Discover 9 must-see sites to help you plan your trip to Sri Lanka. This country has given us a very positive impression of a combination of India, because of a sense of controlled chaos, and Myanmar for its untouched beauty and Buddhist traditions. But the country stands out from the others for its magnificent green landscapes, the uniqueness of its history, and the richness of its culture, which has been preserved thanks to its insular position.
The most beautiful places to visit in Sri Lanka
Colombo is the centre of the country’s economic activity, the political capital being Sri Jayawardenapra Kotte. As a highlight, we visited the eclectic Gangaramaya Temple, which contains a collection of Buddhas of all origins, relics, artifacts and objects as diverse as they are unusual, from both Hindu and Buddhist origins. We even saw an iconography of Jesus, because it is true that Hindus would acknowledge a link between Christ and Krishna.
We would not have left Sri Lanka without seeing Nipuna again, a friend I met 18 years ago during my studies in England. We remembered the many shifts we spent together cutting lettuce for the Tesco and McDonald’s in the United Kingdom, a job that allowed me at the time to finance my student trips. We had the pleasure of meeting him in Colombo, with his wife and their two children.
In Dambulla, we were able to admire the Golden Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site consists of 5 caves containing a large number of Buddha statues and mural frescoes.
Sigiriya is a former royal capital of Sri Lanka. There you can see the lion’s rock, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ascent of the rock being very expensive, we chose to enjoy it from the rock opposite, the Pidurangala. The panorama seen from its hilltop is magical!
Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia. We took the advantage of being in Sigiriya to go on a Jeep safari in the Hurulu Eco Park, and to observe the wild elephants, which is the most ethical way to do it.
Anuradhapura was also a capital of Sri Lanka and is known for its many ruins. For several centuries, it was the centre of Theravada Buddhism, one of the two major branches of Buddhism that migrated to Myanmar, Thailand, and then Cambodia. The city was built around the “Bo” tree, the oldest tree in the world with a known planting date. It was planted over 2000 years ago from a clipping of the tree under which Prince Siddhartha would have attained enlightenment to become the Buddha. It is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
12 kilometres from Anuradhapura lies Mihintale, the cradle of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. From the heights of its rock there is a magnificent view of all the surroundings.
We then headed to Kandy, the last royal capital of Sri Lanka and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kandy’s number one attraction is undoubtedly the Temple of the Tooth. Which tooth is it? Buddha’s upper left canine tooth of course! It is undoubtedly THE post-mortem body relic of the Buddha with the most stories (among the 84,000 relics that are believed to exist) to such an extent that there would be doubt as to the authenticity of this tooth. After the Buddha’s entry into nirvana and the cremation of his body, this tooth would have been found among his ashes. Since then, the city that possesses this relic has held the power of the country, while also acting as the religious capital of the country. The faithful therefore journey from everywhere to venerate this sacred tooth, as an essential vehicle of their faith and for their serenity of their mind.
Magic continues to operate in Sri Lanka. The railway track between Kandy and Ella through Nuwara Eliya is known to be one of the most beautiful in the world and we had planned to travel by train throughout our journey across Sri Lanka, just to carry out this section on the train. What we didn’t know was that we had to book the tickets a very long time in advance. However, when I intended to book the tickets two weeks before arriving in Sri Lanka, there was no more space on this route for at least the next 30 days. By necessity, we rented a car. And we do not regret it, because the roads of the country are gorgeous!
Between hills and valleys, the 80 km of bends that separate Kandy and Nuwara Eliya are usually completed in 2h30. But this region is so incredibly beautiful that we achieved it in 8 hours! And for good reason! In addition to stopping every 5 minutes to take pictures of this sublime mountainous region covered with tea plantations as far as the eye can see, we visited 3 tea factories, where we were graciously offered a tea tasting. Tea making is no longer a secret for us. By the way, did you know that green tea, black tea and white tea are all produced from the same tea plant? It is only the manufacturing process that differs.
If there was one place that we wanted to visit most in Sri Lanka, it was Ella! This city, which is surrounded by hills and tea plantations, has an incredible charm! You can admire the famous “Nine Arch Bridge”, one of the engineering wonders of the 20th century that will soon celebrate its 100th anniversary! And as its name suggests, it is a 9-arch railway bridge, built by the British during the colonial era.
