few homestays but today it has developed into an important holiday destination for many people. Next, I’m going to tell you what you can do in Mirissa but before that check out this video we made when we were there!

Things to do in Mirissa

1. Whale watching outside of Mirissa

This is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Mirissa and one of the best places in the world to spot Blue Whales, the biggest animal on Earth. Some companies also offer a money back guarantee if you don’t spot any whales or a free tour the next day in hope for better luck. The price range is around 30-35€ and it’s a half day trip. Definitely worth it!

2. Surfing

There are a number of surf spots in the area and the easiest and usually consistent break is in the north end of the Marissa beach. This is an intermediate surf break and is often surfed by longboarders rather than shortboards. If you want to get more punchy waves you better head south a few hundred meters and there will be more advanced surf spots.
Mirissa suring beach

3. Chill at Secret beach

This is a fairly new addition to the Mirissa area. Actually, the beach has been there for a long time but in recent years more and more tourists have found this peaceful “secret beach” and now there is also a restaurant and bar to make it even more comfortable for people. This is a place where you can easily spend a day from morning to sunset just hanging out on the beach and maybe go snorkeling a bit in the clear water.

4. Visit the Parrot rock

This is a very iconic rock formation just outside the Mirissa beach and when it’s low tide you can walk there and climb the rock. This is where most tourists visit once and take a picture to Instagram. I don’t blame them, it’s a beautiful place!
Mirissa parrot rock

5. Go to Coconut Hill and take pictures

Okay, this one is probably the most shared place from Sri Lanka on social media. This hill is facing west and the sunset is in a perfect angle with the coconut palm trees that grow on this slopy hill. If you go there, beware of falling coconuts, they can kill you instantly so better check out the area before entering.

6. Snorkeling and Scuba diving

This is another great place for snorkeling or scuba diving. It is very likely to see sea turtles here because of some turtle hatcheries nearby. The water is warm and crystal clear and there are many different tours to choose from depending on what you want. You can also go snorkeling straight from the beach but it’s not gonna be that rewarding so a boat tour is your best bet.

7. Party at the beach

Mirissa is also famous for various beach parties. The beach is packed with different bars and the easiest way to find a party is to just go out in the night and see where there are lights and loud music. There are no clubs or such bigger bars so all the parties are pretty laid back Sri Lankan style parties. It’s fun for sure!

"Traditional

Own thoughts of Mirissa

For me, Mirissa has always been a nice place to hang out in for a day and one night but I have never stayed there for a longer time. I have many times called this “the little Phuket” as referring to the popular Thai island whit massive tourism. It’s not a bad thing, I just like to stay in another place and just visit this kind of places. This place is probably the best beach for a family holiday because everything is close by and you have everything you need here. This is for sure one of the villages and beaches in Sri Lanka that you want to stay at least one day at, probably you want to stay for another too.

Where to stay

There are many places to stay at and the number is growing all the time but I’ll tell you the ones that I would stay in to have the best value.

Budget Stay: 

Calidan* is a very great choice if you are planning on surfing the Mirissa break as it’s right in front of it.

Mirissa Beach Inn* is another great place to stay, just 50 meters from the beach and all the rooms have a private balcony

Normal Stay:

Sea World* is located on the southern end of the beach and has a more private beach area for those who really want to relax. There are also surf spots just in front of the boutique hotel.

Ballena Regency* is your choice if you need a swimming pool. All rooms are equipped with A/C and a flat-screen TV.

Luxury Stay:

Triple O Six* is the best hotel in the area and is located a bit South of the village to keep it private.

Sri Sharavi Beach Villas & Spa* is even more South and here you can have your own private villa on the beach with world class service.

 

That’s it from BEMBALYFE! If you like our videos, please SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel for weekly travel videos. Thanks for reading and hope you have a nice day!

-Michael

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Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

This place is one of my personal favorites in the world and I have visited Hikkaduwa for the past six years. This is where you can really sit back, relax and enjoy life. This relatively small stretch of coast is loaded with a lot of stuff to do, or if you don’t feel like doing anything that’s totally fine.

With many resorts and homestays located right on the beach, you wake up to the sound of the ocean and you can right away feel the laid back feeling of the place. The food is delicious and cheap, the climate is tropical perfection and the sea is warm. This is also one of the oldest tourist spots in Sri Lanka so they are used to tourist and it’s a very safe environment for everybody. Here are some things to do in Hikkaduwa!

 

1. Visit a turtle hatchery or find some turtles near the beach

If you want to see turtles in the wild and also go swim with them, this is the place. There are some turtle hatcheries and one turtle rescue center if you feel like knowing more about these dinosaur-like creatures. In the hatchery, you can see baby turtles that are later set free into the ocean. The rescue center might be a bit of a sad sight with turtles that are missing limbs and such but they are also the reason the turtles are still alive.

The other option is to visit the outer point of Hikkaduwa beach, where Hikkaduwa National Park begins, to go feed and swim with adult turtles. The turtles come here every day to feed on seaweed that locals have been feeding them for a long time. It is a very exciting feeling to see these animals so close up and they are very friendly. Keep one thing in mind, they are wild animals and they should be respected so DON’T TOUCH them.

turtle hikkaduwa

2. Eat some Sri Lankan rice & curry

This is the main food that Sri Lankan people eat and you can find it pretty much everywhere. Many different varieties of curry and spices used, usually, you get four to five different kind on one lunch or dinner serving. This is for sure one of the best dishes in Sri Lanka and my advice is that you should try it in many different places for a real experience with the flavors. I have a few favorites and they are Ranjith’s Beach hut and The Book Worm. The Book worm only have one serving every night at 18.00 but it is as close as you can get to the authentic Sri Lankan Rice & Curry.

3. Go shopping in the street and find some amazing things

Street shops are where most of the things are sold in Hikkaduwa. Most of the shops are located on the one main road that goes through the village and you can find anything from clothes, jewelry, paintings and souvenirs here. Most of the shops are open from morning to evening so choose the best time for you, to go explore. Remember to bargain and do it with a smile, it works a lot better this way. Be careful of buses and other vehicles driving by on the road because sometimes they drive really fast.

