The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and the things I didn’t)

Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

Gray langur monkeys in front of Sigiriya Rock.

On the 8th May, whilst I sat on a plane bound for Sri Lanka, my little blog turned three. I had intended to write and publish something to mark the ‘occasion’, but as you may (or may not) have noticed, I’ve been very quiet on here recently.

Over the last few months I’ve had a lot going on at work (day job), been super busy setting up my ‘This is Kenya’ Tour (it’s gonna be amazing!) and also in my personal life. Sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging!

View of Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

Galle Lighthouse.

Having some time out in Sri Lanka was just what I needed to get my mind and body back on track. It had been almost 9 months since I’d strapped on my backpack and I needed a proper break! Flights to Sri Lanka were cheap and from what I knew of the country, it sounded like the ideal place for me.

Sri Lanka was everything I hoped it would be and more. I loved everything about it, well almost everything…

The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean, just south of India. After spending a couple of weeks there I found it to be an amazingly diverse country with everything you could want from a destination.

The Sri Lankan people are just lovely

I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in the world, where the people have been so genuinely warm, welcoming and just downright nice, like really, really nice. Living in the UK, you rarely get a smile from any stranger walking down the street, but in Sri Lanka, everyone is ready with a little hello!

New Friends in Sri Lanka

Akila and I sharing the train doorway.

My favourite memory was meeting a lady called Akila on the train from Kandy to Ella. She was on a big family holiday and we shared the doorway of the train, our legs hanging over the edge. It was her first time taking this train too and we were both excited and chatting about the view, laughing as we pulled ourselves in to avoid hitting the oncoming bridges and whooping as we went over rickety bridges. She introduced me to everyone she was with and if you look below, that’s her sister-in-law poking her head out of the other train door!

The food is AMAZING

Sri Lankan food is OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD!!!!

Everywhere you go, you’ll find delicious food, often seafood pulled straight from the Indian Ocean and curries made with the freshest natural ingredients and accompanied by rice of course. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll have no shortage of choices like my favourites – potato curry, garlic curry and dhal. I’m not vegetarian, but I often opted for the veggie option.

Coconut features heavily in Sri Lankan food and I think coconut milk is my new favourite ingredient! And despite eating a lot whilst I was there, I actually think I’d lost a bit of weight towards the end of the trip because of the unprocessed food!

Amazing Sri Lankan Food

Sri Lankan curries with a King Coconut on the side.

Spices play an important part in Sri Lankan cooking and in Ayurveda medicine, the traditional form of medicine on the island. The spices all have unique properties, for instance, Sri Lankans use different types of curry powder, dependent on what ingredients are in the dish. They use plain curry powder for vegetable dishes and roasted curry powder for meat and garlic – the roasted powder helps with digestion – who knew? If you go on a spice tour or take a cookery class, they’ll tell you what’s what!

As well as seafood and curries, you also need to try rotti, kotthu and my favourite, egg hoppers and pol sambol! For a refreshing drink try King Coconut or fresh lime juice – the latter sure has a kick! And if you’re looking for something stronger, I am partial to an Arrack (coconut whiskey) and ginger ale! Also known as a Sri Lankan Special. The local beer is Lion lager, but the bottles were too big for me to finish one usually.

Egg Hoppers, Sri Lanka

Freshly prepared egg hoppers.

It’s just… beautiful

Flying in to Sri Lanka, the air was a bit misty, but all I could see was a sea of green surrounded by white coastline.

I had expected palm trees and beaches, but I didn’t expect it to be so lush and green and hilly as far as the eye could see! It was monsoon season, so we didn’t even see it in all of it’s sunny, azure blue water and peachy sunset glory, yet it was still stunning!

The beaches were gorgeous, if a little windswept from the monsoon.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Mirissa Beach.

But the part of the country that I loved the most, was the hill town of Ella in the Central Highlands. I could have stayed there for a lot longer than we did, even if it rained almost constantly! My friend Sasha and I hiked up to the top of Ella Rock and the views from the top were incredible.

View from Ella Rock, Ella, Sri Lanka

Halfway up Ella Rock.

The train journeys are epic

There are many train routes to take all over Sri Lanka, so what better way to enjoy all that gorgeous scenery than from the open window (or door) of a train – health and safety nightmare really, but one of my best ever travel experiences.

The Kandy to Ella Train, Sri Lanka

Who needs a seat when you have the doorway?

Trains are frequent, comfortable and a really cheap way to get around. The Kandy to Ella train journey is named as one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys and I can concur. Sit back and watch Sri Lanka go by – you won’t be disappointed.

Beautiful countryside views on the Kandy to Ella train in Sri Lanka

Beautiful views from the train.

You can always get a good cup of tea

You’ve probably heard of Ceylon tea but not really known what it means. Well Ceylon is the former name of Sri Lanka, which happens to be the 4th biggest producer of tea in the world! Us British just love our tea, so any country where I don’t have to go cold turkey gets my vote.

