Sri Lanka - Family backpacking before mass tourism

 

Contributor: Masja
Nationality: Dutch, Netherlands
Instagram: masja_travels
Age Range: 30-40
Gender: Female
Travel Style: Backpacker, Family
Destination: Sri Lanka
Date: July, 2016. 3 weeks

Inspiration:

We were backpacking with our two children (14 and 18 years old), so we were looking for a safe, easy to travel, not too touristic and diverse country. I think Sri Lanka is 'booming', getting more and more tourists each year. We wanted to be there before mass tourism. 

Getting There:

We went there by plane. In Sri Lanka it is very easy to travel by public transport; buses and trains. Distances are not that big and it's very cheap. If you don't mind being in a crowded bus now and then it's a great way to travel! There is lots to see, outside and inside the busses and local people like to have a chat with you. At busstations everyone is willing to help you get on the right bus and if you ask the bus-assistant, he will give you a sign when to get out.
If you want to make the beautiful train trip from Ella to Kandy or vv, it might be wise to make a reservation in advance. We didn't and the next 3 weeks tickets for seats were sold out. We bought free tickets, without chair numbers and were lucky to find 4 chairs in third class, but many people stood for over 7 hours! So, if you already know when to make this trip, reserve tickets.

Where To Stay:

We stayed in hotels and guesthouses. We were surprised by the good free wifi in most hotels/guesthouses, so a day before leaving a place we booked the next accomodation by bookings.com. There are many accomodations in all price ranges. Just read the reviews on bookings.com or tripadvisor and pick your place! 
Our top stay: Mangrove Beach Chalets at Marakolliya Beach/Tangalle

What To Do:

Tourist highlights we did: 
Sigiriya
Lion Rock, Minneriya National Park (elephant safari) and Polonaruwa.

Kandy
Temple of the Tooth (be sure to visit one of the daily ceremonies), very nice colourful market, Pinnawalla elephant orphanage (it's nice to see the elephants this close, but I wouldn't recommend it. Is is extremely touristic, didn't see any injured elephants that needed to recover, it's a bit of a circus. Minneriya or one of the other national parks are a much better choice to see elephants)

Traintrip Kandy to Ella or vv! Best traintrip ever, going through the mountains (2000 m.) through a landscape of tea plantations.

Ella:
Town itself not very special. It's very, very busy and touristic, not a relaxed backpack town as mentioned in our guidebook. But if you like a touristic place and lots of restaurants it's ok. The environment is beautiful and that's why we think Ella is worth the visit. Climb Ella Rock or the easier Little Adams Peak. Great walk through tea plantations! Visit a tea factory. Go to the Ravana waterfall. Walk over the railway to the Nine Arches Bridge and back.

Yala:
We stayed in Tisamaharama to do a 6 hours morning safari in Yala. They warned us Yala could be very crowded, but I guess we were lucky to be there on a relatively quiet day. Saw lots of beautiful landscapes and many animals, including 2 leopards (lucky us!)

Tangalle:
Lovely beach. Stayed 2 nights close to the centre of town in a hotel at the beach. Nice plae to eat on the beach is Frangipani, you can reach it on the streetside or on the beachside. 
Must do: visit Mulkirigala Rock Temple, a hidden treasure. So beautiful and we wondered why we only met 3 other tourist! You climb the mountain and find several caves with reclining Budhas and amazing painted walls and ceilings! Just arrange a tuktuk on the street and let it wait for you while you visit the temple, and let it bring you back again. 

Marakolliya beach, a few km from Tangalle. The perfect desolated beach to relax for a few days in a cabana, an amazing place!

Galle/Unawatuna:
We choose to stay in a hotel in Unawatuna, because hotels in Galle Fort were so expensive and no great reviews, and from Unawatuna it's only a few km to Galle and many buses go this way. Absolutely must visit Galle Fort, but also take some time for the new town! Galle Fort is full of remains of the Portuguese and Dutch colonial period, very impressive.
Unawatuna has a nice beach and good fresh fish restaurants on the beach. 

Go by train to Colombo, a nice trip along the coast line!

