Sri Lanka is the beautiful island nation off of the South West tip of India. Since the end of the civil war in 2009, more and more tourists have been drawn the country. While it is always a good idea to check the political stability of a country before traveling, it appears that Sri Lanka is a very welcoming place for new tourists, as it is relatively safe for travelers.
To get to Sri Lanka, you will most likely fly in to Colombo, the capital city. There, you can take a city tour, bike around, and get a good feel for what life is truly like for Sri Lankans. The real draw to Sri Lanka lies outside of the city, though.
Here are a few recommendations of what to do while in Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka is an excellent place to dive. They have a wide variety of marine life, including trigger fish, lion fish, sea turtles, whales, dolphins, rays, eels, and countless other species. Check out this site to see what else the oceans have to offer.
If you are visiting between November and April, the South West Coast is where you want to go. Beruwala and Hikkaduwa are towns that cater to divers.
I got certified in Beruwala and had an amazing experience. It was relatively cheap and the town was great. The dive center I stayed at (Ypsylon) was owned by a German lady and all of the staff spoke German, which was pretty neat!
Diving April-October is better on the North East coast. Trincomolee is a great spot to check out during the spring and summer months.
Wild Life Safaris
Sri Lanka is home to many different animals, including leopards and elephants, making it the perfect place to go on a wild life safari. There are three excellent parks that you can visit and explore.
1. Yala National Park in South East Sri Lanka is known for their leopards. There are a ton of leopards living wild in the park, and they are unafraid of safari jeeps, so your chances of seeing one are very good. In addition to leopards, there are various species of birds and animals. The park is home to elephants, sloths, crocodiles, and wild boards. Yala National Park also has over 200 species of birds, including the rare Black Necked Stork. The variations in habitats at this park make it the perfect place to see a wide range of animals in one trip.
2. Udawalawe National Park in located in southern Sri Lanka. It is an excellent place to see Elephants. This is one park where you are practically guaranteed to see an elephant while you are on safari. They also have a transition program to help injured, abandoned or orphaned elephants, rehabilitate them and then release them in to the wild again.
3. Wilpattu National Park, on the north-west coast, is the largest park in Sri Lanka and has 4 different types of forests to explore. It is one of the first parks that opened in Sri Lanka and has a rich cultural heritage. It is also close to Anuradhapura and Kalpitiya, which are excellent places to go on a historical tour or go dolphin/whale watching.
If elephants are high on your Sri Lankan Bucket List, there are two good options for you to check out. The first is Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage located in Pinnawala Village. The orphanage cares for Asian elephants and offers tourists the chance to ride them, watch them have a snack, and even take a bath with them.
*Pinnawala has some negative reviews on Trip Advisor dating around 2010, but the more current reviews are positive. I went in 2011 and thought that the handlers were very gentle with the elephants and you could tell they loved working with the elephants. Hopefully this is still the case!
Another option is Millennium Elephant Foundation in Kegalle, which is about 2 hours from Colombo or 1 hour from Kandy. You can take a bath with the elephants at MEF or just hang out and enjoy their company. I love MEF because it is working hard to rescue injured and orphaned elephants while providing specialized care for each elephants. It also has an amazing volunteer program, which you can check out here.
Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and is also referred to as the Cultural Center of the country. They have opportunities to watch performances local dances and Kandy is also home to the Temple of the Tooth. This temple is a UNESCO World Heritage place, and the spot that you can go and see Buddah’s Tooth on display.
Kandy is also a great place for trekking. It is located in the mountains so there are lots of opportunities to get outside and enjoy the nature around you.
As you can see, Sri Lanka has a lot to offer. There is something for everyone on the beautiful island. Because of its immense beauty, developing tourism board, and dirt cheap prices, Sri Lanka is definitely a place to add to your travel wish list!
Have you been? What would you add to our list?