Often overlooked, India’s neighbour to the south – Sri Lanka, is a teardrop-shaped island that is thriving with nature and is an amazing holiday destination for people across the globe. The unusual experiences the country provides, should not to be missed. From the pristine beaches to the lush green hill stations, historical ruins and religious stupas, this country offers endless adventures. This is one of the most spectacular island nations that I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. So go on and take note of my list of incredible things to do in Sri Lanka, which paves the way to experience a country like no other.
1) TAKE SRI LANKA’S SCENIC TRAIN ROUTES
Even if you’re a person who isn’t comfortable with train rides, this one will surprise you. The train routes run through local villages bustling with people, along the misty endless hillsides of tea plantations, and even along Sri Lanka’s sandy beaches! While the most scenic train route is said to run from Kandy to Ella, there are also other routes that take you along the coastal areas of the country which is equally mesmerizing. These trains are surprisingly clean and comfortable. It is like taking a mini country tour at an affordable cost.
Tip: The train from Kandy to Ella goes via the hill country and takes 7 hours to reach its final destination. Since this train ride is “bucket-list” worthy, it gets full most of the time. Buying tickets at least a day in advance is a good idea. Having stop-overs in between also allows you to soak up the place at your own pace. I recommend halting at Haputale for a day or two on the journey.
2) WAKE-UP TO WILDLIFE
Sri Lanka is one country that is so green that it feels like one big tropical rainforest. There are close to 25 national parks in the country, so no matter where you go, you will end up seeing elephants and wake up to the chirping of birds. There are also jeep safaris that take you around the national park, where you can spot and experience wildlife in close proximity of the jeep.
Tip: Imagine 50 jeeps queued next to you to spot elephants. You’ll end up irritating the animal and frustrating yourself. So skip the touristy national parks and go for the ones that are less crowded. That way you will not disturb the animals and you can also take your own time to explore the place. Uda Walawe and Kadulla National Park offer the best chance of spotting elephants roaming free. If you wish to wake up with the elephants outside your window, then staying overnight at Pinnawalla would be a good choice.
3) INDULGE IN SRI LANKA’S CULINARY GOODNESS
Sri Lanka is famous for its culinary goodness. The food is unique to their culture. From the fresh seafood to the fiery curries, Sri Lankan cuisine not only kindles your taste buds but also paves way for a visual treat. Sri Lankan food is not for the timid eater: the fiery curries, sweet caramelized onion in seeni sambal (onion relish), sour lime pickle are all dominant, powerful flavors that startle and awaken the senses dulled by the thick, hot island air. Sri Lankan cooking is unapologetically, get-the-adrenaline-pumping flavored. Even if you don’t find other reasons tempting enough to visit the country, this should be.
Tip: When you’re in the country, never miss the opportunity to have rice, curry and coconut sambal. Fresh BBQ seafood on the coastal belt is another dish which should not to be missed item for foodies. The country wakes up to string hoppers for breakfast which is a must try dish. Thick buffalo curd with treacle is yet another local relish that has to be devoured as dessert.
4) STILT FISHERMAN
Stilt fishing is one of the fishing methods unique to the country. Steve McCurry captured an iconic photograph of these stilt fishermen, after which the world has taken note of this practice. The fishermen sit on a cross-bar called petta tied to a vertical pole that’s driven into the sand a few meters offshore. This is a dying tradition within the country and not many fishermen follow it. The practice is unlikely to last much longer other than as a tourist attraction. Most of the fishermen you find on the south coast are mere posers for photographers than people practicing this tradition.
Tip: Since this practice has become more of a tourist attraction than generic fishing, it’s difficult to find real fishermen who practice this tradition. To find genuine fishermen, go past Matara to Polhenna beach (this is not really a beach, so there is close to zero tourists in this area) and walk towards the reef that is about 100 meters from the beach, you will find fishing poles and real fishermen sitting on these poles to catch fish.
5) EXPLORE THE COUNTRY ON A TUK-TUK
What if I tell you that you could explore the entire country on a tuk-tuk. Sounds exciting right! It’s an amazing experience to whip that colourful little three-wheeled go-kart around the town and this is one experience that I definitely recommend. If not for the whole country, try this experience at least in Galle, you would absolutely love it.
Tip: There are a lot of scams around hiring a tuk-tuk for yourself or even renting a tuk-tuk with the driver. So, beware, check portals for standard tuk-tuk rental rates before heading to Sri Lanka. Also, if you’re someone who doesn’t know to drive a tuk-tuk, you can take lessons in Galle.
6) VOLUNTEER AT A TURTLE CONSERVATORY PROJECT
Sri Lanka provides a brilliant opportunity for travelers to volunteer in turtle conservation projects. As a turtle volunteer, you get to have a hand in protecting one of the most endangered marine species, the turtles.
Tip: People who are fond of wildlife, who love spending time on the beach should without a doubt enroll in this programme. It is also an amazing experience for gap year travelers as this not only shows you the local life but also teach you to conserve your ecosystem.
7) SURFING IN THE TROPICAL WAVES
If you’ve ever thought of trying your hand at surfing, well Sri Lanka is your go-to place. High-quality waves, warm water, and friendly locals will ensure you have the trip of a lifetime. Since the entire south coast is lined up with surf houses, it might get a little crowded during the season time. To avoid the crowd head to the hidden beaches in the south such as Weligama and Okanda.
Tip: Arugam Bay is the ideal choice for people with surfing on their mind. It provides an amazing surfing experience with great waves throughout the year.
8) FLY KITES AT GALLE FACE GREEN
Unleash the kid in you and indulge in the fun spree of kite flying in Colombo. Galle face green is an ocean-side urban park spread across an area of 5 hectares. Witness the Colombo sky getting flooded with the bunch of coloured papers and kites fluttering happily. Enjoy to your heart’s content.
Tip: Reach Galle Face Green by 5pm in the evening to enjoy the sunset and fly a kite!
With the endless miles of beaches and abundant natural sources, Sri Lanka has a laid-back lifestyle and is one of the ultimate tropical islands that has opened its doors for travelers and tourists from around the world.
Have you ever been to Sri Lanka? We’d love to hear your advice and tips in the comment section below! Read Next > Ladies We Love: Kate Webb Of The Responsible Safari Company