Sri Lanka has long been a favourite destination of ours here at Original Travel. It's a country that really does have it all; culture, stunning scenery, wildlife, beaches, boutique hotels, sumptuous food and perfect weather. I've just returned from my fifth trip (it's a hard life) and each time I fall more in love with it. The beauty of moving around and making the trip into a fabulous journey, makes you feel that you have been away for much longer... result!
Did you know that there are eight UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka? Now, I'm not a dedicated culture vulture or a temple guru but I couldn't help but be blown away by the pilgrimage to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. What's more the views across monkey filled jungles from the famous Sigiriya Rock are something else, and that's just for starters...
Scenery is definitely something that floats my boat and for any fellow panorama lovers you will not be disappointed. The change in scenery across the tiny island is immense but I would have to give my nomination for best view to the Tea plantations. Immaculate terraces of bright green tea interspersed with beautiful colourful ladies picking the freshest tips go on for miles across the hill country. Winding up from Kandy on the old school (but remarkably efficient) train was an amazing chance to watch the scenery whizz by and wonder at the very unchanged way of life in this pocket of the world.
Wildlife is a bit of a bonus on a trip to Sri Lanka and I don't just mean the monkeys, elephants and wonderful noisy birds that crop up in most corners of the country but also the amazing array of national parks now available to visit. Although not private game reserves, the parks are beautifully maintained and Yala in the south has the highest density of leopard in the world. Book into the right camp and you will get passionate and highly knowledgeable guides who will take you away from the tourist track and straight to where the leopards hide. Return to camp to find cool towels and some of the best food I experienced in Sri Lanka (and I have high standards!).
Being a tiny island there are plenty of beaches to choose from, where you head for depends slightly on time of year to get optimum weather but generally speaking the best beaches are on the south coast (Galle) or east coast. The east coast is one of the driest and hottest parts of the country, getting around 4 months of rain per year. Relatively new to tourism, the beaches are worth checking out. They are flat and calm with turquoise waters and glowing white sand. Although the hotels are still fairly limited in the east my favourite one is the lovely Uga Bay in Passikudah, for its Maldivian beach and charming staff waiting to refresh you with a king coconut or freshly caught tuna steak whenever you stir from your sunlounger. The south coast is a totally different vibe, there is much more of a buzz to this stretch which is now oozing with fabulous boutique hotels, the standard of which is phenomenal and most of which I want to be my home. You have the attraction of Galle Fort, which is well worth an afternoon of meandering and so many wonderful places to eat and drink. On top of this, activities include bike rides, whale watching, surfing and lake boat trips just for starters, you most certainly won't want to leave.
I mentioned boutique hotels were a huge selling point for the Galle coast and I'd just like to roll that out for most of Sri Lanka. There really is a wonderful little hotel with excellent service and delicious food pretty much everywhere you would want to go and, whether your style is colonial charm, vintage chic or slick contemporary there is something for everyone, and standards are only getting higher. A few of my absolute favourites from my travels include Fort Bazaar, Kandy House and Tri.
I did touch on food being a big deal in Sri Lanka and I can safely say it won't let you down. Start the day with egg hoppers; a scrumptious bowl-shaped pancake cooked with an egg and served with a number of epic accoutrements. Order what you think is a simple rice and curry and you will be presented with an array of dishes to go with your 'chicken or fish' each of which are works of art in themselves; from delicious sweet and sour aubergine to coconut sambol, fragrant dhal to creamy okra. If curry is not your thing tuck into juicy sweet prawns from Trincomale or the freshest of tuna steaks straight out of the Indian Ocean. You will be spoilt for choice!
As for the weather, well it's a tropical palm fringed island with average year round temperatures of 26 degrees... Do we need to say any more?