Tea Plantation, Sri Lanka

Perfect tea growing country.

If you’re interested to see how the tea is made, you can take a tour of one of the many tea plantations.

It’s a great place to surf

I’ve been surfing for the last six years or so, mostly in the UK and then a trip to Morocco last year, so when planning this trip, the fact that Sri Lanka has a great surf scene did swing it for me. Due to the monsoon, the surf wasn’t at it’s best in the south, yet we did find a cool spot just along the coast from Galle. It was the first place I’ve surfed where it was warm enough to go in without a wetsuit and as it happened, the waves were great so those factors combined, I surfed better than I ever have before, pretty much never falling off the board!

Surfing in Galle, Sri Lanka

Surfing in Galle.

There are plenty of surf schools offering lessons and some surf camps where you can book week-long packages. Arugam Bay on the east coast is usually named as the best place to surf in Sri Lanka, with Hikkaduwa, Weligama, Midigama, Unawatuna and Mirissa being popular spots in the south.

Some of the best wildlife watching in the world

I LOVE going on safari and Sri Lanka has an abundance of national parks teeming with animals and it’s one of the best places in the world to see elephants and leopards in the wild. We visited Yala National Park on the south coast and within minutes of entering the park we’d spotted a leopard. I’ve seen leopards in Africa before, but this was the closest I’ve ever been to one.

Sloth Bear in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

It’s Baloo! “Look for the bare necessities…”

We only saw a couple of elephants in Yala, but we did see two very rare and very cute sloth bears – you know, like Baloo from the Jungle Book! And one thing I really loved about Yala, was the stunning beach at the edge of the park!

Each of the national parks is famous for certain types of animals, for instance Yala is great for leopard spotting, but if you want to see lots of elephants, then you might consider going to one of the other  parks like Minneriya or Uda Walawe – there are loads to choose from so do your research!

Yala National Park, Sri Lanka

The beach at Yala National Park.

But the wildlife viewing opportunities aren’t just limited to land. Depending on where you go, you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins, killer whales or even the world’s biggest ever animal, the blue whale. One of the best places to spot the blue whale is off the coast of Mirissa in the south. Sadly, we were there during the south west monsoon when many of the boat operators close down for the season (May – July). But you can also see blue whales around Trincomalee in the north between June and October, so plan your trip accordingly!

Oh well, I have an excuse to come back again!

So much culture

If ancient ruins and temples are something you love to explore, then you will adore Sri Lanka. The Cultural Triangle describes the area between Kandy and the ancient cities of Anuradaphura and Polonnaruwa.

Buddhist shrine in Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle

Ancient ruins at Polonnaruwa.

We spent an afternoon cycling around the ruins of Polonnaruwa, where a guide told us the history of the ancient structures the significance of the Hindu and Buddhist statues. In Dambulla, we climbed up to see the stunning array of Buddha statues in the Dambulla Caves.

Girl stading at the top of Sigiriya Rock.

There’s a reason my face is not in the picture. Can anyone say ‘Tomato’.

My favourite was the hike up to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress, where the views from the top will take your breath away! Even if it did feel like I was going to die because my head might explode from the heat and I was in constant fear of the hornets that build nests hanging from the cliff face.

Temple of the Tooth, Kandy

But the temples aren’t limited to the Cultural Triangle. There are beautiful Hindu and Buddhist temples all over the country. However the most famous is the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy where one of Buddha’s teeth is kept. It is brought out for viewing every August.

It reminds me of somewhere…

You guessed it, Africa. Well East Africa to be precise – especially Zanzibar, the Swahili coast and the hill country of Kenya (and even Uganda and Rwanda). The hill country of Sri Lanka is visually similar to that of Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya – beautiful, rich orange soil and as green as green can be and whilst Sri Lanka is the 4th biggest producer of tea, Kenya is the 3rd, so there are similarities there, both to do with the land and the strong British influence.

A Sri Lanka Street Scene

A Sri Lankan street scene in Ella.

Then like Zanzibar, Sri Lanka is a spice island on the ancient trade routes. ‘Spices’ meaning more than actual spices, traditionally used to describe ‘things of value’ however the use of actual spices is also very similar. Trade has been going back and forth between East Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Asia and the Middle East for centuries so it’s not surprising that as the people and goods have moved across the oceans, the cultures have intertwined and it seemed quite apparent to me in all sorts of different ways, from the people, to the buildings, the infrastructure, the local crafts and the food.

Sri Lanka Train Tracks

Watching the trains go by.

And the things I didn’t…

It’s very easy to gloss over the negative sides of any destination and just write about the positives and I could easily say Sri Lanka is the most amazing country ever, and it is! I really loved it – one of my favourites actually, but if I’m really honest, there are a few things I didn’t love too.

