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Sri Lanka tips
Old 11-09-2014, 11:44 AM   #1
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Sri Lanka tips


Thinking about going to Sri Lanka from december 26th onwards to escape new year celebrations.

I seemed to remember some people here have lived there and/or spend a few vacations.

Any tips? Will probably have about three to four weeks over there, and I am fairly active.


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Old 11-09-2014, 12:16 PM   #2
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I was bicycling there about 8 years ago. It's a wonderful place to visit, with diverse sights in a relatively compact country. In 3 or 4 weeks, you can pretty much see it all.

My list of must-sees include the following:

Sigiriya - ruins of an ancient palace built on top of a massive rock. If you have vertigo, you probably won't want to climb up the stairs on the side of the rock, however. It's one of the coolest places I've ever visited. Great views on top of the huge rock. Wikipedia has a photo:
Sigiriya - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Horton Plains National Park - I hired a driver for half a day to go there and back from Nurawa Eliya, and to get there before sunrise. Nice easy hike through cloud forest, to a waterfall, and to Land's End for the stunning view south.

Climb up by the ancient British-built train up through the pretty tea plantations into the mountains. Great scenery, atmospheric train, and even wonderful music by a local musician who busked in my train. The temperature is delightful at altitude compared to everywhere else in the country.

Anuradapura - hire a bike to see the spread out ruins

Beaches on the south coast - there were still many signs of the tsunami when I was there.

Galle - pretty walled town

Kandy - several interesting sights. Not far from town, there was a superb botanic garden if that interests you.

Polonnaruwa - I ran out of time and didn't go, but it sounds worthwhile. Also, it's supposed to be one of the best places to see wild elephants.

Elephant Orphanage - between Colombo & Kandy. There were also spice farms around there.

Cave paintings at Dambulla were somewhat interesting.

I didn't go to Colombo at all, which doesn't sound like it has many attractions. I spent my first and last night in Negombo, a pleasant beach town just north of the airport. I also didn't have time to really see Yala West National Park, which sounds nice.

I loved the food, which is quite spicy. "Rice and curry" is a varying mix of different vegetable dishes, dal (spicy and made with coconut milk), rice, and usually a small amount of either chicken or fish. Try rice hoppers for breakfast. Much better than the "western" breakfasts, IMO. Stop in the bakeries. There are some interesting things, both sweet and savory. There aren't too many restaurants outside of Kandy, and presumably Colombo. I typically ate dinner in the guest houses. There seems to be pretty good hygiene. I didn't get the slightest bit sick, nor did I meet anyone who got sick there.

People are friendly, and they don't hassle you too much (unlike in India, I've been told.) Enough people speak English to make it easy to get around. Road signs are usually in English. I met an American who hired a driver during his stay. He said it was extremely inexpensive.

I was there in Jan/Feb, which is normally a drier time in most of the island, except for the east coast, which normally has a monsoon period at that time.

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Old 11-09-2014, 12:33 PM   #3
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Wow, thank you for that great list!

How did you choose the guesthouses to stay in?

I usually start off with a lonely planet or rough guide and then ask other tourists. Works well in some countries but not in all.
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Old 11-09-2014, 01:22 PM   #4
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We were there roughly the same time as Anethum.

I suggest downloading the excellent "For 91 Days in Sri Lanka" from Amazon for some really good itinerary tips, and going with one of the non-LP guidebooks such as Rough Guide for guesthouse tips.

Kandy makes a good base from which to explore. We loved the Forest Glen guest house just outside the center.

Sri Lanka has the oldest surviving Buddhist culture and that was a lot of our focus, but the walking/hiking is amazing. The food is a disappointment after South India (which is where we were prior) but still quite good. On the plus side, unlike just about anyplace else in Asia, they have one truly great beer: Lion Stout, which is world class stuff. You can enjoy the incongruity of having it with British pub fare in Kandy!

A great country to visit for sure. FYI there are dirt cheap RT fares to Colombo from Bangkok since it is such an important Buddhist pilgrimage site.

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Old 11-09-2014, 01:36 PM   #5
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The Footprint Sri Lanka guidebook had reliable guesthouse recommendations, and their comments about places which served excellent food were accurate, too. I had especially good food at my guesthouses in Ella and Galle. I believe that Footprint guides mostly use reader feedback for guesthouses. Any place which says "Rec" or "Highly Rec" was invariably an excellent place. I had previously used the Footprint guide in Chile for hospedaje (B&B) recommendations, and they were consistently accurate.
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Old 11-10-2014, 03:47 AM   #6
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I was there in briefly in 1960, for a month in 1963, and 2-3 weeks in 1985 - used the train in 1963, and rented a self-drive car in 1985.

Overall I'd agree with anethum's points, (never got to Polonnaruwa either)....loved the Elephant Orphanage (where I am in the pic below), Anuradapura and especially Sigiriya.

Also got to ride an elephant in the middle of nowhere...couple guys standing by the roadside with one......just great!
"Exit, pursued by a bear."

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Old 11-10-2014, 06:34 PM   #7
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I went about 10 years ago for a friend's wedding, and loved it! Agree with all the others have said. I am actually not great with heights but managed Sigiriya OK, taking my time, so unless you are properly phobic I would put it on your list. You will have a fantastic time!! It is definitely quite different to India and a lot less hassle and attempts to sell you stuff (or get you to go on dates...)

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