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Sri Lanka

Curious what backpackers do in Sri Lanka? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Arrival in the capital!
    After a mammoth journey we were finally dropped off via taxi at our prebooked hotel, hidden down a side street and nicely secluded.
    We promptly freshened up and explored what was around the local vicinity (why is a McDonald's always the first thing to see!?). Shortly after we hopped into a tuk tuk to take us to an area called Galle Face Green, which is essentially a huge area of grassland with a stone edging that raises from a small beach and the sea. It's an area I'd read that locals like to hang out at and with a strong breeze there are lots of people flying kites and eating from the street carts that line it. Here we had our dinner of roti (flatbread) and a potato or prawn patty deep fried and covered in fresh chilli and a very hot tamarind sauce. We sat down and ate these while watching the sunset set on a foggy evening. Definitely a great way to kick start our first evening.
    It ended with a foot massage and a much needed long night of sleep.

    The next day exploring the city involved darting around the city seeing sight after sight including two very grand temples (one buddist, one hindu) a lovely lake, the National Museum, the Independence Memorial Hall, a large park, the old Dutch hospital and more!
    We enjoyed each place differently whether it was seeing the grandure of the temples, with stunning detail and design (not many photos of these as disrespectful to take photos inside) to the hidden treasures such as the lake and park which gave sudden respite to the hectic roar of the city. The National Museum was great with incredibly old and ancient artifacts that show some of the history of the country including when the Dutch and Portuguese were here. We're really enjoying starting to learn more about this country!

    This may sound like we rushed the day but it was actually very leisurely and with many drink stops trying to adapt to the sudden humidity.
    The city is clearly going through a lot of refurbishment as there is building work popping up everywhere and I think it is quite an up and coming place. All the same it is very much a busy polluted and loud city, with some of the scariest driving I've ever seen (worse than Hanoi, Vietnam which may mean something to some of you!). Truthfully it's not somewhere we really wanted to stay long but still very good to see and experience, quite a sharp awakening into another world!