Stray dogs (and cats)

If you’re an animal lover, Sri Lanka might be a little tough at times.

There are literally stray dogs everywhere and quite a few cats too. They constantly run into the road in front of the cars, tuk tuks and buses, but usually move when they are beeped. I saw so many close misses where I just had to close my eyes and hope that the dog moved. Luckily I saw no dogs get injured, but I am pretty sure many do get hurt on a daily basis.

They follow you down the street, walk with you whilst you’re hiking and howl sadly at you. Some look fine, like my pal below, but many others look like they desperately need of treatment and a bath, with cuts and matted fur, some are lame, perhaps from being hit by traffic. There are a lot of dogs who are pregnant or who have just given birth. Your heart will break as they stare up at you, all the while they are wagging their tails hopefully probably looking for some food or maybe even a bit of love and attention.

Stray Dogs in Sri Lanka

Our guide dog up Ella Rock.

Whilst waiting to go into Yala National Park, a pack of dogs sat looking up at our jeep. I felt so sorry for them that I ended up giving them my entire packed lunch. I made sure that each dog got the same.

Whatever the reason for the number of strays, on the positive side there are now charities like the Dogstar Foundation who are working hard to help the animals of Sri Lanka, but it will be a long process.

Chained up elephants

Elephants are the most beautiful, intelligent animals and watching them roam free in the wild is possibly one of the most beautiful things in this world. Whilst there are many wild elephants in Sri Lanka living in national parks, there are also lots of captive elephants. Some are owned by temples, some live in ‘sanctuaries’ or ‘orphanages’ and some are simply used for tourists to ride about on.

Riding on elephants is not good for their backs or for their mental health. If you love elephants and knew what they did to them, you would never ride one. Ever. Both for your own safety and because of the cruelty they have to endure to get to that point. In order to train an elephant to be ridden, the mahouts (trainers) use tortuous methods.

Chained Up Elephant, Sri Lanka

Elephant in chains.

On the face of it, the sanctuaries and orphanages seem ok, however when you take a closer look, many of the elephants have chains around their necks and ankles too and some seemed a little distressed. Elephants are smart and extremely sensitive and I just felt kind of sad seeing them like that.

Some places offer the option to ride the elephants bareback and these elephants were probably ‘trained’ prior to reaching the sanctuaries. I get why they do it, they need to make money for the upkeep of the elephants and their point is that riding them like this is better than riding them with 2 people at a time, in a heavy harness and with a mahout (trainer), but it just doesn’t seem right, surely there must be other ways to support themselves? My worry is that this just encourages people further.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

I visited the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which lies between Colombo and Kandy. I’d heard mixed reports about it and wanted to see for myself. The elephants seemed happy enough, playing about in the river and looked healthy, however most did have chains on one of their ankles and I found it strange that they were marched past all the tourists in the way that they were. Since returning home I’ve read this post by the Born Free Foundation.

Make your own mind up, but my recommendation is to spend a little extra and see them in the wild at one of the amazing national parks.

But whatever you do, DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS!

Sri Lankan buses… seriously?!

I’ve had a few run-ins with bus drivers during my travels all over the world and I can say that Sri Lanka’s bus drivers did little to higher my expectations. And whilst I chose not to travel by bus in Sri Lanka, that didn’t mean I didn’t have a few close encounters.

Please Don't Ride Elephants

Buses, elephant rides and a stray dog. 🙁

Very few of the Sri Lankan bus drivers I came across on the roads seemed to have any patience or regard for human life, hurtling along the highways (many of which run right through the towns and have no pavements) at high speeds, over taking when it really isn’t appropriate to overtake and ducking back in at the last moment, just missing the on-coming traffic.

On many a tuk tuk or taxi ride I found myself breathing in and closing my eyes and just hoping for the best. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Monsoon season

Sri Lanka has two monsoons. One that hits the south west (from April/May – September) and one that hits the north east (November – March). The monsoons mostly affect their respective areas, but can also reach into other parts of the island.

Ok, so this one was kind of my own fault – I decided I wanted to go to the south and west of the country during the height of its monsoon season – in May. I knew it was monsoon season when I booked but I didn’t realise just how ‘monsoony’ it would be. We figured it would rain for an hour, then the sun would come out for the rest of the day.

Raining in Ella, Sri Lanka

Rain, rain and more rain in Ella.

When I was there, Sri Lanka experienced some pretty bad weather, with the rain being so bad it caused terrible landslides that washed away three villages in the Kegalle region and left thousands of others homeless in the region and elsewhere in the country. We saw people living in temporary shelters around the capital Colombo and Negombo, near to the airport.

