Where do I begin with this amazing country! I can’t even explain how incredible and surprising Sri Lanka is for a small country in the Indian Ocean. The country is full of history, vibrant culture, beautiful beaches, rolling green hills, tea plantations, temples and delicious food. Sri Lanka is the type of destination suited to all kinds of travellers. There are a number of mountains to hike, beaches to surf, endless bars where you can can go to enjoy a drink or ten and hundreds if not thousands of guest houses which are fantastic for families, couples, friends and solo travellers. As a solo female backpacker I have never felt more safe in an Asian country. The people of Sri Lanka are so friendly! They are very hospitable and always put in great efforts for you to enjoy their country to it’s full extent. Bartering isn’t as popular as many other Asian countries however you do need to Barter when it comes to catching a tuk tuk. Just make sure you confirm a price before getting in a tuk tuk, if not metered. The food in Sri Lanka has so much flavour due to use of coconut and spices. The most popular dishes would be 5 curries and rice (amazzzzzzzzing), Kottu which is Rotti mixed with vegetables, egg and any meat of your choice and any type of Rotti from egg, vegetable or meat to chocolate and banana (my favourite). It is very easy to travel as a vegetarian since 70% of Sri Lankan’s are Buddhist.
Colombo is an interesting city enriched with a strong history influenced by the Dutch, Portuguese and British. It is a generally clean city and very safe to walk around. I didn’t spend much time in Colombo because I am a typical Aussie who needs to get to the beach asap, however I did visit the Galle Facing Green which I would highly recommend. The green is a big “grassy” (but more sandy than grassy) area by the ocean where families go to fly kites, locals go to eat and kids go to play soccer and cricket. This part of Colombo is very relaxed and full of good vibes. The best thing to do is to buy some street food from one of the many stalls and eat it while dangling your feet over the pathway while watching the waves roll in.
If you are travelling to a country like Sri Lanka, you totally have to get amongst the local life and experience the public transport. It will cost you 80 rupee (approximately 70 Aussie cents) to travel two hours by train from Colombo to Hikkaduwa. Not going to lie, you will most likely be squished in a carriage with 30 locals however you are guaranteed to have a fun memorable experience. Nikki my Saffa friend and I took this train from Colombo. We almost missed the train because Nikki went to upgrade the tickets from 3rd to 2nd class however she didn’t have enough time which meant we were standing in a carriage for almost two hours body to body with all the locals. Who ever glanced at us would either laugh or smile. They were probably thinking who are these crazy western girls with their giant backpacks! We laughed most of the way because we were so squished and sweaty! Although it wasn’t the most comfortable experience the 80 rupee train provided us with a view money can’t buy. We past a number or amazing beaches, small beach shacks, endless palm trees and friendly people who would wave as we quickly went by.
After a long sweaty, hot train ride we arrived in Hikkaduwa. The beach there is beautiful!!!! There are a few green turtles that swim right into the shore. The surf in Hikkaduwa is great for beginners and it is pretty cheap to hire a board. You would be looking at 500 rupee for an hour which is more or less 4 aussie dollars. There are a number of dive school’s that take people out to the two wrecks and a few other dive spots. I can’t rate the diving as the visibility was terrible the day I went however I did notice the coral was pretty bleached and I believe it is due to the 2004 Tsunami. I know that visibility changes from day to day so i’m sure you could possibly have a great dive and see a number of turtles.
The Tsumani museum is a must do in Hikkaduwa. The museum explains the science behind earthquakes and presents photos of the devastation caused by the 2004 Tsunami. The photos are very graphic and make you feel for the people of Sri Lanka as they have the biggest hearts. There were over 130,000 people who died which meant Sri Lanka encounted the second most amount of deaths following India. It was a pretty disheartening experience however I am extremely glad I viewed the museum because now I have a greater understanding of the Tsunami.
Around 40 minutes south of Hikkaduwa you will find Galle and a further 15 minutes south Unawatuna. These two destinations are pretty touristy mainly due to the Galle Fort which was built in 1588. I love how the fort is free to climb unlike many other fort’s in the world. The fort spans a few kilometres and is covered by vibrant green grass. The walk around is very scenic as the fort is surrounded by beautiful beaches. Unawatuna Hostel is awesome!!!! So it’s literally a child hood fantasy come true. You pay 900 rupee (approximately 8 Aussie dollars) to sleep in a Tipi while horses graze around your tent. Now that’s living or just living it rough haha. The best thing to do is to take one of the small boats and paddle around the mangroves. The beach in Unawatuna is also nice however I feel like they get better the further south you go.
Next stop Weligama! Now this is my kind of beachy destination where you surf all day (well try at least) and party in Mirissa all night. You will go for a few days and end up staying a week or so. Well that’s what happened to me any way. Weligama has an awesome surf beach and Mirissa has a beautiful swimming beach with a small section to surf. It costs half the price to hire a board in Weligama compared to Hikkaduwa. There are a number of bars and little shacks that sell delicious cheap cocktails. Everyday Jono, Cory, Ruaru and I would go to happy hour that lasted not 1 but 5 hours. 400 rupee a cocktail.. Now you see why we got stuck in Mirissa for so long. If you eat at restaurants off the main road you can find awesome deals. You can pay anywhere from 200 rupee a meal and around 1000 for a basic meal on the beach front. Ordering food in Sri Lanka can be interesting at times. Most of the time the one thing you really want on the menu is unavailable or you do what I did and order a sandwich and be told half an hour later they don’t have bread. You just have to laugh otherwise you will probably cry especially if you are a bit seedy from a night on the 400 rupee cocktails haha. Exploring the Mirissa and Weligama region by scooter is a great was to find quiet or hidden beaches. It costs 1000 rupee to hire a scooter for a day.
All in all go to the south beaches of Sri Lanka. You will not regret it! You will fall in love with the country and never want to leave!