Elephants, Beaches & Temples: Sri Lanka Tour

On arrival in Sri Lanka (after a very good flight with Qatar Airways), we were met by our lovely tour leader, Athula, who gathered us quickly onto our bus and off we headed towards Negombo.

We stayed for only one night at the fantastic Jetwing Sea Resort. we all enjoyed an amazing seafood BBQ on the beach for dinner, before heading to bed excited for the next day ahead.

 

Day 2:

We left Negombo bright and early in the morning and headed towards Sigiriya. On the way, we stopped at Dambulla Cave Temples. After walking up to the caves, we entered the first of 5 temples.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once you were inside, you soon realised that inside every cave you would be surrounded by statues of Buddha. The different statues are amazing, but the ceiling is covered in thousands of paintings of Buddha and you can really get a feeling for how spiritual this place is. It was truly BREATH-TAKING! I would recommend to anyone who visits Sri Lanka to experience the Dambulla Cave Temples!

After spending time at Dambulla, we headed towards our hotel in Sigiriya. As the roads are not the best, even short distances take time, plus with the crazy drivers, I can’t imagine we ever got above 40mph! But it was all part of the true Sri Lankan experience.

We arrived at our hotel, the stunning 4-star Sigariya JunglesThe rooms were lovely and spacious, with huge bathrooms (ground floor had open air bathrooms). The staff at this hotel could not do more for you, they were incredibly friendly and even put on a special BBQ for us on our second night here.

 

Day 3:

After another early start, we made our way to Polonnaruwawa, the second ancient kingdom.  After a quick visit to the museum, we jumped on our bicycles for a cycle tour around the stunning ruins. The site is quite large, so cycling is much easier than walking!

We spent a few hours touring around, stopping to see the ruined temples, palaces and swimming pools! We stopped along the way to sip on some refreshing king coconuts, opened expertly on the side of the road by a local lady.

Today’s lunch was a wonderful authentic Sri Lankan experience; we stopped at a local home, who put together an incredible meal. Dish after dish of Sri Lankan cuisine arrived at a central table, where we were able to help ourselves, we were even invited in to watch the women make our delicious meal.

Back to the bus and we headed off to find elephants! We arrived at the elephant reserve and transferred into open air jeeps, and whizzed through the jungle for around 30 minutes or so. We turned a corner, came through the jungle to an opening to find approx 50 elephants in front of us! What an amazing sight! Such an incredible experience to see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Day 4:

Now for an even earlier morning! I would recommend doing this as early as possible, as the weather can become very hot by as early as 9am, you would definitely not want to be doing this at this in the heat! Sigariya Rock, here we come! We arrived at the base of the mountain by 7am, and strolled through the gardens, until we reached the first few steps. There are about 1200 steps to the top!

  

At the top of the rock, there are the remains of a palace, built in 5AD, and the views are just incredible from the top, but the walk up is quite a spectacular sight too. The rock paintings and ancient frescoes are well preserved, so there is much to see.

Climbing the rock is tough, but it can be done! You can do it at your own pace, and there are plenty of places you can stop for a rest, but you are rewarded when you get to the top.

Our day continued on our way down to Kandy. We stopped en-route at a local Spice Garden, where we found out about the incredible spices that are grown in Sri Lanka and what their uses are. The tour round the garden ended with a tradition Sri Lankan shoulder and neck massage provided by training therapists using the ingredients we had just learnt about. The massage was absolutely worth it, especially after the trek up the rock!

We headed into Kandy for a quick freshen up, before heading to one of the most important temples in Sri Lanka – Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist artefact enjoying the many layers of Sri Lankan culture and history. This precious relic attracts white-clad pilgrims, bearing lotus blossoms and frangipani, every day.

During the evening we headed into town for dinner, via tuktuk! Such a fun experience, if not a little scary!

Day 5:

Our second day in Kandy we spent walking around the local markets, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. After lunch we headed to the Botanical gardens, which were quiet, relaxing and beautiful.

 

In the evening we watched a cultural dance show, followed by fire walking!

Day 6:

Upon leaving Kandy, we were asked if we wanted to visit a tea plantation. Of course we all said yes! Who would come to Sri Lanka and not visit a tea plantation?! Winding our way up through very narrow lanes to the top of the hill, arriving in glorious sunshine. We were taken out into the plantation where we were given an interesting demo on how to pick fresh tea leaves! Then we were shown what happens to the tea once picked, going through the processes until it ends up as a lovely cuppa!

After enjoyed a delicious cup of fresh tea, we headed back onto the bus and down towards the coast! We arrived in Galle and found ourselves within the fort. We walked along the wall and strolled through the streets which were full of quaint boutique shops, cafés and restaurants.

Afterwards we made our way to our hotel, Amari Galle. This was a lovely hotel! The rooms were spacious, all with sea views. The rooftop bar was a great place for a cool gin and tonic that evening!

Day 7:

This was our last full day in Sri Lanka, as we we headed along the gorgeous coast we didn’t quite know the amazing experience we were in for! Another local delight, which was a stop at a fisherman’s cottage, where we watched his wife cook an amazing crab curry, which we thoroughly enjoyed under the fruit tree in the front garden. This was followed by a cold ice cream from one of the local ice cream sellers, who turned up on his bicycle at just the right moment!

The rest of the day we were able to enjoy at leisure, lazing by the pool and enjoying our last day after a week of being on the go! A few of us headed back into Galle fort for dinner, where we enjoyed a cocktail at a rooftop bar, followed by some yummy pizza at one of the local restaurants.

Day 8:

Heading back to Colombo, we watched the world go by from the seats of the bus, before a bus tour through the city. We turned down some narrow streets towards our hotel, which was in the perfect location for a Saturday night! There was a street food festival taking place that evening, including live music! Fantastic atmosphere, enjoyed by all. No time to sleep tonight, as our flight was departing at 3am, so we just enjoyed the evening before heading back to the airport, where we said goodbye to our amazingly knowledgeable tour guide Athula.

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