It was pretty much always hot (except in the Central Highlands which were a bit cooler), but generally cloudy, grey or white skies (not so great for taking pictures) with a mix of rain and sun. On the south coast the wind was strong which churned up the sea and there were some epic downpours, one of which happened whilst we were travelling down the coastal highway between Galle and Hikkaduwa… in a tuk tuk. It was as equally funny as it was scary, our poor tuk tuk driver desperately trying to keep a grip on the handle bars as what seemed like buckets of water were thrown in sideways onto us.

Monsoon season in Sri Lanka.

Mirissa Beach on a hot but grey day.

On the upside, the sites aren’t as crowded, you get beautiful beaches to yourself (even if the skies are a little greyer than you were hoping for), you never have to wait for a table anywhere and accommodation is cheaper!

However the downside to visiting either of the coastal areas in its monsoon season, is that the resorts are really quiet (might be a struggle for a solo traveller), the beaches get smaller (I rememberone of our drivers saying ‘You’re going to Hikkaduwa Beach? But there is no beach now!”some restaurants and beach bars close (and those that are open are pretty empty) and some activities, like blue whale watching don’t operate. Many of the hotels carry out building work and everywhere looks a little weather beaten due to the wind and rain.

Thirangama Beach in monsoon season.

Where did the beach go?

Whilst the monsoon didn’t ruin our trip, it did affect it and the things we could do whilst we were there. I think we were a bit unlucky with the weather, but it’s just something to bear in mind if you do go during one of the monsoons, you may be better heading to the other side of the island, where you have a much better chance of getting good weather. Had we been on a flexible schedule, I would have done this, but we’d pre-booked most of our accommodation, so there was no changing once we were there.

So basically, if you like your beach resorts really quiet and don’t mind a bit of rain, you might love monsoon season, it’s still beautiful, – but if you like to meet lots of other travellers, want everything to be open and want pretty much guaranteed sunshine, go where there’s no monsoon! So to avoid the monsoons, head south and west between December to March and head to the east and north from April/May to September.


I can deal with heat, I love heat, however, humidity is not my friend. I spent most of my time in Sri Lanka looking like a sweaty, frizzy mess. There is a reason why there are very few close up shots of my head from this trip.

My hair was completely out of control, always felt slightly damp and trying to get my fingers or a a brush through it – well that was only possible straight after washing. It was also very windy due to the monsoon, which just added to the whole ‘birds nest’ look I seemed to be going for.

Sitting in the doorway of a train in Sri Lanka.

French plait and cooling train breeze all the way!

I was one step away from doing a Monica from Friends… but then I remembered that time in Malawi and decided that was a ridiculous idea. Next time, I’m taking some industrial strength Frizz Ease and/or big hat and if anyone has any tips for dealing with this situation – please let me know in the comments below!

Taxes and Service Charge

One thing I’m not keen on and I reckon most people would agree, is hidden charges. Ok, sometimes they are mentioned, but it’s definitely in the small print.

In all restaurants, there’s always a 10% service charge added on. From what I’ve read, this very rarely gets passed on to the staff and generally goes in the owners pocket, so if you want to tip the staff, you’ll have to add that on as extra. There’s even a service charge placed on mini bars?!?!?!

View from the top of Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

There are no cool pictures of taxes, so let’s just look at the view from the top of Sigiriya Rock shall we?

Then there’s the hotels. Arriving on our first day, we quickly realised that the price you get quoted on some of the booking sites, is not what you will actually pay. If you read the small print there are various different taxes mentioned – some included, some excluded.

When I looked over my booking confirmations, some said they’d already included taxes, some said that taxes were excluded. The charges varied from hotel to hotel, some just called it VAT and other split it (VAT + Service Charge + City Tax) but if it says that taxes are excluded, you can generally expect to pay around 25 – 30% extra than the main price quoted on your booking.

The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka

Overall I loved Sri Lanka and I can’t wait to visit again. Just not in monsoon season…

Have you been to Sri Lanka? What did and didn’t you love about it?

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  • Reply
    June 8, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    Great post – I really like the way you write both positives and negatives about Sri Lanka, as I think it paints a more honest picture. The scenery and food look amazing, but it’s sad about the stray dogs – we had the same problem in Chile, one of them followed us for miles when we were cycling!

    • Reply
      June 8, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      Thanks Jen! I think everywhere has its downsides too, I guess people don’t always tend to write about them as often. I loved Sri Lanka, but people do need to know what to expect as a whole.

      Thanks for reading!