4. Custom order tailor maid beachwear, bikinis or shorts

Sri Lankans are very good at handicrafts and there is a very talented man working in a shop called APSARA TAILOR. He makes custom swimwear (actually he can make whatever you wish, but swimwear is his thing) in a few days for only about 20-40€, depending on material and design that, of course, you can choose yourself. The quality is really good and the man himself is very lovable.

custom bikini

5. Go for a sunrise walk or run at the beach

There are two beaches in Hikkaduwa; The Hikkaduwa beach which is smaller and more of a “big hotels” beach with a lot of tourists. Then there is Narigama beach that is a lot longer (5km) and less developed, this is the beach where you want to go or stay at if you want a more relaxed feeling to the place. It is perfect for morning runs or walks. The northern part of the beach is where most of the resorts and homestays are located and if you start here, you will run or walk straight towards the rising sun and the further you get the less there are people or houses.

sunset hikkaduwa sri lanka

6. Rent a boogie board or bodyboard for the beach waves

The Narigama beach also offers some beach activities and this is a very good beach to start your ocean hobbies. Most of the shoreline is just sand and is perfect for boogie boarding or bodyboarding. There are several surfboard rental places where they also have boogie boards for them who don’t want to surf. If you don’t like to have a board, the waves are super fun to play in just by swimming into them and “surf” with just your body. You should be a little bit cautious about this if the waves get bigger because then it gets dangerous so look at the ocean for a while before you decide to enter or just ask some locals what the situation is that day.

7. Take a surf lesson or go surf Main Point

A lot of people start their surfing life at this beach, there are many small rental shops for surfboards and they all offer surf lessons too. This is a very good place to learn and progress in surfing. One great surf school is YULA Surf School that has the perfect location and have very friendly staff. If you are a little bit more experienced surfer there are also some reef spots to surf on that are more demanding. One of the most consistent surf spots on the west coast is the Main point or Main break and this is where it can get really heavy if there is a big swell, then it’s only for experienced surfers.

8. Go snorkeling or scuba diving in Hikkaduwa National Park

Right outside of Hikkaduwa beach there is a rock formation and a healthy coral reef that make up for the Hikkaduwa National Park. You can choose to rent the snorkeling gear and swim there yourself (beware that sometimes the current might be strong) or go on a boat tour and they will take you to the best parts, snorkel gear included. You can spot a lot of different fish there and some colorful soft and hard corals. If you are into diving there are also many dive shops that offer different dives around the area. One great local shop is Barracuda Diving center that I use when I go diving there.

9. Relax in a beach chair and drink king coconut

This is probably the most common thing why people want to get to the tropics and Hikkaduwa is perfect for that. You don’t need to pay for the chair and you can stay there the whole day if you like and there will be local salesmen walking the beach and offering all kinds of stuff. The best drink for sure is Thambili, also called King Coconut, that is a yellow coconut that tastes delicious and is very good for hydration. You can also choose the chair by a restaurant and have them bring you food and drinks to you. Just relax and enjoy!

king cocout sri lanka

10. Visit an Ayurveda spa and get a treatment

Ayurveda is originally from India and is one of the oldest medicinal treatments in the world and has a history of almost 8000 years. In these spa treatment facilities, they first talk to you to learn about you to be able to give the right treatment. Then you get to decide what kind of treatment you need. Mostly they do aroma massages and herbal treatments but also offers manicure, pedicure and such things.

11. Go on a river safari day trip

There are vast networks of rivers just behind Hikkaduwa, and you can choose from several different tour operators and tour packages but the main thing is that you get to see some unspoiled nature from a boat on the river. You can spot a lot of different tropical animals here and really feel the “jungle” vibe.

12. Visit a moonstone mine and shop for gems

Moonstones are gems that are white, grey and purple in color. They are believed to have energetic properties like calm sleep and clearing of the mind. Not sure how it is but these stones are beautiful and near Hikkaduwa, there are a few mines that you can visit and see how the process works. It is an interesting thing to see how the mining works. There are also many jewelry stores in Hikkaduwa where you can find special stones and have them custom made to jewelry if you like, and the price range is very cheap compared to other parts of the world.

13. Enjoy the amazing sunset at the beach

This is one thing you definitely want to do, go to a restaurant or sit in a bar and have a cold drink an watch how the “big boss” drops below the horizon for a very beautiful sunset. Words can’t describe the feeling and the sight of this so you better experience it for yourself.

14. Party all night long!

Last but not least. Hikkaduwa is pretty famous for some of its parties and for a good reason. Every weekend people from other beaches, even Colombo, come to party at some of the best nightclubs on the west coast. When I say nightclub it has a slightly different meaning here, all the parties are usually open-air events and 90% of them are on the beach. The bars are most of the time open as long as there are customers and it’s not rare that there still might be a party going on when the sun rises at Saturday or Sunday morning.

Some parties you don’t want to miss are Vibration on Fridays and Chill space or Mambos on Saturdays. There are more parties if you really feel like going out, usually, every day of the week at some bar. Just check out your surrounding when you are in the area. Oh yeah and remember to ENJOY and take it easy on the arrack (local coconut rum)!

Where to stay in Hikkaduwa?

There are many options where to stay and I have personally stayed in a lot of different places. I will try to help you out with the best places I know of, for you to have an awesome time in Hikkaduwa.

Budget stay:

*Hansa Surf is where I usually stay. The location is perfect, right on the beach and it’s cheap and they have good food.

*Thiranagama Beach Hotel is another great cheap place to stay in and it’s located on the beach but a small distance away from all the nightlife so it’s calm and quiet.

*Curry Bowl Restaurant & Turtles Rest is near the Hikkaduwa National park and is also located on the beach for a very reasonable price.

3-star stay:

*Royal Beach Hotel & Restaurant is a bit more classy but still on the beach.

*Thambili Cabanas is for you who want to relax on the quiet side of Hikkaduwa. There is a swimming pool and a private beach area just 300m away and they have also one of the best organic restaurants in the area.