    Beth
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  • We left Colombo by a morning train and whilst we were waiting for our train to arrive we had our first taste of Sri Lankan public transport. It was 8am so lots of people were arriving on commuter trains for their work day - picture a full train car then add another 50 people, then ask a few to hang onto the sides. Thankfully our train was quieter and in 2nd class (of 3) there are comfy-ish leather seats and fans. By the time the journey was under way it was cool enough with the breeze sweeping through the open windows.
    Hikkaduwa was our next stop and, much like a lot of beach/sea front towns, it's set around the main road that runs one building back from the beach. Our guesthouse was over the road from there, a mere 50 paces from the beach. We also decided to try a non-AC room which was sticky but ok!
    During the 2004 Tsunami Hikkaduwa was very badly hit, including a train carrying 1300 people who all died as the train line is less than 100m from the sea. Given this we visited a memorial and photo museum which was harrowing and sad, including talking to our Tuk Tuk driver who lost his mother and sister. It's important to remember the devastation and Hikkaduwa does this appropriately. We also visited a turtle sanctuary, a local delicacy is turtle eggs so to avoid this they collect them from the beach, incubate them and then when they're healthy they're released to the sea. Even with this intervention only 1 of 100 survive to adulthood. The sanctuary was small but incredible as they let you hold the turtles, so that was the absolute highlight of the day! We had hoped to swim with wild ones off the beach as coral was only 50m from the beach but we weren't lucky enough to do that, but the swim in the sea was still so good to cool off and the sun setting into the sea was beautiful!
    The following morning we took another train the short ride to Galle where we planned two days to explore the area and see what warranted UNESCO to consider this a protected area. On Saturday afternoon we took a tour by tuk tuk to Koggala beach where, along with another 10 miles or so, there are the famous stilt fishermen plying their trade. For a small charge (by UK standards) of 1500 rupees they allow you to photograph them and have a go yourself, which Beth did! After gracefully climbing to the perch she seemed very comfortable and was promptly given her fishing line, including a fish! It was a really fun experience for her and something very well photographed!
    Our next stop was to a Japanesee built Buddhist temple perched on top of a hill overlooking Unawatuna beach (a backpacker hang-out cresecent shaped bay) and we would have also had a great view of Galle Fort and the surrouding ocean however by this time it had gone completely dark so we couldn't see a thing other than the 100 year old lighthouse - still going strong! It also made for a 'fun' drive to and from the temple as the road was barely wide enough for one tuk tuk, yet one parked and two driving next ot each other was still experienced!
    It was while we were enjoying the serenity of the peace pagoda and looking out at the lights of the fort that we chatted more to our driver, to which he revealed that he had lost his father during the tsunami and he personally was the only survivor of a hotel staff team of 10 at the time, only because he climbed a coconut tree. It's becoming more and more emotional as we meet people who've been so affected by the tsunami - it seems everyone has been...
    Before arriving in Galle we had ummed and arred about whether to stay there or at Unawatuna, and when we went for dinner that evening we realised we'd made the right choice to stay in the Fort as the block-paved alleyways were all lit up by fairy lights and we found a rooftop restaurant to serve us fresh curries.
    Sunday was a day to explore the fort itself. We're struggling more and more with the heat during the middle of the day so were up early and exploring the Dutch and Portuguese built fort before 9am. The whole town is filled with incredibly well restored and preserved colonial era buildings such as the Clock Tower, Lighthouse and Governor's House and Officers Quarters. Whilst almost all the buildings are privately owned (inculding some VERY plush boutique hotels!) just walking around the streets was a brilliant experience. In the evening a thunderstorm arrived which pushed us inside to Indian Hut (Pizza Hut logo rip-off - brilliant!) for a delicious curry and naan. Just as we arrived back at our hotel the thunderstorm knocked out the power to the entire Fort area which was quite an experience and while it didn't really phase us, or the locals for that matter, thankfully the outage didn't last too long.

    Phil
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  • Upon arrival we got a tuktuk to the train station ready to get back on that familiar train continuing on to the area Mirissa.
    Mirissa is known for it's gorgeous beach and we were now very ready to slow down and have some sun, sea and sand!

    As standard with Sri Lanka they follow their own timelines, meaning the 9:35 train actually didnt leave til 10:15am, however it was very quiet meaning we had lots of space and got to look out of the window as well as having that amazing breeze. When we arrived it was a short journey to the main road where as usual it runs parallel with the beach and is where the majority of guesthouses and shops are. Our guesthouse was down a side street thankfully which made it a lot quieter at night. First thing we noticed is there are a lot more mosquitos here but thankfully we have a four poster bed with a a good net over it so that helped (not that we don't have some bad bites! I had forgotten the relentless of the itching...).
    That afternoon was a quiet one as I hadn't been feeling that well, seemingly coming down with a bad head cold or something similar, and so we relaxed and settled in with an afternoon siesta. Later on we wandered onto the beach and wow! It was beautiful. White sand, crystal clear water and it sweeps round in a lovely bay shape. We couldn't wait to get in it!

    Over the next 2 days we spent days on sun loungers, going in and out of the warm but refreshing sea every hour and relaxing the daytimes away. The first day, although we thought we were very careful we did both get fairly bad sunburn (Phil especially so with a very red back and shoulders!) So the following day we were much more careful and stayed out of the sun more. There's a lovely sea breeze so that might be why it feels so pleasant, it misleads you into thinking it's not so hot! We'd spend sunsets and the evenings also on the beach, having fresh sea food they catch that day and display for you to choose, then eat it with just candlelight with the waves crashing next to you. Such a relaxing place and reminded us of a more built up version of the island Koh Rong off Cambodia which we adored being on 3 years ago.