  • Reply
    June 9, 2016 at 8:39 am

    Beautifully written post as always 🙂 I love that you talk about both the positives and the negatives and how they affected your experience. It’s extremely sad that the elephants are so poorly treated and I think it’s good that you shed light on that part of your experience too. I think the more that people are aware of this, the more they’ll stop supporting these practices and the more that mahouts will hopefully be able to find other ways to support themselves and their families. It must have sucked to come across that, but I’m glad to hear that you still enjoyed your trip to Sri Lanka! It looks like a very beautiful country 🙂 x
    Ella recently posted…I Received a Liebster Award!My Profile

    • Reply
      June 12, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Thank you Ella! I think you have to write about everything, the ups, the downs, what you observed – that’s our job as travel bloggers! 🙂

      I loved Sri Lanka, it’s a wonderful country and I can’t wait to go back again! You would love it I think! x

  • Reply
    June 13, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Hey Helen! Great post and photos as usual. Never considered Sri Lanka before, but now… 🙂
    I am going to Iceland in July for a week and then considering an Intrepid trip to Peru… if I get over my fears and can afford it.
    Take care!!!

    • Reply
      June 13, 2016 at 6:40 pm

      Thanks Nadia!! 🙂

      I’m going to Iceland too – in November! You’ll have to tell me what it’s like in Summer! Have a fab time!

      Ooh Peru sounds fab! Or I know of this really cool trip to Kenya! And it would be no camping! 😉

      Wherever you go – happy travels!!!!!!


      • Reply
        June 14, 2016 at 6:48 pm

        Actually I did consider the Kenya trip but the dates are a problem, alas. 🙁
        I am sure it will be awesome though!! I shall look out for the next one 🙂

  • Reply
    June 21, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Very thorough and insightful tips! If you love Sri Lanka then you’re gonna love India! I am so happy that I found your blog; it’s fabulous! I’ll be sure to give your blog and read through and connect via social media. Fab post! Have a great day xx


    • Reply
      June 22, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Thanks Lauren! I would love to go to India and everyone tells me I’ll love it! Maybe next year! 🙂 Ah I see you’ve just started blogging! Welcome to the blogosphere!! 🙂 Your blog’s looking great so far! xx

  • Reply
    June 22, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    I really liked this article! It is great to read both sides, positive and negative, of a place. The pictures are amazing. It is really sad about the animals conditions tho.


    • Reply
      June 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks Eu! I wasn’t sure whether to write about the things I didn’t like, but then I thought, I wish I’d known some of those things before I went, so I did in the end! I think it’s good to get a rounded view!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Cooper @ Travelbllgr
    June 23, 2016 at 11:42 am

    I have been to India, but not yet to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka does look pretty nice – food looks delicious and the I like the landscapes, so reading your article made me want to go more, although thanks for pointing out the negatives as well. A lot of countries have to sort the elephant issue out, and taxes/service charges are so annoying – I guess you just have to keep it in mind when you buy anything.

    • Reply
      June 23, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      I’d love to go to India too! I have no idea why I haven’t been yet. Think I’ll go when I have time to do a long trip!

      Food in Sri Lanka is amazing!

      Yeah, the issues with elephants (and quite a few other animals) is relatively common unfortunately. But things are slowly changing. So glad when they closed the Tiger Temple in Thailand.

      Yeah the taxes and service charges is just a watch out. Happens everywhere! Living in the UK it’s easy to forget as our taxes are usually included and service charge is always optional! 🙂

  • Reply
    June 26, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    What a beautiful place. Hong Kong is always on the top of my bucket list! Would love to see it soon!
    Thank you for sharing the amazing experience and inspiring photos!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Great post, Helen. I spent a month in Sri Lanka last year (July) and my positives are similar to yours – particularly the food! To be honest I found the bus journeys one of the highlights – not for the admittedly dodgy driving but the fact that you’ve got no option but to interact with the ultra-friendly locals as the buses are so full. And the beach at Marakolliya (near Tangalle) is in my Top 3 of all time. To your list of negatives I’d add the over-charging of foreign tourists for some of the main cultural sights. I know this happens in most South and South East Asian countries but Sri Lanka seem to have turned it into an art form – including the 4000 rupees to climb Lion Rock at Sigiriya.

    • Reply
      August 5, 2016 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks Ian! I didn’t get to Marakolliya but thank you for the recommendation for next time! I really want to go back when the weather is hopefully a little better!

      Yeah tourists often get over charged! That’s definitely a watch out in Sri Lanka!!

      Are you guys John Lennon fans? 🙂

  • Reply
    August 7, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Good spot!! Yep grew up on Merseyside and Lennon has always been a hero of mine. Fair play to you, though – that’s the first time anyone’s asked the question!
    Ian recently posted…10 sublime beaches for your bucket listMy Profile

    • Reply
      August 7, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      I’m from Liverpool! 🙂 Tales one to know one eh?

  • Reply
    August 9, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Excellent upbringing then! To be honest, I’m from The Wirral so I don’t quite qualify as a fully paid-up scouser. But yes, it does take one to know one…
    Ian recently posted…Why driving in India is a bad ideaMy Profile

  • Reply
    Rachel K
    August 16, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Helen,
    Me again! Was just wondering if there are trains to the following locations because I am potentially planning a trip to Sri Lanka next summer.

