Globaltraveling : Guide de voyage expérimental au Sri Lanka: 19 choses à faire et lieux à visiter


Envisagez-vous de voyager au Sri Lanka, mais vous ne savez pas par où commencer? Quels endroits à visiter, que faire ou comment planifier votre voyage? Et comment éviter la foule? Nous répondrons à toutes ces questions et plus encore dans ce guide de voyage expérimental du Sri Lanka et cet itinéraire de deux semaines.

De rencontrer des gens dans les trains, de partager le lever du soleil avec les pèlerins et les voyageurs au sommet du pic d'Adam, de se promener dans les jardins de thé, d'apprendre à faire éclater les épices et de cuisiner des plats sri lankais dans des pots en argile, d'admirer les sculptures de Bouddha endormi dans des grottes et bien plus encore, voici un échantillon de la diversité des expériences et des destinations Vous trouverez voyager au Sri Lanka.

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L'aube au sommet du pic d'Adam, un lieu sacré pour les bouddhistes, les hindous, les musulmans et les chrétiens.

Sri Lanka Ceylan La petite île en forme de larme dans le sud de l'Inde. Notre visite là-bas n'était pas la première.

J'y ai vécu 18 mois lorsque mon père a travaillé à l'ambassade des États-Unis. Mes souvenirs du Sri Lanka de mes six à sept ans consistaient en robes de safran aux couleurs vives portées par des moines bouddhistes, de petits éléphants orphelins se baignant dans la rivière, des bouddhas géants dorés et un vert vibrant autant que je pouvais. Voyez à travers les collines des plantations de thé du nord.

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J'avais six ans avec des éléphants orphelins quand nous vivions au Sri Lanka.

Quelque chose que j'apprécie maintenant en tant qu'adulte, mais que je ne comprenais pas pleinement quand j'étais enfant, sauf pour remarquer les différences dans les vêtements des gens, était la diversité des ethnies, des cultures et des religions au Sri Lanka. Cela comprend une population majoritaire de Cinghalais à prédominance bouddhiste, une communauté tamoule composée de Tamouls du Sri Lanka et d'Indiens, pour la plupart hindous, mais aussi chrétiens et musulmans.

Ajoutez à cela une histoire longue et compliquée qui remonte à plus de 8 000 ans, y compris les luttes de pouvoir entre les royaumes, le colonialisme et la migration forcée, et qui a la combinaison qui fait du Sri Lanka l'endroit fascinant et complexe qu'il est, le même combinaison qui a contribué à diviser et à conduire à une guerre civile dévastatrice de 26 ans (1983-2009).

Ma famille est partie avant le début de la guerre civile. Alors que la guerre se développait, nous avons vu des amis sri-lankais émigrer pour éviter les conflits. Et juste au retour de la paix et de la stabilité au cours de la dernière décennie, nous avons vu combien d'entre eux sont rentrés chez eux. Dan et moi étions sur le point de visiter le Sri Lanka en 2008 lorsque nous étions en Inde du Sud. C'était juste avant la fin de la guerre civile. Sur les conseils d'amis du Sri Lanka, nous avons décidé d'attendre. Lorsque la guerre a finalement pris fin en mai 2009, nous avons cherché une occasion de visiter.

Un est finalement apparu des années plus tard. Stimulés par une ouverture dans un cours de méditation Vipassana dans un centre du Sri Lanka, nous avons réservé un vol de dernière minute pour Colombo. Tout en suivant mon cours de méditation, Dan s'est dirigé vers le sud vers une plage pour sa propre retraite. Après la fin du cours de méditation, nous avons embarqué ensemble pour un voyage de deux semaines autour de l'île.

Pour établir un itinéraire, nous avons recueilli des recommandations d'amis qui avaient vécu ou visité récemment, en établissant un itinéraire approximatif axé sur les voyages en train, les jardins de thé et la randonnée. Nous laissons les choses flexibles, réservant souvent un logement la veille ou la veille, pour permettre les changements et ajustements que nous souhaitons.

En fin de compte, cela s'est avéré être un voyage de deux semaines encore meilleur que ce que nous avions imaginé, plein d'une diversité d'expériences et de destinations qui démentait le temps relativement court que nous avions. Malgré le terrain que nous avions parcouru et tout ce que nous avions vécu, nous ne nous sommes jamais sentis sous pression.

Trains, jardins de thé et promenades. Voici les meilleures expériences de nos voyages au Sri Lanka et l'itinéraire de deux semaines.

Comment utiliser ce guide de voyage expérimental au Sri Lanka: Les expériences suivantes sont dans l'ordre chronologique de notre voyage. Si vous avez environ deux semaines, vous pouvez conserver quelque chose de similaire de manière conservatrice et s'adapter aux trains, aux promenades, aux plantations de thé et plus encore. Avec trois ou quatre semaines, vous pouvez ajouter plus de temps à la plage, un cours de méditation, une visite du côté est de l'île ou d'autres villes dans les montagnes en cours de route. Nous incluons des suggestions de voyages en train, d'agréables promenades et des hôtels remarquables au Sri Lanka pour vous aider à compléter votre itinéraire. Le but: vous avez toutes les inspirations et informations pratiques pour voyager pour créer votre propre itinéraire et voyage au Sri Lanka.