Colombo: We only liked 2 things in Colombo: 1: the very busy quarter Pettah with it's stretlife and market and don't forget the amazing Jami-Ul-Afar mosque. 2: the beach, called 'Galle Face Beach'. When you go to this beach end of the afternoon you'll see many Sri Lankan families, all kiting, eating, buying toys, wandering and yelling with their feet in the surf. 

Where To Eat:

Lot's of small restaurants everywhere, with a variety of good asiatic food and sometimes western food. Not expensive. Only in Ella restaurants were realy more expensive. 

5 Word Travel:

Friendly
Easy to travel
Diverse country
Nature (mountains, safaris, beaches)
Culture

Excess baggage:

Some towns don't have an ATM yet, for example Sigiriya and Ella. So be sure to have enough cash before going there. Most popular touristic places have a special tourist entrance fee, which is a lot more than locals pay. You can pay this in cash dollars or local currency, but can't pay with a card, so another reason to make sure to check if there is an ATM or withdraw enough cash in another town. O yes, also many hotels can only be payed cash!


South Coast Sri Lanka - Beach Escape

 

Contributor : Felicity
Nationality  : British
Instagram   @felicity.stokes
Age Group  : 19-30 yo
Gender        : Female
Trave Style  : Leisure
Destination  : South Coast Sri Lanka (Welligama, Galle, Marissa) for 6 days.   September 2016

Inspiration:
We wanted a location close to Dubai, which offered plenty of activities for a big friendship group.  Our priorities were beach, learning to surf and a fun party scene. We were also inspired by Fly Dubai's options and friends who had been before. 

Getting There:
Fly Dubai

Local Knowledge:
The spice, cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka.  We visited a cinnamon farm and were shown how to make Cinnamon by a local family. 

You will see fisherman fishing on tall stilts, above the ocean. This is a stunning view, especailly against the sunset. You are likely to find them along the Ahangama Beach area close to Weligama.

Where to Stay:
We stayed at Elsewhere Surf Camp - this is recommend if you are wanting to have a hippy style holiday and learning to surf is your highest priority! The owners are your surf teachers and are a great bunch of welcoming people. They also supply you with healthy breakfasts and dinners which are yummy! 

On the more luxury side, we stayed a couple of nights at the stunning Kahanda Kanda Boutique Hotel. The hotel is situated on a hill of a tea plantation. The views are breathtaking and you are well-immersed in the nature of Sri Lanka. Most of the villas have their own private pools and have really fantastic interiors. Our bathrooms were located completely outside! I highly recommend this hotel, it's spell-bounding!  

What To See & Do:
Surfing mostly! In the evenings we would indulge in amazing fresh seafood dinners and plenty of cocktails, beach parties by campfire. 

The hidden gem I would have to say is the Kahanda Kanda Boutique Hotel, I had never felt so calm, relaxed and disconnected from the world for just a couple of nights. It was heaven. 

Galle has a fort... I don't recommend planning to see the fort for a full day but to drop by for just a few hours to have a mooch around the town. 

Where To Eat:
We ate mostly from restaurants on the beach front in Weligama. The seafood is displayed on tables right next to the ocean, as you walk along the beach you are enticed by the large range of lobster, prawns, mahi mahi, and so much more! The fish goes straight from the sea - to the restaurant - to your plate. There's a great night life scene, but also gorgeous candle-lit, mellow places to talk on beach bags and sip on delicious cocktails.

Must Do:
Surf! There are beaches that suit all surfing levels, and fantastic teachers that are so friendly and warm and will most definitely become your friends! 

Always travel by tuk tuks - its the way to go! 

Must See:
The fisherman on stilts - wow - so beautiful against a sunset.

Number 1 Travel Tip:
Don't bother bringing anything but your comfy hippy clothes - its the perfect place to really get back to basics. For a girl living in Dubai, it is rare you ever go makeup free, I rarely opened my makeup bag. It was bliss! Nature through and through.

5 Word Travel:
Carefree - Active - Fun - Hippy - Friendly 

Excess Baggage:
A rashie if you are surfing - and take your yoga pants as well as, bikini bottoms are a nightmare.