*Funky Hotel is the place to stay if you like to party. This is the place where they have a party downstairs if all the other places are closed.

4-star stay:

*Avenra Beach Hikkaduwa – when you want a new and stylish hotel with a swimming pool area right on the beach.

*Coral Sands Hotel is the place when you want to enjoy a large pool area next to the beach where the turtles are swimming.

*Hotel Suite Lanka with a private beachfront area and castle-like building this is one very beautiful place.

5-star stay:

*Villa 46 is a high-class service mansion in an area where no other tourists usually go. They also have a spa and wellness center for your maximum relaxation.

*Riff Hikkaduwa is the best hotel in the tourist area. You will get celebrity treatment with world class service here and it’s right on the beach.

*33 Lake Terrace is for those who like to stay out of the noisy streets and enjoy more of nature. Located a few kilometers from the town this hotel is right next to a lake and they offer a luxurious experience unlike any other in the area.

beach hikkaduwa sri lanka

Have you ever been to Hikkaduwa? What did you like and not like about it? Comment below! I hope this article was helpful and wish you a nice experience in this beautiful place called Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka!

-Michael

 

*This post contains affiliate links. 

This place is one of the most visited sites in Sri Lanka and has an amazing and important story in the history of the country. Have you ever heard about this place?

It is also known as a UNESCO World Heritage site because of it’s “unique exposition of an urban ensemble which illustrates the interaction of European architecture and South Asian traditions from the 16th to the 19th centuries” as said on the official site. This truly is an interesting place with a lot of different religions and ethnicity’s along with some pretty non-Asian architecture, and next, you are going to find out why!

SHORT HISTORY

The fort stands today next to the city of Galle which is on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. The earliest recorded history of Galle is from the 2nd century AD and it’s said that it has been a busy port from the beginning.

This was when Sri Lanka was called Ceylon. We are not going into that any further so we jump straight to 1505 when the Portuguese landed here. They had an alliance with the king at the time so they started making some changes around the area, including the initial fort construction called “Santa Cruz” which was built of mud and palm trees. Later it was extended with some watchtowers and bastions.

The Portuguese also moved to Colombo but they had to return to Galle in 1588 after the King (Raja Singha I 1581-1593) attacked them. The story of the Portuguese ended in 1640 when 2500 Dutchmen attacked the fort and captured it, this was made in an agreement with the King (Raja Singha II).

galle fort, sri lanka

When the Dutch settled down they started to improve the fort and also build a lot of the buildings that still are there today. This included a Protestant church, the Commander’s residence, public administration buildings, a gun house and arsenal, residential quarters, warehouses and buildings for trade and defense.

The British invaded Colombo in 1796 and a week later they conquered The Galle fort also. They used Colombo as their main base and did not pay much attention to the importance of the fort. It was used as the Southern headquarters and they did build some landmarks that are there still today.  The lighthouse that is on the southern tip and probably the most recognizable of all builds by the British. They also made a lot of reinforcements to the fort during the Second World War.

locals, galle fort

THE FORT TODAY

Galle Fort is today in very good condition and it is a peaceful place to spend a day, or a few. There are two main gates from where you can enter the fort and once inside you are free to explore and investigate the place as much as you like. All the old Dutch and British architecture is still in place and it kind of feels like entering an old European town when you get in.

There are some museums and a lot of cafe’s to spend your time in. Quite a lot of art is also found when walking the streets. An interesting thing is that some of the street names are still in the original Colonial Era names; such as Lighthouse street, Hospital street and more like this.

orange juice

galle fort, cafeteria

WHAT TO DO AND SEE

The best way to explore the site is by walking, it is fairly small and one day will be enough to see most of it. When you enter the fort you will right away get the feeling of what it’s like with the small narrow streets and the European vibe around it.

One of the best views open up on the west side, the coast side where you can walk on top of the wall and hang out on the grass and enjoy the views. This is also where the lighthouse is. Another interesting spot is the north part of the fort whit massive stone walls and a clock tower rising to the sky.

galle lighthouse, sri lanka

When you enter the streets you can find the National Maritime Museum which is built in the old Great Warehouse where the Dutch stored spices and ship equipment. Then there is the Dutch Reformed church, Meera Mosque, The Buddhist temple that is built on the site of the old Portuguese Roman Catholic Church and The Old Dutch hospital.

There are also more government buildings to see but most interesting is the fusion of the Asian and European way of living. Go visit the art shops and small galleries and cafe’s, it is also possible to take a Sri Lankan cooking class!

There are several nice restaurants also varying from Dutch, Portuguese, Indian and Sri Lankan food. And if you are interested in staying for the night that is also possible. The sunset from the fort is very amazing and might be a reason you want to stay.

galle fort

WHERE TO STAY

If you are interested in sleeping inside the fort it is possible. The fort gets quiet during the evening when most of the tourists are gone and you get to feel the real Galle fort magic.

Here are some places you might want to consider:

Budget stay:

*Beatrice House is located right next to the ocean wall so it’s easy to get to the best views.

*Samaya Fort Hotel – every room is equipped with a balcony, private bathroom, and bath!

*Millennium Rest & Gems are one of the cheapest in the area and all rooms have air conditioning and private bathroom.

In between stay:

*Parawa House built in a European style with some artistic features.

*Deco On 44 has a swimming pool and is an Art Deco building restored in the 1930s.

*LE JARDIN DU FORT is set on the south side right next to the beach. All rooms have a patio with garden view.

Luxury stay:

*The Bartizan Galle Fort is one of the only places to stay with a Seaview and the hotel is built in a Dutch colonial building.

*Taru Villas – Rampart Street – this is the world-class standard hotel with celebrity treatment.

*Fort Square Boutique Villa* is another “superstar” stay. This is luxury!

galle, sri lanka

galle fort, sri lanka

HOW TO GET THERE

All you have to do is get to Galle and from there you can walk for 5 minutes or take a tuk-tuk. The best and cheapest way to get to Galle is by train or bus. All the trains going south from Colombo stops at Galle. And if you come from the south you can hop on the train in Matara. There are several different routes of buses also going to Galle many times a day and this is for sure the cheapest way.

