Sri Lanka in Two Weeks
Have you ever seen green as far as the eye can see? Well that’s a given in Sri Lanka.
This country is vibrant, cultural and colourful. It’s hard to fathom how you can make the most of what this country can offer in just two weeks, but we gave it our best shot, and it certainly paid off.
This is how we saw the south west of Sri Lanka in two weeks…
Sri Lanka – Colombo
As we were flying into Colombo, we thought it would be rude not to explore the city for at least one day. The city is full of life and bustling with people, 100% worth the visit.
With tea cafe’s galore, winding markets and fascinating architecture, we would recommend the visit.
In one day we walked the bustling street markets near the stations, visited the converted Dutch Hospital Precinct, ate the best crab we’ve eaten at the Ministry of Crab restaurant, drank incredible iced teas at the T-Lounge and watched the sunset as we walked along the Galle Face Beach.
Tip: Be wary of the friendly locals!
When we arrived in Colombo we looked like typical tourists, with our pale skin and Lonely Planet guide, we were an easy target. A friendly chap approached us and asked us “where we were from, how long we’d been in Sri Lanka and where we were going”, to which we were pleasantly surprised! He hailed us a tuk tuk (his friend) and asked him to take us to our destination just 15 minutes away.
We ended up paying 5000 Sri Lankan rupees ($32) for this trip, which is about $25 over what it should have cost. Naive? Maybe, but we weren’t about to argue with our driver in a sea of tuk tuks, so we paid him and scampered.
We soon came to realise that this is standard procedure for anyone with a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka and were asked those exact questions about 50 times over the following two weeks.
Colombo to Tangalle
The train is the cheapest and easiest way of travelling from Colombo to Tangalle, however you cannot get the train all the way there. It costs around $6 for a first class ticket from Colombo to Matara and will take 3.5 hours. Here you can hop off and pay around 1000-1500 Sri Lankan rupees for a tuk tuk or taxi to take you to Tangalle.
You can pick up your train ticket from Colombo train station at any point prior to your journey. The station gets pretty busy, so we’d suggest you pick up your ticket before your planned time of travel.
Matara is a large station and is that the end of this line. There are hundreds of tuk tuks offering to take you to Timbuktu and back, so be careful what you pay for your tuk tuk. It is best to agree a price with the driver before you leave. It should take about 1 hour and cost around 1000-1500 Sri Lankan Rupees (15$).
Tip: First class is a carriage at the back of the train with windows for viewing and claims to be ‘air conditioned’, which I would argue it isn’t. To truly experience a train journey in Sri Lanka, don’t bother with first class. Second and third class still allows you to have reserved seats and you get to travel with the friendly smiling locals, the windows down and wind in your hair. Men hop on and off the carriages with baskets full of treats at each stop!
When we arrived in Tangalle and checked into our Cabana on Marakolliya Beach, we could not quite believe our eyes. Our feet pressed into white sand, sun gleaming through the breaks in the palm tree canopy and the sea rolling in the background, I thought I was in heaven.
The biggest regret of my holiday was we only spent 4 nights here, we needed so much longer!
Marakolliya Beach is lined with beach hotels, cafe’s and restaurants, all of which offer a true Robinson Crusoe cast away feel. Full plates of fruit for breakfast, traditional Sri Lankan curry for lunch and a fresh fish BBQ on the beach for dinner.
There are also many attractions in the area that are worth getting a tuk tuk to see.
Our favourite was Mulgirigala cave temples, where you can see 7 temples hidden in the side of a cliff face. Stumbling up steep winding stairs to explore the most beautiful hand painted cave temples is the perfect morning activity. The view from the top is also 100% worth the effort.
Honest Tip: This sounds like the most idillic place in the world, and it truly was…if you don’t mind ant bites. Sadly insect repellent will not deter these biting beasts, quite unlike the harmless ones we encounter in the UK. Bites are not painful, but they itch like hell! Take bite cream with you. We didn’t and we regretted it!
From Tangalle, we made the decision to travel to Ella via Udawallawe National Park, where we stayed for one night in an army tent at Kottawotta Village.
You can get a tuk tuk or a taxi from Tangalle for around 2000-3000 Sri Lankan Ruppees and it takes around 1.5-2 hours.
If you’re as obsessed with elephants as I am, this is a must. We went on a morning safari that left around 6am from our hotel and lasted until the early hours of the afternoon.
We didn’t only see wild elephants! We saw various beautiful birds, huge lizards, water buffalo, eagles, coyotes, monkeys…the list goes on.
Tip: Take the full day safari tour and leave in the early morning. The sun rising over the park is a sight not to be missed!
Ella – Tea Country
From Udawallawe, there are buses that run to Ella, or for convenience it’s about 3000 Sri Lankan Rupees (20$) in a taxi. The journey is around 2.5-3 hours.
Ella is a busy, vibrant and buzzing town located high in Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. It is full of bars, restaurants and cafes, plenty to keep you entertained. You can walk the train tracks to various different destinations and it’s quite a novelty!
From Ella there are various different walks, the most rewarding being Ella Rock. We just about managed to make the journey alone after leaving around 7am, however we did get lost on a few occasions and had to ask for help. The walk takes around 2 hours, depending on fitness. It is a steady walk until the last 45 mins, where it becomes a bit of a challenge. Water is a must!
Tip: Locals have created fake signs to mislead you. Once you are lost, they will offer to take you the remainder of the way for a fee. You can hire a guide from Ella for a small fee to avoid getting lost and it is worth it if you don’t fancy being approached.
Little Adam’s peak is a much easier walk and is equally as rewarding, it takes around 1.5 hours. The view of Ella Rock from the summit it truly stunning.
Whist you’re in Ella, take a visit to one of the Tea Factory. As a typical Brit, I found it extremely interesting to find out where my morning brew came from!
Ella to Kandy Train
We caught the 6am train from Ella to Kandy which takes about 6 hours and costs around $3. Tickets are available from Ella’s train station. After making the mistake of paying for first class previously, we decided to ride 3rd class with the locals and we were not disappointed.
The scenery is the best I have ever seen in my life and 100% worth the 6 hour train journey. If there is anything I would say is a must in Sri Lanka, it is this train ride!
Our last stop was Kandy, the religious capital of Sri lanka.
Kandy is a city surrounded by hills and surrounds a large lake. It hosts a home to numerous museums and temples, such as the Tooth Relic Temple.
We wandered around the lake at sunset, watched rumbling thunder storms on the horizon and listened to the call to prayer being played out of the speakers surrounding the lake. It was so peaceful and an incredible experience.
Over all, it’s perfectly reasonable to see South-West Sri Lanka in 2 weeks! However, we will be back to explore the North-East of the island, we just loved it so much.
We hope you found this useful!
Ellie & Eddie