It’s been just over a week since returning home from my recent trip to Sri Lanka with some of our SmartFlyer agents, and It has taken me until now to gather my thoughts and truly reflect on all that I was able to experience…. and WOW, just WOW!!!!!
Sri Lanka found it’s way under my skin in a big way.
It has been a long time since a destination has excited me this much, as while I’ve explored countless new cities and regions over the past few years, it had been a while since I had ventured to an entirely new country. I had almost forgotten how much fun it is to step into the unknown, and soak up all of the sights, smells and overall vibes of a new destination…. and boy, am I glad I did.
Sri Lanka is a melting pot of experiences, with so much diversity that there is something for everyone.
My recent trip allowed me to gather plenty of info on the best places to go, where to stay and what to see, but for now I thought I’d give you a sneak peak into the fabulous itinerary that our travel partners ‘Sri Lanka In Style’ put together for us.
It was a whirlwind journey, but one that allowed us to cover a lot of ground, so we could learn as much as we could about this incredible destination. That’s what these familiarisation trips are about after all.
Our journey over a 10 day period took us from historic Colombo, to Galle Fort and on to the rugged Southern Coast, where we went from coastal villages to national parklands. We then climbed high into the lush tea country around Hatton, before venturing further afield to Anuradhapura in the heart of the Cultural Triangle.
With each new region, came a new and exciting experience that was completely different to the last (hence the idea of having the opportunity to have four holidays in one).
Galle Fort is a UNESCO area that was a key trading post between the East and West for hundreds of years. Here we wandered the narrow cobblestone laneways, uncovering museums, resorted colonial heritage buildings and a multitude of cafes, restaurants and beautiful boutique hotels.
Next up was a luxury beach stay at Cape Weligama.
Perched high on the cliffs, overlooking the Indian Ocean, Cape Weligama provides you with a base to explore local villages, immerse yourself in traditions, catch a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s famous stilt fisherman, or simply escape it all and enjoy some R&R.
Yala National Park was the third stop on our trip, with a stay at Chena Huts by Uga Escapes. It felt like I’d stepped into an African Safari Lodge, with sunset nature walks and a full day National Park safari.
Did you know that Sri Lanka has one of the most concentrated Leopard populations in the world? Nope… Me either, but we were on Safari, spotting Leopard (we saw 3!), Elephant, Peacock’s and more.
After our National Park fix we were welcomed with warm hospitality and a home away from home vibe at Ceylon Tea Trails, in Sri Lanka’s beautiful tea country.
With your choice of a selection of colonial bungalows, set among the tea plantations, you feel a world away from the 21 million people that inhabit this relatively small country (It’s about the size of Tasmania), and you can do as little or as much as you like.
From spectacular hikes like Adam’s Peak, Tea Plantation tours and walks, In-house massages and wellness treatments or High Tea by the lake, I could have stayed here for a week to truly indulge and find some peace, but for us it was on to the next stop.
Lastly it was a stay in Anuradhapura in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. We stayed at the wonderful Ulagalla, by Uga Escapes.
A boutique eco resort, with individual private pool villas, set amongst 58 acres of lush greenery. You are given your own bikes which you ride to the 150yr old manor house, where the main restaurant, pool and spa are situated. You can then head out on daily excursions hosted by the property or with some of the local tour guides. With Ulagalla conveniently located between Anuradhapura, Sigiriya and Dambulla, it becomes an ideal location to explore these ancient cities, wildlife and many other attractions of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.
Then it was back to Colombo to say our good-byes and head home, already vowing to return one day.
The regions that make up Sri Lanka’s appeal are one thing (I didn’t even touch on the places that we didn’t go, so that I’ll have to save for my next visit), but it’s the people of Sri Lanka that truly leave you wanting more.
With the population being 85% Buddhist, there was a genuine warmth and generosity from all that we met. From the hoteliers and the ground staff, to the local fisherman and villagers met along the way, we were welcomed with open arms, treated like family and nothing was ever too much trouble. I felt comfortable and safe, and couldn’t fault a single person I came across (well, except maybe one crazy Safari truck driver who seemed to have a death wish. Overtaking on blind corners… eeek!).
Sri Lanka feels like the love child of India and Europe, with a hint of South East Asia (the little minx), and according to our hosts ‘Sri Lanka in Style’, there are seven stories that make up this wonderful country:
Ceylon Tea, Buddhism, wonders of the Ancient World, beautiful Beaches, Wildlife, Spices & Sri Lanka’s Colonial Heritage.
Depending on your time frame or particular interests, tailoring your itinerary to discover as many of these stories as you wish, is what is going to give you the very best experience.
I will follow up this post with a photo diary, highlighting where to stay and key points of interest within each of the areas that I visited, but if you have a desire to head to Sri Lanka, please let me work with you and our new travel partners to get you there, in style (of course), so you can experience it all for yourself.