You can also rent a scooter and drive there yourself, but remember to be careful because the Sri Lankan traffic can be very hectic (watch out for buses driving fast). The other easy way to get there is by tuk-tuk, you can rent the tuk-tuk for the whole day and the driver may even be willing to show you around the place.

-Michael

*This post contains affiliate links. More info here.

Have you ever wondered about why there is a fortress on top of a 200-meter high rock in the middle of Sri Lanka? And what about the rock right next to it?

There is a lot of history and mythology around this whole area which is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. This place is famous for the UNESCO World Heritage site called Ancient city of Sigiriya or Lion rock. I will tell you some more about it in a bit.

There is also another rock there, called Pidurangala Vihara, that’s not so famous but still very interesting and mind-blowing. This is where we went! Both rocks are located just a few kilometers from each other so you can enjoy both sites on the same trip if you like.

In this post:

-The ancient city of Sigiriya, Lion Rock
-Pidurangala Vihara, Pidurangala Rock
-What to know before you go
-Personal experience
-How to get there
-Where to stay

The Lion Rock history

sigiriya lion rock

The Ancient city of Sigiriya, that’s the official name, is an ancient rock fortress with a lot of history. The rock itself is the result of ancient volcanic activity and it rises about 200 meters above the ground where it’s located. The rock has played a big part in the ancient civilization and is believed to have been inhabited almost five thousand years because of its shelters and caves.

The fortress, that today still stands there, is built around 477 CE to 495 CE. This was the reign of King Kashyapa, who moved the capital from Anuradhapura, which was the capital at the time, to this location because of some insecurities of his own wellbeing. He built his palace and fortress on top of this rock. The fortress was occupied for 18 years and after the King died the fortress was left to stand there alone.

Later the Buddhist monks started using it as a monastery until the 14th century. Not until 1831, the site was rediscovered and some archaeological work started. In 1982 UNESCO made it a world heritage site.  This is considered one of the best preserved ancient urban planning sites and also called the 8th wonder of the world.

Pidurangala Rock

pidurangala rock sigiriya buddha

This rock is a bit taller and larger than Sigiriya. This site has also been used for shelter for about the same time as the more famous Lion Rock. This site became more important when King Kashyapa (477-495 CE) moved the monks, living in the area, here to live in a newly built temple and monastery. There is a “Stupa” where King Kasyanapa were cremated.

Then there is a temple just at the entrance of the hike whit a “modern” house from where you can enter the old cave temple. The hike to the rock can be divided into two stages. The first one is easy with built steps and the second one is more like climbing a natural rock formation.

When you reach the first stage there is a massive Buddha statue lying in a small cave. This statue was once the biggest brick statue of Buddha in the world and is measured 12,5 meters. The second part, where you get on top of the rock, is also the best and most demanding part of the climb. It may take some time and effort to get yourself up there but it’s well worth it.

What to know before you go

hiking to the top

Book a tuk tuk the day before to pick you up in the morning as early as possible. If you rather go in the afternoon then just have the people at the place you stay get a tuk tuk for you.

Both rocks are temples so you need to wear appropriate clothes. This means you should have your knees and shoulders covered and no hats allowed. Some loose breathable clothes are suggestible. Wear good shoes, some people go there in flip-flops and it is possible but for more comfortable use sneakers or hiking shoes.

hiking to the top of pidurangala rock

The Lion rock is quite easy to climb, with stairs and plateaus all the way up, and that is why it’s also very crowded. The Pidurangala rock, on the other hand, is more demanding to reach the top. Even if you can make it to the first stage, which has stairs all the way, the views are spectacular. The hike up both rocks takes about the same time, around 20-45 minutes depending on how fast you are. The way back down is about twice as fast.

Bring water and some snacks, when you finally get up there you will want to stay there for a while and enjoy the views. If you go during the day you should bring a hat and some sunscreen because it gets really hot up there. The best time to climb is early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Our experience of Sigiriya

We came to Sigiriya from Kandy by bus and tuk tuk and the climate was very likeable, even when we visited during the rainy season in December. The thing with the fortress today is that it’s very expensive to go there for a foreigner, 5000rps! That’s a bit much and they have constantly kept increasing the price because there are more and more visitors all the time. Kind of stupid I think?

Pidurangala rock, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

So we decided that we will climb the other rock next to it, Pidularangala rock and temple, which is about the same height and from there you get the amazing view of the fortress itself. And the best thing is that it’s not so crowded and the price is only 500rps. You need to wear proper covering clothes because of the temple site but that’s what it’s like on every religious site.

sigiriya rock

The hike up is best to do during the early hours to see the amazing sunrise from the top, or the other thing would be to go there in the late afternoon to see the sunset. The second option is more dangerous because if you enjoy the view too long it will be pretty dark to get down a semi-tricky path. For us, this was the better option because we were only staying one day. If you have more time (and/or money) you should definitely go visit both of the sites.

The area itself around the sites is very calm, a small village with some restaurants for westerns. We stayed at a homestay called Blue Water Villa* and we got to meet this very kind family who was willing to help with anything even if their English skill was not the best. A true Sri Lankan homestay! This is a place you want to visit at least once in your life, there is some magic in the air there…

blue water villa, sigiriya

blue water villa, sigiriya

How to get there

The closest city is called Dambulla and you can get there by bus, taxi or hired van. From there you need to take a tuk tuk or local bus to get to the Sigiriya village. Of course, you can also drive a scooter if you want to get the most freedom in your traveling. It is also possible to take a train from Colombo to Habarana, and from there you need to take a tuk tuk or bus to get closer. Habarana is about 16 kilometers from Sigiriya.

Where to stay

We stayed at a small homestay called Blue Water Villa which was right next to the village.

