We visited Sri Lanka for four week's about 5 years ago and probably the best thing I can do is simply list the places we stayed with a few relevant comments. We do a lot of relaxing on holiday and enjoy snorkelling but always spend time away from the beaches and try to get a real feel of anywhere we visit.
After landing at Colombo, we were met and driven down to the south west coast to Induruwa for a few days beach relaxation after the long journey
Feeling refreshed, we then headed by car towards the centre of the Island, through paddy fields and rubber plantations. The first stop was at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. The Orphanage has also developed a major breeding programme and an average of one elephant is born here every year. A highlight of the visit is the afternoon bathing of the elephants when they are all brought down to a lovely river setting and just left to wallow and play in the water.
After Pinnawala, on to our next hotel in Sigirya, close to the 200 metre high rock towering above the countryside. During the 1st Century AD, Kassapa (a minor Royal) built an impregnable fortress – doubling as a pleasure palace – at the summit of the rock. It’s a steep climb up and not for the faint hearted! There are some hairy bits – including a metal spiral staircase pinned to the rock face leading to Sri Lanka’s most famous frescoes – busty beauties painted in the fifth century
Then up the steep paths again to the Lion Platform. The final path to the summit with two enormous lion paws carved out of the rock on either side, once led directly into a carved lion’s mouth.
On to our Hotel in Kandy where we were to stay for two nights - a famous old colonial building which served as Mountbatten’s Southeast Asian Headquarters during World War II. Our room overlooked the pool area and out over the lovely Kandy Lake.
The following morning, off to visit the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, covering over 150 acres of incredible varieties of local and foreign tree and plant species. There are 10,000 trees in the gardens and on the Great Lawn, a huge 100 year-old Javan Fig tree whose sprawling roots and branches create a remarkable natural pavilion. The Orchid House also has dozens of varieties, one of the largest selections of rare orchids in the world, and colourful water lilies
Then in the afternoon a visit to The Temple of the Tooth. Sri Lanka is, of course, predominantly Buddhist and the Temple is the country’s most important Buddhist shrine. It houses the legendary Buddha’s Tooth, which arrived in Sri Lanka after journeying around India. Legend has it that when the Buddha was cremated in 543 BC, various parts of his remains were rescued from the fire, including one of his teeth. The tooth is enclosed in a special chamber but you are not allowed inside – just a quick glance from a distance at the large gold casket which holds the precious article.
The following morning we headed for the Railway Station. We had booked a five hour rail journey through the hill country villages and tea plantations to the village of Ella, surrounded by hills and even more tea plantations and with good walking possibilities. Our hotel was ideally placed with views straight through the so called Ella Gap - a cleft in the hills looking through to the plains below.
Two nights at Ella then a fairly short drive down to the south coast and our next destination, Tissamaharama , our base to visit the Yala Safari Park. We made a trip boat trip around Tissa Lake where there were literally hundreds, probably thousands, of birds – kingfisher, egret, pelican, Indian darters, ibis, etc., etc.
Then off to the safari park, about a 40 minute dusty drive from the hotel. We went on a second afternoon safari the following day and the wildlife we saw during the two days included, herds of wild elephants, including a baby, crocodiles (not easy to get close up to, or advisable), spotted dear, sambar, langur monkey, pair of jackals (rare sighting), mongoose, land monitors, water buffaloes, black-necked hare, Indian darter, green and blue bee eater, hoopoes, parakeet, bulbul, jungle fowl, painted stork, pied hornbill, black-headed lapwing, etc.
Off again to commence our south coast beach hopping – we’ve done the wildlife and culture bit, it’s now relaxation time! All the beaches are idyllic. Quiet, with white sand fringed by palm trees. We drive to our first port of call, Tangalla, through salt flats and via the town of Hambantota, the place where the tsunami first hit Sri Lanka on Boxing Day, 2004.
After five nights there, we made our own way to our next destination, Mirissa – about an hour’s drive away. Here we stayed in a brick-built Cabana, very spacious, right on the edge of a headland overlooking the sea. Then our final beach hop – to Unuwatuna, which we chose for its location close to the Buona Vista Coral Reef and some of the best snorkelling on the island. It was the busiest resort we had visited, the long stretch of sand lined with beach bars. Unuwatuna has become Sri Lanka’s most popular spot for independent travellers and backpackers.
We had read about Jungle Beach, from where there is easy access from the sandy shore to the spectacular coral reef. The beach is only accessible, by boat, a 45 minutes walk over the hill and through the jungle (spot monkeys and land monitors on the way!), or a tuk tuk ride and a then ten minute walk from the road down to the beach.
Sorry, it’s almost tuned into a Blog! Hope it's helpful. Do let me know if you need any further information.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
Lao-tzy, Chinese Philosopher (604 - 531 BC)