25 km from Ella lies Lipton’s Seat, a lookout perched at an altitude of nearly 2000m, where Sir Thomas Lipton used to sit and admire his dominion. That’s where it all started! To complete the 25km from Lipton’s Seat from Ella, the GPS indicated 1h20. It doesn’t matter! We made it in 3 hours, once again with a break every 5 minutes to admire the stunning views over the tea plantations. I told you, it was one of the most beautiful road trips of our lives!
Mirissa is a popular tourist destination, known for its beach and nightlife. We stayed in a villa located in the midst of nature, surrounded by cows, monkeys and peacocks. During the day, we walked the beautiful beaches of the south of the country and the children were introduced to surfing.
On the way to Colombo, we visited Galle, a colonial city with the largest fortress in Asia built by the Europeans. The property is classified as a UNESCO heritage site.
For a better preparation
We spent 15 days in Sri Lanka. After landing in Colombo, we took the road in our rental car for what turned out to be among the most beautiful road-trips of our lives, nothing less! Our itinerary and time allocation at each location has been established according to the most popular tourist attractions in the country:
- Colombo (2 nights);
- Sigiriya (3 nights);
- Kandy (2 nights);
- Nuwara Eliya (1 night);
- Ella (2 nights);
- Mirissa (3 nights);
- Colombo (2 nights).
While visiting the Golden Temple of Dambulla, we met Drew Brinsky, the well-known vlogger with more than 2.4 million subscribers. He travels the world posting some very interesting videos once a day. And he chose to make a video about us!
Driving in Sri Lanka
A little anecdote on driving in Sri Lanka. To my surprise, I found myself being one of the very few foreigners to drive in Sri Lanka, first because driving is known to be dangerous there, and also because it is left hand driven. Even Sri Lankans were surprised when they found out I was driving. But I must admit that it reminded me of the time I played Need for Speed as a teenager. I enjoyed racing the buses that are real driving experts! Like real bulls, they charge on cars and constantly honk to make them slow down and pass them as they zigzag through the traffic. When everyone is travelling at a maximum speed of 50-60 km/h, the buses go up to 120 km/h. To get passengers on the side of the road, they only slow down and never stop! If the passengers don’t get on the bus as it slows down, they simply stay on the side of the road. And to disembark, the passengers must jump from the moving bus. I would let them overtake me when they were following me and I would overtake them when they slowed down to drop off and pick up passengers. Meanwhile, we were overtaking all the tuk-tuks and motorcycles that were driving at 30 and 50 km/h through the winding curves. I had so much fun… and Jessica had a few chills ?
We stayed in hotels or apartments booked in Booking.com, for an average of 30 USD per night at 4. Our Villa in Mirissa.
Our diet has been reduced to eating Kottu and Roti, because it is good and cheap.
The cost of our 15 days in Sri Lanka for our family of 4 is:
- 332600 LKR (1848 USD);
- 22175 LKR (123 USD) per day;
- 5540 LKR (31 USD) per person and per day.
|Expense Category||Amount Spent|
|Flight and Visa||83700 LKR (465 USD)|
|Accomodation||81200 LKR (451 USD)|
|Transport||78200 LKR (434 USD)|
|Food||58700 LKR (326 USD)|
|Activities||30800 LKR (171 USD)|
|Total||332600 LKR (1848 USD)|
In a nutshell
|Dates||2019-01-13 to 2019-01-28|
|Number of days||15|
|Cities we visited||Colombo, Sigiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, Ella, Mirissa, Galle|
|Inbound||From Vietnam by plane|
|Outbound||To the Philippines by plane|
|Mode of transport||Rental car|
|Distance travelled (car & foot)||1315 km|
|Number of photos taken||4600 (307 per day)|
|Currency||The Sri Lankan Rupee (1 USD = 180 LKR)|
We had high expectations in Sri Lanka, and we can say that they have been completely fulfilled, and even beyond! Breathtaking landscapes, impressive vegetation, the remnants of an incredibly rich history and an exciting culture are the hallmarks of our unique experience in the Pearl of the Orient.
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