Sri Lanka – Travel Tips by Clarissa

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View of Sigiriya Lion Rock from Pidurangala Rock
View of Sigiriya Lion Rock from Pidurangala Rock
What type(s) of travellers would your recommendations for Sri Lanka suit?

My recommendations for Sri Lanka would suit backpackers, those who seek adventures and those who are into landscape photography.

How many days would you recommend for one to spend in Sri Lanka?

7 days 6 nights in the Southwest region of Sri Lanka.

What are the top things to do in Sri Lanka that you would recommend?

The places of interests in Sri Lanka are scattered around Sri Lanka and requires hours of travelling between places. I have selected my top recommendations according to the route that I took: Colombo > Galle > Ella > Sigiriya > Negombo.

For ease of planning, I have saved these recommendations in a Google list which link you can find below.

1. Visit a National Park for a safari experience
Elephants roaming at Udawalawe National Park
Elephants roaming at Udawalawe National Park
Herd of water buffaloes heading towards the jeep at the Udawalawe National Park
Herd of water buffaloes heading towards the jeep at the Udawalawe National Park

– There are a few national parks in Sri Lanka, such as Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park

– We went to Udawalawe National Park as we understand that it is less crowded and it fit better into our itinerary from Galle to Ella

– Our driver made arrangements for a Safari Jeep at USD 38 per jeep (though I heard you can get it cheaper) that sits up to 6 people, excluding entrance fee of Rs 6800 for 2 (USD 44)

– While we were touring the Udawalawe National Park, it was not crowded at all – there were only a few other jeeps that we saw

– We spotted wild elephants, water buffaloes, crocodiles and many species of birds but did not manage to catch the leopards!

Address: Udawalawe National Park at 7th Mile Post, Sevanagala, Monaragala, Uva Province, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

2. Catch the sunrise (and moonset) at Little Adam’s Peak in Ella
Panoramic view of the sunrise and moonset at Little Adam's Peak
Panoramic view of the sunrise and moonset at Little Adam’s Peak
Photo spot at Little Adam's Peak
Photo spot at Little Adam’s Peak, only for the brave

– Caught the sunrise and the moonset here

– Reached the base of Little Adam’s Peak at 4 am, took about an hour of speedwalking to reach the first peak to catch the sunrise

– There were only a few groups of people when we were at the first peak waiting for the sunrise

– Perilous photography spot at Little Adam’s Peak above, only for the brave souls (like our guide)!

Address: Little Adam’s Peak (View on Google Maps)

3. Trek through railways, tea plantations and forests to the Ella Rock
A mini forest during the hike to Ella rock
A mini forest during the hike to Ella rock

– Begin your journey at the Ella train station – from the platform, while facing the railway, turn left. If you can, get clear directions from someone you trust before you start your journey.

– Note that there are NO SIGNS around to guide you to where the Ella rock is, and there are many locals who want to guide you, for a fee. We got lost a few times but got some help from tourists who came down from the Ella rock.

– Be prepared to walk through tall grass and forest floors

– The hike from the railway station to the Ella rock takes about 2 hours

Address: Ella Rock at Wellawaya-Ella-Kumbalwela Highway, Ella, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

4. Take a local train ride from Ella to Nanu Oya
Passengers preparing to climb to their carriages
Passengers preparing to climb to their carriages

– Experience a local train ride that ascends uphill, through tea plantations (temperature dropped from 30 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius when we reached Nanu Oya)

– When the train arrives at the platform at Ella, be prepared to walk across the railway tracks and climb up to the train!

– We took train number 1016 that departs Ella at 545 am, tickets cost Rs 600 each (USD 4)

– We bought our tickets from the Ella railway ticket counter, but you could also ask if your driver could help you get tickets in advance

Address: Ella Railway Station (View on Google Maps)

5. Visit a tea factory (Blue Field Gardens) to learn how Ceylon teas are made
Drying of tea leaves at the tea factory at Blue Field Tea Gardens
Drying of tea leaves at the tea factory at Blue Field Tea Gardens

– Free guided tour of the Blue Field Tea Gardens tea factory at Nuwara Eliya that educated us on how teas are made

– Free cup of tea is offered at the coffeehouse, in the hopes that you would make purchases at their shop

– Ceylon teas of different flavours and packaging sizes are available for purchase at the shop – I got a 100g pack of Earl Grey tea for Rs 900 (USD 6)

– Located near the Ramboda Waterfalls

Address: Blue Field Tea Gardens at Nuwaraeliya Road, Ramboda, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

6. Climb Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya for an awesome view of the famous Lion Rock Fortress
View of the Pidurangala Rock
View of the Pidurangala Rock
Hiking up with our friendly dog guide
Hiking up with our friendly dog guide

