9 Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and 6 things I didn’t)

The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and the things I didn't) - Sri Lanka was everything I hoped for, I loved it, well, almost... read the ups and downs of my trip to Sri Lanka and avoid the mistakes I made!

I see so many posts gushing about Sri Lanka, but as a travel blogger, I believe it’s important to write honestly and to give a well-rounded perspective of the places we visit, otherwise you may as well just read an advert. So here goes…

After years of civil war, Sri Lanka had pretty much fallen off the travel radar for a lot of people, however, in the last few years, the tourists have started to return and are loving this island nation in the Indian Ocean.

For my last trip, I was looking for a slightly off-the-beaten-path, but relatively easy to navigate and budget-friendly destination, with nice beaches, great food, culture and lots of things to do.

So Sri Lanka seemed like a great option. Plus flights to Sri Lanka are pretty reasonable too.

So off we went and as it turned out, Sri Lanka was everything I hoped it would be and more. I found it to be a very diverse country with everything you could want from a destination. I loved it.

However, 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 I wouldn’t be lying!

But if I’m really honest, there are a few things I didn’t love too…

9 Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and 6 things I didn’t)

Friendly people in Sri Lanka.

The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka

1. Sri Lankans are Genuinely Lovely People

I don’t think I’ve been anywhere in the world, where the people have been so genuinely warm, welcoming and just downright nice.

We met so many wonderful local people on this trip, including Akila in the photo above. We bonded whilst sharing the doorway of the Kandy to Ella train! She introduced me to her whole family! They were Sri Lankans, taking the train for the first time as part of their holiday.

Food in Sri Lanka.

2. The Food in Sri Lanka is AMAZING

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

Everywhere you go, you’ll find delicious food, seafood pulled straight from the Indian Ocean and curries made with the freshest natural ingredients, all 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 a veggie, 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 lost a bit of weight because of the unprocessed food (and maybe the fact that coconut is a natural laxative)!

Egg hoppers in Sri Lanka.

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.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

3. Sri Lanka is Full of Natural Beauty

Flying into 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 (see below).

Ella Rock, Sri Lanka.

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 did rain constantly (you’ll read my thoughts on the weather below)!

My friend Sasha and I hiked up to the top of Ella Rock and the views from the top were incredible.

The Kandy to Ella Train, Sri Lanka.

4. Train Journeys are Some of the Best in the World

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.

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.Tea plantation, Sri Lanka.

5. 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. 

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

Surfing in Sri Lanka.

6. It’s a Great Place to Surf

I’ve been surfing for the last 10 years or so. I’ve surfed in a few different places around the world (Hawaii, Morocco, Mozambique, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, UK and South Africa), 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 warm enough to go in without a wetsuit and the waves were great, so those factors combined, I surfed better than I ever have before, pretty much never falling off the board!

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.

Sloth Bear, Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.

7. They Have the Best Safaris Outside of Africa

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.

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!

Beach in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka.

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!

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!Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

8. If You Love Culture, You’ll Love Sri Lanka

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 Anuradhapura and 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.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Sri Lanka.

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 (there’s a reason my face isn’t in any pictures – I look like a tomato) and I was in constant fear of the hornets that build nests hanging from the cliff face.

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.

Ella, Sri Lanka.

9. Sri Lanka Reminds Me of Africa

Well, East Africa to be precise. Especially Zanzibar and the Swahili coast. The hill country of Sri Lanka is also 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.

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.

Stray dogs in Sri Lanka.

The Things I Didn’t Love About Sri Lanka

1. So Many Stray Dogs (and cats) Everywhere

If you’re an animal lover like me, 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 many do get hurt or killed 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 above, 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.

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.

On the positive side there are now charities like We Care Worldwide or the Dogstar Foundation who are working hard to help the animals of Sri Lanka, but it will be a long process.

Chained up elephant, Sri Lanka.

2. There are So Many Chained Up Elephants

Elephants are the most beautiful, intelligent animals and I am used to seeing them wild and free in Africa. It’s one of the most awesome and awe-inspiring experiences you can have. But 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.

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.

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

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.

I visited the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage (above), 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, PLEASE DON’T RIDE ELEPHANTS!

