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Explore Sri Lanka: Go Beyond Colombo For Your Vacay To The Coastal Country

Aakanksha posted on 13 February

Quietly cool and distinctly unique, Sri Lanka is often overshadowed by the more dramatic Thailand, as an option for a quick getaway from India. But with non-stop flights from southern cities like Bengaluru and Chennai taking an easy 60 minutes to Colombo {thank you IndiGo}, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the island of Sri Lanka. We’ve really always been fans, but now we have more reason to show off about. How often can you take off to a new country that has mountains, beaches and national parks. So when you’ve explored the city of Colombo to the max, change direction to surfing bays and Dutch towns.

Kandy

A quick 3-hour drive from Colombo, Kandy is heaven if you’re looking to relax in cooler temperatures on the island. Set in the middle of tea plantations and rainforests, the whole town is built around a central lake. Famous for the Temple Of The Tooth, a must visit to see the tooth relic of Gautam Buddha, you can stop by cafes like The Empire Cafe and the Coffee Cafe to people watch. The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue sits atop a mountain, and looms over the town, and is well worth a trek up. But if you’re too lazy to do that, the Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar is on another hill directly opposite the statue and has the best views during sunset.

Galle

If you have one other place apart from Colombo to visit in Sri Lanka, let that be Galle. You can take the expressway to it if you’re short on time, as it only takes about 2.5 hours. But it is highly recommended that you follow the coastline, at least one way for the scenic route there. Once there, stop by at the Galle Cricket Stadium which has been completely remade since it was destroyed by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Then, head into the Dutch quarters, where the true beauty of the seaside town lies. Reflecting British and Portuguese culture in architecture, time stands still amidst cafes {where you can spend hours just reading!}, old cars and the fort ramparts {there are cliff jumpers who’ll jump off them for a fee and for your camera}. There are no modern buildings in the fort area of Galle, so it’s like you’ve been taken back in time. We recommend you stay a night here at one of the quaint mansions-turned-guest houses to really soak in the culture. The museum, lighthouse and Dutch Hospital {now a shopping and eatery arcade} are other sights you must not miss. It’s a place to dream, don’t hold back.

Hikkaduwa

En route Galle, Hikkaduwa is for the beach bum. You can pass through it having spent a day on the shores, playing with little crabs and riding the shallow waves. Or stay a night or two, and really get into the hippie way of life. Guesthouses, shops, restaurants and surf stores line the main road, and you have the whole ocean on the other side. A few minutes from the town centre, the heart-wrenching Tsunami Photo Museum stands, where you can really see the devastation that the tidal wave caused. Then take a moment to see how Sri Lanka has recovered from it, and you’ll appreciate the country even more. Like turtles? Stop by the Victor Hasselblad Turtle Hatchery, where wildlife conservationists take in turtle eggs until they’re hatched and ready to be let out into the ocean, hence protecting them from harmful birds, animals and most of all, cruel men. You may even be lucky enough to see Olive Ridley turtles hatch in the daytime!

Mirissa

If you dream of tropical paradise, sipping coconuts and doing nothing but lying on the beach, set GPS to Mirissa. Only 200 km from the Equator, sunsets, surfing and relaxing are a high priority here. Make time to check out the fishing town of Weligama, which is only 15 minutes away. There, you’ll witness the unique style of fishing, where fisherfolk sit or stand on stilts set up in the waters. Steve McCurry took stunning shots of this way back in the 90s, and that’s all we may soon have left of the tradition of stilt fishing as the practice is fast declining. It’s also a prime spot for dolphin and whale watching. Hop onto a boat, and let the water creatures lead the way for the rest of your tour. All you need is a camera with a fast shutter speed so you can capture them in action!

Gal Oya

Enough of the beaches? Fear not, Sri Lanka has amazing national parks too. While you may have heard of the larger Yala National Park, we’re recommending a trip to Gal Oya for being more quiet and unexplored. It’s also the home Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka where you can take a boat ride and see elephants swimming from one island to the other. You can see crocodiles, deer, water buffaloes, and even leopards if you’re lucky. Check into the eco-friendly Gal Oya Lodge for a rustic-meets-luxe stay, or the government guest house if you are happy to rough it out. Either way, make sure to go to a Vedda village, to meet people of a fast diminishing indigenous tribe of Sri Lanka. And of course, try your luck at climbing the Monkey Mountain, a great rock face mountain which has picture perfect views from the peak.

Now you know that Sri Lanka as your next travel destination, has a lot to offer; from verdant mountain ranges and crystal clear beaches to mouth-watering dishes and unexplored places. And thanks to the non-stop flight, courtesy IndiGo, which take less than 60 minutes, there are reasons aplenty why Sri Lanka should feature on your little black book of destinations you simply have to cover in 2018. Plan your itinerary and book your tickets now!

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