Notre itinéraire de 2 semaines au Sri Lanka: une carte

Notre voyage de deux semaines ensemble à travers le Sri Lanka comprenait:

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Vous pouvez voir la carte interactive Google My Map ici.
  • Colombo – Kandy (train): Deux jours
  • Kandy – Grottes de Dambulla – Sigiriya – Kandy (bus): Deux jours
  • Kandy – Hatton (train) + pousse-pousse jusqu'à Delhousie – Adam & # 39; s Peak – Hatton: Deux jours
  • Hatton – Haputale (train) + pousse-pousse jusqu'au siège de Lipton: Trois jours
  • Haputale – Ella (train): Trois jours
  • Ella – Colombo (train): Deux jours
  • Remarque: Le segment de la plage de Dan l'a conduit de Colombo en train à Galle puis en bus vers les plages du sud entre Godellawela et Goyambokka.

Les jours pour chaque segment d'itinéraire indiqués ci-dessus et ci-dessous incluent les temps de trajet entre les destinations. Se déplacer entre les destinations peut souvent prendre la majeure partie d'une journée entière lorsque le temps est pris dans le train (ou le bus) et que des transferts en pousse-pousse sont nécessaires. Cependant, ces voyages sont également des expériences en soi pour rencontrer les habitants et profiter des paysages changeants et des plantations de thé luxuriantes.

19 choses à faire et endroits à visiter au Sri Lanka

1. Prenez le train au Sri Lanka, encore et encore

Voyager en train au Sri Lanka, quel que soit le type de transport, est le meilleur moyen de visiter le pays pour profiter des sites touristiques, sortir avec les habitants et s'inquiéter du budget. C'est plus qu'une option de transport pour l'emmener du point A au point B; C'est une expérience. Nous voyageons dans toutes les classes, de la troisième à la première classe A / C (avec climatisation), et nous vous recommandons fortement de tout essayer si vous le pouvez.

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Voyager en train au Sri Lanka: la meilleure façon de visiter l'île.

Les trains sri-lankais ne vont pas partout, mais ils arrivent près de la plupart des endroits au Sri Lanka que vous voudrez visiter. De plus, de nombreux itinéraires ferroviaires vous emmènent à travers de beaux paysages et paysages: jardins de thé, forêts, villages, côtes, souvent là où il n'y a pas de routes.

L'air frais et le lent mouvement méditatif et le bruit du train sont beaucoup plus agréables que les routes pleines de diesel et les mouvements brusques du transport en bus. Nous voyageons en train depuis: Colombo – Kandy – Hatton – Haputale – Ella – Colombo.

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Vues depuis le train dans la région montagneuse du Sri Lanka.

Peu importe le voyage en train que vous choisissez, vous ne serez pas déçu. Bien que le trajet en train vers Ella reçoive la majeure partie de la presse et de la publicité, nous avons en fait estimé que le segment Hatton-Haputale était le plus spectaculaire.

Étant donné la popularité des voyages en train entre les habitants et les voyageurs, il peut être difficile d'obtenir des billets pour les sièges réservés. Lisez ci-dessous pour savoir comment acheter des billets et voyager en train au Sri Lanka sans réservation.

Kandy + Dambulla + Sigiriya: 3 jours

2. Admirez les peintures murales et les statues de Bouddha en or du temple de la grotte de Dambulla

Nous pouvons développer rapidement la «fatigue du temple». En tant que tel, et sur la base de nos recherches, nous sommes arrivés au temple de la grotte de Dambulla avec des attentes gérées. Mais comme ce n'était qu'à quelques heures au nord (72 km) de Kandy et sur le chemin de Sigiriya Rock Fortress, nous avons choisi de nous arrêter et d'y jeter un coup d'œil.

Nous sommes très heureux de l'avoir fait.

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Statues de Bouddha dans le temple de la grotte de Dambulla.

Ces temples rupestres bouddhistes, également site de l'UNESCO, datent du 1er siècle av. C. Le complexe comprend cinq grottes ouvertes au public, chacune légèrement différente des suivantes en termes de taille, de style et de gamme de peintures et de statues de Bouddha. Bien sûr, les peintures et statues ont été rénovées et polies au fil du temps. Cependant, il est toujours impressionnant de profiter de l'art religieux bouddhiste qui s'étend sur 22 siècles et d'être témoin de l'histoire vivante de la façon dont les populations locales utilisent encore ces grottes aujourd'hui à des fins religieuses.

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Bouddha endormi, temple rupestre de Dambulla.

Ceci est un site populaire pour les habitants du Sri Lanka et pour les voyageurs, donc si vous trouvez qu'une grotte est pleine, passez simplement à la suivante jusqu'à ce que la foule se dissipe et continue. Cela vaut la peine de faire un effort supplémentaire pour profiter de chacune des grottes avec un peu de tranquillité et de tranquillité.

