Ideal stay: at least 6 days if you want to roam around the island
Temperature: tropical climate, around 25°C
Before starting my research on “Sri Lanka” it was not really on my radar or bucket-list. I believe you feel the same… Sri Lanka.. mh where is it exactly? Beaches or jungle? Country or island? Ok, ok – not that bad.
Still, I was not aware of the beauty and diversity this island provides.
Where? What? How?
There we were – my better half and I – sure about the destination but not on the route (yet).
Me, the main planner (as usual), took the initiative and started the route.
Our aim: to see as much as possible but not backpacking throughout the island!
Our route and the different spots ended up to be a mixture of blog-research but also live recommendations from my lovely, helpful Sri Lankan work mates.
It was beautiful to see how proudly they shared their top insider tips with me and the sparkle in their eyes was contagious!
After 1,5 weeks of planning our route was set.
From Abu Dhabi there are direct flights which take you to Colombo in more or less 4hours. Etihad Airways or SriLankan Airlines will take you.
Over there it is highly recommended to take a personal driver who drives you around.
Yes, it sounds posh but in fact it is needed if you do not want to roam around by public transportation. Also, due to the street conditions and horrible driving skills you would not get too far if driving on your own.
The driver research was quite complicated. We heard about the average package price which is normal (package: car, fuel, driver, drivers accommodation, drivers food) but were not too sure where we should actually find the drivers. Some agencies “rent them out” which we found weird so I looked up couple of websites. On TripAdvisor I found a girl who strongly recommended “Francis” – after a few emails back and forth with Francis directly I had a good feeling and we booked his service.
The communicated route was:
26.4. pick us up in the morning at 10h in Colombo to drive to Kandy but stop at the Elephant Orphanage
26.-27.4 night in kandy
27.4. take us mid-day to Polonaruwa
27.-28.4. a night in polonaruwa
28.4. afternoon take us to Passikudah
28.-30.4. two nights there
30.4. morning take us to Yalla Park
30.-1.5. one night in a camp
1.5. evening take us back to Colombo
As usual we booked all hotels in advance – ah wait, not all of them. One night we did not book to act “spontaneous” on site….Well, it was not my idea let’s put it this way 😉
To sum up:
Prior to the trip we booked the flights, hotels, driver and did not book any sightseeing activities.
We took light clothes and the most important: mosquito spray and wipes!
We could not have wished for a better start of this vacation: at the boarding gate at the Abu Dhabi International Airport we were told that we were UPGRADED to business class! Woopwoop. Happy since until that day I had never been in business class.
After a relaxed and pampered flight we arrived at night at Colombo Airport.
Once you step out of the airport you get “harassed” by the countless, illegal taxi drivers. You better watch out and look for the official ones! Still it is important that you negotiate the price prior to jumping into the car. He drove like a maniac – but this seems to be normal over here.
..I feel like a millionaire…
One Euro equals 172 Sri Lankan Rupees; the reason why I was not able to keep an overview of the money but thankfully I had my other half with me who managed it all.
Since it was only one rather short night we booked the Supun Arcade Residency which was ok for one night only.
Once we arrived at the hotel we went for a stroll around and went back to the hotel.
We – unfortunately – did not sleep like babies; it was quite the contrary: way too hot to be able to sleep properly – itchy all over either from the mosquitos or the hotel bedsheets. We were so tired but unable to sleep, every few hours we were awake but could not get up since it was still too early to do so.
We were finally “allowed” to get up, got ready and had a quick breakfast with a view.
At 09h00 sharp Francis came to pick us up. We stored the luggage in the rear and drove all the way to the elephant orphanage in Pinawela.
The orphanage was 4h away from Colombo and the drive included some frightening moments in the car.
Francis was at all times kind, friendly, knowledgeable but never too intrusive.
Finally we made it to the orphanage – which unfortunately was full of tourists.
..breath it all in, love it all out..
Before entering into the official orphanage we were lucky to spot many elephants who were on their way back to the preserve, coming from the water bath on the other side.
Instead of following the elephants we went reversely to the water.
Guess what we spotted? Some elephants including many BABIES 🙂 Yes!