Please Don't Ride Elephants

3. Sri Lankan Buses Are Bloody Dangerous

I’ve had a few run-ins with bus drivers during my travels all over the world (learning the words for ‘slow down’ in the local language is always one of my priorities) 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.

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, overtaking when it really isn’t appropriate and ducking back in at the last moment, just missing the oncoming traffic/pedestrians.

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


4. Monsoon Season Sucks

I could make some comment about ‘Learning to Dance in the Rain’ and all that… but in this instance, no. The rain was a pain in the ass.

Sri Lanka has two monsoons. One that hits the south-west (from April/May – September) and one that hits the northeast (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. Oh, how wrong we were. It often rained for hours and was generally quite overcast the whole time we were there.

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.

Hikkaduwa Beach, Sri Lanka.

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 handlebars as what seemed like buckets of water were thrown in sideways onto us (whilst those God damn buses were hurtling past us at full speed).

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 remember one of our drivers saying ‘You’re going to Hikkaduwa Beach? But there is no beach now!”, as demonstrated above.

This means that a lot of the restaurants and beach bars close (and those that are open are pretty empty) and some activities, like 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.

Rainy season, Sri Lanka.

Whilst the monsoon didn’t ruin our trip completely, 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. In which case, 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 quite a bit a lot 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 guaranteed sunshine and good weather, go where there’s no monsoon!

To avoid the monsoons, head south and west between December to March and head to the east and north from April/May to September.

Humidity, Sri Lanka.

5. The Humidity Also Sucks

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 hot mess. There is a reason why there are very few close-up shots of my head/face from this trip.

My hair was completely out of control, always felt slightly damp and trying to get my fingers or a brush through it – well that was only possible for about 5 minutes, straight after washing. It was also very windy due to the monsoon, which just added to the whole ‘birds nest’ effect I seemed to be going for.

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.

View from Sigariya Rock, Sri Lanka.

6. The Hidden Taxes and Service Charges

One thing I hate, 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 an extra. There’s even a service charge placed on minibars.

Then there are 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.

With that being said, overall, I loved Sri Lanka and I can’t wait to visit again. Just not in monsoon season…

Have you been to Sri Lanka? Do you agree?

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The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and the things I didn't) - Sri Lanka was everything I hoped for, I loved it, well, almost... read the ups and downs of my trip to Sri Lanka and avoid the mistakes I made!  The Things I Loved About Sri Lanka (and the things I didn't) - Sri Lanka was everything I hoped for, I loved it, well, almost... read the ups and downs of my trip to Sri Lanka and avoid the mistakes I made!  

Plan Your Trip to Sri Lanka

Getting There: I always search for flights on Skyscanner. The main airport is Bandaranaike International Airport, 20 miles north of the capital Colombo.

Travel Insurance: When travelling to Sri Lanka, make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all of the activities you want to do. If you get injured or fall sick, you will have to pay for your medical care which could be very expensive, so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance that will cover you for all aspects of your trip. I recommend World NomadsOutbacker, or InsureandGo.

Resources: I’m a big fan of Lonely Planet guidebooks and usually travel with one wherever I go.

Tours: A nice idea might be to take one of the many tours on offer.

See all Sri Lanka posts here.

Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

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  1. 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!

    1. 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!


      1. Well I am a Sri Lankan and I am proud of my country exept for the animals of course I adapted one myself and your blog is very truthfull !! Keep it up ..

  2. 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

    1. 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

  3. 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!!!

    1. 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!!!!!!


      1. 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 🙂

    1. 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

  4. 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.


    1. 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!

  5. 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.

    1. 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! 🙂

    2. I was born in Nairobi and have traveled all over East Africa including Ethiopia and many others. I lost you when you said Sri Lanka reminded you of traveling in East Africa. Ok, maybe for the elephants and other animals, but Sri Lanak can’t hold a candle to East Africa. Asian elephants are cuter than African elephants, I’ll give them that though. Kenya and Tanzania are leaps and bounds more beautiful and interesting than Sri Lanka. South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are more beautiful than Sri Lanka. This is a fact and not up for debate. The US and Canadian west (Rockies) are more beautiful than the highlands of Sri Lankan. Sri Lanka is beautiful don’t get me wrong, and I’ve been to over 130 countries and Sri Lanka is not even in the top 25!

