An exclusive to-do-list for travellers in Sri Lanka
Apr 08, 2020
Climbing the sacred mountains, praying under the oldest ancient tree (2,400 years old) or enjoying a refreshing taste of tea while contemplating the beautiful tea hills, etc – These are just some of the precious gifts that the beautiful Sri Lankan island welcomes its visitors.
Among many famous destinations in the world, rarely there is a place with plenty of ancient historical sites and natural landscapes like Sri Lanka. When the Covid-19 outbreak ends, treat yourself with a visit to the “land of smile” and enjoy doing these 7 things to recover your strength physically and mentally.
1. Cycling around the sacred city of Anuradhapura
If you want to know how Sri Lanka was 200 years ago, come to Anuradhapura, the capital city of North Central Province, which is located about 220 km from the largest city of Sri Lanka, Colombo. Established in the 6th century BC, Anuradhapura city used to be the first capital of Sri Lanka for over 1,000 years. The preserved historic sites of this old city were among the most impressive masterpieces in South Asia. This place is also home to more than 10,000 architectural and archeological wonders of Buddhism with huge brick tombs hand-built by ancient residents, ruined temples and pools surrounded by monks.
Another important destination in Anuradhapura city is the Bodhi tree (Sri Maha Bodhi), where Buddha was enlightened. Sri Maha Bodhi was brought here from India and planted in the 3rd century BC. Being considered the most sacred and revered place since then, the Bodhi tree is worshipped by Buddhists from all over the world. This is the oldest tree in human history.
- Transportation: The best way to discover the Anuradhapura city is to take a tuk-tuk or rent a bicycle. You can rent bicycles at any hotels and homestays where you stay during the trip to Sri Lanka.
- What to bring: Don’t forget to bring drinking water and a hat as the weather is usually sunny, and some sandwiches or snacks as there are many stops ideal for picnics. Also, bringing a pair of socks in case you want to change your route to visit some temples on the way where tourists must take off their shoes. If using socks, you can go on barefoot on the rock without fear of heat.
- Day tour: If you do not have a good sense of direction, take a day tour! The entrance fee is about 25USD/ day. Normally, it will take you up to 3 days to explore all the monuments in Anuradhapura city in Sri Lanka. Therefore, to take full advantage of a day, you should visit the remote temples first.
2. Watch the sunrise on Adam’s peak
Believing in holy or not, a thing for sure is that you will find yourself becoming more holy than ever after reaching the peak of Adam, which is also known as Sri Pada in Sri Lanka. The peak is a 2,234m high mountain in a gorgeous area of the central highlands. With a unique rock structure on top, Adam’s peak attracts a large number of tourists coming to Sri Lanka for pilgrimage for over 1,000 years.
As legend has it, Adam’s peak is where Buddha left his footprint when he entered Nirvana. The Christians and Muslims think it belongs to Adam, who set foot on earth first after leaving heaven. However, the Hindus believe that it must be the footprint of Shiva. Such strong beliefs are a reasonable explanation for the large number of pilgrims gathering beneath the mountain all year round.
Usually, it takes about 2.5 to 4 hours to climb the craggy road to Adam’s peak in Sri Lanka. After a trip to the top of the mountain, travellers will soon recognize a breathtaking panoramic view when looking down. Although the top of the mountain is quite steep, it will certainly be one of the most fascinating and memorable experiences of your life.
Many Sri Lankans consider climbing Mount Adam as a challenge to do at least once in their lifetime. Therefore, you may easily meet many local families with parents and children on the road to the mountain. If climbing to the top from early morning, you can have an opportunity to watch the sunrise – a truly rewarding experience.
- Time to visit: Adam’s peak is very crowded from January to March so you can consider travelling to Sri Lanka to climb Adam’s peak in other months.
- What to bring: Do not forget to bring food and water as you may not find any services provided on the route, especially in the low season. In addition, bring a jacket and hat because sometimes the weather is quite cold. If climbing in the evening, bringing a torch is a good idea. Although hiking is safe for tourists, traveling in groups is always the smartest choice.
3. Relax on the Mirissa beach
Set your mobile phone aside, take up a book and order a fresh coconut or a beer while swinging in a hammock right on Mirissa beach of Sri Lanka. Such a sweet relaxation in the most peaceful beach of Sri Lanka can make your dream of a tropical paradise come true.
Staying at one of the hotels and motels nearby the beach, which brings you the idea of a deserted island, you can enjoy fresh and delicious foods anytime as there are plenty of cafes and small restaurants serving fresh seafood dishes along the coast. Particularly in the evening, you absolutely will adore the elegant as the dining tables are set up right on the beach with candles and lanterns. Mirissa beach is a great destination for romantic travellers.
NOTES – Three “must-have” experiences in Mirissa beach:
- Watersports: The sea water at Mirissa beach is so clear that makes scuba diving and surfing here even more interesting. Thanks to the stable wave level, this is an appealing destination for many surfers from around the world. The best surfing time is from October to March next year.
- Watching dolphins: Whale and dolphin watching tours are very popular for tourists in Sri Lanka. Just make sure to choose a reputable tour provider who will not operate with an overcrowded boat without enough life jackets for all passengers. If you do not want to miss a chance to see blue whales, come to Mirissa beach from mid-December to March.
- Experiencing the traditional Ayurvedic therapy: Mirissa beach has lots of spas, traditional Ayurvedic therapy centers and yoga centers with various herbal body massages and aroma therapies. The great thing is that they offer quite good prices for tourists.
