I’ve spent two amazing weeks on Sri Lanka, visiting as many places as possible and I just want to write little feedback on the places… for the future reference I guess. Overall impression was really cool. It’s the kind of place you have to like. It reminded me of India, but of the good things from India – like good food and ridiculous ways to get around. On the other hand, people are not so pushy as in India and usually it took only one ‘no thanks’ to the tuk-tuk driver to go away. The whole island provides an unique opportunity to jump from jungle to highlands and to dry tropics in the next moment. And I loved that diversity. We also tried very diverse attractions, so if you’re interested, read ahead…
Kandy is essentially a gate to the region called in tourist guides as the Hill country. The city itself is quite big, easily reachable from pretty much everywhere by bus (one arrives on rather chaotic bus station) or train (from Colombo or from other towns in Hill country). The lake itself is nice and the Temple of Tooth is well… I wasn’t very excited about that, since in my opinion I saw much more beautiful buddhist temples (for free) and this was simply overpriced tourist attraction (1000Rs). Plus you don’t get to see the relic anyway. Much more interesting was Peradeniya botanical garden. Lots of flowers, trees and fruit bats. Walking through there is like walking through the calm oasis, totally cut out from the world outside. But one has to take the bus there from Kandy, it’d be rather long walk along the main road, which is with local drivers skills really risky.
Also called Lion’s rock. The signature place of Sri Lanka, protected by UNESCO with entrance priced accordingly. $35!!! It’s worth going in the afternoon, since by the evening, you see all the amazing colors the Sun draws on the rock. If you’re aiming for the stunning ancient ruins, you might be disappointed. The murals are very impressive though. The rock ascent is not hard, but the vertigo can be annoying. The views are simply stunning. All in all I still think it’s little bit pricey for what you see, but a place not to miss.
Here goes the place for impressive ruins. The old city is hidden in the forest, which makes it a nice walk, I kind of don’t understand why both Rough guide and Lonely Planet suggest renting a bike. With bike you’ll have hard time access some of the cool but more hidden places. And some of the nicest views. I was deeply impressed by Gal Vihara, statues of Buddha carved into the big rock. Especially the reclining Buddha has a very serene face… and all the texture of the rocks. Simply breathtaking. Also the dagobas were impressive, mostly in size. I really liked the snow white appearnce of Kiri Vihara. While the entrance to the ruins is also quite pricey ($30), it’s totally worth it. Also, don’t forget the ruins by the lake. They’re for free and very nice too.
Adam’s peak – Sri Pada
One advice here – don’t go out of the season. While the weather in most parts of Sri Lanka might work even out of the season, this is not the place to be during the monsoon. When it rains, it pours. That pretty much ruined our chance of night ascent. And unfortunately we didn’t have extra day for another try and the guest house (White house) was a nightmare to stay in (don’t go there unless you’re mold lover). I hiked one third up in the morning, but the humidity was killing me. So yeah, next time in the season.
National park, hence the entrance is annoyingly expensive. Including the tuk-tuk ride from Haputale, we paid 4500Rs for the whole trip, per person. Be sure to go very early in the morning, since the weather sucks in the afternoon. The main attraction is 9 km hike, mostly on flat surface with an easily visible trail. There you encounter Baker’s falls – quite nice waterfalls, and two major viewpoints – Poor Man’s World’s End and World’s End. One smaller and one bigger. Both of them are pretty impressive. Prepare for the chilly weather and mist. The guide book said it’s a cool place for bird watching, but honestly, we were glad that the mist was not much thicker 😉 In general, very nice place which I’d recommend.
Haputale – Lipton’s seat
Essentialy a viewpoint which is not that easy to reach. You can walk, but the asphalt road is just not ‘the’ hiking surface. One can also go by tuk-tuk, I have no idea about the price, since for us, it was included in the Horton Plains trip. The views are incredible. Tea is stretching everywhere and in the distance, one can see Udawalawe lake. There’s also a small tea shop on the top. The place itself is for free, which is nice.
Haputale – Dambatenne Tea Factory
Only tea factory opened for tourists. If you go too early in the morning, you won’t see anything, if you go to late, same story… The entrance fee is moderate, 250Rs and officially one can’t take pictures inside. Well, officially. It’s really cool to see how the cup of tea I drink every morning, is made. It takes surprisingly long time. But don’t buy local tea there, buy it anywhere else, here it’s ridiculously overpriced – around 1000Rs for the same stuff which costs 100Rs in Haputale.
Well, we stopped here on the way from Haputale to Udawalawe. I don’t think it’s worth the trip solely on purpose of seeing this waterfall. I mean, it’s nice and tall. You can ‘swim’ there, in the tiny lake for a moment and you can take a picture of you standing under the waterfall. And that’s it. Also they apparently started to build some stairs there which might mean that at some point, there’s gonna be an entrance fee.
Udawalawe National Park safari
Prepare to spend a lot of money here. Jeep safari costs around 6000Rs per person (all taxes included) and you can’t go in without the jeep. For a good reason – there are wild animals running around. There are a lots of elephants, so those are sure thing when you go there. Also herds of water buffalos. But don’t rise your hopes for leopard. They’re in Yala. Here in Udawalawe, there are some, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see them. But there’s a lot of bird species and crocodiles, monitor lizards… And no matter what, hire a guide. They can point out animals you would miss in a blink of an eye. I think this safari was worth the price.
Rekawa is ‘the place’ for turtle watching. Well, people are usually staying in Tangalla and then pay like 2000Rs per person to go to Rekawa to watch turtles lay eggs. The deal is, if you go to Rekawa on your own, the beach is public, so are the turtles… and it’s not very hard to find them, since they’re surrounded by tourists paying to get there with the agency. The problem is, for whatever reason, the agency wants to charge you, if you just walk around. Strange huh? And from what we saw, people in big group waiting for turtle and taking pictures. Well I’d say I pass.
The Fort is the major tourist attraction in Galle. Tourists concentrate there which means high prices of everything. Though the accommodation is doable on a budget. If you aim for souvenirs, just go outside the Fort and there is Lakana (or what’s the name) store, which essentially provides goods to the stores in Fort. They have bargain prices. If you’re into shopping, one of the builings in Fort harbors factory outlet. You can get Gap, Tommy Hilfiger etc. on ridiculous prices (10 euros per pants and remember, the outlet still makes money!!!). But the outfits for chicks are scarce, guys are more likely to be lucky there. The tags on the clothes are simply cut, co nobody can really resell it in a brand store. In Galle, we found an amazing restaurant called Crepeology. We paid 4000Rs for two people, including the desert, but the place was superb. I wouldn’t stay in Galle for more than a day, since it seemed little bit boring.
And that’s it. Anybody interested in the accommodation rating from me, check Trip Advisor. Also a good advice. While moving around he coast etc, buses are nice cheap alternatives for everything. But once you go to hill country, getting from one spot to another might take the whole day, so think about renting a tuk-tuk. We got one for 7000Rs (40 euro) for two days and if you think about that, it’s not a lot of money. And you got the freedom of stopping anywhere you want…