      1. Hi Robert, thanks for your comment.

        When I said Sri Lanka reminded of East Africa, especially the Swahili Coast and Zanzibar – I was talking more about the vibe (as in the street stalls and beachy vibes on the coast) and as they’re both on the old trade/spice routes and British influences. And I just said the highlands looked a bit similar to the highlands in East Africa (as in hilly and green with orange soil).

        I actually agree with you. I enjoyed Sri Lanka, but Africa has my heart, which is why I write an Africa-focused travel blog, run an African tour company and spend 6 months of the year there. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so it definitely is up for debate. Although we’re on the same side here.

        I’ve never been to the Rockies, but they do look very nice.

        And I disagree with you – African elephants are much cuter than Asian elephants. 🙂

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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? 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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…

  10. 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,

  11. 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…

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

    1. 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! 🙂

  15. 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?

    1. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

    1. 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!

  19. 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

    1. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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

    1. 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! 🙂

    1. 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!

  26. 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…..

  27. 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.


  28. 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…

  29. 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.

  30. 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

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.


  35. 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.

  36. Traveling through Sri Lanka isn’t easy unless you have accommodation everywhere. The real challenge is finding budget hotels before traveling.

  37. Hi! We are going the end of this summer. We were planning on hiring a private driver but I do not want a tour. Did you hire a driver and if so, did you plan your own itinerary? Thank you!

      1. Thank you! One more question, do most drivers give you a set number of km’s included in what they charge per day?

  38. Hey great blog, I was thinking to travel in the month of December myself, so this is a great guide which I will definitely keep at the back of my mind.

    Helen, from what I read from this visit of yours, you must visit India if not already! A lot of Sri Lankan influence is derived from the Southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala etc. Also, all the dislikes of yours will significantly increase in India, since bus drivers in the north are really reckless, stray dogs are normal and well hello, meet our famous cows!

    On a slightly cheekier note, the Brits visiting India is kinda spooky 😛

  39. Wow, this is a fantastic blog Helen, I have just returned from Sri Lanka, I did not ride any Elephants, no intention to, but I did wash one and feed a baby. 😉
    I fell in love while in Sri Lanka, I love everything about it, it’s truly a magical place to me, the people are so friendly wonderful, food is delicious, the nature is stunning, I found many there genuinely caring beings who love animals and are saddened with some of the cruelty, I have heard way worse horror stories about China, so the fact is there is good and bad everywhere you go, but of all the places in the world I found Sri Lankans to have hearts of gold.
    In our hotel the staff cared so much for the dogs and cats it truly touched my heart,
    I miss it there so much already so will be planning some way to return, I would love to see Yala safari park, we saw the turtle sanctuary and elephant orphanage and temple of the tooth, all such beautiful experiences and I just feel there’s so much more to see and do… One day again, glad you had a great time there, I wish I could live there!, I even love the humidity!

  40. Helen, A good first time insight to our Island in the sun. The article is good, however you have seen Sri Lanka through the eyes of a tourist. I left Sri Lanka years ago and lived in the West for many years. I go back ever so often to my Island home and every time I manage to peel another layer. Go and watch a cricket match and witness the passion of the locals watch an international game. Go deep into the country and see the native Sri Lanka called the Veddahs, They still exists and are being protected. Near Habarana there is an elephant orphange lesser known but free. You can mingle with the baby elephants. Always try and contact a local Ayurvedic specialist for your aches and pains. If you get a good one they will fix the issues ad at very reasonable costs. Never go to hotels for ayurvedic massages, try the ayurvedic college for a more reasonable priced treatments. Well worth the half day spent there…
    Food is always good, but make sure it is cooked fresh or from a reputed place. Visit Kandy temple it is free and it is well worth the time spent. I could go on and on…

  41. Hi Helen, I returned to California after a six weeks in Sri Lanka. I didn’t see many tourists during my travel to interesting places. Two things that drew may attention was the tea plantation on the way travelling to Nuwara eliya and during the visit to the sacred Bo tree. I have been to the said tea plantation many times during the last 40 year and now it discriminates against locals and rip-off tourists. At the sacred Bo tree somebody has installed artificial turf and if you are visiting the site at around noon don’t walk on that turf unless you like walking on hot embers.

