(This post was written in October 2015)
We celebrate our anniversary in September, and it was time to take that much needed mini vacation. Due to hectic schedules, we could not plan anything in advance. We were toying on the dates when we received a great a great promotional offer for Colombo tickets we plunged into it. We have a history of planning trips last moment, and this time was no different. We decided to do a quick, 3 day trip to Srilanka. We had hardly a week to plan everything, so it was pretty hectic but exciting nonetheless.
Thanks again to Trip advisor and the numerous blogs about Srilanka which helped us plan our itinerary.
Since we had limited time, and based on the feedback we could gather, we decided to spend minimum time in Colombo, and head straight to Kandy, the cultural capital of Srilanka. Besides Kandy, we included Nuwara Eliya (little England) for our trip. It was action packed trip with lot things to do. Ideally should be done over a 5 day period. However, since we are used to packing in so many things in so little time, we went ahead with it anyways.
Hopefully you would find the itinerary and the tips useful for planning your own vacation to this beautiful country
To maximize the time we had for this holiday, we took early morning flight. This one landed in Colombo at 5 am and then we then headed to a hotel closeby and for a short nap and woke up around 8.30 am. Headed straight to Kandy.
Since we booked hotels 4 days before the trip, we had a limited options for Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. But based on research here are the top 3 choices for each of them
For Kandy : Amaya Hills, Amara Sky Resort, Earls
For Nuwara Eliya : St. Andrews, The Grand , The Heritance
Hotel Booking Tip: During last minute bookings when travel sites show no availability, I have always managed to get rooms by calling hotel directly. There are always last minute cancellations. Also great to cross check rates too. Though room rates are rarely lower than what is published on travel websites, they will definitely offer you some other packages which you may find useful. I got a better room on higher floor guaranteed from the manager of the Kandy hotel
We stayed at the following hotels and the experience was really good. Highly recommended
Hotel Amara Sky Resort – Kandy
Though a bit far from the main city centre, this place is located on a hill, which provides a nice view of the entire city of Kandy. It’s a small boutique resort but pretty well maintained. Ask for the higher floor and you will get a stunning view of the city especially early in the morning. The rooms were nice and spacious and the balcony was definitely the best part about the room. The breakfast had a decent spread and though we were there for only limited time our overall experience was positive.
St. Andrews – Nuwara Eliya
A charming old world hotel reminiscent of the colonial era. This is a great place t stay just to give you a real feel of the colonial Sri Lanka.
We did a lot of research for the transportation since we wanted to be sure to get a reliable driver. It’s always advisable to have a rough itinerary ready for your trip as that helps in comparing the cost across different agencies. We received varying quotes for our itinerary ranging from 140 USD to 350 USD per day. After speaking to some of them we finalized our driver at 210 USD
Things to keep in mind while finalizing a driver
- Check if driver meals and accommodation are included in the price
- Check if all the tolls are included in the price
- Ask specifically what is excluded from the package so you know beforehand
- Check what kms is the rate being offered for. This will help you compare
- The cheapest may not always be the best. Check if they can provide a backup vehicle in case their vehicle breaks down.
Our driver was reliable and gave us great service.
You will be introduced to new people who are trying to sell you products or services. Pls. don’t patronize them, you have no obligation to buy from them.
My earlier blog on Dubai (Top 10 things to do in Dubai over 4 days), New york and Japan are really popular and post that I find it comfortable to share the places in Top 10 formats rather than chronologically listing the same. I think readers prefer this format!
So here is my top 10 list from our trip
- River Rafting at Kitulgala
Well this was on our bucket list for a long time and we’re glad to have done this. It was easily the best part of the trip.
Srilanka is great for adventure sports and they have plenty of options. We decided to do white river rafting and Kitulgala is the best place in Srilanka for this. This place is also known as the adventure capital of Srilanka. It’s around 2 hours’ drive from Colombo and the whole place has a lively feel it, with the sight of many people putting on their gears. You immediately want to do some action here! The river rafting happens on the picturesque Kelani River and covers 3 minor rapids. The total distance covered is around 5 kms. And takes around 1 hour. It’s perfectly safe and though we were informed that there was a very good chance that we could get toppled.