    Are there trains from Colombo to Galle, Galle to Yala National Park, Yala to Ella, Ella to Kandy, Kandy to Sigiriya, Sigiriva to Dambulla, Dambulla to Polonnaruwa, Polonnaruwa to Yapahuwa then on to Anuradhapura, Anuradhapura to Mihinthale then Mihintale back to Colombo. If train routes are not available to all places, please could you advise which ones I’d need to take buses/taxis to/from.

    Many thanks,

  • Reply
    October 4, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Thanks for this, very helpful article!

    • Reply
      October 4, 2016 at 6:05 pm

      No worries! Glad you like it!

      ps. I love your blog! 🙂

  • Reply
    Asanka Miah
    December 17, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Hello Helen,
    I loved reading your post, your way of writing is also fabulous!
    Become great fan of your photographs. Especially I like your guide Dog, he is so cute and photogenic too 🙂
    You rocked at Mirissa Beach and in the Galle…

    • Reply
      December 18, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      Thanks so much Asanka! 🙂

  • Reply
    Dilra Tours
    January 24, 2017 at 6:51 am

    Hi Helen!
    Really pleased with the writing. Really useful to Sri Lanka Trip Planners too.
    The Pics are super cool. Thank You for the kind words about our People,Really Complementing.
    Hope You Visit Sri Lanka Again. There are more to explore. Thank you.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you!!

  • Reply
    February 7, 2017 at 2:27 am

    For me.
    Best things: The friendliness from the Sri Lankans I met. It took me longer than it should have to realise they were genuinely curious and friendly and there was nothing else driving them to want to talk to me. Lovely people.

    Worst thing: The price of entry to some of the places. Absolutely exorbitant. If you are travelling as a budget backpacker you simply have to rule some of them out.
    Hayden recently posted…Sri LankaMy Profile

    • Reply
      April 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Yes agree with you!!

  • Reply
    February 8, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Great post, thanks! My wife and I are planning a trip to Sri Lanka now and it was helpful to have practical positives and negatives. I also really enjoyed your humor. Thanks again!

    • Reply
      February 12, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Thank you Marc! I think every place has positives and negatives so it’s important to reference them. I guess that’s the beauty of blogging!

      Have a great trip! Do the cooking class at Ella Spice Garden! 🙂

  • Reply
    February 18, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Thank yyou for this.
    My friend and I are excited tto vvisit. SrSri lanka. But we’we’re thinking of booking from May 7th to May 13th. Do u recommend? Will rain ruin our vacation?

    • Reply
      February 18, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Celia,

      That’s hard to say. I didn’t love the rain. You might be luckier than I am but difficult to say. You could try the east coast where it’s drier at this time of year.

  • Reply
    February 20, 2017 at 10:36 am

    Loved reading your article and the great advice in it. Although my parents are from Sri Lanka, I love the place, Ive visited a number of times I haven’t quite seen or experienced it in the way you have. I think next time I go i’ll make some changes.

    • Reply
      April 25, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      Great!!! Hope you have an amazing time when you go back!

  • Reply
    Isabelle @ Life With Isabelle
    March 2, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I agree with you 100% – particularly the humidity…my goodness it really made me look awful in some of my photos there haha! And good job at making it to the top of Ella Rock, I only made it up Mini Adam’s Peak and that was enough for me…

    Reading this is definitely making me want to go back already – I was actually in Sri Lanka last year for my honeymoon.

    Would undoubtedly recommend it as a travel destination for others though!
    Isabelle @ Life With Isabelle recently posted…Honeymoon destination: Sri LankaMy Profile

    • Reply
      April 25, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      The humidity is a nightmare!! I’ve never looked so awful on holiday!

  • Reply
    March 8, 2017 at 6:37 am

    Hi Helen,
    Lovely post about Sri Lanka, while you were in Sri Lanka looks like you covered almost everything. The beaches, wild life safaris, Hill country and etc. And agree with some of your cons about Sri Lanka, and we trying our best to avoid these thing. Hope you you will visit Sri Lanka again soon.

    • Reply
      March 12, 2017 at 11:56 pm

      We did cover a lot of ground! I would love to go back and experience Sri Lanka’s east coast too! And the rest also – maybe with less rain! I am still missing the food!

  • Reply
    March 13, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    HI Helen, I really enjoyed reading your post – currently planning a trip to Sri Lanka in August so it has been a great insight!

    Quick question – I was aware about the monsoon season at this time of year in the south, but unfortunately it seems like the majority of places we want to go are in the south!! I was planning on doing a few days in the north around Dambulla area and then going to Kandy and onto Galle. Is the weather in the north and south really different? i.e. would you recommend spending more time in the north than the south at this time of year. I’m really not keen on the idea of lots of rain!

    Thank you

    • Reply
      April 25, 2017 at 12:20 pm

      Hi Josie,

      I’m not really sure! We went in May and I believe the weather was particularly bad – worse than normal. August is the end of the monsoon season, so you might be ok!!

