Sri Lanka was one of the countries I was most looking forward to visiting. It has everything that I want for a destination – fascinating landscapes, interesting culture, and beautiful sandy beaches. After my recent trip to the country, I realized that there’s a whole lot more to Sri Lanka than these, which made me fell in love with the country even more.
For many years, Sri Lanka is often hidden in the shadow of its neighboring countries, the massive country of India and the beautiful tropical nation of the Maldives. However, everyone seems to be visiting the country nowadays. The country’s unique fusion of culture and fascinating landscapes has lured adventure seekers from around the world to visit and explore. As a better alternative to overwhelming India and a much cheaper option to the Maldives, there’s plenty of good reason why Sri Lanka is now becoming a must-visit destination.
I just came back from a week-long trip to Sri Lanka and thought I’d share the top seven things I loved about the country, just in case you are thinking of visiting.
1 – The Amazing Wildlife
My favorite part of my Sri Lankan trip was the safari at Yala National Park, where I get to watch and observe wildlife up close. The National Park is massive and filled with lots of amazing wildlife species. I literally welled up with joy upon spotting a baby elephant happily nibbling on a bunch of trees by the roadside. I was overwhelmed by the amount of wildlife I have spotted. It was truly breathtaking!
Aside from the elephants, I have also spotted plenty of crocodiles in the river, peacocks, water buffalos, wild boar, flamingos, deer, and so many different species of birds. Yala Park is also known for having the highest leopard densities in the world, although I was not so lucky to spot such elusive cat during our safari.
We left our hotel very early in the morning to travel for an hour towards the Yala National Park. You can choose from a half-day or a whole day safari tour. Since my time in the country is limited, I opted for the half-day tour.
Aside from Yala, there are several other national parks in Sri Lanka where you can go on a wildlife safari. Some of the most well known parks are the Udawalawe National Park, Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks.
2 – The Warm and Friendly People
I don’t know much about Sri Lanka before my trip, but I was surprised at how friendly and welcoming Sri Lankans are. Anywhere I go, I’m often greeted by smiling locals eager to start a conversation. I haven’t been in a country where almost every local would take time to smile and greet every tourist they meet.
Sure, there are probably some other nationalities that are friendlier and more outgoing to strangers than Sri Lankans, but of all the places I’ve visited so far, Sri Lankans topped the list of the kindest people I’ve met. It was just amazing how friendly, curious, and hospitable they are, from the little kids and adults, and most especially to the grandpa I met in a train who did not think twice about offering me his seat seeing that I’m standing. Of course, I politely declined.
After having traveled to India and coming from an Asian country myself, I’m already used to dealing with tuk-tuk drivers and touts who would badger you for a tour or a ride. In Sri Lanka however, I found that the tuk-tuk drivers are not very persistent. After declining their offer for a ride, they would just simply drive off and leave you alone.
3 – The Delicious Food
Sri Lankan foods are aromatic, colorful, and bursting with so many flavors. Their rice and curry spread is so divine. Made from either chicken or beef and some vegetables, the curry dishes are served with sambal and a bowl of rice, where you need to mix everything in a plate before devouring.
Another favorite of mine is the hopper, which I bought from a street vendor in Colombo. This is basically a crepe-like pastry that’s made from coconut milk batter and cooked in a round pan, an egg is then cracked in the middle. It’s a breakfast delicacy, although you can find it being sold in various food stalls at any time of the day. And of course, there’s the amazing, huge, delicious, and cheap seafood. Every night in Mirissa beach, you will find a huge selection of fresh seafood displayed on ice, right in front of the restaurants lining the beach. I especially love the succulent chili crab and the Sri Lankan prawn curry.
4 – The Scenic Train Ride
I have already heard a lot about the scenic train rides in Sri Lanka, so this is one of those things that I was looking forward to on my trip. Indeed, it was breathtakingly beautiful!
I took the train many times in Sri Lanka and the journey from Ella to Kandy is my favorite because of the breathtaking scenery from the windows. Passing through a massive plantation of teas, where women tea pickers can be seen clad in colorful saris animatedly picking tea leaves, it was truly a sight to behold!
The train also traverses through an old bridge and passed by several tunnels. I can hear some local kids screaming at the top of their lungs the entire time that we were in the tunnel until the train finally emerged. I’ve also seen several tourists hanging out of the train door to get the best views and to really feel the cold air breezing through the doors while the train passes through the endless hills of lush forests and scenic tea plantations. It truly was one of the most unforgettable train ride experiences of my life.
5 – The Massive Variety of Teas
Tea is the primary export of Sri Lanka, so it’s not surprising to find a wide variety of teas in the country. I’m sure you have heard about the Ceylon Tea. Its name is actually derived from Sri Lanka’s former name. As a tea lover myself, this is no doubt one of the reasons why I love Sri Lanka so much.
To learn more about Sri Lanka’s tea culture, I went to the highlands of Haputale and enjoyed the unique experience of exploring the massive fields of tea plantations at Lipton’s Seat. It’s such a nice feeling to be surrounded by an endless field of teas. I also caught a glimpse of some women tea pickers expertly removing tealeaves from the thick bushes and then tossing them directly into the sack they’re carrying.
Because I was amazed by the massive varieties of teas and upon learning that they are way cheaper than the teas back home, I bought as many teas as my luggage can hold!
6 – The Fascinating Landscape
I first noticed the incredibly vibrant colors of Sri Lanka when sitting on a train on my way to Galle Fort from Colombo. The infinite hues of greens amidst the soothing ocean views are truly fascinating. And upon arriving at the charming Galle Fort and seeing the old colonial buildings and stunning seaside views, I was totally blown away!
If you love nature, Sri Lanka is definitely the perfect destination. From the lush vegetation of the humid and warm climate in the country’s lowlands to the saturated green hues of tea plantations at the hillsides, and the enticing beaches, the landscape of Sri Lanka is truly fascinating.
7 – The Beautiful Sandy Beaches
Sure, Sri Lankan beaches may not be as magnificent as the powdery white sand beaches of Maldives or Thailand, but the beaches in Sri Lanka have a unique charm in them.
What I really love about the beaches of Sri Lanka is that they are not as crowded and touristy unlike the famous beach holiday destinations of Bali and Phuket. And since there are fewer crowds, I find the beaches cleaner than some of the beaches in Southeast Asia.
Among the most popular beaches in the country are the ones in Negombo, Unawatuna, and Hikkaduwa. If you want more seclusion, head to the east coast, and you’ll find long stretches of unspoilt pristine beaches. On the other hand, if you’re someone who is into surfing, you can ride the waves at Mirissa or Weligama.
Sri Lanka is truly a great destination that appeals to all kinds of travelers, from backpackers traveling on a budget to holidaymakers with small kids in tow. It’s certainly a lovely island to explore and I’m definitely coming back to get to know the country even more.