  42. Hi Helen!

    Thank you so much for your inspiring article. After having visited Sri Lanka myself I recognize a lot of what you say. Especially the train journey was wonderful! And yes, the busses are horror!

  43. Just spent 16 days in Sri Lanka touring around in a self drive car. Apart from the east coast which was deserted, the rest of it was very disappointing. Every town of any size is a traffic congested, litter-strewn, polluted misery. The whole of the country is like an open air landfill with litter everywhere but I have to say this doesn’t bother the locals or tourists in the slightest as far as I could tell. All of the wildlife is extremely over exploited. Dozens of jeeps chasing a single, very stressed elephant and dozens of whale watching boats chasing an equally stressed pot whale. This is no longer the paradise island described by Arthur C Clarke. Tourism here is truly the most unsustainable I’ve ever seen. It could be a great place, but it really isn’t. If traffic congestion, litter and overwhelming tourist numbers are not an issue for you, you’ll like it here, otherwise expect disappointment.

  44. Hi, there!
    This is a great article, and originally I had no intention to rite a comment as compromising across your blog is part of a research I am currently doing on travel blogs that include Sri Lanka.
    The reason why I am writing however is to make one small note for people who wish to visit this beautiful island: regardless of where the monsoon might be, I would avoid the month of may altogether. It is the month of heavy rainfall almost through the island, a transition month, a month that brings lots of floods as it happened in the last years, hence some danger of dengue fever. Of course this is not a must, but now I have lived here during 2 years this May month (I moved to Sri Lanka in 2017) and I would warmly recommend that you pick any other month.
    Another small note,please do not take this the wrong way, the relic of Lord Buddha’s Tooth you can actually see only once every 5 years, as there is strong superstitions around it, it is said it brings floods and other distresses if moved. In August during the Kandy Esala Perahera, the replica of the tooth is carried around the city during the ten days festival by carefully selected elephants. I would strongly suggest that you do visit kandy during the Perahera even if it will for sure rain (in Kandy it rains for 8 months) as it is a once in a lifetime experience.

  45. Hi Helen, I really love Sri Lanka. Its such a beautiful country. I’m glad you wrote about the season because it can really help in planning the trip to make the most of it.

  46. Hi Helen – am a female leaving solo for 3 weeks next week and would appreciate any tips on dress. Obviously have cover ups for temples but how about for beaches, walking around town, public transport? Want to pack as little as possible and don’t want to offend but also will be super hot! What’s the feeling on shoulders / knees / shorts/ vest tops etc! Any tips greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  47. We are planning to go next month to srilanka are these beaches and places you have shared is cool! Please suggest some good tourist place as well do that i can decide the best one for my holiday!

  48. Great post Helen. I just returned from a week’s vacation and have fallen in love with Sri Lanka. As you mention, people are so nice and the beaches are so clean. I totally agree with your observations on the stray dog situation and the crazy bus drivers. I was totally aghast at how they do this and I am originally from India so it takes a lot to shock me when it comes to lawlessness on the roads! I had Pinnawala on my itinerary but ducked at the last minute after reading the Born Free article. A part of me worried if people like me who will stop going to this place would seriously hamper their revenues, which will mean less food and care for the poor chained animals. Sometimes, doing the right thing means more cruelty to the victim. I don’t know!!!! And why in heck do people want to be carried by any animal for fun? I can never figure this out.

  49. Thank you so much for visiting Sri Lanka and the lovely post! You have missed a lot from what i see. Sri Lankan do love a good night out and there are millions of places even in Colombo. Next time you visit i am sure you would have more fun and memories.