Comment visiter le temple de la grotte de Dambulla: Des bus partent de la gare routière de Kandy (juste à côté de la gare) pour Dambulla toute la journée. Le trajet dure environ 90 minutes dans chaque sens. Demandez au chauffeur de bus ou au chauffeur de partir à l'entrée du Temple de la Grotte pour ne pas avoir à revenir à deux kilomètres de la ville de Dambulla. Nous avons choisi de dépenser un dollar supplémentaire ou deux pour prendre un bus climatisé depuis la gare routière de Kandy. Ce n'est pas le plus facile à trouver, alors demandez simplement à l'un des hommes au bureau d'information. Ils vous orienteront dans la bonne direction.

Si vous avez un sac à dos ou des bagages avec vous, demandez à laisser vos sacs au poste de contrôle de la police / sécurité sur le chemin du temple. Il n'y a pas beaucoup d'options de restauration autour de l'entrée du temple, alors pensez à apporter des collations ou à apporter un tuk-tuk dans la ville de Dambulla pour le déjeuner.

Lors de notre visite, il n'y avait pas de frais d'entrée. Nous avions lu avant de nous attendre à un droit d'entrée, donc nous ne savons pas si nous avons eu de la chance le jour de notre visite.

3. Montez au sommet de la citadelle de Sigiriya (Lion Rock) avant l'arrivée de la foule

L'histoire nous apprend qu'au cinquième siècle, le roi Kasyapa avait besoin de construire une nouvelle capitale sûre après avoir usurpé le trône. Il a assassiné brutalement son père et effrayé son frère, l'héritier légitime du trône.

Après ce mouvement de style Game of Thrones, il s'est dirigé juste au nord de Dambulla et a construit son palais sur un énorme rocher de 180 mètres de haut, Sigiriya ou Lion Rock, ce qui lui donne un point de vue pour voir les armées qui viennent de miles. Son palais le servait bien et le protégeait pendant son règne. Après sa mort, il a été utilisé comme monastère bouddhiste jusqu'au XIVe siècle.

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Palais de Sigiriya, vues du haut.

La plupart des voyageurs visitent Sigiriya, un autre site de l'UNESCO et l'un des endroits les plus visités du Sri Lanka, lors d'une excursion d'une journée au départ de Kandy. Notre conseil est de passer la nuit dans l'une des maisons d'hôtes familiales à proximité du site et de prendre un tuk-tuk tôt le matin pour arriver à 7h du matin. lorsque la billetterie et les portes s'ouvrent.

Cela vous permettra de vous promener dans les jardins, profiter des fresques, y compris les célèbres Sigiriya Maidens, dans les grottes le long du rocher (super, mais vous ne pouvez pas toucher!), Grimper au sommet du rocher, vous promener depuis les ruines du palais, profitez de la vue du haut et redescendez. Et pour faire tout cela avant l'arrivée des hordes de touristes en bus depuis Kandy. Sur le chemin du haut du rocher, nous avons vu des centaines de visiteurs faire la queue.

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Marcher vers Sigiriya dans la brume matinale.

Un autre avantage de cette approche est que vous pouvez explorer Sigiriya tôt le matin avant que la journée ne chauffe et que les vues deviennent confuses.

Une note sur les frais d'entrée et une alternative à Sigiriya: Le droit d'entrée pour les étrangers pour visiter Sigiriya est de 30 $ par personne. Nous décidons de visiter de toute façon, mais si vous avez un budget de voyage strict, pensez à sauter Sigiriya et à escalader le rocher voisin de Pidurangala pour voir Sigiriya et les paysages environnants.

Où séjourner pour visiter Sigirya tôt dans la journée: Nous avons séjourné au Gagadiya Rest, à quelques kilomètres de l'entrée de Sigiriya. C'est une petite maison d'hôtes familiale avec seulement deux chambres, très propre et neuve. Ils étaient en train de construire un deuxième étage et des chambres supplémentaires lorsque nous avons séjourné, donc ils ont probablement maintenant plus de chambres.

Nous avons reçu un tour en tuk-tuk gratuit de la maison d'hôtes tôt le matin à Sigiriya, puis nous y avons pris le petit déjeuner à notre retour, avant de retourner à Kandy ce jour-là. Il est également possible d'y obtenir un excellent dîner fait maison, mais demandez le prix, car il a tendance à être un peu plus élevé que dans d'autres hébergements, peut-être parce qu'il n'y a pas grand-chose autour et que vous êtes un public captif. Vous pouvez également chercher d'autres hôtels et pensions à Sigiriya.

REMARQUE: Si vous avez peu de temps, vous pouvez également réserver une excursion d'une journée à Sigiriya et aux grottes de Dambulla au départ de Colombo.

