To call Sri Lanka amazing would be an understatement. There’s so much that we saw and experienced as we made our way across the island, and yet much was left for several new trips.
I cannot even do this country justice by writing about our journey, so instead, I have picked some of the highlights in an attempt to give you a glimpse on why this was a trip of a lifetime and why everyone should visit at least once.
Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya
This was one location we were excited to see from the moment we booked the trip because it is one of those once in a lifetime things. Even the fact that we would have to climb over 1236 steps to get to the top of the ancient fortress could not deter us because we knew that the view and the sheer history surrounding this place would totally be worth the climb. So, we overcame being slightly out of shape and my fear of heights and joined the crowds to reach the top. I will admit that at many points, I wanted to give up. My head was spinning, the heat was insufferable, the crowds were a bit too much (and it was around 3 PM!), and there’s only too much green one can take in.
But we kept going, past the many rock formations, the mirror wall, the well-preserved fresco, what is left of the lion guarding the entrance to get to the top. And when we did, it was true that the view was unparalleled. The remains are fascinating, but seeing the jungle for miles and miles away is unlike anything I have ever seen in my life.
Sure, we had to go all the way down- and Ahmad sustained an injury to his foot that required a visit to the ER on the day of our return- but without it, our trip would have been incomplete.
The Royal Botanical Garden in Peradenyia
Before embarking on this trip, I had read that the flora and fauna found in Sri Lanka was so varied and unique, with many species only found in that part of the world. We got to enjoy quite a lot of it as we journeyed by bus through the country, but the chance to experience it up close came mid-way through the trip when we visited the garden, located near Kandy.
While we didn’t see all 147 acres, our guide did focus on the highlights: the orchid house, the different palms, the bamboo trees, the various flowers, and the double coconut palm. That last one is particularly interesting because it produces the largest seed in the plant world, taking about five years to mature.
We were lucky that the weather allowed us sufficient time to wander around the garden as it rained non-stop once the afternoon hit.
I also don’t understand how a huge chunk of our tour group decided to forgo touring the garden to spend time in the nearby gift shop and coffee shop. How can you miss out on such a beautiful location?!
Visiting the Tea Plantations and Enjoying a Cup
Even if you don’t know a thing about Sri Lanka, you might be familiar with the fact that this is the land of tea. But no amount of reading or looking at pictures could prepare me for just how breathtaking these tea plantations are.
To get to the tea plantations from Kandy, we had to go upwards through plenty of winding roads which left me with a massive headache and nausea. But much like everything else in this country, the journey was more than worth it. The higher we traveled, the clearer everything became (despite there being a layer of fog almost all the time). For miles and miles and for as far as we could see, the short tea plants dominated the landscape- and occasionally we saw tea-picking ladies going about their day and work.
We stopped at one of the many tea factories where we were given a thorough tour of the process from picking to packaging. There we learned about the different grading of tea (proving that the commercial brands we get here are not the real thing) before we got a chance to try one of their varieties.
We were directed to a charming tea house, where we were offered almost-unlimited tea and delectable chocolate cake, while taking in the view of the nearby plantations. And because we were so high-up, it was also getting colder: a welcome change from the burning sun earlier in the jungle.
The City of Nuwara Eliya
We only spent a day in this charming city that bears quite a lot of resemblance to an English village, but that was enough to take in what it had to offer. After checking into our hotel, one of the oldest in the country, we embarked on a tuktuk ride that took us to the highest point in Sri Lanka. It was pouring rain so we couldn’t get out and explore, which was disappointing, but the ride up there was one of the more romantic things we did.
After coming back down, we had a chance to explore their local markets, buying jackets, tea, and gemstones. In the meantime, it did not stop raining so those heavier jackets were a necessity. Again, a huge difference from where we were just a day ago.
The day ended with a lavish dinner at the hotel restaurant, and in keeping with the charm of the whole thing, we had to get dressed up.
Trying on a Sari
This one was on my bucket list for so long, so when we visited a silk factory (more of a shop where they showed us a video of the process), I jumped at the opportunity. There was nothing else to do there and most of their products were overpriced, but the photo-op was pretty cool.
Going into the trip, we were concerned about how much it had set us back financially. I mean, we have just recently come out of a honeymoon and getting a house together. But if we didn’t go now, we would have to put off the trip at least another year. So naturally, it made us feel better that we did get our money’s worth with the accommodation.
Despite not staying for long, every hotel was unique in its own way and sort of representative of the location it was in. From the grandeur of The Kingsburry in Colombo to being one with nature at the Heritance Kandalama in Dambulla, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by each one.
A highlight of the trip for me was waking up extra early to swim in the breathtaking infinity pool at the Hertiance Kandalama. Sleeping on vacation is overrated.
To be continued…