In august 2017 we started our first backpacking adventure in Sri Lanka. When we were searching for possible destinations Sri Lanka simply catched our eye and we fell in love with the country immediately. Nevertheless we found a really cheap flight with a short stopover in Dubai and on the Maledives, for only 320 euros p.p. return. So our decision was confirmed. In the following we’ll present you a possible route for 3 weeks.
Negombo - 1 day
After the arrival at Bandaranaike International Airport, we decided to take a day off at the quite harbour town Negombo to recover from the long flight. It was only a 30-minutes busride from the airport for less than 1 euro. The busstop is only a few minutes from the airport. Just ask the people around there for the way. There are many tuk-tuk drivers on the way who’ll tell you that there is no bus to Negombo. Just stay strong, there definitely is a bus and it is greatly cheaper than a tuk-tuk.
After taking a short nap, we went for a walk around town. We had dinner in an air-conditioned restaurant at the harbour and drank our first King-Coconut. But to be honest, we didn’t really like the town as it was quiet dirty and hectical. Furthermore there is no real beach to relax at because the fisherman are selling their fish here so it is crowded with people and you could smell the fish everywhere.
Things to do
Nice place to relax and watch the boats passing or to have dinner in one of the restaurants.
St. Mary's Church
Beautiful colonialistic church in walking distance to city center.
Here, the whole beach is crowded with fish that is sold by the locals.
Kandy - 3 days
Things to do
Sri Dalada Maligawa
- also known as temple of the Tooth
- budistic temple – supposed to contain the tooth of Buddah
- entrance: 10€
- best time in the evening because it’s ceremony time
- good place to relax with small garden around
- right next to the temple
- reachable by tuk-tuk tour
- best book a one day tour for ~15€
- temple entrance: <5€
- you need to cover knees and shoulders
- e.g. Ceylon Tea Museum
- reachable from Kandy by tuk-tuk
- free entrance
- free tea tasting at the end
- at the outskirts of Kandy
- huge, take some time for the visit
- you can see many big bats in the trees
- entrance: ~9€
Udawattakele Forest Reserve
- reachable by short tuk-tuk drive or ~30 minutes walk from city center
- entrance: ~3€
Nuwara Eliya & Ohiya - 3 days
Again we made the trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by train, standing right next to the open door. To get a seat in first or second class you might have to book tickets at least 3 days prior. Nuwara Eliya was just a calming stop-over before we went on to Ohiya. It is a charming small city that looks really english with it’s colonial builings and even a horse racetrack. We didn’tt do much here except relaxing and visiting the waterfall Lover’s Leap Falls. The waterfall was only a 30 minutes walk away from the main road. It was a nice walk through tea plantations. The waterfall itself is not huge but quiet beautiful. Make sure to visit it early in the morning because later clouds are gathering and you don’t have a good sight.
After one day we went on by train to the small village of Ohiya. You may already suspect it and you’re right. We stood right next to the doors again. And this trainride was both a frightening but still damn cool experience. The train was really full so not all people could fit in the train. Because of that some locals just got on the steps and hung themselve outside on the doors. Till then everything was cool. But when they saw that there was a tunnel ahead they where suddenly screaming tthat we should move togheter so they could fit into the train. It became so tight inside the train and you couldn’t keep hold of anything. But nevertheless we all reached the next station securely and we got out.
We actually just chose Ohiya for a stop because we found a really nice looking accomodation there in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by tea plantations. We decided to walk the 5 km to the hotel but there are also some tuk-tuks to take at the station. The next day we started at around 5 am with a tuk-tuk to Horton Plains National Parc. It is necessary to start that early because at around 11 am clouds are sinking and you won’t get the best sight. Wear warm clothes as it can be really cold and windy in the morning. You need to by tickets at an entrance gate and show your passport. From the entrance gate it is still some kilometres till the parc entrance but the tuk-tuk will bring you there. Before entering the parc your bags will be controlled and you have to submit all plastic waste, even bottle label, to avoid trash inside the parc. In the parc there are 2 possible walks, they just have opposite directions. I recommend you to visit Baker’s Falls first and after that World’s End, because most people use the other direction. The walk is around 9km long and quiet straight and easy to walk. We deccided to walk the whole way back to our accomodation but it was a really hard and long walk. We also lost the right way so we needed to hurry to reach the hotel before sunset. All in all we walked 30 km that day and were very exhausted in the evening.
Things to do
Pedro Tea Factory
- short guided tour and tea tasting
- entrance: ~1€
- city center of Nuwara Eliya
- contains several small lakes
- next to horse railway
- place to relax
- possible to rent a boat or jet-ski
- entrance: ~1€
Horton Plains National Parc
- reachable by tuk-tuk from Ohiya or private driver from Nuwara Eliya/Ella
- hike to World’s End, Little World’s End and Baker’s Falls
- plastic packaging must be delivered
- entrance: ~12€
Lover’s Leap Waterfall
- reachable from the main road, close to Pedro tea Factory
- ~15 minutes walk from the main road
Dambulla - 2 days
Dambulla is a city situated in the north of Kandy. We went there by train from Ohiya to Kandy and then by bus to Dambulla.
Along the mainroad in Dambulla are many small shops where you can by some souvenirs, spices and fruits. At first we wanted to visit Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya but finally decided to go to the nearby Pidurangala Rock because it is much cheaper and less turistic. We were not disappointed when we reached the peak after a short walk and some climbing. The climbing part is a bit difficult and therefore not siutable for small children and people with disabilities. The Lion’s Rock has a big staircase to climb it, so it can be climbed by everyone. The view from Pidurangala Rock was great. We could see the whole region around and had the best view on Pidurangala Rock. Best thing was that there were only a few more people besides us. On the way up you pass a small rock temple. Women need to cover there knees but they hand out scarfs to cover them. Even the garden area around both rocks is very nice. You can reach both rocks with frequent busses from Dambulla.