4. Mangez votre poids dans du riz et du curry sri lankais.

La nourriture de base du Sri Lanka, que ce soit dans un restaurant sur le mur ou dans un restaurant haut de gamme, est le riz et le curry. Souvent, vous obtenez une grande assiette ou un bol de riz, puis une sélection de plusieurs currys différents pour l'accompagner. Dans de nombreux endroits simples de style cafétéria, les currys seront distribués sous forme de buffet et indiqueront au serveur ceux que vous souhaitez. Il est préférable de manger pendant les repas locaux afin que les aliments soient fraîchement cuits et ne restent pas dehors pendant des heures dans la chaleur.

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Riz et curry, un déjeuner typiquement sri lankais dans un restaurant local.

Les végétariens devraient se réjouir avec la nourriture sri-lankaise. Il existe généralement plusieurs types de daal (lentilles), sabjis (légumes mélangés), betteraves, aubergines et autres options de curry végétarien. Pour ceux qui mangent de la viande, vous trouverez différents types de poulet, de viande ou de poisson au curry avec différents niveaux de chaleur et d'épices. Dans les restaurants plus formels, vous aurez la possibilité de choisir combien de currys et lesquels vous souhaitez être servi avec votre tas de riz.

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Nourriture délicieuse au Matey Hut à Ella avec une sélection de quatre currys.

N'oubliez pas de rechercher ou de demander les différents types de déboursements (salades), sauces épicées ou sauces épicées disponibles. Certains de nos plats préférés comprenaient la salade de centimes (Gotukola Sambol), chutney épicé à la noix de coco (pol sambola) et le sambol aux oignons épicés (Monu Miris) Lorsque vous le faites, vous recevrez souvent un geste d'approbation et un sourire de votre serveur. Pour plus d'informations sur la nourriture sri-lankaise, consultez cet article de notre ami Mark.

5. Visitez le temple de la relique de la dent sacrée à Kandy.

À l'intérieur de l'ancien complexe du palais royal de Kandy, Sri Dalada Maligawa (alias Temple de la relique de la dent sacrée) abrite ce qui serait la relique de la dent du Bouddha Gautama, sauvé de son bûcher funéraire en 543 av. C. Près de 800 ans plus tard, l'histoire se poursuit avec la dent introduite en contrebande au Sri Lanka depuis l'Inde au début du IVe siècle.

En plus de sa valeur religieuse, la relique dentaire introduit une autre tournure similaire à Game of Thrones: on pense que celui qui a la relique gouverne également le pays. Par conséquent, il est devenu une possession précieuse et un outil politique des monarques au cours des siècles. Son dernier lieu de repos est maintenant à Kandy, où il serait en sécurité à l'intérieur du sanctuaire principal du palais.

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One of the many elaborately decorated hallways in the Temple of the Relic of the Tooth.

Although it's not possible for visitors today to see the actual tooth relic, it is still worth visiting the palace and temple if you are in Kandy. The procession of pilgrims, devotees and rituals surrounding this sacred relic offer a bit of active devotion, of living history. You'll notice lotus blossoms and frangipani offerings heaped throughout the different temples, tucked into sacred nooks. The palace and temples grounds — with their elaborate wood carvings, gilded statues and paintings, and manicured gardens — serve up a bit of visual overload.

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Flower offerings at the Temple of the Relic of the Tooth. Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Remarque: If you happen to visit Kandy during July or August ask about the dates for that year's Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth), a two week interlude when the town fills with decorated elephants, dancers, ceremonies, and more.

6. Buy some creative, colorful and eco-friendly souvenirs in Kandy.

We weren’t looking for souvenirs or to buy anything when we stumbled upon EarthBound Creations (28 Yatinuwara Veediya, Kandy) as we wandered the streets of Kandy. However, the colorfully creative use of recycled materials (recycled newsprint, plastics, etc.) changed that. In addition to the environmentally sensitive use of recycled materials, this social enterprise also works with women who were affected by or displaced by the tsunami in 2004.

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Our recycled Sri Lankan newspaper souvenirs from EarthBound Creations in Kandy.

This means when you buy cool souvenirs and gifts here — we bought a basket and an old bi-plane made, both made of recycled cardboard and newsprint — it helps provide income and training to this disadvantaged group of women. Inventory there is cool, visually appealing, reasonably priced and feel-good.

Hatton + Climbing Adam's Peak: 2 days

7. Wake up at 2AM to climb Adam’s Peak (Sri Padaya) and enjoy sunrise at the top

This mountain is considered sacred by several religions, including all the prominent ones practiced in Sri Lanka. Sri Pada (“Sacred Footprint”), a rock formation near the peak, is considered to be the footprint of Buddha for Buddhists, of Adam for Christians and Muslims, and of Shiva for Hindus.

During your walk up, you’ll find plenty of local pilgrims of different religions and travelers along the way. You'll find even more gathered in large numbers at the top near the temples waiting for the sun to rise.

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Sunrise at Adam's Peak.

The idea is to hike up Adam's Peak in the dark so you can enjoy sunrise at the top, followed by views from the mountain in the early morning light on the way down. We set our alarms for the ungodly hour of 2AM, bundled up in multiple layers of clothing against the morning chill, got a tuk-tuk ride to the base of the mountain, and set off for the peak (2,243 m / 7,359 ft).

