It’s been WAY too long since I’ve posted a good ole’ travel blog! The whole blogging world has changed and grown so much since I first start this little site in 2014. I think for a while I got pretty caught up in trying to keep up with the hype of it all and lost a bit of focus on why I started this site – which let’s be real is not to give people the “best” tips on the countries that I’ve only spent 2 weeks in but rather just to share my adventures, inspire other women to travel solo and have a space to write about some fun memories. With that being said, here’s our experience of travelling 10 days in the bustling island of Sri Lanka!
Day 1: Colombo
Where we stayed: City Rest Fort Hostel
The pandemic was slowly and quietly ramping up the weeks before we left for our trip – we actually had to cancel and rebook our flights less than a week before we left because we had originally booked flights with a 2 day layover to explore Shanghai – and by that time all advisories were stating not to travel to China. Luckily airlines had started being more flexible with cancellations and we were able to completely cancel and rebook with a Taiwan layover instead. **Taiwan was amazing and deserves it’s own little post so we’ll save that for later.
We arrived late at night so after taking an Uber (yes, Sri Lankan Uber!) to the hostel, we immediately fell asleep in our nice bunk bed.
Day 2: Kandy
Where we stayed: Sevana City Hotel
We stayed right in the centre of Colombo. It was hot, loud and very busy. Because we were only spending the night and taking the train to Kandy this afternoon we booked a hostel and didn’t think much of it. In hindsight, I think we should have stayed closer to the airport and just booked a hotel with a pool to relax before our train. Instead we walked around for a few hours, hungry, cranky and very sweaty. You know, the usual fun travel stuff.
On the plus side, we ended up finding a nice hotel and ate some really good pad thai.
The “express” train from Colombo to Kandy was a crazy experience. The whole process of checking in and picking up our tickets was fairly seamless but the train itself was a whole other story. Everything was fine until we starting picking up speed at what felt like an uncontrollable rate as the train screeched loudly along the tracks. We, along with the other tourists, were looking around like “are we going to die? I think we’re going to die?” meanwhile the locals were sleeping and chilling as all our bodies were continuously tossed within the cabin. Needless to say, we survived and would recommend just taking the regular train.
We were able to walk to our hotel from the bus station in Kandy and again had a comfortable but not luxurious accommodation. We came to realize that in Sri Lanka, a lot of hotels have great pictures online and what you see certainly isn’t what you’re going to get. Another thing we started to realize was that a lot of hotels don’t actually sell alcohol… not that we needed any as we were properly dehydrated but like c’mon after the train of death I think we deserve at least 1 glass of wine.
Day 3: Kandy
Where we stayed: Sevana City Hotel
On day 3 we had booked a tour to Pidurangala Rock. We honestly really just wanted a ride and not a whole tour of temples or other areas, but we ended up with a VERY enthusiastic tour guide who wanted to show us absolutely everything. We get too polite to say no every time so we ended up making a lot of little stops along the way (mostly unnecessary) and at the end of it, it became clear that our tour guide, although very nice, was also getting a lot of compensation for the stops/commission at any place we went to (like a spice garden). I’m glad we went to the spice garden but it really didn’t seem genuine after we bought this hair removal cream that is LEGIT just Nair. *big sigh*
The Pidurangala Rock was definitely a highlight and we were both glad that we went despite the annoying day it took to get there. There were amazing views from the top, and it was so windy that you were able to cool down up there.
Day 4: Ella
Where we stayed: Lucky Star Ella
Day 4 and another train day! This time we were taking the instagram infamous Sri Lankan train – this is the route from Kandy to Ella. It’s instagram famous as it weaves between the tea plantations in the mountains and is really truly beautiful.
If you’ve seen those pictures of people in flowy dresses leaning out this train then you know what I’m talking about.
Some travellers will stop in Nuwara Eliya which is about 5 hours into the train journey from Kandy, but we did the entire train to Ella (which is about a 7 hour train ride). It didn’t seem that long at all though because you were so distracted from the views that you don’t even notice time pass.
We had booked 1st class reserve for this train – which isn’t ideal because the windows don’t open but they let us go back to 2nd class reserve and just sit in seats that were open (which there were despite it being sold out online). The first class would have been perfectly fine too – but it was nice having the open air and breeze on our face.
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The moment we arrived in Ella, we knew we were going to love it. Ella was just so much more quiet than the rest of our experience in Sri Lanka had been thus far. It had a very chill vibe, and you could see the tourism start to grow by the amount of coffee shops, restaurants and little hippie shops. We had two nights in Ella and I think that was the perfect amount of time.
Day 5: Ella
Where we stayed: Lucky Star Ella
We woke up in the morning and had booked a tuk tuk to little Adams peak nice and early so we could do the hike for sunrise. Unfortunately our driver didn’t show so we decided to just walk until we got to town and could find a driver. We were up on this hill and had to go by a landfill to get down AKA a very smelly commute. We decided to run down the hill because we would get to town faster and we didn’t want to miss the sunrise. The thing that you should know about Sri Lanka is that there are SO many stray dogs. Most of them are harmless – but at night it gets a bit more questionable as the dogs get nervous and are tired. It gets even more questionable when they are in a pack and you’re running. Luckily neither of us got bit and we would just stop running when they’d start growling and barking. We did end up seeing a guy later in our trip get bit by a stray here so definitely use caution.
