Bespoke and Tailor Made Holidays & Honeymoons to Sri Lanka
One of the best value for money tropical holiday destinations, Sri Lanka has certainly made a comeback onto the tourist map in the last couple of years. After 28 years of civil war, hotels and infrastructure have been vastly improved with new resorts and roads being completed all the time. Word is fast spreading that this is a destination to watch – so book now and beat the crowds (and the price rises!). Jules experienced this wonderful island (June 2013) so ask her to tailor the perfect Sri Lanka holiday to meet your requirements. The festivals, temples and many sights here can be quite touristy, but a private guide and time to explore the lesser known attractions will allow you to see a bit more of the ‘real’ Sri Lanka. If wildlife holidays are your thing, take a look at this perfect natural history itinerary.
Having had many names in the past, including Serendipity, Taprobane and Ceylon, Sri Lanka is a fascinating holiday destination with a rich culture, fabulous food, exotic wildlife, tea estates and thick forests, plus of course wonderful tropical beaches with a thousand miles of coastline! There are temples, tea estates and ancient ruins to explore. Kandy is the country’s capital of religious culture with the Temple of the Tooth being the main attraction and many festivals being held here. My recommendations for hotels around Kandy include Mahaweli Reach Resort or Kandy House.
Being steeped in British Colonial history, Sri Lanka has lots of old mansion houses and estates, including many in ‘The Hill Country‘ which is covered in vibrant tea plantations around Nuwara Eliya where you can tour the estates and sample the various types of brew. They also still love their cricket! Take a trip to the Perideniya Botanical Gardens to learn about the history of the plants of Sri Lanka and see some amazing displays of orchids, palms and other exotic trees & flowers. The oldest authenticated tree in the world is found on Sri Lanka, the Bo Tree in Anuradhapura was grown from a sapling in the 3rd century BC! Galle Fort is a great example of European architecture and the walls of the fort protected many of the historic buildings here from the force of the Tsunami. Within the Fort are some lovely restored houses which now serve as luxury hotels such as Amangalla or the Galle Fort Hotel.
Sri Lanka is an island nation sitting close to the south coast of India and steeped in history of merchant ships and traders. This crossroads in the Indian Ocean has long been a meeting point from Africa to the Far East. Europeans arrived in the 1500s and the British stayed until independence in 1948. Nearly 70% of religion here is Buddhism and the historical temples and architecture are fascinating to explore. The rock fortress at Sigiriya is a must see and in caves here Buddhists have meditated for centuries. Other cultural highlights include Dambulla’s sacred temple (five caves with Buddhist statues), the 12th century palace at Anuradhapura and the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa.
The ‘cultural triangle‘ which is included in most group tours can be accessed from many hotels in the central – north region of the country, including those at Habarana, Dambulla and towards Anuradhapura. My favourite is Ulagalla which is a wonderful ‘eco resort’, an amazing colonial house with a massive pool, huge villa rooms dotted around huge grounds which supports it’s own farm and organic veggie plot! Using bikes or horses you can explore the local area including trips to the local village to experience real Sri Lankan life.
Wildlife reserves are home to Asian elephants and the secretive Leopard, colourful birdlife and many monkey species. There are a vast number of endemic spcies of flora and fauna. Habitats range from primeval rainforest to marshes and lagoons on the west coast. There are dry, montane and cloud forests leading down through sub-montane to the wet plains. The best place to head to try and see leopard is Yala National Park. There are rainforests full of bird life and many national parks where herds of wild elephants migrate across the swamps. To see elephants one of the best places is Uda Walawe National Park which has a successful ‘elephant transit centre’ where you can see orphans up close who are free to roam in the park. Both of these parks have a small population of Sloth Bears, though they are seldom seen. There are several bird reserves including the wonderful rainforest at Sinharaja.
Beaches remain a fabulous draw card for Sri Lanka, the oldest resorts at Negombo are within easy reach of the capital, Colombo in the middle of the west coast, many having been renovated and expanded in recent years and there are some beach hotels around Negombo which are ideal for being close to the airport, but this part of the coast is not recommended for swimming. Take a visit to the markets there but my advice is to stay overnight at The Wallawwa, a lovely small luxury hotel if you need a place near the airport.
But go further afield if you would like more peaceful and smaller beach hotels. There are some lovely boutique hotels and 5 star spas around the south and south west coast near Galle and Hikkaduwa, from here there are lots of local activities you can enjoy, including watching the traditional ‘stilt fisherman’ carrying out their ancient craft. The East coast is just emerging onto the holiday market and the area around Trincomalee is said to have beaches comparable to that of the Maldives, and still untouched. Jungle Beach Lodge and Uga Bay are recommended hotels on this part of the coast.
Pigeon Island National Park opened in summer of 2011, this marine park has some of the best coral reefs in the country and great flora and fauna. Trincomalee is also a good spot for whale watching. In the far south, Mirissa is one of the top spots in the world for whale and dolphin sightings (November to March). The Turtle Conservation Project is active on the south coast at Rekawa beach and visitors can see hawksbill and leatherback turtles laying their eggs on the beach at night. Even the far north, which has been out of bounds for decades is opening now. Jaffna has several new hotels and was a city and seaport with new attractions opening all the time (the closest point to mainland India).
English is widely spoken but local languages are Tamil and Sinhala. Visas are currently US$30 and can be obtained on line in advance. There are many choices to combine a Sri Lanka holiday with other places in Asia – Kuala Lumpur or Singapore make great city stops or Dubai if you are flying Emirates. British Airways have recently (2013) started a flight to Colombo / Male. For tropical Indian Ocean heaven, combine Sri Lanka with The Maldives.
Sri Lanka is a great honeymoon destination, combine some relaxing on the beautiful beaches with outstanding culture and sightseeing. Accommodation ranges from traditional colonial hotels to small boutique lodges to suit all budgets. It is also possible to include some train travel in your holiday.
There are many escorted tours to Sri Lanka and also wildlife and natural history tours. Some small group adventure tours offer a combination of activities and sightseeing, or you may prefer a private, tailor made holiday option. However you want to explore and enjoy Sri Lanka, get in touch and I will find the perfect holiday for you!