  50. Hi Helen, We really loved your posts and pictures of Sri Lanka in fact it was a primary driver for our booking a 15 day trip through Exoticca back in early March of 2019 for travel this November when the weather is already lousy here in Northern California. Since then the horrible church bombings occurred killing almost 400 innocents. We had decided to continue with our plans counting on the Sri Lankan authorities only to read in today’s Wall street Journal that now the Buddhist are now attacking Muslims for other alleged crimes. Given the wife’s concerns I finally called Exoticca in Barcelona only to have them say there are no refunds or value exchanges for any other one of their trips even though the current threat level is 3 verging on 4. It is so sad to experience a situation like this knowing how important tourist dollars are to an economy. Like you we loved our trip to India and thought with your enthusiastic endorsement Sri Lanka would be similar. We will see.

  51. Hello Helen, I am planning to go there with my family. Thanks for sharing this amazing post about the awesomeness of Sri Lanka. And I really love this post because you talked about both positives and negatives, also shared how they affected your trip experience.”

  52. Hi,

    Dont compare Sri Lanka with Kenya and those countries,because Sri Lankans have a Strong and Vibrant culture also the level of education and financial literacy is way higher than those countries.

    1. Hi,

      Kenya and Tanzania both also have a ‘strong and vibrant culture’, which partly comes from Asia and Arabia due to the trade routes and the influence 0f that on the Swahili culture. The level of education and financial literacy isn’t really relevant to my opinion. Sri Lanka reminded me of the east coast of Africa in many ways, from the appearance of the street stalls and shops, to some cultural elements. This is my blog and I will write what I feel like writing, but thanks for your input.

  53. Yes you right Helen. I am from srilanka. There are many street dogs .I adopted 5 street dogs .you did a good thing.you wrote negative side too.so we can correct our faults.Thankyou for showing us our faults. God bless you

  54. Great post, and I agree 100% with you.
    One more thing I would probably add in the “things I didn’t like” is the enormous distances. In order to cover some of Sri Lanka essentials, one must really drive for many many many hours! This is the huge downside I felt during my last trip there.
    But of course, so so worth it anyway 😀

  55. Hello! I’m Sri Lankan and thank you for sharing this wonderful article. So nice to see how the readers are intrigued to visit Sri Lanka after reading this blog!
    If you are ever coming back to Sri Lanka, let me know Please.

  56. This was a very interesting read, Helen. Glad to know I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of the CTB buses in SL. Most of the drivers drive like speed demons and you have to quickly get out of their way or risk being crushed. Some of the tuk tuk drivers are equally bad. The last time I was in Sri Lanka, I experienced the worst tuk tuk journey ever – the driver was going at breakneck speed and I was so terrified we’d crash into something. Thankfully, I got back to my place in one piece!

  57. Hi Helen, I am thrilled to read a blog that I can call my home 🙂 I love to read that you enjoyed your trip here. didn’t you try glamping in Sri Lanka near to a campsite? pidurangala hike also stunning.
    sunset vibes! spending in a lovely guest house is a must-do if you in srilanka. specially in Ella views are amazing ! we have many hotels and resorts which follow sustainable tourism.love to see you again in srilanka with another new blog. Cheers !

  58. Hi Helen,

    Really loved the way you have brought out the good and not so good in Sri Lanka. I am from neighbouring country of India and have been wanting to visit Sri Lanka from Long! Your post inspires me to do so!


  59. Hi Helen,

    This was a really well-made in depth post about Sri Lanka; I’ve been there before, and I have to say, it’s probably the number one country I’ve been to! The food is great, and the country is just so beautiful.

    We’re going to Sri Lanka again this summer (if Covid is gone, which by the time, hopefully will!)


  60. Thank you for this well written piece and particularly for including the link to the Born Free Foundation.

    Please everyone who reads the blog, do follow this link to get a better understanding of the problems that can occur when wild animals are used for tourism purposes.

    I noticed that several of the people who read your blog and claimed to agree with you about the mistreatment of animals, still made comments about “visiting “orphanages”” or “cuddling/feeding/washing/taking selfies with” elephants. None of these activities are cruelty free. The Born Free Foundation piece explains why, and also note that the Born Free foundation does not support ANY of the so called “orphanages” in Sri Lanka.

    We still have a long way to go in regard to educating tourists not to support these practices, and only through tourist push back will these things change. Tourists need to vote with their voices and wallets and continue to learn if we are to see an improvement in the way animals are treated.

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