Kate – A Journey through Sri Lanka

Kate Traynor

I just got back from a wonderful 11 nights in Sri Lanka. This country really exceeded all of my expectations.

I loved it and can’t wait to return!!

I was a bit nervous on recommending Sri Lanka before,  but now I know it really is a country for everyone!

Its so untouched which blew me away.

Its clean! The people of Sri Lanka thrive on having nice homes and having jobs so very little homeless people. 95% are educated, and it felt very safe for travelling.

Sri Lankan Airlines 

  • Easy check in
  • 2-4-2 configuration
  • Bright blue interior, a bit old looking
  • Seats the seat pitch is a bit off so your neck sits forward. Uncomfortable if you were sitting the whole time, so good to get up and stretch during the flight.
  • Staff friendly and attentive
  • I had a row to myself at the back of the aircraft as it was an empty flight
  • New plane A330 started in October, so these things may improve
  • Drink service came about half an hour after take-off. 
  • They walked up the aisles to offer and then came back down and offered a second round to everyone which was good
  • Food service was efficient. 
  • The chicken vegetable curry was delish.

Negombo- little Rome

  • 35 minutes from Colombo
  • A lot of tourists leave Colombo straight away and stay in this area
  • Portugal Dutch and Italian background
  • Many churches around

Anuradhapura

  • Visited local fish, fruits and veg markets
  • The Home of the Ancient Kingdom- temples
  • TIP when you know you are going to be visiting temples
  • Wear thongs as you have to enter temples in bare foot
  • Take a light scarf and wear something that covers your knees

Ulagalla resort, Uga – Beautiful resort

  • 5 star luxury resort- private standing villas with private plunge pool
  • I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights stay here – from this area in Sri Lanka you can go and visit Sigiriya Rock.
  • Activities include bike riding, horseback riding, archery, safaris, spa treatments, Helipad on land
  • Restaurant with Aussie Sri Lankan chef – This hotel restaurant by far had the best Sri Lankan food I had all trip
  • Al la carte style breakfast which was also 10/10

Dambulla – We stayed at 2 different hotels in this area.

The Amaya Resort

  • 4 star hotel on the lake
  • Beautiful open space with lots of greenery.
  • Large rooms – basic Sri Lankan style rooms but great for families
  • Big pool and good bar/restaurant area
  • Good buffet breakfast with lots of variety

Fresco Water Villas

  • This was the only 3 star hotel we stayed at in Sri Lanka and you can definitely tell the difference between a 3 star and a basic 4 star. 
  • I wouldn’t be comfortable putting my clients in a 3 star property in Sri Lanka. 
  • The staff were all really nice but the rooms were smelly, water pressure wasn’t great, insects in rooms etc. 
  • This hotel is often used for groups. When 2 x 50 seated buses arrived at 5pm there was no chance of getting on the Wi-Fi. T
  • The rooms are very close to the lobby, pool and restaurant so very noisy.

Sigiriya Rock – Highlight of my trip

Make sure this is done first thing, this is because of heat and crowds. You will need your passport on this day for valid identification. Surreal moment climbing the rock. Magical views and so much history. It’s so much more than a rock which I was unaware of.

Takes about 1.5 hours to do the whole climb and back again.

Village Tour

A fun tour that I would recommend. Consists of catamaran tour on the lake, meet the village people and do a cooking lesson- eat a local cuisine.

Santani Wellness Resort – Kandy area

  • This hotel is my everything.
  • I love the whole concept of this Wellness Resort.
  • Min 7 nights stay (there was a lady here who was on her 14th night when we arrived. She was practically floating she looked so relaxed and calm)
  • Meet a Doctor on arrival to chat about what you want to get out of your stay
  • Based on what you want to achieve- detox, caffeine, alcohol, weight loss etc
  • Chef & Doctor prepare a meal plan for you
  • Includes yoga and meditation twice a day, nature walks between 4-24km long, thermal pools, 3 course breakfast, 3 course lunch, 4 course dinner.
  • Amazing Day Spa. Treatments can be included based on your package.
  • Client view rooms from $650USD per night
  • 1.5 hours to Kandy
Welcome to Santani Wellness Resort

Kandy – Cool city to visit once

  • Busy loud city surrounded by the lake
  • Cute houses and guest houses
  • Famous for the Tooth Temple
  • I would recommend 2 nights max here
  • You can also base yourself and do the rock from Kandy

OZO Hotel- 4 star

  • Clean, Large hotel. Many groups stayed there
  • 5 min drive in a tuk tuk to town
  • Rooms overlooking lake
  • Pool, bar, gym
  • Bunnik and Gate 1 Travel Groups were all staying here

Driving

On our drive to Nuwara Eliya we stopped at a Tea Planation.  It had amazing views of the tea plantations but I would do research into what Tea Plantation you visit. Tea Bush is where we visited and was very basic. 

There are tea plantations throughout Sri Lanka where you can help the women in the factories with their tea making process etc.

Tea was so yum- spent $100 on tea to take home! Also on this drive, we stopped at a herbs and spice market. I would also recommend this. I bought so much Chilli!

Nuwara Eliya 

I would say 2 nights here, depending on what time you arrive. This is where you do the Horton Plains Trek. It’s a 1.5 hour drive, trek for 2 hours and 1.5 hour back. Meant to be one of the best view points in Sri Lanka. We didn’t get to do it but I will go back to do this.

Train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella -3 hours

This is a must do! Everyone needs to experience this in their itinerary.

It’s only 80c for this ride.  You can just rock up at the station and hope you get a seat. For people who want a seat this needs to be booked about 2 months prior. You are amongst the locals, windows open. One side view is of the tea plantation fields and the other side is a rain forest.

Yala National Park

Home of the Leopards. Best time for Safari is between March-July. Do not visit in other months as you will see nothing on Safari!! Word from our Safari Guide!

Chena Huts

I stayed at Chena Huts…seriously check this place out. This is part of the Uga properties.

  • Defiantly need min 2 nights here
  • You would do one morning and then maybe an evening safari.
  • This property is located on the beach
  • 15 individual huts with private pools
  • Huge space but only allows max 2 people. 
  • For a family, they will allow another bed if child is under 14.
  • This property starts at like $1600USD per night.

Cheaper option in Yala which I was recommended is the Cinnamon Wild property. This is a 4 star on the beach and has its own Crocodiles. Pricing is from $250USD

Galle

Galle is a really cool town. I would stay here for 2-3 nights. Inside the Galle Forte there a restaurants, cafes, homeware shops. The beach is okay here but it is quite rough with lots of rocks.

You can either choose to stay in the Fort or outside. Staying inside the Fort I can imagine the properties being tiny. We stayed at a property called at the Amari which was about 5 minutes from town.

Beach front resort, 3 large pools. Rooms facing the beach. Large Balconies

Tips for Sri Lanka

  • Always have small cash on you- tipping is essential
  • Snacks for long car rides – some days we drove for 5.5 hours
  • Keep light pair pants in carryon luggage for visiting temples
  • Make sure you know that some guides will want to them to a Sari Shop, Gem Stone Factories etc along their way in the car. Just need to be firm with guide and say NO.
  • Sri Lanka requires a visa, online easy process 35USD

Kate Traynor

I started my career in travel in 2013, after studying Events and Tourism at University. I enjoy all aspects of the travel industry; from the amazing travel experiences and the beautiful people you meet along the way to the holidays you book and plan for your clients. I have travelled to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, USA & Europe. My favourites would have to be Mexico and the Caribbean as I am such a beach lover, and would follow Summer around the world if I could. I also went on an African safari this year and it was incredible!

kate@destinationhq.com.au