Although we enjoyed the anticipation of sunrise next to the Hindu and Buddhist temples at the peak while we watched them perform different ceremonies and prayers, we found the crowds and all of the cameras and selfie-sticks a bit much after a while. We headed down before the sun was fully up and left the crowds behind us.

This was such a good decision.

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Early morning light on our way down from Adam's Peak.

We had views of the nearby mountains and hills almost all to ourselves in a perfect early-morning light which lasts only a few minutes at best. It’s magical.

How long does it take to climb Adam’s Peak? It’s not a technically difficult climb, but it’s a pretty challenging walk up with long stretches of steep steps (estimated between 5,000 and 6,000 stairs). We were advised that it took about 3-3.5 hours to get to the top, but we found ourselves in in the final stretch after around 2.5 hours with another hour to wait before sunrise. So we escaped the cold at a conveniently-placed tea house before the final set of stairs and enjoyed cups of steaming milk tea.

It takes around 1-2 hours to return down. The steep descent can be tough on the knees, muscles and other joints. Bring a knee and/or ankle brace if you have any issues. Even better, bring a walking stick or two.

Best time of year to climb Adam’s Peak: Pilgrimage season at Adam’s Peak runs from December to May, coinciding with the best weather in the region. At other times of year you might encounter rain or get fogged-in views at the top. If you can manage it with your schedule, try to avoid the weekends as we heard the crowds swell even more with local pilgrims.

How to get to Adam’s Peak: Take the train to Hatton station and then a local bus (usually waits outside the train station) or rickshaw (about 1,000-1,500 rupees) to Delhousie.

Where to stay to climb Adam’s Peak: We recommend staying in Delhousie, the village built up near the entrance to the Adam’s Peak trail. We'd hoped to stay at Hugging Clouds, but by the time we got around to booking it was sold out so we stayed about 3-5 km away. Although our accommodation offered a free tuk-tuk transfer at 2:30AM, being that far away from the entrance was still a bit of an annoyance. And on our way back we had to search for and negotiate another tuk-tuk. You can search for other hotels and guesthouses near Adam’s Peak.

8. Rickshaw ride the hill country and tea plantations

Sometimes it’s worth the splurge of a few dollars to take your own rickshaw rather than the public bus. It's definitely a wise idea when you’re in the middle of hill country surrounded by tea plantations and you wish to take it all in a bit more slowly and to take photos along the way.

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Tea plantations and green for as far as the eye can see.

The two routes we recommend for taking your own rickshaw: from Delhousie to Hatton (or the opposite direction) and from Haputale to Dambethenna Tea Estate (also the starting point for the hike to Lipton’s Seat). Don’t be afraid to ask your driver to stop for photo opportunities and just to enjoy the views. We found that our drivers snapped photos of the tea plantations and views with their mobile phones, just like us.

9. Take a break from Sri Lankan rice with some roti (flat bread)

Although the standard Sri Lankan fare of rice and curry is tasty, you may find yourself reaching a point of rice fatigue. That’s where roti (fried flat bread) or kottu roti (diced roti which is mixed with vegetables like a fried rice) come to the rescue.

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Excited for a big stack of roti with curry (instead of rice).

If you still have a hankering for curries, consider switching out the rice for a stack of freshly made roti to go with your daal (lentils) and other curries. One of our favorite places for this was Malabar Restaurant and Bakers in Hatton. It was so good we ate here two days in a row as we transited through town on the way to and from Adam’s Peak.

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Hearty plate of kottu roti, made from finely chopped roti.

Another alternative to rice and curry is kotti roti, which essentially looks like fried rice made with vegetables and different meats, but where diced roti replaces the rice. You always know when this is being made as you can hear the kottu roti master clanging away with his knives to cut the roti super fine. The flavor is hearty and the sound satisfying. And the whole experience offers a welcome break from the rice and curry routine.

Haputale + Tea Plantations: 3 days

10. Find a room with a view in a hill station

Although Nuwara Eliya and Ella might be the more popular and sophisticated hill stations in Sri Lanka’s tea country, we decided to try less-visited Haputale for a couple of days based on the recommendation of friends who lived in Sri Lanka for several years. Most of the guest houses and inns in this area are in the countryside outside of town, but we got lucky with this room and view in town.

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Balcony view over the tea plantations in Haputale.

To be honest, there’s not a lot going on in the town of Haputale and not many tourist services. But, it’s a good base if you want to visit nearby tea plantations, go on some hikes in the area (e.g., Lipton’s Seat), witness local life, and just chill with a nice view for a few days.

Where to stay in Haputale: We stayed at ABC Guest House, but not all rooms have balconies and this view. Get in touch to confirm that you’ll be put in one of the upstairs rooms with a balcony. Otherwise, consider staying somewhere else in the area…and ask about a view.

11. Hike up to Lipton’s Seat and have a cup of tea

Mr. Lipton of Lipton Tea really did exist. He’s not just a marketing persona. He is credited with transforming Sri Lanka into a one of the world’s biggest tea producers after a disease wiped out much of the country's coffee bushes in the late 19th century.

