For me, Sri Lanka has always been a place I wanted to visit but kept postponing and postponing either because I was focusing on discovering Europe or because the season was simply not right during the times I really wanted to go there. However, in early 2015 I saw a mesmerizing National Geographic documentary on Sri Lanka which was the final straw that prompted me to start planning a trip there.
Believe it or not, I recently started using Instagram almost exclusively when planning for trips and it has proven to be an excellent verification tool in making sure that hotels and travel websites don’t lie to us about how big that pool is or about how pretty a certain village is.
Long story short, the trip – which was my first in Asia, not counting the short trip to the Maldives years before — was a success and I fell in love with Sri Lanka. Things that normally bother me in other destinations seemed fine here. Despite the turbulent history, everything seems to be in peace and harmony here. I even saw people moving out of the way when they walk to avoid stepping on insects. For the first time in a very long time, I really felt that this would be a place I can sit back and retire.
As I said in my previous post on my favourite city, Berlin, it is almost impossible to describe the feeling you get when you’re in a place you really like. It’s a combination of how the city/country feels and how being there makes you feel.
Without further ado, here are some of the things that I really liked about Sri Lanka.
You can also follow me on Instagram (@gmr83) for more pictures of Sri Lanka and other places around the world.
1. People: Get ready to meet some of the friendliest people in the world. I don’t think I saw people smiling as much as Sri Lankans when they hear you say hello or goodbye in their language. If you really want to warm their hearts (and yours), bring a Polaroid camera with you and give people the pictures you take of them. Many Sri Lankans are poor and cannot afford a camera and they, most probably, don’t even have a picture of themselves.
2. Whale watching: Sri Lanka’s south, west, and east coasts are some of the best locations in the world to watch whales, particularly the humpback and the blue whales. According to the Sri Lankan Tourism Authority, the ideal locations for whale watching would be Dondra Point and Trincomalee, while the sea off Kalpitiya teems with an abundance of dolphins.
3. Beaches: Sri Lanka is home to gorgeous, unspoiled beaches, and many guesthouses are located either right on the beach or a few meters away. Insight Guides has an excellent list of the best beaches in Sri Lanka so check it out when you’re planning. I wholeheartedly recommend Mirissa.
4. Food: Sri Lankan food is influenced by various cuisines, most notably Indian, Arab, and African. The hoppers and sour fish curry are delicious but here are 10 more dishes!
5. Nature: I don’t think I was ever fascinated by any nature as much I was by the one in Sri Lanka. It just felt so raw and vibrantly majestic. Whether you’re after jungles, birds, waterfalls or anything else in between, Sri Lanka has it… in abundance.
6. Tea: Let’s face it – no one makes tea the way Sri Lankans do it! Tea is an integral part of Sri Lankan life and history, not to mention that it pours $1.5 billion in the country’s economy. In addition, tea plantations are a remarkable thing to see when in bloom and during picking season. CNN has a great list of tea experiences.
7. Trains: The trip we took from Ella to Kandy on what is possibly the oldest train I have ever seen is one of the most scenic and beautiful in the world. You will pass by countless small villages and tea plantations that will make you want to jump off the train just to see them.
8. Temples: Sri Lanka is home to Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims among other religions, which is why you will see many beautiful temples scattered around the country. My favorites were the Dambulla cave temple, the largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha.
9. Safari: Despite its small size Sri Lanka boasts of one of the highest rates of biological endemism in the world and is included among the top five biodiversity hotspots in the world. Sri Lanka’s Yala National Park has one of the highest leopard densities in the world with 25 individual leopards.
Have you been to Sri Lanka? What was your favorite experience?