Dec 2019 was our last international travel before covid came into our lives. 2020 and 2021 were restricted to domestic travel only again courtesy covid . Luckily this year we came across Vir Sanghvi’s blog ‘Rude Food’ which said ‘Indian tourists who ignore Sri Lanka and its natural beauty are making a mistake’.
We hadn’t traveled to Srilanka before and coincidently it also was one of the few countries open for Indians to travel with relatively easier covid protocols during the third wave. Guess, we had saved Srilanka and a few other Asian countries only for travel times around difficult periods like covid.
We were to travel to Srilanka in January but then our son contracted covid and because of him we too had to quarantine and go through the course. Finally instead of Jan, we travelled in Feb around Valentine’s day.
I believe with just 1.5 hrs air time from Bengaluru and 1 hr from Chennai, Srilanka is one place one can travel to as often as possible. Every time you have extended holidays and long weekends, choose one of the parts of Srilanka and just go. There is so much to explore from east coast to west coast and the best part of this nation is every 2-3 hours, the geographical features change in the island so you can spend your morning in a hill station and evening on the beachside.
Not just that you also have great wildlife, religious places and cultural hot spots. With gorgeous shoreline, Srilanka is a surfer’s paradise and makes up for a great diving destination too. What more one can ask for?
Less time to travel, relatively cheaper and so much to do.
I would called Srilanka ideal if you are someone who would like to pack different experiences in one trip. Most importantly, unlike India, Srilanka has well preserved the sanctity of its places. I found it very inspiring.
Yes, we are culturally similar in many ways but they score much higher when it comes to keeping the surroundings clean. Their hill stations are still intact. You won’t find polybags and chips packets lying on road sides or beer bottles buried in the sand on their beaches. I so wish, we Indians had kept our hill stations and beaches as clean and pure.
Places to see in Srilanka
Dear Indians, Srilanka is not equal to just Kandy and Bentota. We came across many Europeans who have taken a month off just to explore places in Srilanka. There are umpteen number of ways to explore Srilanka. Here are a few suggestions to plan your itinerary
Srilanka with East Coast – Colombo-Galle-Ella-Nuwara Eliya-Kandy- Trincomalee- Dambulla-return to Colombo
Srilanka Culture and heritage – Colombo- Anuradhapura- Sirigiriya- Dambulla-Kandy- Nuwara Eliya – Bentota-Galle-Colombo
Wildlife and photography tour – Colombo- Negombo-Kalpitiya-Willpattu-Anuradhapura-Sirigiriya- Dambulla-Kandy- Nuwara Eliya-Haputhale-Ella- Yala-Unawatuna- Galle- Bentota – Colombo
Nature tour– Colombo-Kandy-Nuwara Eliya-Ella-Udawalawa-Sinharaja Rain Forest- Bentota- Colombo
Coastal Tour with Yala national park– Colombo-Negombo- Bentota- Mirissa- Hikkadua- Unawatuna – Hiriketia- Yala
Srilanka travel itinerary that we followed
As soon as we landed in Colombo, we headed for Kandy, the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka. Kandy lies in the midst of hills with tropical plantations, mainly tea. The city has the beautiful Kandy lake built by the last Sinhala king Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe in 1806.
Around the lake, you have the golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth that houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha. Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic, the most important pilgrimage site in Kandy is a UNESCO world heritage site. They say ever since 4th Century A.D, when the Buddha’s Tooth was brought to Sri Lanka to this temple, hidden from sacrilegious hands, in an Orissan princess’ hair, the Relic has grown in repute and holiness. It is considered Sri Lanka’s most prized possession.
Being one of the cultural hotspots of Srilanka, Kandy also hosts Esala Perahera festival (held annually in July/August). However its vibrant cultural life can be experienced anytime of the year and they also have evening cultural program to give you a glimpse of ‘not just what it means to be a Srilankan but dance like one’.