Sigiriya-blue-water-villa-lotta-morning

Sigiriya-blue-water-villa-bike

Other homestays to consider:

*Sigiriya Rock View Home Stay

*Relax Guest Sigiriya

For some more western and comfortable stays (and more expensive) consider these:

5-star:

*Water Garden Sigiriya

*Roo Mansala Boutique Villas

4-star:

*EKHO Sigiriya

*Sigiriya Village

*Hotel Sigiriya

3-star:

*Cloudz Sigiriya

*The Hotel Chanara

Hope this article was helpful and enjoy your stay in Sri Lanka!

-Michael

 

*This post contains affiliate links


Michael: So, this is my first blog text EVER. Nevertheless, life is about doing things you don’t know because that’s the way you learn and progress.  I’ll do my best! 

We got to Kandy by train in the late afternoon. We had booked a place to stay in advance just to make it easier for us to get a room and relax after a long trip. So first we took a tuk tuk and told the driver the name of the place. He said that it was about 15 min drive away, okay we thought it would have been in the city but it was actually quite nice to have a small trip thru the city to the next suburb called Lewella.

The place we stayed at in Lewella is called Nook Rest* and it was a really nice place with super friendly staff and amazing views from the balcony.

The only thing we realized the first evening was that we needed to take a tuk tuk back to town to get something decent to eat, so we did. That trip with the tuk tuk was hilarious! The driver was very interested in where we are from and what we are doing.

He told us some good advices for our next stop Sigiriya and also told us about the best things to do in Kandy. He suggested that the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Botanical Gardens were the best things to see in Kandy. In my opinion, the tuk tuk drivers are some of the best tour guides in Sri Lanka, and they don’t charge much!

The funniest thing occurred when he asked me if I speak any Sinhalese, and I told him “bebadda and the man started laughing hysterically. The word basically means “alcoholic” or “one who is drunk all the time” and the driver thought it was the funniest thing he ever heard that a foreigner knew that word.

“Naturally there is a dress code to get in so we had to buy some pants for Lotta from a street vendor”

The next day we woke up pretty early and packed our stuff and once again, took a tuk tuk and headed to the city center to explore what it had to offer at daytime. We had breakfast and after that decided to go explore the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Also called “Sri Dalada Maligawa”. 

Naturally, there is a dress code to get in so we had to buy some pants for Lotta from a street vendor and after that, we managed to get into the temple area where the tickets are sold. The price for foreigners is 1500rps (7,20€) and for locals it’s free. Even after we bought the ticket there was an additional security check to get inside the actual temple.

The inside of the temples are very beautiful and there are a lot of different rooms to explore. You can either take a tour guide that shows you all the different parts or you can just go on your own which we did. It takes about 2 hours to go around all the different places but it’s well worth the time.

The ones we think were the coolest: The Main Temple, Sri Lankan History Museum, The Elephant Museum, and The Old World Museum. If you like to read more about the place, go visit the official website here.

There is also The world Buddhist Museum that is right next to the sight and is also included in the price. This place was really interesting. A big building with two floors that tell the stories of how and where the Buddha has walked and the Buddhist teachings have spread. We highly recommend you visit this place also.

After we finished our tour in the temples we were exhausted because it was super hot during the day (we went from 11am-1pm). If you are smart and want a more comfortable tour you should visit the temples in the morning or afternoon, not like we did!

At this point, we needed some food so we started walking the streets of Kandy and we pretty quickly found a local restaurant that seemed pretty good. There are a lot of restaurants that have a kind of a bakery or snack bar downstairs and the actual restaurant is on the second floor. These are usually very cheap and good.

Then we headed to the bus station. The station in Kandy is pretty big and the easiest way to find the bus you need is to ask the locals or a bus driver, they will tell you where to go. We were going to Dambulla, a city next to the famous Sigiriya Rock, and when we found our bus that was already moving we basically jumped in on a moving bus. Things happens fast in Sri Lanka!

The bus took 1,5 hours and cost 120rps (0,60€) per person, super cheap! When we got to Dambulla our exit from the bus was even quicker than the entry and suddenly we were standing on the side of the road probably looking like easy target tourists.

That’s when an older local guy started talking to us and we told him we need to go to Sigiriya that we have a room booked at a place called Blue Water Villa*. He told us that we have two options, we could take the local bus (50rps, 0,25€) that takes about 30min and after that a tuk tuk to the homestay, or we could take a tuk tuk from him at 500rps (2,40€) and on the way we visit a spice garden for free. So we decided to take the tuk tuk because it was the easier way.

Soon it became clear that the old man was just the guy who sells these rides because there was soon a tuk tuk with a young driver that was our ride, that was okay. So we got to the spice garden and there was a tour guide waiting for us. We started walking around the garden, there was a lot of different spices and plants and the guide told us some info about almost all of them. We got to test some chocolate vanilla tea and also a small massage with some herbal oil. Free of charge but suggested to pay if you like it, so we paid some realized money.

After this, they took us to the shop where you can buy all kinds of oils and products that they make on the sight. All the products were super expensive but we ended up buying some pure sandalwood oil because of its quality. 2500rps (12€) for 100ml.

Then it was finally time for us to go to our guest-house and relax. The driver took us all the way to the house and was really nice to us. The guest house was pretty new and comfortable. It was close to sunset time when we arrived and we were pretty tired after a long day. They offered some local Kottu Roti food for us and we just sat and enjoyed the evening with the family talking about life.

It was a really good day overall!
– Michael

THE MOST EPIC TRAIN JOURNEY IN SRI LANKA

One of the worlds most beautiful train journeys is located in Sri Lanka. Because of its magical, beautiful scenery, the old local train route is popular with tourists. It’s one of the most popular activities, especially when traveling in the middle part of Sri Lanka.  We made two train trips, one from Ella to Nanu Oya on our way to Nuwara Eliya and the other from Nanu Oya to Kandy.

During the trips, the scenery and the weather changed a lot. There were breathtakingly beautiful mountain views, huge tea plantations, and amazing waterfalls. The train also passed through multiple tunnels which were pretty amazing.

The weather changed radically, at one minute the sun was shining and the other it was pouring down rain and sometimes it was so foggy that we could almost not see anything but mist above those beautiful landscapes.