    After a final relaxing evening we had an early start ready to go whale watching. At 6:15am a tuktuk arrived ready to take us to the harbour to go with a well respected company Raja And The Whales. Off the coast of Mirissa it is considered one of the best places in the world to see whales, in particular blue whales. Except for Antarctica here is the largest concentration of blue whales so we were very hopeful we'd get to see the largest animal on the planet that day! This tour company is double the price of others in the area however we knew we wanted to go with them after not only great reviews but their knowledge and respect of the whales, which they definitely showed, for example not chasing then down or 'blocking' them in, explaining to us about what is good for them throughout the tour. They were so passionate about the animals and it showed with their approach. They also really know their stuff, taking us to areas where there were no other tourist boats. Within 10 minutes out in deep water they spotted one however we missed it (when a blue whale dives it can be down there for 45 minutes!) So they moved on and boy were we in for a treat. About an hour later we were told they'd spotted a whale and we're waiting to see it again when suddenly right next to me and Phil a Brydes whale came up about 15 metres from us, what an awesome surprise. Then suddenly seemingly without warning we seemed surrounded, everywhere you looked we saw blow holes spouting all round the boat at different distances, you hardly knew where to look! We saw a pair of blue whales come up fairly close but more amazingly, swimming in our direction, closer and closer, til they looked like they were going to crash into the side of the boat. It was kind of scary as you started to really see the size and the blue shimmer of their bodies under the water. They then went round the back of the boat at this point, we were just drifting to not disturb them. As they went round the back of the boat they were probably only 10 metres away if that and then they both flukked their tails and dived down which we'd all been waiting for. This couple kept appearing as we moved on, swimming in perfect unison and treating is to regular dives down. We were then even lucky enough to have another pair join the party and another Brydes whale.
    Completely awe-inspiring is the only way I can describe the feeling. Shortly after this we headed back, also seeing a large manta ray too and we were on a high. We'd just seen not only a solidarity creature in its couples, but one of the rarest to see in the world and so close. Incredibly lucky and a definite highlight of the trip so far. A big thank you goes out to my cousin Kate, Mark and Rufus for gifting us this opportunity for birthdays and Christmas. It was truly special!

    We now won't see the sea until Negombo at the end of our trip in Sri Lanka and it will be missed.

    Beth
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  • HELLO! Het geluid van de wekker om vijf uur in de morgend. Ook wakker worden met de geluiden van de jungle het blijft super! We trekken naar de meest toeristische kant van het park. Maar omdat we zooooo vroeg zijn werpt het snel zijn vruchten af. Op 20-30 meter zit hij dan, het luipaard als fotomodel. Eindelijk een droom die uit komt! (Na 3 weken zuid Afrika, 1 week Botswana en 2 weken namibie werd het wel eens tijd.) Even later arriveren er nog jeeps en vlucht hij de bosjes in. We hadden dus echt weer geluk! Yala ligt pal naast de oceaan, een fijne afwisseling. Voor de rest weinig spectaculairs te zien tot we terug rijden naar onze tent. Een olifant komt op de weg net voor ons naar ons toe gelopen, zo dicht dat we hem zelfs konden aanraken. (Dat is het voordeel van het slapen in de groene zone) Smiddags verkennen we nog even het dorp maar amper iets te beleven. Na de lunch trekken we er samen met Marc weer op uit voor onze derde safari. Het kost ons allemaal wel wat geld maar het lijkt een microbe , luipaardspotten. Marc neemt ons mee naar het deel van gisteren, hier komen dus amper toeristen want we zijn de enige jeep in heel het domein! Veel avontuurlijker dan wat de rest van de toeristen hier doen. Helaas we rijden tot laat, al na zonsondergang rond maar deze keer geen luipaard. Wel worden we nog net getrakteerd op een kudde olifanten voor we het park verlaten.(zelfs Marc had ze hier nog niet gezien!) Ook op de grote baan richting huis komen we een olifantje tegen welke bijna met zen slurf in de jeep beland. Douchen, lekker eten (Stijn maakt zen eigen hopper) en we call it again a memorable day!Read more

