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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

Melissa – Sri Lanka Luxury, a Destination HQ small group journey

I escorted a Destination HQ small group journey in Sri Lanka.  We stayed in some of the most luxurious properties in Sri Lanka, and got to experience the beauty of this up and coming travel destination.

Melissa George

SRI LANKAN AIRLINES

Really impressed with this direct service between Melbourne and Colombo. Check in was relatively fast and efficient. They do offer a “bid for upgrade” function online, up to 36 hours before departure. Minimum bid on this sector was $750USD. Business class upgrade at check in was $850.00. Great to keep in mind!

The aircraft was clean and modern. Two hot meal services were served on the flight. I was impressed with the standard of the food. Throughout the flight water and other drinks were offered frequently.  In-flight entertainment was a touch screen and a great selection of new and old movies/tv shows were available.

Actual seat in economy was a bit uncomfortable due to a head rest that juts-out.

On arrival in Colombo we had the VIP express arrival booked. We still needed to line up at passport control, which took a long time (around 45 mins) but after this we were whisked away to a holding lounge, where we were presented with drinks and more food whilst they collected our baggage. We were then led out a back entrance straight to our van so skipped the whole arrivals chaos! 

Our Local operator was excellent throughout. Given that Sri Lanka loses 3000 people a year or road accidents, you need to ensure you have a safe driver – as well as a personable and knowledgeable tour guide..

GATEWAY COLOMBO AIRPORT

Only a 10 minute drive to the airport (Colombo city is 45 mins to an hour away) Really convenient for Melbourne passengers arriving in late. Nice hotel, modern, but nothing spectacular. Breakfast was nice, buffet style with an eggs station too.

ULAGALLA

Amazing, expansive resort central to Dambulla, Sigiriya and Anaradapura.

Gorgeous little bungalows (all with private plunge pools) scattered over hectares. There are golf carts available to get you around the resort, or you can use the bicycles provided. 

It is quite isolated, so guests need to eat within the resort. Food was outstanding! A great variety of Sri Lankan and Western dishes. They also offer activities like horse riding, kayaking etc.

We did the cooking class which was one of the highlights of the trip. We were given aprons to take home, a certificate and recipe book – all really nice touches 🙂 highly recommend this property!

THE KANDY HOUSE

This boutique property, which is 8km out of Kandy City, is a refurbished colonial homestead with only 8 rooms. Each room is named after a butterfly and no two rooms are the same.

Although the rooms are gorgeous, this hotel won’t suit everyone. I stayed in the BLACK RAJA suite, one of the largest, but it had a Tub sitting in the middle of the floor (not great in the middle of the night!) and there was no privacy at all in the bathroom.

The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. And the food was excellent.

TRAIN TRAVEL KANDY-HATTON 

Basic train but wonderful scenery through all the tea plantations. It’s about a 2.5 hour journey.

Be warned when booking this that reservations are very difficult to confirm (we only got tickets 3 days prior to departure despite it being booked months in advance) well worth the effort though!

CEYLON TEA TRAILS – NORWOOD BUNGALOW

Highlight of the trip. This place is truly heaven on earth!

Norwood is one of the largest properties with 6 bedrooms. I had the master suite “Hazel” and it was incredible! This property is all inclusive and has its own Butler, chef etc 

Each day the chef comes out to discuss possible menus for the day. The food was top notch with lots of breakfast selections, 3 course lunch and dinner and an afternoon tea option too.

There are lots of walks available around the area, as well as mountain biking, kayaking etc for those who like to be active. We did a tour of the tea factory and learnt about the process of tea making, which was very interesting.

We also did a beautiful walk through a local village and up through the plantations themselves – another highlight 🙂

GALLE FORT

Historically significant walled fort on the South Coast of Sri Lanka. Has a very “hipster” vibe inside with plenty of trendy eateries and some shopping.

Enjoyed our time here at Taru Villa’s. I loved the walking tour around the fort, which was both educational and hilarious, with Shanjei. Definitely book this for your if you have a chance!

I also loved meeting a Red Hill boy who has set up a boutique guest house and coffee bar, also within the fort. Really great drip coffee (Vietnamese style) and iced tea during the day and cocktails and live music of an evening. It’s called THE PRINCE OF GALLE – they don’t have a website but you can check out some info here

Definitely worth a visit if you  are in the area!

The accommodation was a private villa inside the fort itself. Wasn’t my favourite property on the itinerary but still lovely, all the same.

COLOMBO

We were lucky enough to stay at Uga Escapes here – a beautiful boutique property that offered sanctuary from the busy city!

Only 11 suites (all very large in size with a lovely bathroom) – amazing, personal service and food to die for. Really nice pool, too – and one of the few properties I stayed at with a gym!

One of the best meals of the trip was at their in-house restaurant – worth booking even if you aren’t staying here.

Other places we can recommend for dining:

httpss://www.paradiseroad.lk/gallery_cafe/

httpss://www.facebook.com/bailliestreet.merchants/

https://parkstreetmews.com/

About Melissa 

I began my career in the travel industry in 2005. In my time I have travelled to nearly every continent: Asia including Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China; USA & Canada; South Pacific including Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu; Africa including South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana and Europe. My favourite destinations are New York City or Cape Town; both vibrant, chic, modern cities with lots to do and yummy food to eat! I also specialise in family travel, recently returning from my own multi-generation holiday at Club Med Kani, Maldives!

melissa@destinationhq.com.au

 

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