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Where Lipton supposedly sat overlooking his tea plantations.

Today, you can hike up through the tea plantations to the place on a hill where he used to supposedly look out over his various tea plantations to take stock and ensure everything was in order. A little make-shift hut has been set up there so you can have a cup of tea as you enjoy the views of the tea gardens below. How appropriate.

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Walking up to Lipton's Seat through the misty tea gardens.

The walk takes a couple of hours along winding plantation roads and through the different segments of Dambethenna Tea Estate tea gardens to arrive at Lipton’s Seat. Depending upon the time of day and season you might also catch the tea pickers at work at they methodically make their way through the narrow rows of tea bushes and pick only their top, green leaves.

How to hike to Lipton’s Seat: We took a tuk-tuk from Haputale to Dambethenna Tea Estate and walked the winding road from there. We stuck to the main road rather than trying to find short-cuts in the tea bushes. If you decide you don’t want to walk, there are plenty of rickshaws at the ready to take you all the up. If you have extra time, stop off at Dambethenna Tea Estate for tea tasting and a factory tour.

Local buses leave regularly throughout the day back to Haputale.

Ella and Surroundings: 3 days

12. Enjoy sunset atop Little Adam’s Peak near Ella

In full disclosure, we hadn’t actually planned to be on the top of Little Adam’s Peak at sunset. We decided to take the “scenic route” suggested by our guesthouse owner in Ella and as is typical for us, we got a little turned around along the way. So there we were at the golden hour hiking the last leg of what is affectionately known as Little Adam’s Peak. Turns out, in the end, that our timing was just about perfect.

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Capturing the waning light at Little Adam's Peak.
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Cheesy selfie atop Little Adam's Peak.
Where to stay in Ella: We opted to splurge a bit and stay at Ella Grand View on the edge of town. Rooms are new and nicely decorated, and each has its own balcony. The owner is very friendly and serves a hearty breakfast. The fastest way to get there is by walking the railroad tracks from the Ella train station. Search here for other hotels and guesthouses in Ella.

13. Take a cooking course in Ella and learn the secrets of Sri Lankan food

Because Sri Lanka is so close to India one might assume that the cuisines are the same. While there are some surface similarities between the two countries' collection of cuisines, Sri Lankan food is unique and employs different spice combinations in its masalas, lots of coconut milk, ample amounts of fresh curry and pandan leaves, spicy sides called sambols, and cinnamon.

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Getting started at a Sri Lankan cooking class in Ella.

To understand the basics of Sri Lankan food and how we could replicate some dishes at home, we took a cooking class with Lanka in Ella. Over the course of several hours we learned how to cook five different curries (carrot, beet, green bean, eggplant, and chicken), plus a sambol and salad. It was excellent.

Not only did we learn the fundamentals, but Lanka was open to answering the slew of questions we had, including those related to Sri Lankan food, what life was like during the civil war, the tourism growth spurt (or overtourism) in Ella, and just about anything else.

We highly recommended this experience. It's also a great value at around 2000 rupees ($12). There are other cooking courses in town, but be sure to ask how many dishes you’ll actually make since some of the other options only offer 2-3 curries for a similar price.

14. Hike Ella Rock in the morning sunshine

Although we didn’t get up before dawn to climb up to Ella Rock for sunrise as many advised (yes, we do enjoy our sleep), we made it up there for mid-morning. This still allowed us to enjoy some of the morning light, coolish weather, views of Little Adam’s Peak and the hill country, before the haze settled in with the afternoon heat.

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Enjoying the view from the top of Ella Rock.

Although Ella Rock proper gets all the limelight, we enjoyed the other overlook, one about five minutes away featuring a small Buddhist temple in a cave. There are almost no people there and it’s a good place to breathe deeply and take in the beauty around you.

How to hike to Ella Rock: The hike takes about 2-3 hours from Ella. It begins by walking the railroad tracks for several kilometers. The trail then cuts in on the left side near a couple of makeshift restaurants just past Kithaella train station. Don’t worry about walking on the railroad tracks; you will hear the train coming from a long way away. Here's an overview map of the route and a full guide.

Do you need a guide to hike Ella Rock? In doing our research for this hike there were all sorts of stories of people getting lost and needing to pick up a local guide to get to Ella Rock. Maybe we just got lucky with our timing, but we found that even though the trail wasn’t explicitly marked with signs, the path was clear enough to follow, especially given the other hikers along the way.

NOTE: If you are short on time, consider taking this day trip around Ella that includes a hike up to Ella Peak in the morning, visit to Nine Arches Bridge and a hike up to Little Adam's Peak.

Colombo: 1-2 Days

15. Get your Sri Lankan street food fix at Galle Face Green in Colombo

For the combination of street food, ocean views, and a great place to watch the sunset, head to Galle Face Green in late afternoon. Although much of the street food here can be a bit on the fried side, there are some tasty crab and shrimp bites that you can find at select food stalls along the walkway.