      It didn’t rain all the time, but there was a fair amount of rain! So if you want to try and avoid it as much as possible in the soutH, then September to April is probably better!

  • Reply
    Lakshmi Balaji
    March 27, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Hi Helen, Lovely post about Sri Lanka, covering all the details. We are travelling there during May and your post gives lot of insight about the country with all the positives and negatives. Enjoyed your narration and pictures. We are ardent dog lovers to will ensure to carry extra packets of biscuits to help them with.

    • Reply
      March 31, 2017 at 8:44 am

      No problem! Glad you enjoyed it!

      The dogs will love you! Just be careful you don’t get bitten! 🙂

  • Reply
    David Walby
    April 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

    thanks for this! very useful when i planned my trip!

    • Reply
      April 18, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      No worries, glad it was of use! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jill at Reading the Book
    April 20, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    Sri Lanka is very firmly on my list – I adore India and would like to see somewhere kinda similar but different. I’m really glad you mentioned the monsoon months, though! Thanks for a really well-written post; I just need enough time (and money) to get there now!
    Jill at Reading the Book recently posted…When good flights turn bad! My airport disasters… and the lessons I’ve learnedMy Profile

    • Reply
      April 24, 2017 at 11:49 pm

      Thank you!!!!

      Sri Lanka was great but yeah, I definitely went at the wrong time of year… for me anyway.

  • Reply
    April 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you Lauren!! 🙂

    The food is amazing. I miss it. So tasty but so heathy!I lost weight whilst I was there, even though I was eating loads!

  • Reply
    April 28, 2017 at 3:22 am

    I’ve just moved to Sri Lanka and I’m finding it both inspiring and frustrating! Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to be a tourist, although I’m trying to tee up the (many) long weekends for trips away! Thanks for the weekend inspiration!

  • Reply
    Robert Chimne
    May 3, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Nice place to visit especially in the Summer!

    • Reply
      May 3, 2017 at 9:41 pm

      Agree – avoiding the monsoon!

  • Reply
    Sri Lankan Safest Driver
    May 20, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Helen,

    I am really surprised to see the wonderful facts that you have written about Sri Lanka. I would like to comment about the human activities rather than natural drawbacks. We feel really sorry and disappointed about the care given to animals who brings a big value to Sri Lanka and also the careless bus drivers who don’t know the value of lives.

    Hope that the responsible people would understand and take greater measures make up these mistakes.

  • Reply
    Rashindri Jayasekera
    May 23, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Hi Helen,
    Lovely post about Sri Lanka. Glad you enjoyed your trip here. As a Sri Lankan I’m so happy to hear such wonderful facts written about our country. I too became a tourist in my own country 🙂 and the best way to travel is by train. I do agree with your negative facts. As an animal lover I do feel disappointed about the care given to animals, not to forget the bus drivers driving around without a care about passengers’ lives (not all, but some). Hope you will visit Sri Lanka soon. There are more places to explore.. 🙂 xx

    • Reply
      May 25, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Hi Rashindri,

      I think the thing is, that there are a lot of people also trying to help the animals!

      There are crazy bus drivers in a lot of countries I’ve been to. And I agree, it’s definitely not all. I think that stems down to the set up by the owners of the bus companies, rather than just the drivers and the pressure they put on the drivers too.

      I will definitely visit Sri Lanka again! 🙂

  • Reply
    John Barnes
    June 3, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Awesome article. Will certainly help to plan my sri lanka holiday

    • Reply
      Hannah Woods
      June 30, 2017 at 11:34 am

      Hi John,
      I do admit this article helped me out immensely as well. Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country to visit. It was a memorable summer vacation for me. Being an adventure junkie and a foodie, Sri Lanka ticked all the boxes for me. I stumbled upon Cape Weligama Resort and I admit that this was one thing I loved the most about Sri Lanka. It had everything from whale watching to cooking your own Sri Lankan food. It was quite an amazing experience. A certain must-do if you are travelling to Sri Lanka!

  • Reply
    July 7, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Hi hellen,
    Thanks for the article on my motherland.
    I accept your comments in this article and good or bad its truth.
    I have finished reading the article in few minutes with a smile in my face 😉
    You havent seen it all my lady!!! There are so many places you should go and i havent seen them in the article amd you would need few more visits to catch th all.
    Have you ever heard about a star gate in ancient city?
    You better see the kandy perahara, i do agree with the elephants trained in a cruel manner in many occasion. But there were and few are still here, do carrying the lord buddha’s tooth relic with honour. It is a beautiful event except to see so many elephants in chains and stuff.
    Also, have you heard the great king Ravana? there is a huge lend around him and the area called balangoda and suburbs have great places to visit. Also you missed the waterfalls, there are many different kinds of waterfalls and each of them have a uniqueness.
    Any way, welcome to the island once again and happy teavels…..

