JB talks on her travels to Sri Lanka (the destination hotly tipped as 2013’s ‘place to go’) where to go and what to look out for.
Sri Lanka is an island, roughly the size of Wales, which offers you everything you could possibly need from an exotic holiday destination. It’s as if someone laid out a blank tear-drop sized slate and slapped down some golden palm-tree lined beaches, tea plantations high in lush green hills, elephants and monkeys and beautiful ladies in bright sarongs, and swirled them all around a bit before standing back, exclaiming ‘Ta-da!!!’ and diving headfirst into crystal blue waters.
The raging civil war put a bullet through Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, stunting it, meaning that in the 3 years since all Tamil Tigers were eradicated, tourism is only just beginning to ebb into Sri Lankan culture. This is no more evident than in the more northern towns where English is barely spoken and your pale skin is so rare you get papped by octogenarians with old Nokias.
My 10 days saw me travel through four different locations, starting in the west in capital city Colombo and ending 260km away in the barely touched north-eastern beach resort of Trincomalee, with cultural Kandy and the sights of Sigiriya sandwiched in the centre.
A vibrant, fast-paced city. I spent 1 night at Lake Lodge hotel, a little pricier than you may expect to pay in Lanka but worth it for the peaceful sanctuary it offers as you adapt to heat and incessant horn honking. Wander round the city lapping the culture up and take lunch from a street stall on the water-front.
I travelled to the cultural centre of Sri Lanka by train, (£4 for the best journey of my life – are you listening National Rail?!). High in the hills, a fine mist welcomes you in the morning, burning off to highlight the Temple of The Sacred Tooth on the edge of Kandy’s lake. Take a trip to the tea plantations and spend an afternoon in the beautiful botanical gardens before watching the locals perform the traditional Kandy Dance and fire walk. I stayed in McLeod Inn, cheap as chips and one of the best views in the city.
A different feel to Colombo and Kandy, quieter and surrounded by wildlife: if you look for a monkey you’ll see a monkey. The two ‘must-dos’ here are climbing the rock (not for the faint-hearted!) and spending an afternoon in Minneriya National Park with 200 wild elephants. I splashed out a little to stay in Hotel Sigirya and it was worth every penny.
The further North you head into the island the more remote, peaceful and untouched it becomes. Trinco, a picturesque beach town rivalling the Mauritius sits on a jutting peninsula to the east. There’s nothing to do here except lap up the golden beaches and drink frozen margaritas. No complaints from me as I did so at Chaaya Blu, a beautiful and well-kept resort with chalets that open directly onto sand and sea.
Words by – Jo Birch