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Street food stalls on Galle Face Green.

For a meal with an actual seat, take your pick of one of the restaurant stalls whose menus are full of deviled and grilled seafood or chicken. It you order a beer, it's likely they'll serve the can in a bag so as to avoid their running afoul of liquor license authorities.

To see more of Colombo and learn about its history, consider taking a half-day city tour to see the main sights of the city.

Where to stay in Colombo: It might sound odd to stay in a capsule hotel in Sri Lanka, but the Star Anise Boutique Capsule Hotel was recommended to us by another traveler. Its novelty factor, the fact that it offers double bed capsules, and the price and convenient location to the train station made it an easy sell for us. If you are someone who likes a lot of space and privacy, this would not be the place for you. But, for a quick overnight stay in Colombo this worked out great for us. You can search for other hotels in Colombo here.

16. Find the Hopper master in the Colombo Old Fort area

Hoppers is a typical Sri Lankan dish featuring a bowl-shaped pancake made from rice flour and coconut milk, often with the option of a fried egg inside, which is served with a simple curry. Almost as fun as eating hoppers is watching the masters at work on the street with their hopper pans churning out perfectly formed hoppers by the hundreds.

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Hoppers, the Sri Lankan breakfast of champions.

If you’re in Colombo look for this guy on York street in the Old Fort area. Hoppers with a smile!

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The hopper master of old Colombo.

If you really want to go deep into Sri Lankan street food in Colombo, consider taking this Colombo street food tour.

17. Stock up on spices at the market to take home

After our Sri Lankan cooking class in Ella we were armed with a list of Sri Lankan spices, sauces and other foodstuffs we wanted to bring back home. If you are similar to us and opt for food souvenirs rather than typical souvenir tchotchkes, make a stop at the fresh market behind the Colombo bus station to stock up on all your Sri Lankan spice needs.

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We wish we could take these home. We opted for dried spices instead.

Not only is it fun to enter a market with a shopping list (of course, we bought more than we expected), but the quality and price of spices in Sri Lanka is hard to beat. The fragrance from the cinnamon sticks and cinnamon bark is something magical. Interaction with local vendors and asking questions about different spice qualities and options is fun, too.

Recommendations for a 3rd Week in Sri Lanka

18. Disconnect and decompress in a small Sri Lankan beach village

We didn’t do a lot of beach hopping to be able to give you a definitive “best beaches in Sri Lanka” list. The reason? Once Dan found this beach and family-run guesthouse near Tangalle in the south, he decided not to leave for ten days.

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Godellawela to Silent Beach…not far from Tangalle.

So while I was at my Vipassana meditation course, Dan created his own retreat on the beach. For him, mornings were about meditation, reading and a leisurely breakfast with the guest house family.

Days were about more reading on the beach, exploration of nearby towns and villages, and impromptu Sri Lankan cuisine lessons at local restaurants. And late afternoons featured more beach time and sunset with a beer under a palm swooping into a strip of sand carved by the day's waves. Sunsets, like snowflakes, no two were the same.

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Colorful sunset marks the end of another day.

The long, empty beach and wide horizons combined with being disconnected and the laid back pace and limited movement were exactly what he needed to relax, read, and recharge.

Remarque: If the Godellawela beach area accommodation happens to be full or the beach is experiencing construction or development, consider also the Goyambokka beach area just to the east. Likewise, consider Silent Point and Paradise Beach just to the west.

How to get there: To get there from Colombo, take the train to Matara. From Matara take a taxi or a local bus. For Godellawela, ask the driver to drop you off on the side of the road at Muthu Resort and Restaurant. For Goyambokka, ask the driver to drop you off at the road between Grand Residence and Cafe Goyambokka.

19. Take a Vipassana 10-day silent meditation course

If you really want to disconnect from the world to reconnect with and dig deep within yourself, there’s no better way to accomplish that than by taking a Vipassana silent meditation course for ten days. Now, this is not a luxury, laid-back meditation retreat with optional massages on the side. Instead, it’s more like meditation boot camp with the morning bell at 4AM, around 10 hours of meditation each day and almost nothing for dinner.

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Walking to the meditation hall (taken after the course was finished and phones were returned).

But doing a Vipassana course is SO worth any temporary feeling of discomfort or lack of luxury, and will likely be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life. I won’t go into all the details as to why, and the mental and physical benefits. Dan already did an incredible job doing that in his Vipassana course article. I should note, however, that each Vipassana experience is different and unique.

Finding a Vipassana Meditation Course in Sri Lanka: I searched around on the Dhamma website for Vipassana centers in warm climates — so as to escape winter in Berlin — which had availability when I had a break in my schedule. Finding an available Vipassana course in Sri Lanka motivated this trip, and its timing, to Sri Lanka.

I chose Dhamma Sobha Vipassana Meditation Centre, a couple of hours by public bus outside of Colombo. I had a good experience there, but I would have preferred a bit more green space to walk and wander during the free time between meditation sessions. If I were to return to Sri Lanka for a Vipassana course I would instead go to Dhamma Kuta Vipassana Centre near Kandy as it is reported to have really lovely grounds and gardens with mountain views.