  • Reply
    July 18, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Hi Helen,

    Just dropped by to say how delightful your blog is, I loved how you fondly detailed out your travels. I too am traveling to Sri Lanka in December this year and I found your blog very insightful! You mentioned an elephant orphanage, we are planning to base out of Colombo, do Kandy and Sigririya on day tours and wanted to include elephant orphanage. Could you tell how you traveled to the orphanage? Does tuk tuks work? Or you in a train travel? Local commute is the most difficult part of trying to plan Sri Lanka.

    Many thanks in advance.


  • Reply
    Matthias Mandiau
    July 28, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Sri Lanka in the rain can be tough :p but it’s a beautiful country when the sun is out!

  • Reply
    Leyla Giray Alyanak
    August 11, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I was fortunate with the monsoon – I was in the southwest just as it was starting and managed to avoid the worst of it. That said I had very little sunshine throughout, mostly a flat grey. Still, that didn’t dampen my spirits! I had many of the same reactions you did and although I didn’t go see elephants, I was quite shaken by the number of stray animals. I have two dogs and six cats and kept wondering if I could somehow smuggle one more home…

  • Reply
    August 16, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Detailed article. Will definitely help to next escape to Sri Lanka

  • Reply
    August 31, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I visited Sri Lanka recently with my family and very-much relate to your description of the cultural destinations. The Dambullla Cave Temples and the Sigriya Rock Fortress are mind-blowing. Climbing the Sigriya Rock Fortress was amazing. Even kids enjoyed the trails despite they not being child-friendly. Passing through the lion’s paws and exploring the ruins of the city at the top of the rock was exhilarating. After reading your blog, I felt my experience has been narrated exactly by you.

  • Reply
    September 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Hi Helen,

    That’s a really nice blog… I really enjoyed reading it.. I m planning to visit nd looking for informational blogs.. and then I hit urs nd when I finished reading it.. It felt like, oh my God.. It’s over! 🙁 would love to read more of ur blogs nd experiences.. I myself am a novice in travelling but have a heart for it.. People like u inspire more to travel.. 🙂

    Well.. Enjoy.. Keep traveling nd blogging..

    Take care,
    Senthil from India

  • Reply
    Harish Coconut Products Pvt. Ltd.
    September 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    It was really awesome blog ! Thanks for sharing with us !

  • Reply
    October 17, 2017 at 4:18 am

    Awesome article about Sri Lanka. According to the article you’ve visited almost all the major tourist attractions in the island. Some beautiful photos are there, and the view from Sigiriya rock is my favorite. Keep writing these cheers.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2017 at 9:44 am

    great article about Sri Lanka, looks like you’ve enjoyed the island to the fullest. Appreciated your honesty in the article, you’ve point out both good and bad thing in the island. It’s a very rare thing to see days in blogs. Hope you visit us again soon. Keep these posts coming. Cheers.

  • Reply
    October 24, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I agree with you! We got lucky and went to Sri Lanka in January of 2017 and the weather was gorgeous! We are going back in Jan of 2018 and I am looking forward to eating the food again! Thanks for sharing about this country.

  • Reply
    November 11, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Has anyone mentioned the traffic fumes yet?

  • Reply
    December 25, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Sri Lanka, one of the best destination in Asia. Well Explained Post. Keep writing these cheers.

    • Reply
      January 2, 2018 at 10:26 am

      Thanks so much!

  • Reply
    January 16, 2018 at 8:11 am

    From Sri Lanka! Born and Raised. Agree with your critics helen Thats the truth about the country. keep witting. Cheers

  • Reply
    sanjeewa padmal punchihewa
    January 28, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Really good blog. Since it was monsoon on the west coast you were not able to surf but if you could hit the east coast Arugambe you could have done surfing in style.

    • Reply
      January 28, 2018 at 3:12 pm

      Yeah I know! Unfortunately we booked everything in advance – which was a mistake!! But Galle was nice to surf anyway!!

  • Reply
    February 9, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Hi Helen, can you recommend a route? We are going for two weeks in March

  • Reply
    February 23, 2018 at 7:14 am

    Hi Helen,

    Great post. I’ve recently returned from Sri Lanka and loved it as well – especially the wildlife and surfing. We were there for Perahera though, which meant lots of chained up elephants – awful to see.


  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 5:11 am

    Hey! Loved that as a travel blogger you addressed the negatives of the travelling to Sri Lanka, especially the sections on animal cruelty. The island is a beautiful, rich place, but the way a majority of locals treat animals, it just really breaks your heart. I’ve been living here for 5 years and the number of times my heart has been broken over the animal cruelties in Sri Lanka is far too much. But thanks for addressing it! I hope all tourists finally realise that elephant rides/parades are disgusting things that should be avoided.

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