– Hike up takes less than an hour and consists of steps, rocks and boulders – fun but not too difficult

– A surprise awaits at the top of the Pidurangala rock! I didn’t expect to see what I saw and I shall not reveal…

– Breathtaking 360-degree view of the city

View of Sigiriya Lion Rock from Pidurangala Rock
View of Sigiriya Lion Rock from Pidurangala Rock

– Fantastic view of the Sigiriya Rock (Lion Fortress Rock) from the top of the Pidurangala rock

– Rs 500 (USD 3) to climb this rock as opposed to USD 30 to climb the Sigiriya Lion Fortress Rock

Address: Pidurangala Rock (View on Google Maps)

The above-mentioned recommendations together with the food recommendations below are saved in a list that I created on Google Maps – (View Google List).

What are the top things to eat in Sri Lanka that you would recommend?
1. Punto Cafe, if you are in Galle
Rice and Curry at Cafe Punto near Galle Fort
Rice and Curry at Cafe Punto near Galle Fort

– Tried the Rice and Curry and Devilled Chicken, they were good

– Within walking distance from the Galle Fort

– Each dish costs about Rs 600 (USD 4)

Address: Punto Cafe at 42 Pedlar Street, Galle, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

2. Cafe Chill / Chill Restaurant and Bar at Ella
Top level of Cafe Chill at Ella
Top level of Cafe Chill at Ella

– As the name implies, this is a cafe to chill at!

– There are bean bags and a bar on the top floor

Local and western food at Cafe Chill at Ella

– Large menu selection from local to western food – the chicken and rice wrapped with leaves was very good!

– Each dish costs about Rs 600 (USD 4)

– WiFi available

Address: Cafe Chill or Chill Restaurant Bar at Wellawaya Road, Ella, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

3. Hela Bojun (Traditional Food Court) at Ramboda
A traditional food court near Ramboda Falls
A traditional food court near Ramboda Falls
Food stalls at the traditional food court
Food stalls at the traditional food court

– A roadside food court that sells many local Sri Lankan food

– Very near to the Ramboda Falls

– No English menu – you point and order from each stall and pay by cash

– Ranges from sweet to salty, fried to steamed food items for the adventurous to try (because we have no idea what they are)!

Our random selection of food items
Our random selection of food items

Address: Hela Bojun (Traditional Food Court) in Ramboda (View on Google Maps)

4. Local buffet lunch at Priyamali Gedara, overlooking a Rice Padi Field in Polonnaruwa
Buffet lunch spread at a rice padi field
Buffet lunch spread at a rice padi field

– A buffet lunch with a large spread of many local dish selections

– Great view of a rice padi field

View of padi field from restaurant
View of padi field from the restaurant

– Costs Rs 900 (USD 6) per pax

Address: Priyamali Gedara at 1595 Bandiwewa, JayanthipuraPolonnaruwa 51000, Sri Lanka (View on Google Maps)

The above-mentioned recommendations are saved in a list that I created on Google Maps – (View Google List).

Any recommendations on where to stay in Sri Lanka?

Accommodation in Sri Lanka was tricky as we had to move from place to place, usually one or two nights per location. Here are our accommodation selections which are conveniently located:

Galle: Beach Haven Guest House
Ella: Emerald Mirror Guest Ella
Sigiriya: Thal Sewana Lodge – We had a great dinner cooked by the host!
Negombo: Cloud 9 Boutique Hotel

When is a good time of the year to visit Sri Lanka?

December to March.

How should one get around in Sri Lanka?

There are local trains and buses but the frequency is very low.

We hired a driver, Prabath, who spoke good English and doubled up as a friendly companion and guide. Contact him via Whatsapp at +94 77 0066839 or drop him an email here.

What are the acceptable payment currencies and modes?

Mainly Sri Lankan rupees, but you may also pay in USD for your accommodation. There are a few money changers upon arrival at the airport that accepts SGD, USD, EUR, amongst others.

Any other tips/things to be aware of in Sri Lanka?

– We were unable to find isotonic drinks (no 100 plus or Pocari Sweat) in the supermarkets, which we needed when a friend was down with food poisoning – so pack your own isotonic sachets!

Cost of Trip

Airfare – Singapore to Colombo – SGD 390 on SilkAir (promo)

Accommodation – About USD 20 per person per night at guesthouses

Driver – USD 75 per car per day

Attractions – mostly around USD 5-10, except for the Sigiriya Rock that we didn’t go as it was USD30

Tell us a bit about yourself

I love exploring and learning about new things, creating experiences, capturing and sharing moments. As such, I am currently building a travel application with my team at Away Nation, which aims to help travellers plan their trips based on recommendations from friends and locals, do check it out!