A Sri Lankan Journey

Anne Guest


A shimmering pearl in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. From tropical jungles to world heritage sites, glorious beaches to stunning landscapes, wildlife to wellness and of course, flavoursome food washed down with the world’s best cup of tea - Sri Lanka has it all. Trouble is, how do you fit a broad-ranging experience of this beautiful island into two weeks? The answer is – focus. Here’s a taster of the south-west of Sri Lanka starting and ending in the capital city Colombo.

Colombo Quickstep

First off, find out what the city has to offer. A tour is very easy to arrange through your hotel with the services of a friendly, local driver but let’s be honest, the only way to travel in Colombo is by tuk-tuk. These marvellously crazy little moped-cabs give you the full-on sensory experience of life on the streets of Colombo, but be warned, they’re not for the faint-hearted. In the midst of the buzz, there’s Gangaramaya Temple, part of which rests serenely on the jade-green waters of Beira Lake. Slip off your shoes to explore magnificent carvings and myriad statues of the Buddha, including a beautiful white jade Buddha. The museum stacked full of elaborate and unusual gifts left by devotees is also impressive. For a refreshing breath of sea air, head towards Galle Face Green for a stroll along the 500m promenade. Here, luxury hotels serving afternoon tea rub shoulders with super-fresh seafood stalls beside the azure Indian Ocean, and you’ll find yourselves in the company of kite flyers, courting couples and possibly even a military parade. It’s a heady combination which will prepare you well for the next stage of your journey.

Oliver Schopgens

Slow Train to Kandy

The best way to get to Kandy is undoubtedly by train. Unfortunately, you can’t book a ticket online but you can either buy it in person from Colombo station 3 days in advance, or your hotel can sort it out for you. First-class observation car tickets will give you the best views and a comfortable seat. As you wind your way slowly up and out of Colombo through farmland and forests, the world gets slightly cooler and distinctly greener. The dazzling tea plantations are spectacular in their soft verdancy and the clouds nestling lower down lend the whole scene a fairyland quality. It’s quite simply stunning. Kandy itself is a laid-back little town which hugs a picturesque lake and sits comfortably in a range of lush, green hills. The wonderfully-named Tooth Temple is worth a visit but the hiking is the main attraction in the area. An even more beautiful, slow train journey to Ella will take you within striking distance of Adam’s Peak, a holy peak with 5500 crumbling steps up to a temple on top and an overwhelming sense of achievement as you gaze at the sunrise over the dreamy peaks and gorges below you. Equally magnificent views can be had from Little Adam’s Peak which is a less arduous but equally rewarding walk from Ella if you’re short of time. Throw in some delicious Sri Lankan breakfasts of assorted dhals, hoppers, eggs and coconut sambal and you’re getting the hang of this place.

Amanja Hemal

Retreat to Galle

After all that exertion in the mountains it’s time for some serious R&R. Arriving in Galle on the southwest coast is like finding treasure. A Unesco World Heritage site, and ancient trading port built by the Dutch in the 17th century, it’s an absolute jewel. At its core is the Fort, a walled enclave where small, winding streets reveal traditional guesthouses, quirky bars and restaurants, and a plethora of colourful craft shops and markets. Magnificent old Dutch colonial buildings and a wonderful lighthouse are easily absorbed into this rich fabric and the light and warmth of this town have an immediate relaxing effect on the senses. There’s a range of accommodation available but if you feel like treating yourself, le Grand Galle hotel will tick every box with its spacious rooms, modern design, and private beach. Outside the Fort is a bustling, working community which helps diffuse the impression that Galle is just for tourists, but the magical powers of the old walled city will no doubt keep pulling you back in. The experience of drinking a cocktail at sunset on the upper balcony of the Old Dutch Hospital before tucking into a fragrant, spicy Sri Lankan curry is nothing short of fabulous.

Anne Guest

Yoga in the Treetops

Moving down the coast from Galle, the surfing vibe is strong as you pass through places like Unawatuna and Weligama. Consistent white horses and lots of opportunities to perfect your aerials here contribute to a relaxed pace of life that attracts many foreign travellers. Add wellness to the mix and there is a culture of happy coexistence where local traditions of meditation and yoga sit alongside more westernised approaches to retreats and spas. A happy medium is to be found at ME Yoga Villa in Weligama where Elke and Manoj welcome you into their home for a twice-daily yoga workout, a healthy and hearty Sri Lankan breakfast and time to spend at the beach contemplating how good life is here. The yoga starts at 7 am, but don’t let that put you off. The view into the lush treetops from the rooftop yoga studio, caressed by the warm air, listening to the birds and the quiet rolling of the distant surf as you perform the sun salutation is a balm for the soul. You will return to Colombo and your busy life elsewhere refreshed, invigorated and enchanted by all that you’ve experienced in this wonderful country. Now all you have to do is count the days until you can return.

Anne Guest

Become a member to join the conversation!

Become part of the world's leading travel & lifestyle community!