If you took Ubud, Vietnam, Thailand with a splash of India and shook them up, you would get Sri Lanka. The diversity of the country including the jungle scenery, mountains, ancient sites, tea fields, and beaches make this little island truly spectacular. Travel Supervisor Carolyn Davidson from RAC Travel Joondalup recently headed to the teardrop shaped island to discover all its signature highlights.

What is the best thing about Sri Lanka? What did you love? What can’t be missed?

The diversity of the scenery, the fantastic cheap food and drinks and watching the elephants take a drink at the orphanage at Pinnawala. The orphanage looks after the many orphaned Asian elephants that are found in the jungles of Sri Lanka. It was so amazing to see them up close.

 

Tell us one interesting fact or thing to do at this destination. Anything unusual happen?

I climbed to the top of the UNESCO heritage Sigiriya Rock which has fantastic views. On the very top of Sigiriya are the remains of an old fort. On the way up, there are rock paintings and rock claws, like a tiger. But the climb is not for the faint hearted! There are over a 1000 steps to the top and it requires a lot of physical exertion so make sure you wear comfy shoes! A lot of climbers go early in the morning to avoid the heat.

 

What was the accommodation like?

We mostly stayed in 4-5 star accommodation which offered good options for dining. We had dinner in a cave at the eco-friendly Heritance Kandalama which was a real highlight for our group. The Cinnamon Lakeside in Colombo has impressive food, great pool service, plenty of fantastic dining and shops and even a spa and salon. Great city location.

 

What’s the best way of getting around?

Definitely do a tour with a reliable company (don’t self-drive in Sri Lanka). We travelled with Aitken Spence but other good tour companies like Insight Vacations and Travelmarvel do some fantastic itineraries too. For local exploring you can barter for a very cheap tuk tuk if you are brave enough in places like Colombo (due to the volumes of traffic). We took tuk tuks in Kandy and Colombo.

 

What’s the one thing you should buy at this destination? Any great places to shop?

If you can afford the fabulous gems on offer and you know what you are buying, then Sri Lanka is the place to buy them. I stuck to a few herbal balms from a spice garden that we visited just outside of Kandy. It was fascinating to learn about the use of herbs and spices.

 

What is the best time to go there? Any festival or weather worth planning around?

We went in October and the change into monsoon season had technically hit but it didn’t affect us too much. All the hotels had high occupancy throughout. The northern hemisphere traffic descends on Sri Lanka from November to February which is the best time to go.

 

Tell us one good bar or restaurant

The food in Sri Lanka overall was really phenomenal! I was really blown away. Our hotel in Colombo, the Cinnamon Lakeside had great restaurants and bars tailored towards all nationalities.  The buffet dinner in their main restaurant was one of the best I have seen, and I’ve seen a lot of buffets! Also kudos to the Tease Bar at the Taj by Vivanta for their cocktails and fabulous finger food.

 

What’s one thing you should take to this destination?

The usual things for the tropics including an umbrella, comfortable loose fitting cotton clothing.

 

Day 1 – Negombo

We arrived into Colombo flying Malaysia Airlines and went straight from the airport to Negombo which is only 30 minutes from the airport and an hour north from Colombo city centre. Fortunately Sri Lanka is only two and half hours behind WA in the time zone so the jetlag wasn’t too bad. It is a great place to start a Sri Lanka holiday as it’s a small little sea side town, main industry is fishing. The colourful fishing boats were really pretty. Staying at a beach front property here is a must! Had a good little strip of restaurants and bars and some shops for a few souvenirs too.

30min from Colombo, Negombo - a small sea side town

30min from Colombo, Negombo – a small sea side town

Day 2 – Pinnawala and Dambulla

After breakfast we got on the road to go to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which was a really great experience. Then we headed to Dambulla which is one of the ‘ancient cities’. Dambulla Cave Temple is a world heritage site which has five caves naturally in the side of this mountain, and they’ve been painted with images of Buddha and there’s a big Buddha carved out of rock.

That night we stayed at the Heritance Kandalama which was so beautiful and we had this amazing dinner in a cave. You do have to watch out for the monkeys on your balcony though!

Day 3 – Sigiriya and Kandy

As I mentioned, this was a big climb but a truly spectacular one! The views from the top were fantastic. Later that day we arrived in the valley city of Kandy which was one of my favourite. At the bottom of the valley is the Temple of the Tooth Relic (where they keep Buddha’s tooth apparently) and a really impressive lake. We toured around in a Tuk Tuk which was a cool way to see the city.

Make sure you have your shoulders covered and moderate dress code for the temple otherwise you won’t be let in.

Day 4 – Bentota

From the valley to the beachside of Bentota on the west coast of Sri Lanka. This was a very beachy resort destination although you couldn’t actually swim in the ocean because of the jelly fish. Luckily we stayed at the Taj Bentota (nice property) which had an awesome pool. Apparently there are more beach destinations to choose from like Hikkaduwa, Unawatuna and Ahungalla.

Day 5 – Bentota to Waskaduwa

We headed to the colonial beachside city of Galle for a look at the fort and lunch at a restaurant inside the fort. The fort itself is very impressive. Galle was the main seaport of Sri Lanka before Colombo and still handles lots of shipping and cruising yachts. It’s a shame we didn’t get to stay here as it had a quaint boutique feel. We stayed at the Citrus Waskaduwa.

Day 6 – Waskaduwa to Colombo

Today we arrived at the capital Colombo and stayed at the Cinnamon Lakeside. We were hosted dinner at the fabulous Uga Residence in Colombo (like a mini version of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore). This is the place to go for a beautiful dinner and we were given a couple of their suites to freshen up in before our dreaded late night flight. Highly recommend this hotel for an intimate stay in Colombo without breaking the bank as their rates are very reasonable for what you get.

Cinnamon Lakeside

Carolyn was a guest of Asia Escape Holidays and Malaysia Airlines.

RAC Travel is running a guided holiday to Sri Lanka 1300 655 898 or visit one of the RAC Travel Centres