When we got to town we were able to get a tuk tuk to the absolute bottom of little Adams peak (we later found out that tuk tuks can pretty well go up the whole thing so don’t get scammed for the 100th time like we did). We were in a bit of a sour mood – given that our first driver didn’t show, and our second one charged us well above average (given that it was 5 am and no one around) and then didn’t even drive us up to where he could have. ANYWAYS. the hike/walk itself isn’t bad at all. It’s nice and paved most of the way up and the difficult part (many stairs) only lasts about 10 minutes.
We were able to make it up for sunrise and the views were really beautiful. I think you could also come for sunset and it would be just as lovely – but maybe a tad bit more busy.
After this we headed to the nine arches bridge to wait for the 8 am train. We ended up taking some back route that I found on my maps.me app. It brought us out to this quiet clearing with benches to sit and enjoy the view in peace. There were surprisingly no other tourists there!
We stressfully took some instagram worthy pictures in the 10 seconds that the train passed and then went down and walked along the tracks.
We ended up just walking back on the tracks to town. It took a bit longer but an easy way to find the 9 arches bridge and lots of space to get off the track if a train is coming (although we didn’t run into any luckily).
Once we got back to town we hit up this delicious breakfast place. For those gluten free travellers – Sri Lanka was fairly easy to eat in. I’m a huge carb-girl (is that a thing?) anyways I live off pizza and pasta and pancakes and anything else that starts with p and has a carb in it. POTATOES. Yeah ok you get my point. So travelling for me gluten free can be a struggle after the first week because I end up usually starting to lose weight (lets be real) because I’m just eating like rice and veggies. ALL. THE. TIME.
We went back to our hotel and just chilled out before deciding to go find a waterfall. We went to Ravana waterfall because it was the quickest and easiest to get to and we had already had enough adventure for one day. We were pretty surprised that this waterfall wasn’t a hike or anything, it was just a tourist stop on the side of the road. We still just walked around and enjoyed it for a bit before heading back to town.
Because it was valentines day I was able to convince my charming guy to buy me a massage! WOO! Am I alone in this or does anyone else love getting massages when they travel?? After having them all over the world I feel like it’s part of a bigger cultural experience for me now – they’re always so different. This one was overall really good. It was a shared environment but the oils they used smelt amazing and the masseuse was really great. After the massage we just did some more shopping and then headed back to the room for a little rest before dinner. We seriously loved eating in Sri Lanka – I don’t think we ate a single bad meal.
Day 6: Udawalawe
Where we stayed: The Royal Reach Hotel
This morning we were off to go on an ATV tour before heading to our next destination. We had another beautiful sunrise from our hotel before taking a tuk tuk to the ATV spot.
The drive to Udawalawe was much shorter than the rest of our journey’s so far as it only took us a few hours to be by the pool at our hotel. This hotel seemed brand new, the staff were VERY attentive and everything was beautiful. They organized our safari for us and our transportation to and from our destinations all at a very reasonable price.
After lounging by the pool and eating dinner we weren’t sure what we would get up to that evening as there wasn’t much around our hotel. We checked out a sign they had with tours and ended up going to this baby elephant sanctuary. Which was essentially this place you could sit and look into the massive safari grounds where these baby elephants would come to feed at night. We learnt so much about elephants there while watching them play and eat during sunset. Turns out baby elephants need their moms in order to survive – so when poachers kill their moms, or other animals, etc. etc. these babies don’t have the skills to survive and they starve to death. This sanctuary was funded by a German zoo and it essentially just gathered the baby elephants every night to give them milk before they went back to the open land. Surprisingly it wasn’t tourists that were watching, it was mostly locals and we were all far from the elephants and behind a fence – just for viewing these cuties!
Day 7-8: Tangalle
Where we stayed: OMIA
This morning we woke up and headed out on our safari. To be honest, our expectations were fairly low considering our track record with safari guides. We were happily surprised by the respect for animals and other vehicles during our safari. We also saw an insane amount of elephants happily playing with their families.
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After our safari we packed up and headed south to our first beach stop. This boutique hotel was 100% the highlight of our trip. It was run by a German family who put their life savings and hard work into every single detail of this beautiful place. There were only 8 rooms and they had upgraded us from poolside to this immaculate view of the ocean. If you are looking for a quiet, relaxing and beautiful place to stay for a week it is this hotel. The tricky thing about picking hotels online in Sri Lanka is that nothing turns out like the pictures and there is always something a bit weird about the place – but this hotel blew our expectations away. I seriously can’t rave about it enough. We had such a chill time here I did not really take any pics but here’s a few:
Day 9-11: Balapitiya
Where we stayed: Shinagawa Beach Hotel
We said goodbye to our gorgeous bungalow and headed onwards to our next destination on the south west of the island. After a few hours of driving between crazy tuk tuk drivers, scooters and cars weaving between “traffic” we made it to our sunny destination. This hotel was still beautiful but it was much larger than our previous one, the prices however were significantly inflated and it was much more busy on the beach. Locals would stand near the hotel’s edge whistling and trying to get you to go buy things.. or just watching you.. so certainly not as relaxing but still so beautiful.
We were able to go from this hotel to the airport which was a treat not having to stay at an airport hotel before flying home! On the way back we made another stopover in Taiwan.. but more about that cute island in another post!
Overall we enjoyed Sri Lanka and ended up being able to see and do a lot in a short amount of time and I would go back to OMIA in a heartbeat. Cannoooot wait to travel again.. what about you?