Before returning to Europe at the end of May, we spent nearly a month exploring the beautiful country of Sri Lanka. It was our first time visiting, and we enjoyed getting to know the island, its happy people, its many cultures, and, of course, the delicious food!
We have never been to India, but fellow travellers described Sri Lanka as ‘India light’ – a slightly slower, laid-back, less intense version of its much larger neighbour. A perfect place for families, couples, backpackers and surfers, of course!
The island is small enough that given a few weeks you can travel around to explore many different areas and most people who visit here do this in some way or other. Despite being a small island, however, the weather can vary extremely from coast to coast. While it might be monsoon season on the western side of the island, it could be the dry season on the eastern side. It is worth knowing this before you visit!
We arrived toward the end of the dry (tourist) season on the western side of the island (just before the heavy rains began) and slowly made our way over to the eastern side to enjoy the start of their sunny season. We stayed in several different places over the course of our month in Sri Lanka (seeking the surf and hoping to see a variety of sights), and I thought it would be helpful to highlight them below for people who are planning or considering a trip to this beautiful island.
For booking accommodation, we used the i-escape site to help us with narrowing down hotels for our shorter-term stays and then rented apartments and villas for the rest. Here is a list of our favourite stays:
1. The Wallawa Hotel, located just 20 minutes from the Colombo airport, it is the antithesis of an ‘airport hotel.’ We stayed just one night here to settle ourselves after the long flight from Tokyo, and again on our final night in the country, readying ourselves for the long journey home. If money were no object, we would have happily moved in! The food is delicious, the rooms spacious and tastefully decorated, the grounds gorgeous and the staff incredibly friendly. They do everything right here.
2. We rented a villa on Airbnb near Galle. We enjoyed the delicious breakfasts made for us each morning (while monkeys swung from the branches overhead) and loved being directly on the beach to watch sea turtles bob in and out of the waves. From here we took a couple day trips into Galle to explore Galle Fort and to Unawatuna for the shops and restaurants. (For a hotel option near here, we have heard wonderful things about the Fort Bazaar hotel which we discovered on the i-escape website.)
3. The Ebb & Flow Jungalows in Midigama. We are so happy a fellow surfer recommended this place. The Ebb & Flow have two serviced villas, each with their own pool, two bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and large reception area. The villas come with a chef who will prepare every meal for you should you wish, and you pay only the actual cost of groceries. We enjoyed eating delicious curries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Chef Indy’s food was some of the best we ate in Sri Lanka!
4. The Hideaway in Arugam Bay is a pretty special place. We stayed 9 days at the Hideaway and these nine days were definitely our favourite. We got to know the locals, we became friends with the hotel staff, and we befriended a tuk-tuk driver, Jaya, who spent the week with us – taking us to the beach for morning surf sessions and to the jungle for evening safaris. This part of Sri Lanka is beautiful with its great surf beaches and nearby jungle with incredible wildlife (elephants, crocodiles, leopards, peacocks, etc.). The Hideaway offers, as promised, ‘cool vibes’ in every way. We all crammed into one large ‘family’ room, slept soundly on comfy beds enveloped in mosquito nets, ate delicious meals, and loved every minute.
5. The Ellerton Hotel, located in the lush green hills outside of Kandy. This old colonial estate is one of the last remaining colonial buildings in the area. It was purchased by a British couple and has recently been converted to a boutique hotel with 8 beautiful double rooms all with en-suite facilities. It was a perfect place to spend our last couple days in Sri Lanka, to unwind, relax and enjoy the spectacular views of nature in all directions. The food here is delicious as well. We didn’t want to leave!