27th February – 22nd March 2018
We spent just over three weeks in Sri Lanka; an island the size of Ireland. It’s just off the southern coast of India and yet feels infinitely calmer than its larger neighbour. Some people may still know it as Ceylon, a name used by the British during its period of colonisation from 1815 to 1948. The British weren’t however the first to colonise this little country and there are signs of both the Dutch and Portuguese influences throughout the island.
What it lacks in size it makes up for in diversity. Sri Lanka offers a huge variety of activities and can really suit a lot of people’s desires. It has beautiful beaches, world class surfing, an amazing variety of wildlife and a rich cultural history.
Food and Drink
Rice and Curry
Rice and curry was probably our favourite dish throughout Sri Lanka. It is a big plate of rice served with four different vegetarian currys including a traditional daal and a poppadom. If wanted you could also add meat or fish as well. The best thing about this meal was that it was different every time you had it and the vegetarian curries and rice were often unlimited. We had pumpkin curry, beetroot curry, garlic curry, potato curry, green beans, leeks, the list goes on. This dish is often also very cheap from the local restaurants. We once has a full plate of unlimited vegetarian curry for 55p each!
We ate hoppers for breakfast when we stayed in Ella. They are similar to the western pancake although are made from rice flour and coconut milk with some local spices. They are very distinctive in shape as they are cooked in what I would describe as a very small wok. You could have whatever you wanted in your hopper. Often we would have an egg but you could also have vegetables, bananas or honey.
Sri Lankan Snacks
These parcels of curried/spiced goodness can be found almost anywhere in Sri Lanka. You pick them up at breakfast and take them on a hike for lunch or you could buy them from one of the many loud hawkers on a trains or buses who push through the crowds with a basket full. I am not sure what they are called as they are normally just on display and you just point at what you want. You can’t really go wrong as they are really cheap and in my opinion always tasty!
Ella is a must see on every person’s itinerary for Sri Lanka. It is not only on the end of the famous train line from Kandy which offers stunning scenery of the mountainous hill country, it also has its own unique charm. You can explore the town by foot and the walks to viewpoints such as Little Adams Peak and Ella Rock are very rewarding. The main street is very touristy, however this does mean you can get western food and even a beer if you want. Local food is also available and we took a great cooking class at the ‘Ella Spice Garden’ where we made a garlic curry using 160 garlic cloves for a small eight person dish.
This is a town on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka and has a very impressive natural harbour. Not every traveller makes it to this part of the island as it is off the main circular route, however if people do visit they normally stay on the more touristy Uppuveli beach north of the town of Trincomalee. We decided to stay in the centre itself amongst the locals. We really enjoyed exploring the beaches which were covered in local fishing boats rather than sun loungers and overpriced bars. The friendly locals seemed genuinely interested in us and we found the whole place quite relaxing. We also visited ‘pigeon island’, a small coral island located just off the coast of Trincomalee, and saw the most amazing sea life whilst snorkeling including reef sharks, turtles and loads of beautiful fish!
Sigiriya (and the cultural triangle)
Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress located in Sri Lankas ‘cultural triangle’. This giant stand alone rock is a volcanic plug from an extinct volcano. King Kasyapa in the second half of the fifth century decided to build his palace on top of the rock giving him an excellent defensive position two hundred meters above the surrounding jungle. Nowadays you can explore the ruins of this ancient city which are both surrounding and on top of this rock. You also get some amazing views of the surrounding landscape. Additionally Pidurangala is also worth a visit. This smaller rock is just north of Sigiriya and is the perfect spot to take pictures of Sigiriya itself. We went up for an unforgettable sunset.
Things we learnt
- Sri Lanka has something for everyone and offers a huge variety of sights which can be seen a short space of time. We spent over three weeks here, however we were joined by a friend, Jo, who travelled with us for a normal two week holiday. During her time with us we visited coastal forts, surfed, went on safari, hiked and visited the three main sights of the cultural triangle. This is a small country physically and has a well developed bus and train network giving it amazing potential for those with less time than us.
- Local transportation is cheap and worth it for the experience. Not only does Sri Lanka have an amazing bus network like many other Asian countries but it also has a great train network, kindly built by the British to transport all the tea. Although the trains are slow and noticeably wobbly you can often hang out of the windows (and sometimes doors!) and watch everyday Sri Lanka roll by.
- Sri Lanka does not have a single language used throughout the whole country. In the centre and south of the island they speak predominantly Sinhalese. This is about 75% of the population. In the north however they mainly speak Tamil, particularly in Jaffna the main northern city we visited. Approximately 15% of Sri Lankans speak Tamil, a language also spoken in southern India. We also found a lot of Sri Lankans spoke good English. We believe this is because Sri Lanka was previously a British colony and that they still today teach English in schools.
Top three phrases/words
- Thank you very much- Bohoma Stutiyi ( බොහොම ස්තුතියි ) Sinhalese
- Thank you – Nandri ( நன்றி ) Tamil
- Local greeting – Vaṇakkam ( வணக்கம்! ) Tamil
Travel Statistics for Sri Lanka
Beers drank: 10 (each)
Beds slept in: 15 (each)
Bribes paid: 0
- Plane: 1
- Bus: 17
- Train: 5
- Boat: 2
- Taxi: 1
- Car: 2
- Rickshaw: 12
Spending in Sri Lanka
Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee
Currency Conversion: £1 = 218.52
Number of days in country: 23
Breakdown of spending (together) -
Food & Beverage: £200.70
Total (together): £1,184.60
Total (per person): £592.30
Average Daily Spend (together): £40.93
Average Daily Spend (per person): £20.47
Note: ADS excludes all flights into and out of the country