Oh Sri Lanka, you stole my heart! I guess it’s safe to say that this small island in the Indian ocean is one of the most beautiful spots on earth, featuring picture perfect sunsets, lonely beaches, bright green tee plantations and a very warm and hospital people. I spent a little more over three weeks there and miss every second of it so badly.
Things to do in Sri Lanka
One of the main advantages about travelling to Sri Lanka is how much this small island has to offer. There sure is something for everybody, whether you prefere exploring old temples or surfing some waves.
Surfing in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is the best spot for learning how to surf, as the water is warm all year round (aka it doesn’t matter if you fall…). I got my first ever surfing experience at Talalla Surf and Yoga Retreat. The resort was quite pricey, particularly for Sri Lankan standards, but I had an amazing surf coach, met so many cool people from all over the world, had the best food and also had a little crush on my yoga teacher. So yes, if you ask me, it was worth the money.
You can also go out on our your own or take private lessons with a local coach. The best locations for surfing are pretty much the entire South coast and Arugam Bay in the east. Just make sure to check where the season is on before you go.
Sri Lanka for walkers
Nature lovers will not come short on this magical island, and one of the absolute must-dos it certainly walking up the 5000 stairs to Adam’s peak in the middle of the night in order to watch the Lord-of-the-Rings-esque sunset from the top.
Another walk I absolutely recommend is around the tea plantations of Haputale. There are no words to describe the beauty of this place and I want to go back so badly.
City trips in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has many great thing to offer to visitors, but its cities are not one of them. I only heard negative things about the capital Colombo and decided to not stay there at all. And from what I saw just from my taxi from the airport to the train station, I am glad I didn’t.
I did however visit Kandy for two days, the second largest city and supposed cultural capital. And what can I say? I freaking hated it there. Luckily I at least had the best guesthouse on earth and stayed close to the Cylon tea museum, so I just got some much needed detox time.
Sea, sun and fun in Sri Lanka
The center of the island is beautiful and you can visit lots of temples old and new, tea plantations and what not. But make sure not to miss out on the crazy beaches. I thought beaches like this only exist in movies and I promise you will feel like living in a postcard every day!
If spending entire days at the beach is not your exactly your thing, there are also numerous other activities to do in the south of Sri Lanka, such as whale watching in Mirissa or chilling, eating and shopping in the cute towns of Galle and Unawatuna. And if you are in Unawatuna, make sure to sign up for Karuna’s cooking class, in order to learn how to fix that yummy rice and curry at home.
How to get around in Sri Lanka
Do not worry too much about local transport: Busses go from everywhere to anywhere, but their schedules and routes are completely incomprehensible to foreigners and also untraceable online. The locals will know and will always be happy to help you figure out a route.
I highly recommend you take the train as often as possible, as this is on of the island’s most beautiful adventures. Check out my story about the party train from Hatton to Haputale, for example. You can find a schedule online, but do not rely on much on it, as trains tend to be very late. My advice: Just check out how to get from Colombo to your first real destination (Matara in my case), and figure the rest out once you’re there.
Considering you’re in Asia, another important way of transport are TukTuks – of course. You can hail them anywhere at anytime and they will drive you whenever you want. Just make sure to negotiate the exact price and destination before jumping on, as TukTuk drivers tend to be evil and annoying and will say whatever it takes to make you pay more.
Where to sleep in Sri Lanka
The best way to discover local life is to stay in one of the numerous guesthouses. Most of them are listed on booking.com and actually prefere if you book online. This is how I found out about Buddhika’s guesthouse in Matara, for example, where I spent my wonderful first night.
Don’t bother about booking your entire trip in advance though: Just get your first few nights sorted and deal with the rest once you’re there (I know I already said this a few times, but Sri Lanka is really easy to figure out once you’re there). Wifi is available in many places in case you want to do more online research, and in many towns you can also just show up without a reservation and find yourself a nice place to stay upon arrival.
Sri Lanka – Good to know
- Negotiate always and everything! Guesthouses, TukTuks, food… But especially TukTuks. Sri Lankans tend to want to rip you off, so make sure to bargain at all times.
- Eat Streetfood. The locals teahouses might look very dirty, but that’s where you get the best food! Oh my gosh Rotti, I miss you so much. <3
- Eat any kind of food, basically. Sri Lanka is a foodie heaven, with all its savory curries, fresh fruit juices and fatty pastries.
- Buy a SIM card. You can get them at the airport and I was really happy to have 3G pretty much all the time, in order to check out guesthouses etc. (unless the idea of your whole trip is to totally disconnect from everything, in which case don’t get a SIM card).
Sri Lanka for solo female travelers
I was in Sri Lanka as a solo female traveller, and I never encountered any trouble. Just be reasonable about what you do (i.e. not staying out alone at night) and you will be perfectly fine. Locals will tend to talk to you a lot – especially the men – but just be nice and friendly and everything will be awesome. Also, keep in mind to bring long clothes (to cover knees and shoulders), as you will really not feel comfortable in tiny shorts in places like Kandy or Haputale.
Oh Sri Lanka, I miss you!