  • Vandaag weer vroeg uit de veren, vijf uur! Om om half zes te vertrekken richting Horton Plains national park voor een mooie wandeling. Het is ongeveer een dik uurtje rijden. Het kopen van een ticket gaat tergend traag dus verliezen hier wel wat tijd... De reden waarom het zo vroeg moet is omdat anders alles in de mist verdwijnt en je bij world's end niets meer zou zien. Echter begrijpen ze er hier zelf niets meer van wat het weer betreft want het is uitzonderlijk goed voor de tijd van het jaar! Maw een prachtig weertje en een prachtig uitzicht waar we weer even stil van worden. Het nationaal park is weer totaal anders dan we tot nu toe gezien hebben hier. Volledig andere vegetatie enzo... Het land blijft ons positief verrassen! Op de terugrit passeren we nog even langs het station voor treintickets voor morgen omdat ik niet veel zin heb om weer op de wc te zitten maar helaas is 1st class volledig volboekt! :( Dat wordt weer proppen morgen. We drinken nog ergens een zalig lekkere koffie en gaan naar de guesthouse voor een dutje! Seffes het stadje in op zoek naar eten en zo was het weer een geslaagde dag! (Buiten dat we ons zijn vergeten insmeren en dus pikkiepik verbrand zijn.)Read more

  • Vandaag ontbijten we nog even in Ella dorp om nadien te vertrekken richting Kataragama voor onze safari. De eigenaar van Adhis place is zo vriendelijk om ons af te zetten ook al is het twee uur rijden! Aangekomen in Kata worden we opgepikt door onze safari jeep en naar onze safari tent gebracht. We logeren echt in een deel van Yala national park wat de safari ervaring echt ten goede komt! Marc de eigenaar is uiterst sympathiek en stelt meteen voor om op safari te gaan, we twijfelen maar als hij zegt dat we mogen baden in de rivier temidden van de jungle zijn we meteen overtuigd! (Het is hier dan ook in de dertig graden) Plus we worden meteen beloond met het spotten van ons eerste luipaard. Fantastisch gewoon! We proberen het te volgen maar het glipt laatst voor ons op de weg de bush in... Savonds worden we getrakteerd op een super gezellige en lekkere BBQ! En marshmallows aan het kampvuur. We zijn de enige gasten hier dus voelen ons echt VIP's! Slapen en morgen om vijf uur opstaan voor de volgende safari.Read more

  • Vanmorgend zijn we met de taxi naar Hatton gereden om daar de trein te nemen richting Nuwara Eliya. (Treinticket kost 0,40 cent pp :) ) Helaas wat druk op de trein dus geen plekje aan het raam! Tot ik door had dat ik op het toilet wel een raampje had... Dus daar even plaatsgenomen voor enkele kiekjes! Want dit is één vd mooiste treintrajecten ooit tss de vele theeplantages. Onze gids Jerard was zo vriendelijk om een vriend van hem te contacteren hier in Nuwara om te blijven overnachten. Best ne rijken typ want hij rijd met de enige Mercedes in Sri Lanka. Hij kwam ons oppikken in het treinstation Nunoya want de bussen staken... super vriendelijk! Hij brengt ons ook nog even naar 1 vd grotere theefabrieken Mackwoods om een kijkje te nemen. Daarna verkennen we nog even het dorpje. Stijn en ik kopen een flesje Arrack in de liquor store, speciale belevenis want massa's sri lankanen kopen in het geniep en verdelen het snel onderling, vreemd! (Het lijkt iets illegaals alcohol.) Seffes eten en op tijd na bed want morgen gaan we wandelen in Horton Plains. Ps: mensen wij lezen al jullie commentaren maar kunnen hier helaas niet overal op antwoorden... maar het doet ons deugd!Read more