Train journey in Sri Lanka
Beautiful train journey
Views from the train
Stay curious
People in the train

Ella – Nanu Oya – Kandy

When we traveled from Ella to Nanu Oya, the journey took us about 3 hours. We were sitting next to a Russian couple and the journey was pretty funny because of them and their hustle and bustle with their vodka bottle.

From Nanu Oya to Kandy, the train trip took us over four hours. The travel time varies and it depends on how many stops the train does. Some take longer and others go faster, straight to the end terminal.

The most epic train journey in Sri Lanka
Samosa time
Samosa o’clock!

On the train, there were a few central doors open all the way and most of the time tourists had Instagram-friendly photoshoots in the open doorway. As we had too, of course! There was also a bird riding along for some time and most people were terrified. Miz was the only one who was stoked about it!

Both train journeys were really nice with amazing scenery. The people, all the locals and other travelers were very friendly. There were also restaurants on the trains, but we didn’t use their services. We bought samosas from some local guys who jumped on the train just to sell those salty yummies.

Nanu Oya railway station
Local school boys

How to get the tickets?

Train tickets can be purchased from the ticket office at the train station. The ticket purchase is really easy and the price is extremely cheap – about 1-3 euros depending on which class of ticket you buy. There are three different classes. First-class tickets sell out faster than the general 2nd and 3rd class. As far as I know, the first class is only with better air conditioning and cleanliness.

For the first trip, the 2nd class was sold out so we bought 3rd class tickets with reserved seats. The second trip was in 2nd class and it was also with seats. The difference was almost none. There are also some train cars without reserved seats, they are a bit cheaper but if the train is really full, better run fast if you want a seat, otherwise, you have to stand or sit in the hallways!

Overall the train journey in Sri Lanka was a super nice experience. The pictures don’t do any justice!

-Lotta

READ ALSO
SRI LANKA – ELLA & NINE ARCH BRIDGE
SRI LANKA – NUWARA ELIYA “CITY ON THE PLAIN”

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Sri Lanka – Nuwara Eliya “City on the plain”

//Scroll down for English!

Nuwara Eliya on Sri Lankan keskeisessä provinssissa sijaitseva vuoristokaupunki. Sen nimi tarkoittaa  “city on the plain” tai “city of the light” eli tasangon tai valon kaupunkia. Kaupunki sijaitsee 1868 metriä merenpinnan yläpuolella ja ilmasto on subtrooppinen vuoristoilmasto. Vuoden keskilämpötila on vain 16 astetta ja talviöisin lämpötila voi laskea jopa nollaan.

Ilmastoero oli kyllä huomattava eteläämpään verrattuna, ja iltaisin sekä etenkin öisin oli oikeasti todella viileä – piti nukkua paksun huovan alla ja kledjuja sai olla kyllä riittävästi päällä. Paikallisetkin olivat iltaisin vuorautuneet pipoihin ja paksuihin toppatakkeihin.

Mountain view, Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya village
Tea plantages, Nuwara Eliya

Miten ja millä Nuwara Eliyaan?

Me otettiin Ellasta juna Nanu Oyaan, joka on Nuwara Eliyan lähin rautatieasema. Junamatka kesti kolmisen tuntia ja maksoi alle pari euroa per naama. Junissa on eri luokkia ja hinta luonnollisesti määräytyy sen mukaan, mihin luokkaan lipun ostaa. Junamatkat ovat yleisesti aina todella edullisia maan sisällä matkustaessa, ja matka itsessään on todella siisti kokemus mielettömien maisemien vuoksi.

Nanu Oyasta Nuwara Eliyaan on matkaa noin 8 kilometriä. Meidän kämppä sijaitsi keskellä vuoristoja, jonne päästiin junalta-asemalta helposti autokyydillä. Meidän terassilta näkyi suoraan vuoristomaisema, jossa lehmät löntystelivät laitumellaan ja talot olivat kuin suoraan englantilaisesta pienestä maalaiskylästä. Turismia Nuwara Eliyassa ei juurikaan ole, mutta paikallista kulttuuria pääsee kyllä näkemään. 

Riisiä, currya ja samosaa

Vuorilla ei juurikaan ole mitään ruokapaikkoja, joten safkaamaan oli mentävä tuk tukilla parin kilometrin päähän keskustaan. Safkattiin lokaalimestoissa lähinnä riisiä & curryä, mikä ei ollut lainkaan hinnalla pilattu ja kadunvarsilta sai napattua mukaan herkullisia suolaisia samosapiirakoita. Keskustan alue on vuoristoon verrattuna paljon vilkkaampi – kadut ovat täynnä pieniä vaatekauppoja paikan runsaan vaateteollisuuden vuoksi ja pieniä leipomoja löytyy ihan vieri vieren.

Chaya Hills, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Yövyttiin vuoristossa Chaya Hills* -nimisessä mestassa, joka oli siisti ja kaikinpuolin toimiva. Yö maksoi 13 euroa. // We stayed at Chaya Hills* which was overall nice and clean, for only 13 euros a night.

Historiaa Briteistä

Samuel Baker perusti Nuwara Eliyan vuonna 1846, aikana kun Sri Lanka tunnettiin vielä nimellä Ceylon. Nuwara Eliyaa kutsuttiin tuolloin “pikku-Englanniksi”, kun brittiläiset siirtolaiset tykästyivät paikkaan sen viileän ilmaston ja loistavien harrastusmahdollisuuksien vuoksi. Nuwara Eliyassa järjestetään nykyäänkin paljon hevos- ja autokilpailuja, mutta se on kuitenkin tänä päivänä enemmän lokaalien suosiossa.

Gregory Lake, Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Gregory Lake on tunnettu järvi keskeisellä paikalla Nuwara Eliyassa. Järvi on rakennettu vuonna 1873. //Gregory Lake in the middle of Nuwara Eliya was built in 1873.