The whole experience was amazing with the forest, weather and having the whole boat to ourselves along with our guides making this a perfect experience
Tip: You can ask for a GoPro to record your entire video of the journey, also ensure you click pictures before and after the journey. The total cost was around 50 USD.
2. Pinnwala Elephant Orange
At a few hours’ drive from Colombo, you will find the gates leading to the Pinnawala Elephant orphanage which is famous for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world.
You can get an up close view of these elephants at this orphanage. The gates for visitors open at 8:30 am. If you are in by 9:30 am then you can witness the feeding of these elephant. Post feeding, they are taken to bath at a nearby river. The whole procession of taking 80+ elephants from their home to the river is the highlight of the visit. You can also walk along with them to the river bank and witness almost 50-60 elephants being bathed by their keepers. Most of these elephants are in chains and you kind of feel sorry for them as you really are not sure if they are happy or not.
Nevertheless it a great one time visit.
Tip: If you plan to visit here definitely reach by 9:30 am to watch the feeding and bathing procession
3. Lake Gregorky Park, Nuwara Eliya
This is a stunning place right in the middle of Nuwara Eliya. You will not be disappointed coming here. Extremely well maintained with great landscaping, clean, beautiful, it has a typical British feel to it. You almost feel like you are in some European place. This makes it a great photo opportunity. You can easily spend a couple of hours walking around or boating at this location
4. Tooth of Sacred Relic
One of the most famous Buddhist Temple in the world, this magnificent temple is said to house the sacred tooth relic (Buddha’s tooth). This is a fairly large temple with marvellous interiors and detailing. Don’t forget to visit the museum which shares the journey of the sacred tooth to its present location. During evenings the temple looks even better with illumination. There are daily processions where you can see the casket containing the tooth. The actual tooth we are told is displayed once in 5 years.
5. Gangaryam Temple Colombo
The Gangaryam Temple though small is size has a very unique feel to it. The whole atmosphere is really relaxing and this one is more a museum rather than only a temple. You can spend 30 minutes at this place looking at the various statues of Buddha, real elephant tusk. There is a library inside. And it has a meditation hall with discourses happening at various times.
6. Afternoon Tea and Hotel Grand
Considering Srilanka’s colonial charm, a must do here is to indulge in the ceremony of afternoon tea. And for one of the best experiences we headed straight to The Hotel Grand which is arguably the best destination for this tradition in Nuwara Eliya. The high tea session opens at 3:30 pm in the lawns and closes at 6 pm. For 20 USD you get pastries, croissants and great tea selection. You can’t help buy enjoy the luxurious atmosphere and enjoy the stillness around. A great way, to spend couple of hours here.
Try out a tour at one of the spice gardens you can get to learn about spices and plants like cinnamon, cardamom, aloe vera etc. The guide takes u around and explains about the plants and how it is grown. You get to learn a lot in such a short time. At the end of the tour you can even try some of their products for free. They even offer some nice massage. And you can buy their product too. Definitely not cheap but worth experimenting.
8. Cultural Show of Srilanka – Kandy
Every evening at the culture centre of Kandy there is a cultural show of dance which last for about an hour. This show includes a musical performance by a group of 10 men and women who appear in various sequences to enthral the audience.
The sounds are authentic Srilankan and you won’t hear them elsewhere. At the end of is the fire walking ceremony. You can even get to photograph with the performers
Tickets are reasonably priced however the condition of theatre can do with some improvement.
9. Upper Lake – Kandy
A beautiful lake with amazing reflection of the temple of tooth . Go there early mornings or evenings and take a stroll along the banks. Great for pictures. Great for seeing different birdlife (pelicans, ducks, terns). Nice way to feel immersed in the city.
10. Tea Museum – ( Macwoods, Nuwara Eliya )
Srilanka is undoubtedly a heaven for tea lovers and since you are here don’t forget to visit a tea museum. We visited one of the oldest tea factories called Macwoods tea factory. There is a 20 minute tour available with a guide which is free of charge. You get a good idea of how the tea is made and also the various varieties. Post that you can visit the restaurant which serves free tea and you can buy some delicious chocolate cake. It’s a great stop over enroute from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Some other notable mentions
- Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya
- Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct
This place used to be a hospital built by the Dutch, it has now been converted to a great venue that houses several restaurants and bars as well as a couple of retail outlets and spas