Essential Sri Lanka Travel Information

The following practical travel information is aimed to help you plan your trip to Sri Lanka, from visas to flights to train tickets, so that it all goes smoothly without any unpleasant surprises.

Day Trips and Other Tours in Sri Lanka

Although two weeks in Sri Lanka isn't a ton of time, we did have enough flexibility in our schedule to organize things last minute and piece things together on the spot. However, if you have a tighter schedule or want to book day trips, transfers and other activities in advance (recommended for high season) we can suggest using our partner, Get Your Guide. It offers many different day trips and other tours in Sri Lanka with no booking fees and free cancellation up to 24 hours before.

In addition to the recommendations above, here are a few other day trips and tours that you might consider doing in Sri Lanka.

  • Day Trip to the UNESCO City of Anuradhapura: Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's first capital and an important Buddhist religious site. However, it's on our list for our next visit as friends of ours who used to live in Sri Lanka recommended it.
  • Minneriya National Park Day Trip: Seeing elephants in the wild is pretty remarkable, and Sri Lanka has one of the highest populations of wild Asian elephants. On this day trip to Minneriya National Park from Colombo you'll have a chance to see elephants in the wild (MUCH better than seeing them at a center). This is a long day, but all the transport is taken care of for you so you can relax and enjoy.
  • Colombo City Tour by Tuk Tuk: We went through Colombo very quickly on our way in and out of the country and wish we had spent more time there. Given the size of the city, a tuk tuk city tour like this would allow you to see the main highlights of the city within a short period of time with all the history, stories and context that only a local guide can bring.

Best time to visit Sri Lanka

The country has multiple monsoon seasons so “best time to visit Sri Lanka” depends much on where you want to go. For the southern, central and western parts of the country (i.e., where we were) December – May is considered the best time. In the eastern part of the country, April or May to September is considered best. Weather is changing everywhere and monsoons seem to come and go at different times each year.

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Big waves with the early monsoons in southern Sri Lanka.

How to Get a Sri Lanka Visa

Most nationalities need a visa to Sri Lanka. One can be obtained online easily and quickly. Just fill out the e-visa to Sri Lanka application and pay $30 needed for a 30-day visa. Our applications were approved within 24-hours. Although we carried a copy of our visa approval, the immigration officer did not ask for it.

Flights to Sri Lanka

Flying from Europe we had quite a few connection options to Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB). Many of the European flights do land very late at night or early morning so we booked a hotel near the airport for that first night. You can also pre-book your airport transfer to make it less stressful when you arrive.

We often use Skyscanner to check availability and price of flights as its database includes all low-cost airlines. Once you find your best route or price then you can book directly through the airline with no extra fees.

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Travel-inspired rickshaw art in Colombo.

How to Book Train Tickets in Sri Lanka

Many reserved seats on popular train routes sell out early. Don’t be deterred, though. You can always get on the train you want with a 2nd or 3rd class ticket purchased the same day, without a seat assignment.

To get a feel for the train routes and how you might want to plan your own train journey through the country check out this train route map on the official Sri Lanka Railways website. You can also find schedules and prices for trains there as well.

Traveling by train without a reservation: Many of the local trains don’t have reserved seating so you just need to show up 30-60 minutes before the train to buy a 2nd or 3rd-class ticket (usually very cheap). Then, it’s a matter of waiting on the platform for the train to arrive, and positioning yourself close to the doors so you can be one of the first to enter and snag a seat. Even if you don’t end up with a seat, don’t worry. One is likely to come available at another station.

Buying train reservations: If you want a bit of comfort on the train with an actual assigned seat then you’ll need to do a bit of advance planning to figure out your route and dates of travel. We went straight to the main train station (Colombo Fort Railway Station) when we arrived in Colombo and bought as many reserved seats as we could for the train routes we knew we wanted to take. Despite this being 10 to 14 days in advance of the actual travel dates, some routes were already booked full.

We have heard, but have not tried ourselves, that it's possible to work with local travel agents to buy reserved train tickets in advance. Seat 61, the website of all things train travel, has advice on how to do that here.

Finding and Booking Hotels in Sri Lanka

Although we traveled during the high season we were able to make most of our hotel bookings in Sri Lanka just a couple of days before — or even the day of — our arrival without any problem. We mostly stayed at small, family-run guesthouses and used Booking.com to find and book accommodation.

English is spoken at varying levels in smaller guesthouses so we found booking accommodation through Booking.com was easier, immediate and more secure than trying to call and make a reservation over the phone or by email.

Buying a SIM card in Sri Lanka

When you arrive at Bandaranaike International Airport airport in Sri Lanka you’ll find several mobile phone operators offering different “tourist plans” SIM card for mobile calling and internet. We ended up choosing Mobitel SIM cards with several gigabytes of mobile data and a chunk of SMS and calling minutes for around $10. It was easy to set up and we had pretty good coverage throughout Sri Lanka during our trip.

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