Teen luvattu kaupunki

Nuwara Eliyaa ympäröi valtava määrä teeplantaaseja, joille kaupungin korkea sijainti ja viileämpi ilmasto luo täydellisen kasvumahdollisuuden. Nuwara Eliyaa pidetäänkin Sri Lankan teetuotannon keskuksena sekä tunnetuimpana teealueena. Valtavia teeplantaaseja ei voi olla etenkään vuoristoissa huomaamatta, sillä niitä on valtava määrä kaikkialla. Nuwara Eliyassa on myös runsaasti teetehtaita, joissa voi käydä tutustumassa teen tuotantoon ja sen eri lajikkeisiin. 

Drone flyer
Tea plantages
Tea plantages
Greetings from Nuwara Eliya
Dronen lennättäminen on Sri Lankassa kiellettyä ilman erillistä lupaa. // Flying a drone without a permit is illegal in Sri Lanka.

Nuwara Eliya on ehdottomasti käymisen arvoinen, sillä se on melko poikkeava muihin Sri Lankan paikkoihin verrattuna – ilmasto, arkkitehtuuri ja valtavat teeplantaasivuoristot ovat aika spesiaaleja.  Monet reissaajat suhaavat Kandysta suoraan junalla Ellaan, tai toisinpäin, mutta meiltä kyllä vahva suositus pysähtyä matkan varrella myös Nuwara Eliyaan, edes yhdeksi päiväksi.


// English: The name Nuwara Eliya means “city on the plain” or “city of the light”. The city is located 1868 meters above sea level and has a rather different climate than Sri Lanka in general. The average temperature is only 16 degrees celsius and sometimes during the night, it might go below zero. Most of the locals wear jackets and beanies which is rather funny for a mostly tropical country.

The food in Nuwara Eliya was mostly traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry. There were also a lot of little bakeries where they sell sweet pastries and salty samosas.

The city itself reminds of an old English country village and is established in 1846 by the British. At the time it was called “little Britannia”. Nowadays the city is mostly known for its vast tea plantations and factories.

The locals still arrange horse and car contests there, which made the city famous in the beginning for the British as a holiday destination because of the cool climate that reminded them of home.

How to get there? We took the train from Ella to Nanu Oya which is the closest railway station to the city, 8 kilometers apart. The train took us about 3 hours and cost under 2 euros.  

Most travelers and tourist never go there because of its climate and remote location but we highly recommend it for anyone who wants to see a special side of Sri Lanka. Definitely worth the stop, even if it’s for just one day.

 

 

Ellan yksi suosituimmista ja tunnetuimmista nähtävyyksistä on Little Adam’s Peak. Se on 1141 metriä korkea vuori, jonka tuuliselta huipulta voi nähdä muun muassa Ellan suurimman vesiputouksen Ravana Fallsin, massiiviset teeplantaasit sekä muut upeat vuoristot, jotka ympäröivät kylää.

Kiipeäminen vuoren huipulle vei meiltä noin 20 minuuttia, eikä se ollut mitenkään haastava reitti. Paras aika kiivetä on aikaisin aamusta tai illalla auringonlaskun aikaan.

Little Adam’s Peak on nimetty “alkuperäisen” Adam’s Peakin mukaan, joka on noin 130 kilometrin päässä Ellasta, Nuwaya Elyan alueella. Vuoret ovat muodoltaan samanlaiset, mutta Ellassa sijaitseva on kooltaan pienempi. 


// One of Ella’s most popular and famous attraction is Little Adam’s Peak which is 1141 meters high. On the top you can see Ella’s largest waterfall Ravana Falls, massive tea plantations and other amazing mountains in the area.

It took us about 20 minutes to climb to the top and the path was quite easy. The best time to go there is either early in the morning at sunrise or in the late afternoon to see the sunset.

Little Adam’s Peak got its name from the “original” Adam’s Peak which is located in the Nuwara Elya area. They are similar in shape but Little Adam’s Peak is smaller. They are 130 km apart of each other.

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Vuoren huipulla oli kaksi buddha-patsasta // There was two buddha statues at the top

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Kylä nimeltä Ella sijaitsee noin 200 kilometrin päässä Sri Lankan pääkaupungista Colombosta. Se on korkealla vuoristossa, noin 1040 metriä merenpinnan yläpuolella ja ilmasto on hiukan viileähkömpi vuoristoilmasto. Ellaa ympäröi valtava määrä erilaisia teeviljelmiä ja sen monimuotoinen luonto sekä aktiviteetit ovat etenkin reppureissaajien suosiossa. 

Me tultiin Ellaan autokyydillä suoraan Udawalawesta ja pysähdyttiin heti safaripäivän jälkeen safkalle Chill -nimiseen raflaan. Meidän kuski suositteli paikkaa ja sanoi sen olevan ehdottomasti paras kaikista –  hyvä se kyllä olikin! Hintataso Ellassa oli selkeästi ainakin Hikkaduwaa kalliimpi ja reppureissaajia näkyi joka puolella. Osa tuk tuk -kuskeista oli melko röyhkeitä ja yritti pyytää melkein tuplahinnan siitä, mitä muualla pyydetään.

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Bembat duunissa.

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Olin ottanut meille Bookingin kautta majoituspaikan, mutta paikan päälle päästyämme huomattiin, että koko mesta oli ihan tyhjä, eikä ketään näkynyt missään.  Majoituspaikka oli muutenkin aika kaukana keskustasta – edes tuk tuk -kuski ei meinannut löytää sinne. Ei lopulta jaksettu jäädä venaamaan ja säätämään, vaan vaihdettiin suosiolla muualle.

Mentiin takaisin keskustaan ja ihan randomilla valittiin joku vastaantuleva paikka, joka lopulta osoittautui oikein hyväksi. Hinta oli molemmilta yhteensä vain 7€ per yö, eli ei juuri mitään. Yövyttiin siellä kaksi yötä. Majoituspaikkoja oli ainakin keskustassa melkein joka nurkan takana eli vaikkei mitään varausta ennakkoon olisikaan tehnyt, sellaisen löytää varmasti tosi helposti. Ellassa jengi käy yleensä vain pyörähtämässä päivän tai pari ja sen vuoksi vapaita majoituspaikkoja on aika helposti saatavilla.