4. Visit tea hills in Nuwara Eliya
Another ideal destination in Sri Lanka to enjoy the refreshing air is the Nuwara Eliya city. Being surrounded by mountains, Nuwara Eliya city has a cool climate and possesses impressive colonial architectures, lovely parks and gardens and neatly trimmed lawns, giving visitors a sense of a tranquil countryside in England. In the 19th century, the English, the pioneers in the tea industry, used to come here to hunt deer and foxes as well as play golf and cricket.
Walking around the picturesque tea hills around the city, you may come across some women and sisters carrying bags full of tea leaves harvested on their backs. Feel free to smile at them as these locals do not hesitate to give visitors a big smile despite a long and tiring day working on the field.
- What to do: One of the activities not to be missed when coming to Nuwara Eliya city is visiting the tea factory. You can go on a tour or travel alone to learn about the tea production processes, tea cultivation techniques, different types of tea and why some types of tea are bright orange, etc.
- Enjoy the tea: After the tea factory tour, stick around for a tea ceremony. Visitors taking a tour are invited to take a sample of different types of fresh tea.
5. Visit the spectacular Lion’s Rock – Sigiriya
Being known as “Lion’s Rock”, Sigiriya is the most priceless ancient rock fortress in Sri Lanka. This place is famous for the palace monument atop a 200m high rock surrounded by a network of aquatic gardens, fountains, swimming pools, ponds, yards and other works. All of them are an indication of the excellent skills of talented architects in ancient times.
1600 years ago, this natural rock was transformed by King Kasyapa into a royal fortress. The director of the famous TV series “Game of Thrones” must have been inspired by the conspiracy and betrayal stories around the Lion’s Rock. According to the myths, the king’s palace has a single entrance in which a lion and the rock carved by its giant footprints are. Travelling to Sri Lanka to visit the spectacular Lion’s Rock, during the period of 2.5-4 hours climbing up, the tour guide will tell you all kinds of stories regarding the artifacts on the way.
- Ticket price: As being recognized by UNESCO as the 8th wonder, the ticket to enter the Sigiriya is a little high, about $30/ person. You can also visit the nearby Pidurangala stone monument which is as tall as Sigiriya and also offers breathtaking views down at a lower price.
- Important: Since it is not easy to climb the spiral staircase attached to the standing walls in Sigiriya, you should take things into consideration if travelling with children. And don’t forget to bring drinks, snacks and a hat.
6. Shopping at Galle fort
Watch out if you go with your women to Galle fortress, hold your wallet tight because they will spend it all! It will be extremely difficult to refrain yourself from shopping when going through stores at Galle fort.
The beautiful Galle fort with an area of 90ha is the best-preserved seaport in South Asia. For hundreds of years, the Persians, Greeks, Indians and Chinese had been trading at this port, mainly for spices. But Galle’s “modern” history dates back to 1505, when the Portuguese occupied the fortress. 100 years later, the Dutch took over and built up the present fort with spacious roads and houses.
Today, the fortress area is considered a UNESCO cultural heritage, an inspiration and destination for many foreign artists, writers, designers and photographers. People are tempted by the special mix of small shops, colonial-style hotels, cozy restaurants, unique museums and art galleries at Galle fort.
Inside the Galle fortress, you can buy travel and movie posters from the late 1800s. Fabrics, handicrafts, handmade accessories, hand-painted paintings or masks, all kinds of delicate stuff can be found here. If you’re tired of shopping, stop by one of the fortress’s highlights, the Protestant Netherlands Church with a 300-year-old organ! In addition, you can also visit the lighthouse, Meera mosque, All Saints church or old Dutch government house.
- The best way to explore the fortress is to walk inside the city walls just before sunset. Locals and tourists often take a walk, enjoy a drink or enjoy the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
- If you’re lucky enough, you may see firsthand the giant lizards sunbathing along the walls. Although they look like crocodiles, they are totally not dangerous.
7. Watch elephant bathing in Kandy
Protected by UNESCO, the city of Kandy in Sri Lanka has a multitude of activities that may astound every visitor. Travelling to Kandy city is a chance to visit one of Sri Lanka’s most sacred holy places, which has the tooth of Buddha as a relic.
On the other hand, if you prefer a quieter place into nature, the Royal Botanical Garden, the most spacious and beautiful gardens in the world (60ha), is an ideal stop. Taking a taxi or bus, you can easily find the Garden, where over 10,000 types of plants with different ages, shapes and species are prospering. Among them are very rare species such as banyan trees, Burma giant bamboo with 40m height, ancient Javan fig tree with the roots spreading up to 1,800 m2. Orchids and pink blooms are also found here, which makes the garden extremely magical.
Above all, one of the best experiences you will surely love is watching hundreds of elephants bathe in the river. There are hundreds of them! Elephants living in Pinnewala Orphanage (40km from Kandy city) maintain a rather mundane habit of eating and bathing twice a day. Fortunately, they are not forced to entertain tourists with football playing or drawing.
Observing how the elephants move to the river is just so calm as well. First, they will cross the street, resulting in the traffic stop to make a path. After that, the best part is when they follow each other along the narrow path between the souvenir shops, which makes everyone witnessing burst into astonishment. It is also very interesting to see baby elephants in the herd. Visitors can also bottle-feed the elephants from a safe distance, of course, with an extra fee.
- The admission fee to Royal Botanical Garden is about $16 to enjoy almost all the playful activities inside, especially when you’re traveling with children.