What we were really excited about was our visit at Minneriya National Parc tha is situated about one hour from Dambulla. We rented a jeep with driver through our accomodation. The driver brought us to the national parc, helped us buy the tickets and drove us through the parc. We started after noon and stayed in the parc until sunset. The parc is supposed to contain lots of elephants. Even on the way to and from the national parc we could see the first free elephants next to the road. In the parc we were not disappointed either. We saw hundreds of elephants, most of them next to a big lake that is in the parc. It was a breathtaking experience we’ll never forget.
Before we left Dambulla to head on to Trincomalee we visited the rock temple the next morning. You can reach the entrance easily within a short walk from the mainroad. Foreigners need to use a different entrance than locals which is a quiet far walk away from the main entrance but you can reach it easily. The temple was built just inside a rock….There are also many monkeys that often steal the oblations, to see.
Things to do
Lion’s Rock Sigiriya
- reachable by bus from Dambulla
- contains ruins of an old rock fortress
Pidurangala Rock Sigiriya
- in 1km distance to Lion’s Rock
- contains a small rock temple
- entrance: ~3€
Dambulla Cave Temple
- 10-15 min. walk from main road
- cover knees and shoulders
- entrance: ~7€
Minneriya National Parc
- rent a jeep+driver to get there
- feeding ground for huge elphant population
- best time to visit: july-september
- entrance: ~12€
- jeep price: ~50€ for half day
Trincomalee - 2 days
Trincomalee is a small beach town on the east coast of Sri Lanka. We decided to go to the rather unknown coast because on the popular beaches in the south and west swimming was not safe at that time of the year. The beach was very clean and the water was good for swimming but there were also some bigger waves. Sometimes there were even cows right at the beach. In the evening the atmosphere on the beach became really romantic. All the beach restaurants arranged tables and flares in the sand.
Pasikudah - 5 days
We went to the small beach town Pasikudah that belongs to the bigger city of Batticaloa by bus from Trincomalee. We decided to go there because we found a special offer for a luxurious hotel right at the beach. The beach was very paradisic but unfortunately the water was very shallow so we couldn’t swimm or snorkel there. There is also a public beach in town where are many snack stands and restaurants. Pasikudah is a holiday destination for locals too. There were bus loads full of people everyday. That is why the public area was quiet dirty every evening. But with the private beach and pool at the hotel we were happy with our deccison and relaxed for a few days.
Tissamahara/Yala National Parc - 1 day
Next on our list stood Yala National Parc. That is why we took two different busses from Batticaloa to Tissamahara, a small city near the parc, that we reached in the late evening. The next morning we started at 5 am to a safari tour organized by our homestay. We reached the parc shortly before sunrise and had to wait about 15 minutes until the parc opened. We hoped to see a leopard but didn’t have luck. Therefore we saw eagles, monkeys, crocodiles, elephants and a lot animals more. We finished our tour at noon and even saw an elephant on our way back to Tissamahara that even stuck his proboscis into the car.
Things to do
Yala National Parc
- safaris can be booked everywhere in Tissamahara
- price for chared jeep + entrance: ~40€ p.P
Galle - 1 day
We reached Galle by bus after one night stopover in Tangalle because the way from Tissamahara was to long to make all the way to Galle after the safari. Galle is a city on the westcoast of Sri Lanka. We visited the old fort. There are many tuktuk drivers that offer you a round trip through the fort. We made a tour for around 10€ but the fort is also easily visitable by walking. In the fort are also restaurants, hotels and shops. You don’t need to pay an entrance fee to get into the area.
In the evening we went to a restaurant near the main bus station and found it to be not the safest place after sunset. Better take a tuktuk or the bus to get back to your accomodation.
Things to do
- old dutch fortress with hotels, restaurants and shops
- visit by tuk-tuk tour or on foot
- entrance: free
- inside Galle Fort
- Sri Lanka’s oldest light station
Dutch Reformed Church
- near the entrance of the fort
- one of the oldest protestaant churches of the country still in use
- suited for swimming and snorkeling from october – march
National Maritime Museum
- inside of Galle Fort
- contains marine artifacts
- entrance: ~3,5€
Colombo - 2 days
Colombo is the capital of Sri Lanka but it has not much to offer. We used it to let our holiday slowly fade away before we flew home. We used our time here to shop some last souvenirs and cloths. There are small shops with different spices in every corner, so we bought different currys and some dried chilis. You find most shops in the district of Pettah. There you can also visit the red mosque Jami Ul-Alfar. There are also some temples, like Gangaramaya Temple and Kelaniya Temple. When you finally have enough of the loud, dirty city life you can visit Viharamahadevi Parc in front of the National Museum. If you don’t want to walk all the way through the city you can hire a tuk-tuk or take the local buses. On our last evening in Colombo we got to know the friendliest people of the whole journey. Besides the friendly restaurant owner who simply gave us a chain pendant as a present, we also met a kind local from Jaffna who bought our bus tickets so we don’t get ripped off. These encounters complemented our stay in Sri Lanka and we flew home brimful with happiness.
Things to do
- 350m high tower in the center of Colombo
Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque
- located in district of Pettah
- oldest and largest parc of the port of Colombo