Blessed to see and be that close to them.. I was in my own happiness heaven – but it got even better.
We approached them super close and were glad to take some lovely pictures.
The babies were quite cheerful and playful but such babies are not really small – instead super strong and tend to overdo it.
After this wonderful experience we went inside the orphanage and spotted some more elephants and a few babies which even got fed during our time there. Lovely. Enchanting.
..Fun fact: they cover themselves in sand to “scrub” off the dirt..
One big minus here though was the constant bothering and begging of the locals – always expecting tips just because of a small hint in regards to direction or other explanation.
In the long run this was really annoying.
Our next stop: the Royal Botanical Garden in Kandy.
Another 45min drive and we reached the famous Botanical Garden with a huge variety of flowers, the oldest and tallest trees as well as most rare plants.
Actually, all travel blogs and websites state that the Orchid House is something very unique and special – in fact we did not like it that much.
If you fancy a quick break you get the chance to grab some food or drinks at the coffee shop which is located in the garden.
After roaming around we got back into the car and drove to Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy – a well-known temple “temple of the tooth” which requires you to cover your shoulders and knees (this also applies to men!).
…friend or lonely dog?…
Btw our driver Francis drops us on the desired spots and while we go for the sightseeing he meets friends, family or grabs some food etc. – he is never just sitting in the car and waiting like a poor lonely dog (if you dare to think this ;)). Since we spent overall 6 days / 24h together we ended up rather being friends than the typical “customer-employer-relationship”.
A beautiful building with its finest mural paintings and impressive Buddha sculptures.
I find it a pity however that all temples charge the tourists an exaggerated amount of money. At least it is free of charge for Buddhists and locals.
Don’t forget to take off your shoes!
On the way down to our hotel we stopped at a manufacturing shop which Francis recommended.
We had a look but did not buy anything – it also seemed a bit “planned” rather than “accidental” – if you know what I mean 😉
Did I mention that the island is super green and has a lot of stunning view points?
Finally this long but still beautiful day came to an end and we checked into our hotel – Cinnamon Citadel Kandy – which provided an amazing open air lobby and stunning views right into the nature!
We said goodbye to Francis and went for a swim in the pool.
We just swam for like an hour and then a big thunderstorm came and it rained for a few minutes torrentially. But def. cool to watch – from the dry lobby area 😉
We had no breakfast included reason why we started off the journey at 09h and drove for 2h to the Golden Temple.
Francis dropped us off and we walked the stairs up until the top of the temple.
On the way there were many monkeys which are not scared from the tourists – quite the opposite – they tend to be cheeky and naughty.
The views from the top were just stunning.
Btw. Francis got paid on a daily basis so that he can take care of himself and the car.
Afterwards we were driven to Sigiriya Rock – The 8th world wonder. It def is.
It is literally a huge rock in the middle of the greenest flora and fauna.
Unfortunately it was so hot and humid that I had severe circulation problems and was only able to make it half way through.
Still the view from here was already unbelievable.
My strong and tough partner made it all the WAY UP and recorded it photographically.
After a quick break and a few water sips we went back down and went straight to the small souvenirs shops to get a gift for our niece.
..MADE MY DAY..
Hilarious situation: My better half approached the shops and was told that the wooden toy “was made by my mum” – while he was trying to bargain – I went over to the next shop and spotted (obviously) the same toy – in that moment, he has already purchased the “unique” toy and was proudly presenting it to me. I was cracking and told him that they must have the same mother since they both have exactly the same toy – slightly demotivated he went back to the first shop and told him “well I think you lied to me” – all he obtained was a little SriLankan head shake and a sassy smile. Hahaha. 🙂
This exciting afternoon ended with the check in at the Lake Hotel in Polonaruwa.
We made it to the pool and had a relaxing nap; once we opened our eyes a HUGE buffalo family was right in front of us. Haha. That’s what I call nature.
In general since day 1 we were always lucky to spot the weirdest animals just free-roaming on the street: birds, porcupines, cows and elephants.
After swimming we went for a shower and were looking forward to having our dinner. Unfortunately the buffet was overloaded with flies and mosquitos which were more than annoying and disgusting.
