Here’s to a country that was a huge surprise for me! Before buying tickets to Sri Lanka I had side thoughts like «Ok, I’ve been to Asia, I’ve seen different sides of it. What could possibly make me wonder?» — you know, that bad effect of traveling frequently. Good news: the former Ceylon has a lot to show you and to leave you in awe with its unusual climate zones, history, eternal tea fields, waterfalls, beautiful reserved areas with wild animals standing right next to the road and so much more. Don’t forget the railroad, of course!
Colombo — Anuradhapura — Dambulla — Kandy — Adam’s peak — Ella — Arugam Bay — Colombo
Here’s a trick with the weather of Sri Lanka: it’s an island very close to the Maldives so you’d expect it to be warm or even hot all year around. Well, it’s not like that in the most interesting way: in the central part it often rains, is quite cold (especially in the mornings) and windy in every season; the south-west part gets covered with rains from May till October; the east part gets its rains from October till May.
I went to Sri Lanka with my bf in May and we wanted to go surfing at the end of our trip so we’d need the ocean. That lead us to Arugam Bay where the rainy season ends by that time. But before hitting the beach we planned to explore a few historical places of SL and climb to Adam’s peak using only public transport to move between main sites.
The map is pretty accurate about the transportation but I’ll specify:
Colombo — Anuradhapura: Train (~4$)
Anuradhapura — Dambulla: Bus
Dambulla — Kandy: Bus
Kandy — Hatton: Train
Hatton — Dalhousie (Adam’s peak) — Hatton: Bus
Hatton — Ella: Train
Ella — Arugam Bay: Tuk-Tuk (5000 rup)
Arugam Bay — Colombo: Bus (~9$)
It was hot and humid and several people told us the only way to get from the airport to Colombo would be in the vans they drove (for sure). 10 minutes later we found a bus that was at least x5 cheaper and was still quite empty. After 1 hour in traffic jams, we arrived in Colombo and were hit by the noise, hot air and gazillion people trying to help us carry our baggage (for some money).
We stuck to our initial plan to buy train tickets first, get a good breakfast right after, charge our phones and then dive into the central province of the island.
If it seems like I didn’t like Sri Lanka from the 1st sight it’s the opposite — I did enjoy the vibe as everything was so full of life and movement. I was very curious to be there
Anuradhapura is an ancient city in Sri Lanka central province that used to be its capital in IV BC. It’s located on a river bank that once turned Anurad into a huge center of trading and religion. But goodness doesn’t last forever and the city was destroyed by Tamil tribes from a southern Indian country named Chola. For that reason, the city of Polonnaruva became the new capital.
Now Anuradhapura is divided into 2 parts: the new touristic one where most of hotels and cafes are located, and the old one with ancient stupas almost 2000 years old, temples and a sacred Bodhi tree that is believed to be the oldest in the world, which is still a place of Buddhist pilgrimage.
If you’re heading there look for little guest houses as it’s the most reasonable option when it comes to price-comfort balance. And the hosts often serve the best local dishes so you don’t have to go far. My recommendation would be Yoho Sanctuary because look at this dinner!
When it comes to sightseeing, there are 3 main options: by bicycle, by car or by tuk-tuk. As savvy travelers and bicycle admirers, we rented two of them for 4$ each/day. Perfect!
Anuradhapura circle and the ancient temple took us about 5 hours and I’d say it’s good we already had a similar experience in Angkor, Cambodia. The day was super hot and, to the extent, we had to put our shoes off as in every sacred Buddhist place.
As it often happens, there were a lot of places right under the sun with stone floors so it hurt a lot to walk around barefoot. Can’t tell you how happy I was I took socks for that walk (holy internet) as we both wore sandals.
Well, the photo above shows all the suffering of not remembering you have the socks. And I guess now we know how the Egyptian walk was born!
First, we visited the ancient temple to see the historical place coloured by blooms. Of course, it’s not a must-see but if you’re into history a little museum on the temple territory may interest you. It did so with me! Besides, it was a place where we met some cute small creature that, I promise, will make you smile!
Straight from there we moved to the Bodhi tree and started the Anuradhapura circle, that goes around all stupas. Believe it or not, at that time they were the oldest manmade things I’d seen in my life! Some of them were (and, actually, are) as old as 2000 years which is pretty impressive!
Traveling around Anuradhapura by bicycle is almost a day-long journey if you really want to appreciate how cool and fascinating this place is. With all its history and buildings it can leave you speechless. It is tiring but so worth it. Just don’t forget to take socks with you and put them on!
Just as we finished exploring stupas of Anurad, we jumped on a bus to the next place on our map. Can’t say Dambulla has such a rich history as Anuradhapura or Kandy (next city) but it’s surrounded by really beautiful sites like Golden Buddha, Rock Temple and the amazing Sigiriya the Lion Rock.
We stayed at a guest house which was simple but nice until next day our host tried to make us pay than we had to. Still, our evening was kind of romantic: we had to use candles as the electricity went down because of a storm and the food was just what we needed.
In the morning we arranged a sightseeing tuk-tuk ride with our host for a whole day. This time we thought that the distances were too long for bike-riding plus it was such a hot day!
Our first stop was Golden Buddha and Rock Temple. If Anuradhapura made me say ‘wow’ because of its history, here I was completely blown by nature’s beauty. All the place was surrounded by tall trees, flowers, high rocks and monkeys jumping from one branch to another. And how shiny is that Buddha statue!
The complex was built in I BC and has 5 separate rooms in the rock connected by outer passage. Each room has its unique name and differs from other rooms, i.e. one of them has a well where water goes up from the bottom. This collection of Buddha images is one of the biggest in the world and some of the statues are more than 2000 years old! No wonder that UNESCO took this place under its patronage.
Next stop: Sigiriya the Lion Rock!
Sigiriya is the most visited place in Sri Lanka that has a rich history: it’d been inhabited by monks since V century BC; in V c. AC king Kashyapa took part in his father’s murder and then usurpathed the throne that belonged to his younger brother Moggallana.
He ordered to build a fort-city in Sigiriya to hide from Moggallana’s vengeance as this place was lost in forests and stood 150 m above the sea level (the rock itself was 180 m high). A palace was built on top of the mountain and when you go up it just makes you crazy how they created all that!
But the king lost a battle to his brother and his palace was partially destroyed and given back to monks.
Then Sigiriya disappeared from any notes till 1831 when it was detected by the British army and was made an archaeological site soon after that.
- Entrance price to Sigiriya is 35$
The 1st thing you notice here is, ofсourse, the rock itself but it is worth visiting the Archeological museum first so that you would be more aware of what you see next.