Jos ihan oikeaa ja alkuperäistä Sri Lankan kulttuuria haluaa ilman turismia nähdä, ei sitä välttämättä Ellan keskustasta ainakaan löydä. Ruokapaikat ovat aikalailla länkkärityyppisiä, toki paikallisiakin löytyy, mutta Ella on selkeästi paljon turistiystävällisempi paikka.

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Koska Ella sijaitsee vuoristossa, on aktiviteetit lähinnä vaellustyyppisiä. Suosittelen siis ottamaan kunnon kengät matkaan mukaan! Yksi suosituimmista on Little Adam’s Peak, johon mekin kiivettiin toisena päivänä.

Sen lisäksi me käytiin katsomassa historiallinen Nine Arch Bridge, johon mentiin keskustasta tuk tukilla. Kävellenkin sinne pääsee, mutta sää näytti siltä että taivas repeää hetkenä minä hyvänsä, niin ei otettu riskiä. Tuk tuk maksoi keskustasta ihan vain joku parisen euroa.

Nine Arch Bridge on seissyt paikallaan jo vuodesta 1921. Sillan yllä kulkee junaraiteet, jossa kulkee päivittäin suosittu paikallinen juna, jonka reitti on varmasti yksi maailman kauneimmista. Siltakin oli livenä ihan mielettömän upea!

 

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Kaiken kaikkiaan Ella oli oikein kiva pieni backpackerhenkinen mesta, jonka sai aika hyvin koluttua parissa päivässä läpi. Maisemat oli ihan henkeäsalpaavan siistit ja jos vaellustyyppiset aktiviteetit kiinnostaa, kannattaa ehdottomasti Sri Lankalle matkustaessa käväistä Ellassa!

 

Sri Lankalla on paljon erilaisia kansallispuistoja. Kolmanneksi suosituin on vuonna 1972 perustettu Udawalawe, joka sijaitsee noin 165km päässä Sri Lankan pääkaupungista, Colombosta. Udawalawen on sanottu olevan yksi parhaimpia paikkoja bongata luonnossa norsuja ja vieläpä ihan kosketusetäisyydeltä.

Norsut ovat Udawalawessa päänähtävyys, mutta niiden lisäksi sieltä löytyy paljon kaikkea muutakin – 43 nisäkäslajia, 184 lintulajia, 33 erilaista matelijaa, 12 sammakkolajia, yli sata erilaista perhosta sekä valtavasti eri lajikkeita kasveja. Jos hyvä tuuri käy, siellä voi bongata jopa leopardeja. Tietääkseni se on kuitenkin aika harvinaista. 

Mä rakastan norsuja ihan erityisen paljon, mutten ollut koskaan aikaisemmin nähnyt niitä livenä. Oli siis sanomattakin selvää, että Udawalaween on tällä reissulla päästävä! En oikein fiilistele ja tue mitään eläintarhoja tai norsukyytejä, mutta Udawalawessa kaikki eläimet saavat olla rauhassa ja täysin omassa luontaisessa elinympäristössään.

Meidän retkipäivä safarille alkoi jo aikaisin aamulla, kun etukäteen sovittu kyyti nouti meidät Hikkaduwasta klo 5:00. Silmät ristissä hypättiin entuudesta tutun kuskin kyytiin ja matka sai alkaa. Normaalisti Hikkaduwasta Udawalaween ajaa kuuleman mukaan noin 3-4 tuntia, mutta meidän kuski omisti sen verran vikkelän kaasujalan, että perillä oltiin jo kahdessa ja puolessa tunnissa. Itse kärsin puolet ajomatkasta matkapahoinvoinnista lähes byyttaa pidätellen, kun taas Miz vuorostaan veteli hirsiä tyytyväisenä koko ajomatkan. 

Safari Jeep

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Norsut voivat kuluttaa päivästä jopa 16 tuntia syömiseen!

 

Perille päästyä olo onneksi helpotti ja hypättiin samantien Jeepin kyytiin safarikierrokselle. Ensimmäiset norsut tuli vastaan jo heti alkumetreillä ja fiilis oli kuin skidinä Linnanmäellä – voi luoja miten fileissä olinkaan! Norsut on jotenkin niin maagisen rauhallisia, viisaita ja ihmisläheisiä eläimiä.

Jos Udawalaween haluaa tehdä retken, kannattaa ehdottomasti lähteä heti aikaisin aamusta. Meillä koko kierros kesti yhteensä noin kaksi tuntia ja aika hurahti ihan hetkessä. Ensimmäiset kierrokset alkavat klo 6:00 ja jatkuvat iltakuuteen saakka. Lipunmyynti sulkeutuu 16:30.

Meidän lisäksi vastaan tuli jonkin verran muitakin Jeeppejä, mutta paikka on kooltaan sen verran suuri, ettei mitään ruuhkaa juurikaan ollut ja saatiin rauhassa katsella ja tutkia eläimiä. Meidän kuski oli todella mukava ja ilmoitti meille aina kun jossain oli jotain mielenkiintoista nähtävää. 

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Udawalawe National Park
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Naarasnorsut ovat todella suojelevia pikkuisia kohtaan. Norsujen elinikä voi olla jopa 60-80 vuotta.

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Kingfisher eli kuningaskalastaja on tuttu näky Sri Lankalla.

Me maksettiin kahdelta hengeltä yksityisestä Jeepistä ja sisäänpääsystä yhteensä noin 60 euroa, mutta hinta on edullisempi jos samassa kyydissä on enemmän porukkaa. Paikan päällä on infopiste, josta saa sisäänpääsyliput helposti ostettua. 

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Udawalawessa voi normaalisti nähdä krokotiileja, mutta nyt siellä oli niin paljon vettä, että suurin osa pysytteli omissa piiloissaan. Yksi pieni yksilö me bongattiin.

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Vesipuhvelit nautiskelemassa.

Udawalawe oli kaiken kaikkiaan huikea kokemus – voin lämpimästi suositella!

Teksti: Lotta
Video & kuvat: Miz