Well, in the end it is a tropical island and you cannot get rid of all of them – even if you use the wipes couple of times in a row.
In the morning we felt the trials of the horrible, sleepless night before.
Too hot, too cold, too humid, too many mosquitos – and every few hours we woke up and drank water like pigs.
Somehow the nights over here do not really pass quickly. One wishes that the nights are that long back home!
We went to the downtown area but were rather disappointed, some pics here and there and moved quickly on.
We stopped in a small village to grab some food and were constantly observed by the locals. The 2 whites incl. the blondie. It felt weird but I did not feel insecure.
After 1,5h drive to the East of the island we reached our resort “Centara Passikudah”.
Normally our hotel choice is pretty good but somehow on this trip we realized that we did not always take the best option.
Overall we have to say that the service is poor anyways. People are friendly but not “skilled” on a hotel service level.
Never mind, the resort itself was new, shiny and directly located on the beach.
We explored the beach and ended the day with a yummy dinner.
We went for breakfast which we had to share against our will with the countless free-roaming crows. Annoying.
Nevertheless the food was yummy and anyways we were in a relaxed mood looking forward to enjoying the day by the pool.
At 15h00 we had a wonderful couples full body massage which we both soaked up.
The day ended with a few drinks by the pool and a relaxing sleep.
The big day has come – our night in the jungle – yes, Licious goes jungle.
We drove almost 5h to YALA NATIONALPARK which was super tiring, annoying and I had the strong desire to throw up more than once.
The only bright light in this dark, montone tunnel was the free-roaming elephant which made us stop in the middle of the street.
Whenever you spot such an animal you have to stop the car and wait until he moves on his own at his own pace from the street – else he could turn your car in a football 😉
We finally arrived at the Eco Island Sri Lanka Tented Safari Camp Yala.
The welcome was incredibly warm and way better than any other welcome in the previous days.
Furthermore the camp is really ecological – they move every 6 months to a different spot within the national park so as not to harm the ground! We liked the environment-protection thoughts and were looking forward to our stay.
First of all they meticulously explained the jungle rules to us. Often we heard “But don’t worry, this normally does not happen” – which in the end did not really calm me down… But ok, lets do this!
We “checked-in” to our tent and had to hide our belongings in a big wooden box – not hide from thieves but from the free-roaming animals.
Generally it was somehow a “deluxe tent” since it had an adjoining toilet and shower but If you looked closer you spotted the mosquitos, spiders and frogs.
While waiting in our hamock for the lunch call we heard some heavy footsteps around our tent…
..Oh, oh… Lets see what comes next!..
…in the end we spotted an XXL lizard strolling around outside. He was such a huge thing that it literally sounded like the footsteps of a man.
The rangers called us for lunch and after having this sumptuous meal we were picked up for the first safari.
..check the tshirt..haha
Well, for those of you who never attended a safari – it is not like in a zoo where you see animals left and right while driving through the nature.
It is rather an adrenalin rush while playing hide and seek with the many different wild animals!
It was lovely to spot all those animals in their natural habitat – at the same time it was sad at times.
For eg. when we saw a little injured brown bear – which arouses a motherly-feeling inside of you, but since it is nature and the process of “natural selection” no one is allowed to go and help him.
Some other friends we have spotted:
This unique experience came (unfortunately) to an end but this amazing day was rounded off by a romantic candlelit dinner under the stars.
Yes, now you go “ohhhhhh lovely” – the same came to my mind when I initially heard this.
It was def. incredible to sit outside, at a table for two, lit by candles and the close fireplace, an exclusive dinner (incl. ONION soup ;)) and above us only the sky – just the two of us – but that’s precisely it – it wasn’t just the two of us.
Many mosquitoes, flies, “flying somethings” joined us here.
Initially we were busy hunting or dispatching them but at one point we realized that it was useless since they just became more and more.
So we (tried to) enjoy our dinner and just went with the flow… Yes, we ate a couple of those insects for sure, since they flew right onto our cutlery.
I tried very hard but at one point I was not able to focus on the conversation due to the buzz, whir, and being itchy all over – ear, hair, legs etc.
My partner opted for having the locally made liquor which helped him to ignore this animal show.
