When I was in Sri Lanka the monsoon was in full swing. The little teardrop-shaped island was lashed by angry waves of the Indian Ocean and rain pounded on it all day long. Humidity was very high in most parts of the country and tourists were at their minimum. Prices were low, people were friendlier; had more time to relax and chat with you with genuine interest, and Sri Lanka wore a fresh green look every single day. I spent one month there, traveled slowly through the country, and loved every second of my stay. My long visit gave me enough time for me to observe, absorb, accept, and analyze in peace and I summed up that I simply love Sri Lanka. There are a lot of things that made me fall in love with this Asian country and here are a few reasons why you should visit Sri Lanka. It is a destination for all seasons.
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The breathtaking natural beauty of Sri Lanka
How can you not love a place that has green hills and golden beaches? The natural beauty of Sri Lanka is one of its biggest highlights and it is a tropical gem. Despite the monsoon season, the island witnessed occasional blue skies, peachy sunsets, sapphire blue water, and its beaches were long, golden, and silky. the highlands were a sheer visual delight; their misty hills dewy green, gushing waterfalls, and flowers peeping from every nook and corner. The tea gardens looked like lush green carpets that invited a roll and flamboyantly coloured flowers grew even in the cities.
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The treasure trove of culture and heritage
If you love the culture, you will love Sri Lanka. I come from India and must confess that I often find the cultural heritage of many countries pale in comparison to my homeland. Sri Lanka, however, despite its tiny size, bowled me over with its treasure trove of culture and I simply love its Cultural Triangle i.e the area between Kandy and the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Ancient ruins, frescoed caves, and temples are my thing and from Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, to Dambulla painted caves, my list of favourite places in Sri Lanka is endless.
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The utterly delicious fiery Sri Lankan food
I love food and Sri Lankan cuisine is to die for. Sri Lanka is a spice island and no matter, where ever you go, you will find delicious food made with fresh locally procured ingredients. Though most of the dishes have an Indian influence, Sri Lankan food tastes very different and I find it tastier than the cuisine of my own country. Hoppers served with silky tasty curries are big in Sri Lanka and I can never have enough of them. From velvetty dals, reddish-brown rice, stir-fried vegetables, to fish curries, Sri Lankan food is hands down one of its biggest draws. Some of the must-try dishes are rotti, kotthu, egg hoppers and pol sambol and wash them down with fresh coconut juice or a bottle of Lion lager.
Some of the best train journeys in the world
Sri Lanka is best enjoyed by train and there are many train routes all across the country. Most of these routes are drop-dead gorgeous and though the narrow gauge railways take a bit of time, these are one of the best Sri Lanka travel experiences. The Sri Lankan railway is also well-maintained, efficient, comfortable, and a cheap way of getting around the country, not to mention the Instagram worthy photo opportunities. Kandy to Ella train journey is named as one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys and I can vouch for it.
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The tea trails
Tea lovers will be in their element in this island nation. The cool misty Hill Country is covered with tea plantations all of which produce the exceptional Ceylon Tea. Choose to stay at one of the luxury plantations, enjoy a cuppa whenever you want and hike/cycle or trek through the stunning gardens. Either way, you will fall in love with the tea trails and adventure lovers can climb the famed 2250m Adam’s Peak holy mountain for an unforgettable sunrise.
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The palm-fringed beaches
Mirissa was my first stop in Sri Lanka after Colombo and it was one of my best experiences in the country. It was a rainswept morning when my train chugged along the coastal route and I fell in love with Mirissa at first sight. To begin with, the countryside was lush green with deep red earth and coconut palms made a thick border. I could hear the ocean even at the train station and the broad sweep of the smooth golden sand beach of Mirissa took my breath away. I loved it so much there that my stay got extended to a week and even after that it was hard to leave Mirissa. Sri Lankan beaches are easy to get addicted to and the island is a beach lover’s paradise. At the moment, the beaches in the south and west are gaining popularity and their beauty is incredible Think golden sand, fringed with swaying palm trees and backed by orchards, rice paddies, and lowland tea plantations. For sugar-white beaches, head north. Surfers should stick to the eastern beaches for the best waves. Arugam Bay on the east coast is the best place to surf in Sri Lanka, with Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Midigama, Unawatuna, and Mirissa in the south also being quite popular.
Some of the best wildlife spotting in Asia
Sri Lanka has an abundance of national parks and it’s one of the best places in the world to see elephants and leopards in the wild. Yala National Park on the south coast is most famous for spotting leopards, while the gentle pachyderms can be easily seen at nearly every national park. Minneriya and Uda Walawe are known to be the best places to see elephants in the wild and I saw them even at the remote Maduru Oya National Park. The best part about wildlife spotting in Sri Lanka is that it is not just limited to land. The country’s coastline offers ample opportunities for marine animal watching and you can spot dolphins and blue whales. Mirissa in the south and Trincomalee in the north are famous for blue whale-spotting. The season runs from May to July and June to October in Mirissa and Trincomalee respectively. Plan your trip accordingly.
Shopping in Sri Lanka
Ceylon tea, spices, gemstones especially moonstones, traditional masks, and local textiles, Sri Lanka will spoil you with endless shopping options. Experimental shoppers can also choose from paintings from the upcoming Sri Lankan painters, local handicrafts, artisanal soaps, and organic essences.
The warm, friendly people Sri Lanka
I kept the best for the last. People make or break one’s travel experiences and Sri Lankans are an incredibly kind, smiley and welcoming lot. They are hands down some of the nicest people in the world and it is not a country where solo female travelers are hassled, unlike my own country, neighbouring India.
NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE