Sri Lanka – formerly known as Ceylon – is a tear-shaped island just off the southeast coast of India. What’s
so amazing about the country is both how similar and different it is from the mainland. There are elements of traditional Punjabi culture here, but there’s also something fresh and new about the place.
Sri Lanka seems superficially similar to India. The food is spicy, the weather is hot, and the built-up areas are chaotic.
But when you start exploring the island, you get a sense that you’ve come to a tropical paradise – a rare experience on mainland India.
If you’re planning on visiting the place, this is how to spend your time.
Go On A Tour
You can try to make your way around Sri Lanka yourself. But it is almost always better to go as part of a tour. This way, you can avoid a lot of the administrative issues that come with making your own way around the region and simply rely on somebody else to do all the hard work for you.
Off-road trails don’t work in the same way as they do in places like the UK and US. They aren’t waymarked or signposted. And many of them are unofficial. Thus, if you’re making your way into the interior of the country, you’ll want somebody who knows what they’re doing to help you. The last thing you want is to get lost in the jungle.
Tour guides operate all over the island and offer varying levels of difficulty, depending on your level of fitness. Try to avoid 12-hour hikes in the blazing heat if you’re unfit or a little older. Always take plenty of food and water with you.
Take The Train From Ella To Kandy
If you’ve always dreamt about epic train rides through the jungle, then Sri Lanka is the place to do it. The rail journeys here are nothing short of spectacular.
Perhaps the best of all of them is the route from Ella to Kandy. The views on either side of the carriage are genuinely incredible. You see huge peaks, tiny traditional villages, bridges over vast rivers, and of course plenty of tea plantations.
The great thing about the train journey is that there are way fewer rules than in Western countries. You can ride with your legs hanging out of the carriage if you like, just enjoying the view and the fresh air on your face.
What’s more, the prices are incredibly cheap. You can travel from one side of the country to the other for as little as $1.50.
Go To Colombo City
Thanks to the airport, practically everyone who visits Sri Lanka winds up in Colombo at some point during their trip. The city is very laid back and offers plenty of tourist and sightseeing opportunities.
It is also next to the ocean too, with many hotels overlooking the sea. It’s a great place for a romantic getaway and watching the sun as it makes its way below the waves.
Do Some Volunteering
While conditions for the average person living in Sri Lanka have improved massively over the last couple of decades, it remains a poor country in need of support from outside agencies and charities.
Volunteering Sri Lanka style usually involves helping with teaching in schools, supporting a family living in poverty, or helping local people with their mental health. The range of opportunities available is quite spectacular and often reflects your individual skillset.
If you have medical training, for instance, there are programs that allow you to help local people overcome infectious diseases. If you’re a teacher, you could provide English language courses for locals hoping to improve their career prospects. You get the idea.
Hike Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala Rock is one of the most spectacular geological features in all of Sri Lanka. The spot makes a great hike, even if you don’t have a lot of fitness. Once you reach the top, you have full 360-degree views of the surrounding tropical countryside, again making it a great location for watching the sunrise and set.
The rock is close to the Sigiriya Rock which is another beauty spot you’ll want to check out if you’re traveling in the region.
Explore The Local Markets
One of the best things about traveling is the fact that you can taste new foods all the time. And nowhere is that more true than in Sri Lanka. Here local vendors sell all kinds of strange fruits and vegetables that don’t look anything like what you’d see in a Western superstore.
If you go to Sri Lanka, try living in self-catering accommodation. This will give you an opportunity to actually cook fresh meals from the foods you find in local markets, allowing you to experience authentic local flavors.
What’s more, all the food is incredibly cheap. You can get a week’s worth of vegetables for less than a dollar.
Get A Tattoo
Sri Lanka is famous for its incredible temporary tattoos. And locals are more than happy to offer their artistic services to new visitors.
Many use a type of paint called Henna which is a traditional Hindu way of coloring the body. Artists create intricate patterns all over your skin that look a little bit like doodles you might draw in the back of a notebook.
Hike Off The Beaten Path
Hiking off the beaten path is a lot of fun in Sri Lanka. You never quite know what the landscape is going to serve up next.
The best place to go is an area called Riverston. Here you’ll find mountains carpeted in lush tropical rainforests, separated by giant gorges and cliff races.
Perhaps the most isolated place in the entire country is the celebrated Thelgamuwa Valley. It’s only a few thousand meters long, but it provides some incredible views and makes you feel like you’ve arrived at the ends of the Earth.
So are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Be sure to check out the destinations mentioned in this article and take your trip to the next level.