  • Deze morgend zijn we vertrokken in Nuwara Eliya richting Ella. Met drie in een TukTukske plus drie grote rugzakken, het was even proppen maar gelukkig was het niet al te ver naar het treinstation. Op de trein was het ook weer proppen! Slechts twee personenwagons en massa's volk... Het was geen pretje! De trein vertrok al veel te laat en deed over de verschillende haltes tergend traag. Maw pas 4-5 uur later in Ella. We logeren in Adhis place, een nieuw guesthouseje niet ver van het station en niet ver van het centrum. Stijn en ik gaan weer op pad in de namiddag-valavond. (Lexi moet helaas forfait geven wegens te ziekjes) Het dorpje is best gezellig, leuk sfeertje en lekker chill. (Wel voor de toerist.) We besloten om naar little Adams Peak te wandelen. Minder indrukwekkend dan zen grote broer uiteraard maar daarom niet minder mooi! De views... beu worden we ze zeker niet! Wij worden nog echte hikers want morgen hiken we naar Ella Rock.Read more

  • Vandaag weer die wandelschoenen aan richting Ella rock. Eerst een paar km zoals de locals het treinspoor volgen om dan (na wat gesukkel en zoekwerk) een pad te volgen naar de top van Ella rock. En het moet gezegd het was weer pittig! (Ons kuiten zijn ondertussen al van beton!) Maar zoals steeds een prachtig uitzicht. We drinken op de top een king coconut, super lekker en dorstlessend! De terugweg is helaas hetzelfde en in een hitte van meer dan 30 graden verliezen we weer heel wat vocht... We lunchen in het dorp en trekken even richting guesthouse om ons op te frissen. (Onderweg pikken we onze was nog op die we voor een paar euro hebben laten doen.) Het was de bedoeling dat we scooters zouden huren maar het was nogal aan de late kant. We hebben dan maar een tuktukske genomen richting de Rawana falls. Watervalletjes waar de toeristen pootje komen baden en de locals hun komen wassen. Best een grappige vertoning! Met moeite geraakt onze TukTuk terug bergop in het dorp en we chillen verder met een arrackske in de hand in het dream café.Read more

  • So nun sitze ich am Flughafen und warte auf meinen Flug nach Doha. Noch 5 Stunden, dann geht's weiter.

    Nachdem ich endlich mein Gepäck aufgeben könnte, habe ich mir erstmal was zu essen geholt. Dann habe ich noch einen netten Engländer kennengelernt. Er war 4 Wochen unterwegs in Indien und Sri Lanka. Er fand es auch erstaunlich, dass es in Sri Lanka nicht so viele Unfälle auf den Straßen gibt wie bei uns, wo jeder auf sein Recht besteht.

    Jetzt ist es auch nur noch 1 Stunde bis zum Boarding.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka, ሲሪላንካ, سريلانكا, Şri Lanka, Шры-Ланка, Шри Ланка, Sirilanka, শ্রীলঙ্কা, ཤྲཱི་ལངྐ་།, Šri Lanka, Srí Lanka, ཤྲཱྀ་ལངཀ, Sri Lanka nutome, Σρι Λάνκα, Cejlono, سری لانکا, Siri Lanka, Srí Lanca, શ્રીલંકા, סרי לנקה, श्री लंका, Շրի Լանկա, Sri Langka, スリランカ民主社会主義共和国, შრი-ლანკა, ស្រីលង្កា, ಶ್ರೀಲಂಕಾ, 스리랑카, سریلانکا, ສີລັງກາ, Šrilanka, ശ്രീലങ്ക, श्रीलंका, သီရိလင်္ကာ, श्रीलङ्का, ଶ୍ରୀଲଙ୍କା, Lanka-dīpa, Шри-Ланка, Tāmaraparnī, Sirî-Lanka, ශ්‍රී ලංකාව, Sirilaanka, இலங்கை, శ్రీలంక, ศรีลังกา, Silangikā, Шрі Ланка, سری لنکا, Xri Lan-ca (Sri Lanka), Orílẹ́ède Siri Lanka, 斯里兰卡, i-Sri Lanka