With a tummy full of food, love and happiness we went to our tent.
Btw. The rangers gave us a bell in case any wild animals showed up and they would come and save us in a few seconds.
In our tent we were protected by the mosquito net but still were encircled by different types of insects which meant I couldn’t sleep properly.
My better half, who had just confirmed that he also finds it all disgusting and he would not be able to sleep, was snoring next to me not even 2 minutes later. 😉
I, on the contrary, was not able to sleep for even a few moments and was busy hunting the insects with my lamp in the hand.
A few hours later the most hilarious thing ever happened. My significant other was sleepwalking and while he was sitting upright in bed he said “may I go to the washroom? I know they are coming soon to ask for feedback and I don’t want to miss out” – I calmed him down and he went back to sleep. But internally I was laughing my head off. Too funny and sweet at the same time.
The “feedback” thing popped up in his subconscious mind because everywhere you go in Sri Lanka they ask you proactively to leave your comment on TripAdvisor 😉
To be honest, overall this night was awful. I truly recommend everyone to have a jungle experience – but I would never, ever do it again 😉 Once is enough!
Finally it was 5am and we got woken up by the rangers serving coffee and biscuits. They came to pick us up for the 2nd safari: the dawn safari.
I was never that glad to be picked up at this time of the day!
Once again we were lucky to spot many different animals and were even super close to an elephant dispute.
The very knowledgeable and friendly rangers showed us around and brought us to the most special places and even to the ocean!
My happiness level was already at 80% but got exceeded and straight up to 100% once I saw those, small cute BABIES all over.
Baby pigs, baby monkeys, baby Bambis… I LOVE THEM!
Totally crazy about them.
After driving around the jungle for a couple of hours we got back to the camp; packed our things and checked out.
Francis was already there to take us further to our last stop. It took us 5h and at the end we were really annoyed by his crazy driving skills and the long drive.
Nevermind, finally we arrived in Colombo and – as initially mentioned – we kept the last night to decide “spontaneously” on a hotel. Well, we stepped into a few to get the daily rate and checked the room – but nothing really suited us.
Since Francis comes from Negombo he suggested to take us there; we ended up in a long street with many hotels next to one another.
We were exhausted, tired and annoyed and after negotiating we chose Rani Beach Resort.
What shall I say? Since that day I hated it even more to “act spontaneously” – it was an absolute catastrophe: loud, dirty, mold everywhere and countless bugs & mosquitoes.
We tried to sleep there and were looking forward to having our last day on the island.
We got up and tried to make the best out of this last day since at the moment we were in a quite negative mood. We were not planning on having such an awful last night on the island.
In addition to the horrible night, the breakfast was disgusting, the pool side and its sun beds were full of pooping crows and the “beach” was rather a stone field with some beggars/sellers. All-in-all pretty annoying and disappointing.
..positive mind..positive vibes..
Normally my other half is the positive one during vacation and finds solutions for anything – this time he was so pissed that he had even asked if we should go to the airport now (10am) although the flight was at 8pm. A sign!
Meant, this time I had to be the strong one and tried my best to get something positive out of this experience.
We started walking on that long street and got us some souvenirs – then I spotted a scooter shop and we rented one out.
All of a sudden this day turned into one of the best days – the best example that no matter how dark and bad things may appear – together, you are better and you will find a way back to the bright side of life. 🙂 *LIEBE*
We cruised and cruised and ended up in the outstanding Beach Lodge with amazing food and cold drinks, located right on the beach.
We stayed here for a couple of hours and enjoyed the sun rays. Simply happy.
Afterwards we went to one more shop where my partner bought a few T-shirts and I got a small Sri Lanki portmonnaie.
We went back to the scooter shop since it started raining cats and dogs.
The uncle of the shop owner drove us by tuktuk to the airport which was an unforgettable experience! We were incredibly wet from the rain which entered in the whole tuktuk but also purely happy.
With a bag full of new experiences, unforgettable moments and hearts full of love we flew back to Abu Dhabi!
If you are seeking an adventure and do not want to fly too far: Sri Lanka is your deal!
PS: It is still a “hidden gem” therefore you have barely (German) tourists around you 😉