This place so reminded us of Ooty back home in India. It once was the favorite escape for the English and Scottish pioneers of Sri Lanka’s tea industry and indeed it has kept its British country village feel intact till date. Here, you will find beautiful colonial-era bungalows, Tudor-style hotels, carefully tended vegetable plots and never ending tea gardens which are highly scenic. To add to the fame of this place let me tell you that Sita ji from our Ramayana was hidden here in one of the hills by Ravana, and so exists a temple called Seeta Amman in Nuwara Eliya.
We Stayed in one of the tea bunglows here, bought variety of teas, had long walks, took safari ride to the moon plains (picturesque agricultural and eco-tourism spot) and danced around the Gregory lake with local college kids there. Their energy was simply amazing.
From Nuwara Eliya, we took the scenic train ride to Ella. Below is the picture of the nine arch bridge which can be seen from Ella. The train journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station, 8 km outside of Nuwara Eliya) to Ella takes about 2 hours plus. The train timing is like India but if you have a day, it is worth to simply relax on the window side sitting in the train while you have beautiful scenes of tea plantations, forests and falls passing by.
Ella tops my list of must see hill station in Srilanka. Quite popular with Europeans too. Adventure plus nightlife. In the morning, you can hike up the Ella rock as well as Adam’s peak depending on the time at hand and in the evenings party, eat and chill in the Ella town. One main road with plenty of options for food, drinks, massage etc.
Most importantly, the food is so much like India yet healthier 🙂 less spicy and less oily.
Do you know Srilanka is famous for leopards? Yes, with a leopard density that’s higher than anywhere else on this planet, these predators prowl majestically in Yala, while elephants roam in their numbers with cautious deer scampering by their side. Interestingly Yala is one place where these wild animals have beach access. The forest merges with the beach on one side. Infact, staying in some of the famed hotels here itself is quite an experience. Yala beach access from hotels gives you complete privacy. After the safari, go the beach or take a plunge into the pools.
Yala national park has up to 215 species of bird, 44 types of mammals, 47 species of reptiles, 21 species of fish, and 18 of amphibians. And these include elephants, leopards, jackals, sloth bears, and crocodiles. We did see a leopard but too many tourists and too many jeeps on that day.
This one another great find. Not many tourist operators suggest this place but I loved this place. Great for beginners who wish to try their hand at surfing. Nice beach, blue waters and superb vibe. This is in between Yala and Bentota/Colombo.
Not many things can be done at one go. Galle was the last destination where we got down before reaching Colombo. Am sure, we would do additional trips to Srilanka to experience various other shades of this colorful nation.
Visa requirement to travel to Srilanka for Indians
Visa can be obtained online by applying on the link- Online Visa Application (eta.gov.lk) Very easy process, sometimes you get visa within minutes of applying. On arrival too, you can get visa.
Srilanka Travel Restrictions from India – March 2022
Fully vaccinated travelers arriving in Sri Lanka from 1st March 2022 onwards do not need to carry a negative PCR/Rapid Antigen test with them. And on return too fully vaccinated Indians do not require RT PCR test (both the recommended doses of vaccinated to have been completed 15 days before departure to Srilanka).
For more details please check the link – Travel Guidelines: International Arrivals & Departures – IndiGo (goindigo.in)
Travel Tips for Srilanka – Do’s and Don’ts
- Spend a minimum of 6-7 nights for an immersive experience and from India take 2-3 trips for a different experience each time . You can do only beaches and water sports as well and trust me 6 nights for only beaches is not enough.
- Dress as per the place. The temples have certain dress code that needs to be followed
- Eat local, its tasty, healthy and nice
- Please do activities like hiking, surfing, snorkeling, jungle safaris to be able to understand the USP of Srilanka.
- You can always add Srilanka to your Maldives trip
- Carry clothes for hills as well as for beaches. If you are going to National parks, do not forget to take your green clothing, green hat and appropriate lens. Check our packing lists 1. Packing for hills 2. Packing for beaches