Saturday, 2 April 2016

Holiday Photo Diary:Sri Lanka - 2 Week itinerary

Day 1: We landed in Colombo in the afternoon, after exchanging some money we caught a taxi to our hostel which was situated in the city centre. Once settled and refreshed we headed out to explore the town and to get travel information from Colombo Fort station. As we were due to travel to Kandy the next morning we wanted to plan ahead and get our transportation sorted. There is a tourist information office situated outside the station which proved extremely useful, as we had planned to travel around the country, we were advised to hire a driver rather than depending on train. It worked out to be our best investment - for under £200 we were allocated a driver for 7 days of our overall visit. We then took a Tuk Tuk to a restaurant, recommended by the driver, for a Sri Lankan buffet.

Accomodation: CityRest Fort

Day 2: An early start for us as we had to make the 8:30am train to Kandy. For just £5 each we were able to reserve seats in the 1st class carriage of the train which had air conditioning and even televisions that screened a film for the journey. Overall it took around 2 1/2 hours to reach Kandy, with wonderfully lush views of the Sri Lankan country. At the platform we were greeted by our driver Nuwan and we then began our 3 hour drive to Sigiriya. We took a few breaks during the journey starting with a view of the ever so vibrant Sri Muthumariamman Temple, then on to the Matale Spice Garden which provided an insightful tour talking us through spices and natural remedies - even a free massage! Finally we had a quick lunch and then our driver suggested we went to a gem museum as Sri Lanka is famous for it's beautiful blue Sapphires! By the time we reached Sigiriya it was almost sun down, we checked into our lovely hotel and had our evening meal.

Accommodation: Fresca Water Villa

Day 3: We were up early again ready for another day of exploration. This day we spent visiting the ruins of the ancient city Polonnaruwa. This is a stunning archaeological relic site, with so much history and culture embedded into every part. We actually under estimated how large the site would be, initially we were going to hire bikes but with the rising heat and the distance we decided to stick with our driver. Later in the afternoon we went to the Hurulu Eco Park for an exciting elephant safari! It was an amazing experience to see elephants up close in the wild, there were plenty to see and our guide was excellent.

Day 4: For most of the day we chilled by the pool and basked in the hot sun, to be honest the past two days really tired us out and so we decided to take it easy and relax. In the late afternoon we ventured out to grab a quick lunch in town and then went on to Sigiriya Rock. Sunset is most definitely the best time to climb the rock, you get such breath taking views and it's so peaceful to sit and watch the sun go down - plus it's a lot cooler than going in the heat of the day. The climb took around an hour with many, many stairs but so worth it.

Day 5: It was time to leave Sigiriya and drive back down to Kandy however we first took a trip to The Golden Temple and Dambulla cave temple which proved to be fascinating. With such beautiful Buddhist art and sculptures, this is such sight and was one of my favourite visits. By the afternoon we finally reached Kandy and enjoyed a spot of tea at the Ceylon Tea Museum where we learnt how the tea was made and the different variations of tea across the country. For dinner we tucked into some authentic Sri Lankan street food, which was probably the best meal of the entire holiday! We enjoyed the gorgeous flavours of Roti, Ulundhu Vadai, egg hoppers and sweet potato cutlets for as little as 25p each. By dusk we checked into our hotel and crashed out for the day.

Accommodation: Hotel Thilanka

Day 6: We spent our morning at the Royal Botanical Gardens known for it's beautiful collection of orchids, spices, palms and plants used in medicine. Full of life and colours, we had a pleasant walk and a good old chuckle at the monkeys that roamed the park. After lunch we went to the Temple of the Tooth which Kandy is best known for and then for the rest of the afternoon we took time out by the pool.

Day 7: Our time in Kandy was short but sweet as it was time to set off further south ready for our trek up Adam's Peak! On our way we stopped to view the Aberdeen Falls in the region of Nuwara Eliya, a beautiful water fall surrounded by jungle and wildlife. We also walked through lush tea plantations and tasted natural cinnamon straight from the plant. By sunset we had reached the base of Adam's Peak which was thriving with tourists and locals who were there for the trek. For us it was a matter of dinner and an early night so we were prepared!

Accommodation: Grand Adam's Peak

Day 8: We were on route at 3am for the 5,200 step trek up Adam's Peak to make it for sunrise. Honestly it was difficult, despite my fitness I did struggle at times and almost gave up too soon but I am so happy I pushed myself to reach the top and even managed to make it up in just 2 1/2 hours. The views were just incredible, we were literally up in the clouds and because we were so high the temperature was significantly colder. The top of the peak is very sacred to Buddhists and we witnessed a short ceremony with the locals. Once we made it all the way back down it was a race against time to make it for our morning train back to Colombo, it was also time to venture on our own and say goodbye to our loyal driver who became our friend through our trip. It was a 5 hour journey to Colombo and then we continued 4 hours on to the south coast of Matara. It was well into nightfall by the time we reached  Mirissa and so we dined at the hotel before heading straight to bed.

Accommodation: Esprit D'Ici

Day 9: Since we were so exhausted from the trek and all the travelling we had done the previous day, we decided to stay on the beach and enjoy swimming in the warm waves of the sea. We sat back and relaxed with fresh fruit juice and later ate lunch with the sand between our toes.

Day 10: It was a 6:00am start for us as we went Whale watching in the morning. Unfortunately this wasn't the best trip since we didn't actually get to see any whales and I suffered terrible sea sickness - as did most of the boat. We did however get a glimpse of a group of dolphins and for only £5 each we couldn't really complain.

Day 11: We visited the Dutch colonial town of Galle by local bus, it was around a 45 minute journey from Mirissa and the fare was a mere 50p. The town itself has such unique architecture that differs so much from what we'd already seen, it has such a European influence. As we walked through the streets we passed small boutique stores and restaurants, reaching the fort itself which looked across the ocean. In the afternoon we had time spare and I was really keen to try out surfing for the first time! We took a lesson on Weligama bay, it was so much fun and a great end to our time in the south coast. In the evening we had our final candle lit dinner on the beach with a sight of the full moon.

Day 12: Our last day on Mirissa beach and it was a sad departure, luckily we had a couple of hours before our train back to Colombo to enjoy the scenery and the sun. Soon enough we were back on the train with blissful views of the coast as we headed back to the busy capital. As we pulled into Colombo there was the most stunning sunset - a view I won't forget. After checking in to our boutique hotel we stepped out for dinner and enjoyed a feast of Lebanese for a change.

Accommodation: Ivy Lane Hotel

Day 13: We had a morning flight so once again we were up at dawn greeted by a beautiful sunrise. We took a cab to the airport and waved goodbye the beauty that is Sri Lanka!

- If you're planning to travel across the country it's well worth investing in a driver
- Make use of public transport, not only is it cheap it's an experience
- Don't be afraid to try the street food, it turned out to be the best food we ate and we had no tummy trouble
- Travel with a backpack not a suitcase, it makes it a lot easier to move from place to place especially if you're travelling on trains and tuk tuks
- Keep hydrated! Bottled water costs as little as 50p so make sure you always have some with you as the heat will take it out of you
- Try the local cuisine, my favourite dishes were Dhal curry and rice or Kottu Roti but be aware that almost every dish is hot in spice
- You can exchange money in jewellery shops at very good rates so try to avoid using banks
- Locals like to drink soda and lime - give it a try!

Tamara x